The question of our traditional leaders being involved in politics has long dominated political discourse. Different traditional leaders have rubbed the national in different ways with the more flamboyant and charismatic proving more divisive. The argument has long been bandied around that traditional leaders should stay out of politics given their fatherly figure to their subjects.
Whether it be senior Chief Inyambo Yeta being lumped among political leaders thrown in jail under the zero option or the more carefree Paramount Chief Mpezeni freely taking up a political stand or the more recluse brand of chiefs like Chief Mumena of the Kaonde people there is always debate around where the chief stands.
Others have been lumped the political garment even when they have not overtly taken a political stand like the Chitimukulu who was almost stripped of his crown by late President Michael Sata. So when Senior Chief Mukuni of the Toka Leya people of Southern Province hosted opposition United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema at the Lwiindi ceremony to the deliberate exclusion of government officials and even some his traditional leaders that do not share his political opinion the debate opened up of what role traditional leaders should really play in bringing their people together.
What really should our traditional leader’s role in ensuring that none of their subjects feel marginalized in their communities?
The more politically enlightened would argue that the traditional leaders have as much right as anyone to hold and express a political opinion.
They may even argue that stopping traditional leaders from taking a political stance deprives them of their right to political participation. Maybe the less remuneration that traditional leadership offers may entice some traditional leaders to venture into the more lucrative zone of politics. In some cases the embarrassment our traditional leaders have been subjected by the political leadership by being paraded at political leaders makes for a strong case that they should be kept away from overt politics. How does one explain a bottle of whiskey and a few pieces of silver extended as a gift to traditional leaders being a licence to humiliate them?
We need to reflect deeply on what legacy we want to assign to our traditional leadership rather than expose to being bandied as commodities available to the highest bidder,