“Impumba Mukowa”: Our analysis of GBM’s resignation from the UPND and his tribal ideology

By Elias Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.DIV.

She who comes to tribalism must come with pure tribal hands. You cannot be an impumba mukowa and yet choke our nation with useless, baseless, and senseless tribal nonsense. What is even more concerning is that Mr Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) has not repented from his vicious tribalism and tribal bait over the years. The present discussion about tribalism should be unnecessary. However, it has been made necessary by a political operative whose obsession with the tribe, Bemba aristocracy, and Bemba supremacy is offensive to the customary matrilineal systems and to the viability of Zambia as a united nation which respects all tribes.

Zambia, as a nation, cannot develop if we play to the tunes of a tribal supremacy. What Zambia needs is a healthy respect for all tribes – from Tongas to Tumbukas and to Ushis. In both my blogs and other published articles, I had outlined how Mr GBM played to the tune of Bemba tribalism when he was running in the Kasama by-election against MMD’s Burton Mugala on or about September 2009. Mr GBM categorically told the people of Kasama that Kasama was a Bemba area and Mr Mugala (who is Namwanga/ Mambwe) could not be elected MP of the city. When Mr GBM stated these tribal remarks, we disagreed with him and called him for what it was, tribalism.

Mr GBM has not repented of the words he used in 2009. He has continued to give the impression that he is the champion of a Bemba political hegemony. When he resigned from President Sata’s government in 2013, Mr GBM used his connections to the Bemba royalty as the reason why he did not stay with President Sata. Mr GBM claimed that the conviction to remain faithful to Kanyanta Manga II caused him to leave President Sata’s cabinet which had refused to recognise Henry Sosala as Chitimukulu. In GBM’s worldview, being a Bemba has come to define his politics.

It is a major flaw of our humanity that sometimes we try to make up for our perceived weaknesses by inflating our station in life. Those who promote tribal purity frequently fall short of the very purity they parrot. Those zealously promoting tribal zealotry, many times, collapse. It seems like former United Party for National Development (UPND) vice-president, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM), is a zealous Bemba supremacist, and yet when we critically analyse his connections, we find a confirmation of this zealous phenomenon.

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, when Mr GBM was announcing his resignation from the UPND to re-join the Patriotic Front, his Bemba ideology was evident. Mr GBM wants to be regarded as the ultimate defender of the Bemba political hegemony. In the disputes preceding his resignation from the UPND, Mr GBM had found it unacceptable that the UPND party secretary general had moved to suspend a UPND party official in Kasama. Mr GBM found the party secretary actions objectionable because as far as he was concerned, Northern Province is supposed to be his political “bedroom”. Again, Mr GBM seems to believe that the UPND, which is a national party, cannot possibly do anything in his bedroom. Perhaps, the gentleman cannot differentiate between Kasama (a town which is free for all), and his bedroom (which is pretty much limited to his spouse and family).

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E. Munshya

The irony though, attaching to Mr GBM’s claim to a zealous Bemba aristocracy, is that he, as a carrier of a Mwamba surname (that is like a son of a Mwamba), has a very tenuous claim to the Mwambaship itself. In Bemba lexis, he is an impumba mukowa and his fanatical claim to Bemba royalty is remote. In the Bemba matrilineal systems, royal succession is derived from the mother, and never from the father. No matter how much weight you try to pull around you, if your mother does not belong to the ruling aristocracy, you are not part of that aristocracy as Bemba children acquire their clans through their mothers. A son of a chief in Bemba customary practices can never be a chief. A son of a chief who vigorously acts as if he is the heir to the throne is aptly labelled as an impumba mukowa, an imposter who has come to dilute the matrilineal system of succession.

Perhaps, as an offside: anyone among Bemba-speaking peoples who goes about parroting their last names as the claim to a particular line of chiefly succession are all imposters. They are impumba mukowas, as they are removed from the actual owners of the thrones. To digress a bit, I have heard of several presidential candidates touting their last names as the claim to Bemba or Ushi royalties. Nothing is further from the truth. If you want to know Ushi or Bemba royalty, ask them about their clans (umukowa) and not about the last names they carry. It is your umukowa which determines your clan and your role in the Bemba, or Ushi, aristocracy. Bemba succession is utterly different from other tribes such as the Ngoni or the Lozi who are patrilineal. The ruling clan among the Ngonis is Jere, a heritage passed from a father to son, and any Jere can make a legitimate claim to be a Mpezeni. What obtains in Chipata is entirely unheard of among the Bembas and other peoples of Luba heritage.

A question is being asked about the consequences of Mr GBM’s resignation as UPND vice-president. We do not think that this resignation will worsen the UPND’s viability among Bembas. Mr GBM, despite his claim to Bemba supremacy, has little to no effect on the Bemba’s political preferences. The PF is not going to emerge any stronger among Bembas because GBM has returned to his vomit, and neither will the political misfortunes of the UPND worsen because GBM has quit the UPND. If anything, Mr GBM’s resignation from the UPND goes to confirm that he is a mendacious out-of-control soul who likes throwing his heavy-weight around.

Mr GBM, an impumba mukowa of Kasama, has returned to his puke. Further, just as he stated a few days ago, he is returning to “a party of thieves”. Considering what President Lungu joked about six out of 10 Bembas, Mr GBM will be very much at home. In fact, who else can demonstrate this Lungu joke better than Mr GBM himself, – a Bemba supremacist returning to a party of thieves? There is probably a little more thieving to do before 2021, and to that vomit, GBM has returned. This party of thieves must throw a big and heavy bash for Mr GBM. Doesn’t he deserve it?

Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2019). ImpumbaMukowa: Our analysis of GBM’s resignation from the UPND and his tribal ideology. Elias Munshya Blog (eliasmunshya.org). April 24, 2019

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Munshya is a Milenge, Luapula native practising law in Alberta, Canada. He can be reached at elias@munshyalaw.com.

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