From “Pastor Changwe” to “Belinda nafwa”: 50 years of the music that defined Zambia

 E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

A discussion must be had about the role that Zambian music has played in the making of our nation for the past fifty years. There is great wisdom in the saying that music is food for the soul. However, with regard to nations, music is also food for national identity and national myth making. While there will always be arguments about what really comprises Zambian music, there should be no argument about the fact that music has had an enormous impact upon the identity of our country. In 50 years, we must look back and re-listen to the tunes and lyrics that have come from the minds and hearts of our artists.

Music has united the nation. It has held Zambia together. It has helped ferment political revolutions as well. Music has also helped to teach our nation. Dandy Krazy’s “Don’t Kubeba”, is one of the most politically influential songs in the history of Zambia. There is no song that captivated the political landscape so much as the “Don’t Kubeba” song in 2011. This don’t kubeba song is contentious for the subject matter it deals with and for the genre of the music itself. This genre of music has become very popular among artists in the last ten-years. It is mostly over-processed and generated from computer simulations.

Emmanuel Mulemena

Emmanuel Mulemena

Beyond that, however, the most popular songs in the history of Zambia have seldom been political. In fact, even the most popular musicians to grace the Zambian music stage have been apolitical in many senses. These greats include: Mulemena, Chishala, Chilambe and Chris Chali. To this list I must add the latest singers such as the Shatel duo, JK, and Macky II. The legend PK Chishala for example, never wrote a politically charged song except for “Common Man” which he released much later in his carrier. It might have come as an exception rather than the rule for him. On the other hand, Maiko Zulu can be distinguished as the only of musicians to dedicate almost all of his music to politically themed songs. The “Mad President” track, released during the Mwanawasa regime, is one of the most provocative songs ever done by a Zambian criticizing a sitting president. Petersen Zagaze and, now Pilato have also gone into the political fray.

During the one-party state, all musicians were by default members of the one-party state. They would from time to time be expected to churn out songs in praise of the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP). But beyond that, Zambian music continued its apolitical stand until very recently. During the Chiluba regime, there were always one or two artists who released a song or two criticising the regime. One of those is “tomato balunda”, which was a hit only for a month or two.

Chimbayambaya nsenda - P.K. Chishala

Chimbayambaya nsenda – P.K. Chishala

Chishala’s “Common Man” came as a surprise because in his entire career he had shown some indifference to politics. He never sung in praise of the Kaunda regime, and neither did he ever sing for the Chiluba regime. It was therefore a shocker that he would pen a song that essentially acknowledged the difficult economic situation that the “common man” was experiencing under the liberalisation policies of the Chiluba government. Chishala’s hit song was “Pastor”, a notorious song he released in 1985. In that song, he quite controversially, narrated the story of a randy pastor. The most provocative aspect of the song were words Chishala put into Pastor Changwe’s mouth: those talking about the alleged infidelities of Bible characters. Nevertheless, this song proved to be a hit and it propelled Chishala to immediate stardom. After “Pastor”, Chishala would release other songs such as “Church Elder” and “Na Musonda”. He also penned some songs based on Ushi mythology and folklore such as “Impumba Mukowa” and “Muchibolya”. The song “Chimbayambaya Nsenda” almost certainly crowned PK Chishala as the true professor of Zambian music. With his music, the nation sang, danced and together imagined a more thriving nation.

Mayenge Asoza

Mayenge Asoza

Amayenge is perhaps the most consistent of all Zambian bands. Whereas, almost all the great bands are long gone, the evergreen Amayenge Asoza continue to surprise. Most importantly, the death of its leader Chris Chali did not lead to the demise of the singing group. The most famous of Amayenge’s song is “Bamu kaika ten wala”, a hit highlighting child marriages and related issues. After 50 years, the nation will continue to benefit from the music prowess of this dynamic singing outfit. Rumour has it that the Amayenge are working on a new album. It should be very welcome considering that Zambia has been bombarded by too much over-processed computer generated music. A few artists however, are trying to deliver us from this over-processed music; these include Scarlet Mwana-Okondewa (whose album used live instruments).

Serenje Kalindula Band also deserves recognition. Their songs based on both Lala folklore and popular culture proved popular in their days. Other bands that stand out include Oliya Band, Masasu Band, Lima Jazz Band, and Green Labels. Masasu’s “Kabelebele” should add to the list of Zambia’s greatest songs of all time. Uweka Stars’ “Grace”, combines the active Eastern beat with some Nyanja folklore. Recently, a band that tried to emulate these great bands was Chingola’s Glorious Band. Under the leadership of Chibesa, Glorious Band tried to revive the fallen Kalindula live music. Chibesa penned songs such as “Isambo lya mfwa” which became an instant hit. A few years after the release of their first album, the same curse that has struck most Zambian bands also struck the Glorious Band: all the band’s team members died within months of each other obliterating any hopes for the revival of live Kalindula music. Compared to musicians in other countries, it is rather astonishing, the rate at which Zambian musicians die.

