By Sean Tembo – PeP President

1. The N’cwala Traditional Ceremony of the Ngoni People of Eastern Province is one of the most prominent traditional ceremonies in Zambia, as well as in the Southern African region. After absconding last year, due to circumstances beyond my control, l made it a must to attend this year. As usual, the attendance was massive, despite the prevailing economic hardships in the country. I personally enjoyed the euphoria and excitement that went with the ceremony, plus l had the opportunity to meet with various relatives, friends as well as traditional leaders. However, l would be failing in my duties as a son of the soil if l did not point out a number of areas that require improvement if we, the Ngoni people, are going to make this ceremony an even bigger success in years to come.

2. Politicization of the Event: Over the years, this event, like most of the other traditional ceremonies in Zambia, has increasingly been politicized. This is of course detrimental to the true purpose of the ceremony. That is why l was overjoyed when l heard the announcement that political party regalia will not be allowed at this year’s N’cwala ceremony. I was equally elated with the theme that was chosen for this year’s ceremony, which was: “Cultural Pride in Promoting Reconciliation for National Unity”. This was a befitting theme, especially given the divisions that the country has been subjected to of late, due to politics. However, my excitement at the attempted de-politicization of this year’s N’cwala ceremony was dampened when, after entering the main arena, the protocol officers informed our entourage of 4 people that there was no reserved sitting space for opposition leaders because they had not been invited. However, among the chairs that were reserved in the VIP section, we could clearly see a chair marked “UPND Provincial Chairman”. So we argued with the protocol officers to say if the UPND Provincial Chairman can have a seat reserved for him in the VIP section of the main arena, then why shouldn’t opposition leaders be accorded the same privilege? But the protocol officers insisted that they were simply enforcing the instructions given to them and referred us to the N’cwala National Organizing Committee. In this regard, the N’cwala National Organizing Committee evidently failed to live up to their own theme for this year’s ceremony, which was; “Cultural Pride in Promoting Reconciliation for National Unity”.

3. Over-Emphasis of Guest of Honor: The main purpose of the N’cwala ceremony is to celebrate the many battles that we won on our migration from Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa and also to thank God for the harvest of the season. When a Guest of Honor is invited to this ceremony, whoever that person might be, their job is to help us to celebrate and not to force us to celebrate the Guest of Honor. I was therefore shocked to see that the front page for the program for this year’s N’cwala had the face of President Hakainde Hichilema. I would have been more thrilled to see the face of Inkosi Zwangendaba kaHlatswayo instead. The program looked like we were there to celebrate Hakainde Hichilema’s birthday or something.

4. Politically Aligned N’cwala Organizing Committee: After realizing the extent of political bias that the N’cwala National Organizing Committee had exhibited, l could not help but to scrutinize each of the people sitting on this Committee. I quickly realized that more than half of the people on this Committee are active UPND Cadres, some of whom had stood on the UPND ticket in the 2021 general elections but had been rejected by voters, and we’re ostensibly using the platform of the N’cwala National Organizing Committee to try and resuscitate their dwindling political fortunes. My advice to the Ngoni Royal Establishment is that if the N’cwala ceremony is going to shed off it’s image of being a politically partisan event in future, then there is need to ensure that none of the people sitting on the National Organizing Committee are politically affiliated to any political party, whether currently or in the past.

5. Inadequate Venue for the N’cwala Ceremony: Despite the long list of people sitting on the N’cwala National Organizing Committee and also the long list of sponsors, the venue for yesterday’s N’cwala Ceremony was totally inadequate. The main arena was too small for such a huge national event. Considering that the arena was made up of wire fence and poles, one wonders whether the Organizing Committee could not buy more rolls of wire fence and more poles so as to make the main arena big enough so that people do not get packed like sardines. Plus none of the Organizing Committee members had the presence of mind to at least hire a water bowser to spray some water around the arena to mitigate the dust. I almost thought we were at Mkaika and not Mtenguleni, because everyone’s face looked like a Nyau dancer, due to the dust. Ablutions were also non-existent and l felt embarrassed when l saw a white man, ostensibly a tourist or member of the diplomatic corps, urinating under a tree while donning full Ngoni regalia complete with a wooden assegai. In future, once a proper National Organizing Committee is put in place, there is need to construct a proper permanent arena at Mtenguleni, similar to the Showgrounds Arena in Lusaka. That long list of sponsors should folk out some real money for a proper arena and not just paying exorbitant sitting allowances for the National Organizing Committee who do very little organizing at all.

6. Mistreatment of the Local People: The primary custodians of the N’cwala Traditional Ceremony are the local people of Chipata. I was therefore saddened when l saw elderly men and women, most of whom had walked for several kilometers from their respective villages, being kicked out of the main arena because they could not afford to buy tickets. It is the birthright and privilege of the Ngoni people to celebrate N’cwala and interact with their traditional leaders, regardless of whether a particular Ngoni is rich or poor. You cannot deprive the people of their birthright because of commercial interests. Let everyone who wants to attend N’cwala do so free of charge.

7. Dilution of N’cwala Custom Due to Commercial Interests: I was shocked when l saw item 7 on the N’cwala Program for Saturday. The so-called main sponsors being Access Bank and Zambezi Seed were to be given the platform to make a statement. A statement about what? About opening an account at Access or planting Zambezi Seed in the next farming season? It is well and good for sponsors to mount their billboards and banners around the arena, but to actually give them a podium to start advertising their makwebo in the middle of the ceremony amounts to diluting the substance of the ceremony. The National Organizing Committee exhibited very poor judgement in this regard. The N’cwala Ceremony should remain dignified and not be diluted because some people come with a bigger wad of cash.

8. Poor Traffic Management along Great East Road: Immediately after President Hakainde Hichilema arrived by helicopter at Laweni, the police decided to close a stretch of about 5 kilometers of the road from Laweni to Mtenguleni, and only opened it after the President flew out about 3 hours later. The Great East Road is a major commercial road and you cannot keep it closed for that prolonged period of time. The Police should have only closed the road when the presidential motorcade was actually passing, which is only a few minutes. I mean, what is the point of closing the road when the President is at Laweni Palace paying a courtesy call on Khosi Yama Khosi, or when he is at the main arena at Mtenguleni giving a speech? The Police in Chipata need to learn from their Lusaka counterparts. When they close traffic, then the President is actually passing and not when he is still at home still having his breakfast.

Anyway, the Future is SET ✌️✌️✌️


SET 25.02.2024


  1. A Tembo your bitterness will srnd you to an early grave. Betsy Nkhoma, Noel Nkhoma and that Mr. jere the Nkhosi’s spokesperson have been in that organising committee even when PF was in power andHh was not allowed to attend, Noel was not allowed to campaign there by Mpezeni prefering that pF and Lungu should continue. If lungu had accepted to attend, as we heard he refused because HH was guest of honor, he would have bern accorded a seat in the VIP section together with his entourage. Msybe Lungu deliberately declined because such treatment to him would have been embarrassing since he demeans this govt. At least he has parliament and council representation. Manje imwe you are an opposition leader on paper, no following whatsoever. Why did you expect to be recognised? Representing who? Your family? Kkikikikikiki.


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