A tale of two swamps – At the Chief’s Parliament

Not long afterwards, however we stopped again.  We were due to drop in on another chief for this western part of Kafue Swamps.  We could not miss the turning.  A large metal sign proudly pronounced that we were near His Royal Highness Senior Chief Nalumbamba Banamyumanti.  Not only were there these words but various logos and straplines that showed this was a man who meant business, was organised and took action.  We headed down the side track to a collection of well maintained rondavels.

But he was out.

Indeed for several minutes we thought there was no one there.  In the midday sun, Ian, Alphart and I waited patiently while the fisheries staff wandered around the compound looking for signs of life.  A middle aged woman came out of one of the houses; quite sensibly I think she had been taking a siesta out of the heat and light.

It was explained to us that the Senior Chief had headed up to Lusaka for an emergency meeting the night before, but with the lack of mobile coverage down here had not been able to get a message through to us.  We were led into the throne room of the Chief, which was less like the sitting room we had been in the previous evening, more like a proper office with a huge darkwood desk.  Various ornaments around the room including a huge giraffe gave it some decoration, but it still had the air of a badly maintained school house.  On the walls were flow diagrams, check lists and mottos that reinforced the information we had seen on his sign that this was a well organised man.  Indeed we were given copies of a glossy brochure that stated the Chief’s  strategic development plan for 2010-2015.  The format was impressive – a well structured document, numbered paragraphs, and with preamble, executive summary, action points , abbreviation lists…… the works.  Only when you read the detail did you see that there was a big gap between the noble aspirations of the plan ( to end poverty and increase the infrastructure for his people) and the detail of how it was to be funded and implemented.  It appeared the Chief had attended a course on how to develop a strategic plan, some American business school seminar perhaps, but had not been guided on how to get his ideas into more than a glossy brochure.  But since I had never seen anything like this from any other chief in Africa, I should not be too judgemental; as I say the aspirations were the right ones for people.

We went through another door into a large rondavel which proved to be the Chief’s Parliament.  About thirty large leather bound chairs on two levels circled round the room, dominated by the Chiefs chair behind a high desk; his gavel in place ready to bring the members to order.  Each chair was adorned with the insignia of the chiefdom.

It was all very impressive, which of course was the intention. It was a shame we could not meet the man; we were only around for two more days and already had a busy schedule ahead at both the western and eastern end of the swamp.  As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed some brightly covered grasshoppers on a bush in the Chief’s ornamental garden.  Then some more, then I realised the whole area was being systematically chomped away by a swarm of these animals.  These were no simple grasshopper, this was a red locust, once swarming could cause a huge amount of damage.

So the convoy started off again and we drove for another half hour on the gravel roads, before hitting a tarmacced road that led from the south to Namwala.

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