P.K. Chishala is the country's greatest musician and poet - Munshya wa Munshya

Music is food for national identity and national myth-making – Munshya wa Munshya

Pompi and Nathan Nyirenda are the gospel artists that have tried to redefine gospel music. The two seem to have distinguished themselves as Christians doing Zambian music, rather than as Christians doing Zambian Christian music. With “Mwe makufi” Nyirenda has perched himself as one of the most gifted singers and musicians Zambia has seen. Jojo Mwangaza took music to another level by taking rhumba tunes and christening them with gospel lyrics. The result of Mwangaza’s music is that for those Christians who feel they cannot dance to “worldly” music, they are welcome to dance to the same rhumba music only replaced by Bible verses. Some musicians such as Ephraim have made it clear that their music is exclusively “Christian” music and they are “Christian artists” first before anything else. Ephraim has combined nearly all genres, borrowing from Kalindula, R n B, Rhumba and Nigerian music.

Currently, the hit song all over Zambia is “Belinda Nafwa”. Its genre is the same, as Dandy Krazy’s don’t kubeba music. Its lyrics however, seem to be resonating among Zambians due to insinuations about sex and HIV/AIDS. Though over-processed, Chester’s voice proves the fact that the story of the greatness of Zambian music is still in its development. For the next fifty years and beyond, Zambian music will continue to grow and with that our nation.

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Suggested Citation: Munshya, E. (2014). “From ‘Pastor Changwe’ to ‘Belinda nafwa': 50 years of the music that defined Zambia. Elias Munshya blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (24 October 2014)

Zambia at 50: A tribute to a resilient nation

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

President Sata in Church

President Sata in Church

As Zambia celebrates her fifty years as an independent nation, there is a great temptation to only look at the good events that have shaped the nation and completely ignore the sad stories. Indeed, there is a lot we can talk about the good stuff that have evolved over our times in the young nation. Independence Day was certainly a great time of celebration. October 24, 1964 set off huge festivities in the land. Beyond 1964, many more outstanding moments have shone through the dimmed clouds of a youthful country. Great leaders have arisen and throughout the fifty years, they have inspired the confidence of the young and old alike. However, regardless of how gallant the story of Zambia has been, it would be unfair to history if we do not take the time to remember and observe those moments of adversity that our nation faced. The character of a nation is demonstrated by how it handles moments of great temptation and trial. We need to pay a tribute to a resilient nation that in spite of adversity has managed to rebuild and redefine itself for the good of posterity. Disasters have come and gone, but a resilient nation has stood “strong and free”.

Zambia

Zambia

Copper is the economic lifeblood of our nation. Mines are, therefore, strategic to our development. Each day, thousands of miners stroll into the belly of the Zambian earth to extract copper, cobalt and other minerals. Their safety is a priority. However, in 50 years of our independence one mining disaster shook the foundations of the new nation. On 25 September 1970, barely six years after independence, hundreds of miners reported for work at a shaft below No. 3 Tailings Dam in Mufulira. They went into the shaft to operate the mine as they had been doing for years. Eighty-nine of them never returned from that night shift. An underground breach of a tailings dam led to its collapse resulting in the deaths of hardworking miners. The sweet smell of political independence had now given into a bitter pill of disaster. A new nation was facing an accident that would shape it for decades to come.

In this article, I am not trying to apportion blame, but to celebrate the resolve of a nation in the face of adversity and danger. Following a commission of inquiry conducted to study the cause of the Mufulira mine accident; it was found that there had been some missteps in the management of sinkholes. The accident was indeed preventable. From the recommendations of the commission, several steps were taken to make mining safer for the future of Zambia. It was due to some changes made after 1970 that mining in Zambia experienced some relative safety afterwards. As we celebrate fifty years of independence, we should have, in our memory, the men who perished in that accident.

Decades after the Mufulira Mine disaster, another industrial accident shook the nation. Around April 2005, 51 workers were killed in an explosion at Bgrimm Explosives Zambia Limited. The most painful aspect with this accident is that it was completely avoidable. At 50 years, Zambia should remember her citizens who died through this avoidable chaos. The challenge remains for government and citizens to work together to make workplaces safer. We do not need another Bgrimm disaster.

