THE behaviour exhibited by a section of traditional leaders in Southern Province is recipe for tribal divisions in our society and must be curtailed before it is too late.
It is quite disheartening and unacceptable that our traditional leaders have reduced themselves to a level of political cadres through their public disposition. Traditional leaders must display conduct that is above the politics currently at play, sometimes petty and at other times acrimonious.
How can traditional leaders command respect when their public conduct is typical of political party cadres? Will it be wrong to treat them as politicians?
It is public knowledge that Senior Chief Mukuni and a handful of traditional leaders in Southern Province have on a number of occasions publicly shown solidarity for the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema each time he is making appearance before the courts of law.
Such behaviour does not only bring into question the traditional leaders but also clearly demonstrates that their support is biased, most likely by region. Why do these chiefs not show such solidarity to other political party leaders whenever they are making court appearances?
In our view, the growing trend of traditional leaders getting involved in active politics is a culture that must be condemned by all patriotic Zambians for the betterment of a cohesive society.
Chiefs and traditional leaders at different levels have always been known to be non-partisan and beacons of unity among their subjects and political parties in Zambia. Thus, it is unacceptable for traditional leaders in Southern Province to blatantly and shamelessly show their political support for the opposition UPND especially coming on the heels of the Mongu saga.
This archaic stance is not only divisive and retrogressive in this era but must equally be discouraged because it only seeks to advance tribal and political hegemony in a multi-tribal society.
Zambia is a cosmopolitan society comprising 72 tribes which have co-existed for more than 50 years and our traditional leaders always promoted the long standing motto of ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ to foster unity, brotherliness and the spirit of patriotism regardless of one’s tribal origin.
On the other hand, traditional leaders must be advisors to the government of the day on governance as well as work hand in hand with those in Government to ensure developmental projects are carried out in their chiefdoms, thereby benefiting their subjects.
What is also possible is that the behaviour of some Chiefs in Southern Province is what is agitating the UPND to exhibit violent and undemocratic conduct.
Southern Province is on record to have been the only part of Zambia which perpetrated political attacks against individuals from other tribes on the mistaken understanding that the UPND lost the elections because non-Tongas living in the province voted for the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
While this tribal targetting was going on, many traditional leaders from the region were tongue-tied. There was little they could do even when as traditional leaders they have authority and power to intervene in such a matter.
A good number of families from other regions were displaced because they were targeted by suspected UPND cadres, hence sought shelter at schools and church buildings in Namwala district, for instance.
The role of traditional leaders in neutralising political tension in such circumstances cannot be overemphasised because we all belong to one country.
On this premise, we find it very disturbing when Chiefs who are cornerstones of unity are seen to sow seeds of discord through their political engagements.
Therefore, we urge traditional leaders to desist from involving themselves in politics because doing so contradicts the very foundations on which this country is anchored.