By David Ndovi and Chiteta Chinyemba
Chief Government spokesperson Dora Siliya has dispelled as unfounded and falsehoods, assertions in the social media domain, that the Intangible Cultural Heritage(ICH) program formulation at the University of Zambia (UNZA) is a witchcraft training package.
Ms. Siliya said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO’s) US$340,000 grant to the country’s highest institution of learning to develop a Degree Programme in ICH is totally unconnected to any witchcraft training.
Speaking during a media briefing, Ms. Siliya who is also Information and Broadcasting Services Minister said it was shocking that a well meant cultural conservative program had been misconstrued to being a witchcraft educational course.
She said it was untrue that the UNESCO has given the University of Zambia the funds to develop a Degree Programme to train students in witchcraft.
She clarified that in his statement, Zambia National Commission for UNESCO Secretary General Dr. Charles Ndakala had said despite efforts in safeguarding cultural heritage; there are cases of destruction of priceless culture heritage in certain countries which threatens traditions and customs.
“I have repeatedly read the speech by UNESCO’s Dr. Charles Ndakala and nowhere does it infer or talk about witchcraft being supported but tangible cultural heritage promotion and preservation in music, poetry, local sayings or proverbs apart from the physical conversations,” she said.
Ms. Siliya said Zambia had a rich cultural heritage which needed the support to be conserved and among tangible cultural heritage it boasts of are proverbs from the Luano valley, ‘Gule Wa Mukulu’ ,Makishi masks and dances.
She said there was no way government could let something that causes harm to people find its way in doing so, by entertaining any support to it.
“And for your information UNESCO does not support programs which can cause or harm people in any way, so how can they fund a witchcraft training program? It is shocking that facts have been misrepresented in this manner hence the need to put this matter to rest,” she said.
She said Minister of Higher Education Prof. Nkhandu Luo would soon issue a comprehensive statement in parliament regarding clarity over the Intangible cultural heritage conservation and proposed program.
On its part, the University of Zambia (UNZA) has distanced itself from insinuations that the yet to be developed program was intended to provide a witchcraft degree program stating that like all other new programs, it would have to be scrutinized before approval by the varsity’s senate.
In a recent statement, UNZA Public Relations Manager Damaseke Chibale said ‘Witchcraft’ is a crime in Zambia as prescribed in Chapter 90 of the Laws of Zambia (The Witchcraft Act.)
He said the ICH was not a witchcraft centered proposed program and that in line with the Witchcraft Act, the University of Zambia Senate would not approve a witchcraft purported degree program.
According to UNESCO’s 2003 convention “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge ,skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith -that communities, groups and in some cases individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.