The greatest disaster to strike our nation happened on 27 April 1993. The nation had just voted in a new government two-years prior. There was a lot of promise for the rebuilding of our democracy. With regard to sport, our national football team was doing very well. It was the year we all hoped Zambia would win the Africa Cup of Nations and perhaps qualify to the World Cup. That team had great players whose discipline and dedication were admired by many: Mankinka, Mulenga, Mutale, Numba, just to mention a few. But on 27 April 1993, disaster struck. An airforce Buffalo plane carrying the national team had crashed into the sea off the coast of Gabon. All the members of the football team and the crew perished in that tragedy. The nation was in shock. We could not just believe what had happened. We all wondered the turpitude we ever committed, as a nation that could have resulted in that terrible retribution. Rumours swirled about what could have caused that disaster. That accident became the worst we have ever seen. Oceans of tears flowed freely from the eyelids of exhausted citizens. Zambia was in mourning and it was terrible.

President Kenneth Kaunda, a weeping prophet

President Kenneth Kaunda, a weeping prophet

But like all great nations, Zambia persevered through its mourning period. Led by President Frederick Chiluba, the nation found solace in God. We mourned. We cried. We prayed. We wept. We then came together and out of that tragedy came the resolve to rebuild and push on as one nation. Undeniably, after that tragedy, Zambia arose afresh as a nation just recovering from disbelief. The new football team inspired by that loss did so well and emerged second at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. However, the most potent tribute to the heroes of the 1993 crash took place in Gabon in 2012 when just as few kilometers from the coast of Gabon, the Zambia National Team beat Cote D’Ivoire to scoop the Africa Cup of Nations. As a further testimony to the character of our country, most of the players in Gabon in 2012 were barely toddlers when the 1993 team crashed in Gabon. Indeed, “pafwa abantu pashala bantu”. On the ashes of disaster, was born a new resolve to show the true character of a nation – “proud and free”.

There would be no space in this article to mention all the tragedies from which our nation has recovered and continues to recover. In 2005, 45 pupils died in a road accident in Kawambwa. We should remember them. In 2013, over 50 people died in the Chibombo accident. We should remember them. In early 1990s, a cholera outbreak in Kitwe left hundreds dead. We remember them. During the Mushala rebellion, hundreds died. We should remember them.

When Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili named the new Lusaka stadium – Gabon Heroes Disaster Stadium – like one man, the nation petitioned the Patriotic Front government to drop the “disaster” term. In honour to the 1993 team, the name of the new stadium was shortened to “Heroes Stadium”, the term that shows the attitude Zambians take to disasters and tragic circumstances. Beyond these disasters and tragedies, the nation stands and sings a song of Zambia, the land of work and joy.

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Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2014). Zambia at 50: A tribute to a resilient nation. Elias Munshya blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (24 October 2014)

One Zambia One Nation: The need for a new narrative

 E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

President Kenneth Kaunda and King Mwanawina III

President Kenneth Kaunda and King Mwanawina III

After 50 years of independence there is need for Zambians to begin reimagining the myth of their nation. The story of our nation needs to be told in a fresh and new light. Each time a nation or indeed an individual celebrates an anniversary; there is a great temptation and pressure to focus only on the past rather than on the future. This is the temptation we risk falling for, this 24th October 2014. From 1964, there is a possibility that we will begin looking back over the years and let nostalgia pervert our ability to imagine a future ahead of us. We could spend all of the time and effort at seeking to recover the fossils hoping to get inspiration from our past. Regardless of how glorious the past has been the people of Zambia should use the past as a springboard to a new imagination of a future. This is not to mean that we should dishonor the past, but rather that we must use the past only as a backdrop of inspiration for tomorrow. The nation that was not has now been, for 50 years. It cannot return to the past, but it can only spring to its future. To do so, we will need courageous imagination to foster a unity needed to face the challenges of tomorrow rather than the ambiance of yesterday.

We need to reimagine our education system. For any nation to prosper, it needs an educated citizenry. This education must be in areas that our economy needs most: science and technology. The government and the business sectors should begin investing in those educational programs that offer a promise for the future. No doubt, we have had a proliferation of universities in the past ten years. This is only but a beginning. Government now needs to put in place a qualifications framework of some sort so that quality is assured. Zambia right now is not facing a university problem more than it is facing a university “quality” problem. Regardless of how many new universities we build in Chinsali, without quality we would only be digressing and not progressing. Fifty years after independence, it becomes necessary to establish a national qualifications framework that could both accredit and regulate the universities around the country. Additionally, it is no secret that most of the universities have gone into the humanities. I have no problems with humanities. I have read humanities at both universities and seminaries. I love humanities. But Zambia also needs sciences and technology. Government and the private sector can invest in higher education that produces suitable graduates in the sciences and technology. It is unacceptable that fifty years after independence we still cannot design a single “fosholo” to help mine copper in Kansanshi. With a new imagination and new incentives, I have no doubt that a future Zambia can create the higher educational framework for the good of our common tomorrow.

