Of Zambians and Foreigners
by Robert Nasilele
Wonder why Zambia is so accommodating?
I thank myself for having been born a Zambian!
Having travelled to virtually every country in SADC and some European countries and witnessed the indignity with which foreign nationals are treated, I thank myself for having been born a Zamibian (albeit by default).
My mother is a Subiya from the Caprivi region of Namibia and my father is said to be a muNyengo from Mulinga in the Kalabo district, Western part of Zambia. Apparently he too has his origins in Caprivi.
The story goes like this. My maternal grandfather differed with his Subiya people and left to seek somewhere else to live. He was offered land near Libonda on the banks of the Zambezi river. The village known as Ndonga still stands today.
Like most maLozi in Bulozi proper, he and his people acquired another village in the valley near Mabumbu - Mongu, called Nasange. My elder sister and I last visited this village as children in 1970 and lo! None of my grandfather's people were there. The village had fallen apart.
We were later told that an uncle, a popular singer then on ZNBC Silozi radio known as Musiwa Musasa lived in Limulunga, north of Mongu and we could visit him. I will protect my uncle by not revealing why my mother was against my ever getting in touch with him. Now I can, since my mother is dead. But I have no contact details about him.
My Paternal grandfather is also said to have fled his village in the Lusu area of the Mafwe in Caprivi when he was barely 19. He never explained why he fled his village. He was lucky to find a place in the maKomakoma area of Mulinga near the Angolan boarder west of Kalabo.
I recently conducted a workshop in Katima Mulilo, Caprivi region and stumbled upon interesting facts?! My grandfather had fled Lusu to Mwandi because he was caught with an Induna's wife! Whilst hiding in Mwandi, word reached him that the Mafwe Royal Establishment had made contact with the Royal indunas at Mwandi that my grandfather was a fugitive from local court justice. It is said that is when he fled to Kalabo.
Unfortunately, none of these grandparents is alive to tell the tale. I wish I knew the real truth.
Why all this? Well? I started by complaining about the way so - called foreiners are treated in many SADC countries. The most notorious is Botswana. Immigration officers at all boarder posts always find ways to harrass or prohibit travellers from entering their country, including those in transit. If you do not cross the exit boarder post before closure you are locked up. Batswana are the most xenophobic. But they seem to enjoy singling out mainly Zimbabweans (whom they denigrate as "Makwerekwere") and Congolese nationals who have acquired the tag of conmen.
In Zambia it would be difficult to round up "illegal" aliens. What do you do with that vast population of "maGoregore", the people of Zimbabwean decent in Mandevu, Marapodi, Mumbwa and "Barenje Ba kwa Mungure"? They have cross - bred with Zambians massively.
Zambia at the peak of the liberation struggle wars hosted thirteen liberation movements, some coming from as far as Eriteria (Eriteria Liberation Front) and Sao Tome and Principe. Most were from South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Tanzania - Oscar Kambona's people fleeing from Nyerere, Congo, South West Africa (Namibia). Others opted not to return to their motherlands after independence for various reasons.
So, do people still wonder why Zambia is so accommodating?
Around 1970 statistics indicated that there were 77 tribes in the country. My bet is that there must be aroung 200 tribes now, drawn from all over the world, including Chinese, Malaysians, Burundians, Boers and sundry.
It makes me come back to the issue of my paternal and maternal grandparents. In Zambia no one has ever reminded me that my roots originate from Caprivi. Granted, this region in the time of Paramount Chief Lewanika was part of the Greater Barotseland. I have relatives who are now Angolan via Mulinga connection, on the Zambia - Angola boarder, Lundas in Lukulu, Tongas, and now Owambos (Namibia) Nsengas and Bembas through my son and daughter. To cap it all my daughter is British and therefore I will soon have British relatives, grandchildren.
So, where do you place me in this tribal and foreigner thing?
Robert Nasilele, Lecturer, Windhoek, Namibia: firstname.lastname@example.org