The consequences of the WNLA closure on Bulozi, 1966-1986

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Mulobela, Mbelela.
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This dissertation studies the consequences of the WNLA closure on Bulozi. It focuses on the negative and positive consequences that have emerged in the province between 1966 and 1986. The study begins by examining generally the factors that stimulated labour migration in the province before and during the colonial period. It explores the process under which the Lozi were transformed from village cultivators and fishermen to labour migrants who by 1932 had become tenaciously incorporated into migratory labour and Western cash economy. Thus the study attempts to show how the colonial administrators took advantage of the precarious ecological situation in Bulozi to reduce the province perpetually to a mere source of cheap labour for the mines of South Africa and farms of Southern Rhodesia throughout the colonial period. As a result of this dependence on contract labour, both the Lozi Royal Establishment, especially after Lewanika (1842-1916) and the successive colonial administrations to 1964 took very little interest in creating an economic base within Bulozi. The only industry, timber, was exploited for export purposes only, while no further efforts were made to probe other resources for industrial development in the province. Successive colonial government reports showed that Bulozi was not capable of economic transformation because of her geographical location from markets, ecological constraints and poor transport system. The Lozi people in the long run got conditioned to the view that their area of regional economic specialisation mainly lay in providing manpower to the already developed areas along the line of rail within Northern Rhodesia, in Southern Rhodesia, South Africa and elsewhere. Those who finished school at the BNS left for the line of rail as Bulozi had no industries to absorb them. Those who did not go to school similarly became 'birds of passage' to Southern Rhodesia through the RNLB and other recruitment organisations to 1932 and by the WNLA to South Africa from 1936 to 1966. Hence from an early stage, the Lozi adopted migratory labour as their way of life and looked down upon other methods of earning cash locally such as through agriculture and fishing. The closure of the WNLA by the UNIP government in 1966 which ended Lozi dependence on contract labour caught many participants in the system unaware and therefore led to panic and desperation all over Bulozi. In reality, the WNLA had not created durable wealth within Western Province. Its end, therefore, meant that the prosperity' of consumer goods such as suits, blankets etc came to an end and the economic condition of the people had by the middle of 1968 deteriorated. The central focus of this dissertation is to consider the Lozi people's perceptions of and responses to the consequences of the WNLA closure. A general feeling of anatagonism which was cultivated and articulated by the UP first and aubsequently by the ANC against UNIP developed in the areas of the province where the WNLA had been popular as economic hardships increased. In the General Elections of December, 1968 the Lozi in Kalabo, Mongu, Senanga and Sesheke retaliated by voting against UNIP apparently hoping to replace it with a more emenable political party that would restore the WNLA, UNIP gained the Lukulu, Kaoma and Luampa seats where the WNLA had been less popular. In atudying the consequences of the closure, this dissertation examines both the colonial and UNIP policies regarding economic development In Bulozi. In the analysis, the study demonstrates how the policies of the two perpetuated dependence on migratory labour from the province to the detriment of developing a local economic infrastructure. In the colonial period, all the development plans only emphasized the exploitation of timber for export and migratory labour as the province's only source of revenue. The UNIP government, throughout the 1970s, notwithstanding its unprecedented provision of social services in the province, echoed the colonial viewpoint. The employment schemes the government devised to assist the ex-WNLAs and school drop outs of 1972 encouraged permanent migration from the villages and the province as a whole. As a matter of fact, until the 1980s the UNIP government had no clear-cut agricultural policy for Bulozi. Hence the schemes that encouraged migration from the province. The exodus to Bomas where there were improvements in the provision of social services and the towns where incomes were higher as compared to the deteriorating villages gave rise to a chain reaction of problems. The villages lost their able-bodied men and women to work on the land and to replace the ageing groups. At the Bomas, a new sociological problem of squatter compounds inhabited by unemployed people emerged. Many of those who were recruited to Nakambala and were dissatisfied with the poor conditions of service there settled in fishing camps on the Kafue. Similarly, those who were employed on temporary construction projects such as at Itezhyi-tezhyi Dam at Namwala and at other projects declined to return home and opted to settle in squatter compounds and fishing camps. Their major borne of contention for not returning to the Western Province was that there were poor economic prospects and that the prices of commodities such as fish and beef were too low to economically sustain vendors. From 1973, when copper prices began to decline, a gradual change emerged in the province. Government approach to the growing of rice and maize and to the rearing of cattle and the introduction of cashew nuts in the province gave impetus to a gradual switch to agriculture and to improvements in stockrearing. Improvements in producer prices, traditional land tenure, marketing arrangements and improvements in extension services has encouraged more villagers to grow food and to rear cattle not only for subsistence but also for earning cash. And gradually the myth created by the colonialists that Bulozi was only suitable for supplying cheap labour for the developed areas along the line of rail was slowly showing signs of disintegration. Many people in the province were beginning to see by 1978 that farming was more rewarding than wage labour. In 1986, government and the nation as a whole recognised the fact that Lozi soils were not all that useless as they were portrayed to be. There were cash crops such as cashew nuts which could grow better in Bulozi than elsewhere in Zambia. The improvements in agriculture since the beginning of the I980s suggest that there would have been more improvements if agriculture had been encouraged not through slogans of 'Go Back To The Land' only but also through pragmatic action soon after the WNLA closure or soon after independence. In the production of rice during 1986, Bulozi came second to Northern Province, another province which had been previously condemned to the status of a labour reservoir.
Labour migration in Bulozi