Monday, January 10, 2011

chief mischief

Senior chief Bright Nalubamba of Namwala says people in rural areas should put pressure on their traditional leaders to ensure that they speak on behalf of the poor. In an interview, chief Nalubamba said it was disappointing that some traditional leaders were not representing their subjects but their personal egos.
“There is too much poverty in this nation especially in rural areas. It is painful to see some chiefs defend wrong things instead of helping the voices of their will be foolish for a chief to ignore the fact that poverty is rife on the ground. It will be foolish of a chief to choose to ignore the fact that his subjects are living in abject poverty...You will be foolish to ignore people’s concerns about poverty, their health, bad and dilapidated infrastructure” chief Nalubamba said.

In the accompanying newspaper article we read that the prosperity of chiefs has always been tied to that of their subjects. And since chiefs were traditionally not fending for themselves, what they ate, what they wore and all their glory emanated from what their subjects were able to bring or do for them.

Today, a great majority of people, especially those in the rural areas where most of chiefs reside, are impoverished. This means that they have very little to give to their chiefs because one can only give that which one has. If a chief’s subjects have nothing, the chief will get nothing. And this is the case today. Chiefs are getting very little, if not nothing, from their subjects. The only ones who have something to give are those in control of government resources. And today, both the chiefs and their subjects are looking up to those in control of government resources to survive. Chiefs today don’t seem to be dependent on the contributions of their subjects. As such, their loyalty, faith and commitment lies elsewhere. And if chiefs have lost that commitment, that loyalty to their subjects, there is no way their subjects can also continue to be loyal to them. People have faith in those who have faith in them; people are loyal to those who are loyal to them. Today, the chiefs are more preoccupied with their own survival while their subjects also have to fend for themselves and worry about their own survival.

Greed and vanity set in. In the name of recognising the institution of chieftaincy, a system of corrupt patronage has become a normal part of politics. Some chiefs, especially those who are viewed as being favourably disposed towards the political party in power, are given all sorts of gifts and inducements to maintain their support. What this does is that these chiefs are now forced to toe the ruling party line and support whatever those in government want. When this happens, an important voice which would have served the needs of the voiceless is shut up and the people continue to wallow in poverty.

There are not many chiefs in the country today who speak candidly and fearlessly in defence of the interests of their people. Most of them, when they speak, it is only about their own welfare – their allowances, automobiles, palaces, personal medical attention and so on and so forth. The interests of their people are only talked about in passing if ever they happen to be talked about. The corruption of this important institution has left the people poorer, helpless and in despair. For many poor people, their chiefs are nothing but an extension of self-seeking opportunists who do nothing for public good.

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