Tribalism in Zambia has been increasing for some time now.

The vice started with President Rupiah Banda in 2008 when he went to Eastern Province and told the people there not to vote for Micahel Sata because he was not from that region. Tribalism under the Patriotic Front (PF) government has become the order of the day; it has permeated all spheres of our society. The PF government under the leadership of President Edgar Lungu has taken tribalism in this country to a higher level. It is unfortunate that tribalism is being massaged and preached by the people in government. It breaks my heart to hear and see a government minister preaching tribalism on camera.

Barely a month passes without the country being subjected to some tribal remarks by either PF officials or their associates. Last month, it was the Minister of Commerce Christopher Yaluma who was inciting people in Mumba village, in Malole Constituency not to work and vote for United Party for National Development (UPND) because its leader, Hakainde Hichilema (HH), is Tonga. He went further to claim that Tonga speaking people are selfish people; they just care about themselves. In the recent past, we have also seen more PF ministers, cadres and chiefs inciting the Bemba speaking people not to work with the Tonga speaking people of Southern Province.

I am disappointed that the PF, the party in government can be championing tribalism. The Republican President, Mr Lungu has never taken action to discipline his ministers and PF officials for dividing the nation on tribal lines. Last time, I saw President Lungu saying that he would uphold the One Zambia, One Nation motto which Kenneth Kaunda started. I wondered how the President could claim to uphold this motto when his ministers, party cadres and some chiefs are championing tribalism under his watch. President Lungu should learn to be sincere; he should learn to walk the talk. His pronouncements and actions are totally different.

On the subject of tribalism, I would say that he has failed the country 100 per cent because he has never acted on his ministers who include Nickson Chilangwa, Nkandu Luo and now Yaluma for issuing tribal remarks against the Tonga speaking people.

I have also observed that learned men and women such as Yaluma and Luo are the ones preaching tribalism to unenlightened Zambians. If a learned person goes to the people who are still embedded in illiteracy in our villages and tell them that Tongas hate you, therefore, do not vote for HH because he is Tonga, do you think they will refuse to take up such stupid advice? We all know that all these tribal remarks against the Tonga speaking people are targeted at HH so that he does not win the 2021 poll. It is a PF strategy to persuade many of our people in villages who are not enlightened not to support UPND and HH in 2021. I doubt if this strategy will make them retain power because many Zambians have realised that the PF government has destroyed the economy and has failed to fulfill its campaign promise of more jobs and more money in people’s pockets. The PF has no proper agenda left to share with our people, to convince them for a vote; the only card remaining is the tribal card.

The PF government’s tribalism has gone too far; it has not only entered government ministries and departments but also parastatals and public universities. I have observed that in many parastatals and public universities, senior positions are occupied by either people from the Eastern or Northern, Muchinga and Luapula Provinces. People from other provinces are left out. This is shameful and it breaks my heart. This segregation regarding job appointments should not have a place in modern Zambia.

The PF government is responsible for this because it has embraced and entrenched tribalism in our institutions as a way to tighten its grip on power.

I have said on several occasions that Zambia has sufficient laws against tribal talk and hate speech. The Pinal Code Act, Chapter VII, Section 70. (1) says: “Any person who utters any words or publishes any writing expressing or showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for any person or group of persons wholly or mainly because of his or their race, tribe, place of origin or colour is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.” Therefore, what the PF ministers, cadres and chiefs have been doing is tantamount to breaking the law; they should have been prosecuted.

Since the PF government has failed to fight tribalism, my appeal is to the UPND, National Democratic Congress (NDC), Democratic Party (DP) and other opposition parties that, God willing, if you wrestle power from PF in 2021, please act decisively against tribalism. The vice has gone so deep in our institutions. Ensure that appointments to government positions and parastatals are done on merit and not on tribal lines; you should also ensure regional balancing.

For those who have preached tribalism, I appeal to you, governments in waiting to come and prosecute all those who have been championing tribalism in this country. I pray for a Zambia where all tribes will be equal; a society where tribal talk will attract swift prosecution.

The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, department of Library and Information Science. Send your comment to:


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