The decision by Bemba chiefs to install Henry Sosala as Paramount Chief Chitimukulu in defiance of a presidential decree should not be taken lightly by those who deal with law, Chiefs Affairs and indeed the judiciary.
The laws of Zambia recognize the role of Chiefs as traditional rulers who are appointed and placed in position by traditional practices, an activity that has nothing to do with the government.
In a different area of the law the President is allowed to degazette a chief and therefore remove recognition and the attendant benefits which accrue to recognized traditional leaders.
These two pieces of legislation which operate harmoniously are contradictory and must be addressed quickly to obviate the lacuna and possible conflict it might create between traditional authority and the executive.
The present standoff between the Bashilubemba and the Executive, the President in particular will not sit comfortably as the local political leadership will be under some pressure to juggle between the Presidents wishes and those of the chiefs. In the ultimate development in the area may be affected because those who control resources must remain loyal to the executive and where a choice has to be made between the two the preference Is obvious.
It is the duty of those on the ground to inform and advise the president of the prevailing situation to enable him make informed decisions on the basis of realities on the ground. In this case there is no doubt that he was misled in assuming that Chief Mwamba did not qualify for the position of Chitimukulu let alone for the substantive position he occupied.
This, as it has turned out was wrong, as he was not only popularly elected as Chief Mwamba but was also popularly elected for the position of Chitimukulu.
The government must now recognize him and accord him the full rights accruing to a Chief of his stature. This may be painful for a government that was at odds with the local traditional establishment.
However, the separation of functions demands and compels the government to recognize the chief within his traditional role. It does not matter or should it be of any consequence that his ascension was not sanctioned by central government for as long as traditional authority exercised its rightful authority the new chief is legitimate and must be recognized.
The vital lesson to learn from this experience is for provincial leadership to be diligent in monitoring and advising central government of the trends in their localities to avoid misleading the leadership which may make wrong decisions that do not only embarrass but also undermine executive authority.
In this particular case there is absolutely no need for abena Lubemba to be at loggerheads with central government with which they must work.It is our hope that central government will be magnanimous to accept this setback and extend its hand in collaboration with the chiefs.