What is in a name- the Case of Chiefs who are truly Kings


What is in a name- the Case of Chiefs who are truly Kings.

By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba

Colonial authorities abolished kingdoms in Africa and in their place named them chiefdoms even when they were truly kingdoms with sprawling land, people and their hierarchy established them as such.

In many cases these Kingdoms qualified to be monarchs as the King was sovereign and the establishments were self governing territories and actual independent nations.

In Africa, we now only have Morocco, Lesotho (constitutional monarchies and Eswatini (absolute monarchy) now remaining in Africa.

But many Kingdoms, because of colonial legacy now exist as chiefdoms, within larger states and nations with diminished powers and influence.

In many cases they have been reduced to just traditional roles and limited or symbolic authority.

However some countries have attempted to restore the dignity and respect of these historical establishments stripped away by colonial authorities.

In South Africa, the title of King was restored on King Goodwill Zwelithini and has been legally recognized and enjoys symbolic and other powers related to his throne.

So is the King Asantehene of the Ashanti people.

In Zambia we have recognized traditional authorities and the highest in ranking is the Paramount Chief, followed by a senior chief, and Chief.

Village headmen and sub chiefs could be listed but are not recognized with government fringe benefits as the above.

So we have a sad case of where legitimate kings are still referred to as Chiefs.

Sadly, this is because we have not amended the colonial laws that abolished any kingdoms but re-established and recognized as chiefdoms, with a 1935 map showing “tribal territories” and their Chiefs as the current standing authority.

However the chiefs still enjoy some rights, powers and authority over land and are allowed to establish traditional courts to deal with dispute related to customary law.

So clearly, what we need to advocate is the the repeal of the law.

In Zambia, by amendment of the law, maybe we need at-least rename the current paramount chiefs; the Litunga, the Chitimukulu, the Mpezeni and the Kalonga-Gawa Undi and help revert to their original titles of Kings.

When I served as Permanent Secretary in Western Province I learnt quickly that the Lozi people and the royal Kuta insist that you address the Litunga as His Majesty, the Litunga and not as His Royal Highness.

Recently the Bemba Royal Establishment decreed that the the Chitimukulu must be addressed as His Majesty and not ad His Royal Highness.

By all accounts he is a King and the title of His Majesty is befitting whether bestowed or not.

And they are right.

For what is in a name or title is dignity or lack of it.

What’s your say on the matter?


  1. This is what has made the Chief of the Lozis big headed ..all along the Litunga has been referred to as Paramount Chief.Along the way some people started referring to him as King , and western province as Barotse Land..and the useless media we have followed suit.
    Give them an inch, they take a yard. Give them a yard, they take a mile. There are no Kingdoms in Zambia… Ambassador Mwamba you will start something you won’t control.
    The wisdom of the founding fathers of Zambia to classify the Chiefs , as Paramount Chief, Chief, Sub Chief, and Headman has held the 73 tribes together. You bring in other titles, and you will be courting disaster. Societies evolve, and regardless of the history of the evolution of Chiefdoms, and the title of Chiefs, the Republic now takes precedence,and what constitutes the Republic and it’s administration is now Paramount.

    • Hallucinating Hypocrite for the first time.you have spoken the truth compared to usual PF Maniongo all the time. For now cheers to you PF Kelenka for talking sense for once.

  2. Other races have moved forward in economic development and in unity, but us, we are still battling with primitive debates and nostalgically yearning to go back to Tribal Kingdoms and Kings, yaba! If you ask me, even the Western countries like England which has a Monarchy, to me this is just exploitative. As Human Beings these Kings end up being the richest Dynasties in a Kingdom because they take advantage of their Subjects and Resources. I like the USA and Tanzania where there are no Kings or Chiefs. What do these Kings and Chiefs really do?

  3. Zambia should not go the route being suggested by this dreamer. Having kings in a country is not a joke in terms of the resources of a country. It is a huge drain. Mwamba mentions the King of the Zulus in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province. But he conveniently avoids the issue of how much the government spends on that King’s maintenance every year. It is in excess of over one hundred millon Rand. Can the economy of a banana republic afford to maintain four Kings including their many palaces? Some dreams, like this one being proposed by Mwamba, are for those in deep sleep.


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