We also need to reimagine and reevaluate our dependence on copper. It is rather shocking that fifty years after our so called independence our country still depends upon copper for its economic survival. Now copper is a finite resource, it is a diminishing resource. The problem with such dependence is that our economy oscillates according to the performance of copper in Beijing and London. We must face the honest assessment that, Zambia has no economic future without economic diversification. Regardless of how glorious the past of copper has been, we have to reimagine a future of Zambia that is less dependent upon copper. With fertile land that is the envy of millions and water so abundant as to quench the thirst of billions, we have no justifiable excuse to fail in agriculture. We need a fresh imagination that takes our minds off copper to other things such as agriculture to develop our country.

In terms of politics, we have made giant steps since 1964. We have had five presidents. We have done mature transitions from one leader to another. We have a judiciary that is relatively independent. We have a somewhat workable constitution. And in the little areas it is not working, we are making effort at changing that which needs to change in this 1991 constitution. We are a talking people, and we do not take kindly to governments that want to desecrate our liberty to speak and to assemble. That being the case, we must continue in the same spirit to safeguard our democracy. The greatest defenders of any democracy are the ordinary men and women around the country. Democracy belongs to the people. As such, the people of Milenge as well as Mwinilunga should continue participating in the democratic process. We should continue to vote and make our voices heard. It is our democracy. It is our country and we have a duty to hold leaders accountable. We must build on our democratic success over the last fifty years to build a more robust democracy for the next fifty years and beyond.

On the eve of Zambia's Independence - 23 October 1964

On the eve of Zambia’s Independence – 23 October 1964

Zambia is not necessarily our heritage more than it is our destiny. Heritage connects you to the past, but destiny connects you to the future. Our republic should connect us not only to our past, but also to our future. Zambia should be a collection of people united in their imagination of the future rather than a morgue of people united only by a common past. A past is limited, while a future has unlimited. Together, we are creating a destiny called Zambia. Each day is an opportunity to build a nation and to help imagine that place we desire for ourselves and for our children. Destiny looks at other Zambians and collaborates with them in building a future for the people of Nakonde as well as Chirundu. It is not enough to share a common past, what we need now is a commitment to share a common future. This has implications. Tribalism can easily be defeated if we all decided to focus more on the destiny we are trying to create rather than on the heritage whose past we may not all share. To create a future for Zambia means we have to go beyond the limits of our own tribes to capture out of other tribes a common dream for Zambia. Destiny means we should find it repugnant for a cabinet to feature only one tribe or region. Destiny is welcome of others and this is the welcome we need for Zambia and her future. A Zambia at fifty should be accepting of a Vice-President Guy Scott not just by the colour of his skin, but rather by the content of his passion for our nation. When we condemn tribalism, we should also condemn racism and the evil that comes with it. Zambia belongs to all. It belongs to the Bantu, the Ng’uni, the Luba-Lunda migrants, the Mfecane raiders, the Bantu Botatwe, the Makololo invaders as well as the descendants of the Europeans. It belongs to all.

To a nation committed to a bright future, we should all say happy 50th Anniversary, Zambia.

Bwezani Nafuti: Should Dr. Rupiah Banda return to active politics?

E. Munshya, LLB, M.Div.

Dr. Rupiah Banda has all the reasons in the whole world to be angry and to be outraged at the way the party that defeated him in the 2011 polls is handling national affairs. The economy is in crisis. National security is now just a wiretap away. Our country has lost its international profile. Banda’s successor “niba katekela mubwendo.” Even our own parliament now does not want private media to cover President Sata due to “security concerns”. Rupiah Banda planned all the little infrastructure development we are seeing today, but the PF is behaving as if it was their genius that made it. In many ways, the PF government has failed miserably and any leader such as Rupiah Banda should be furious! I support him on this.

To be outraged is one thing, however. What really matters is what Banda can do about this outrage. Interestingly, there is a growing chorus of some “concerned Zambians”, who are calling for him to make a political comeback. For his part, President Rupiah Banda has not curtailed that debate. He has instead castigated those opposed to Zambians calling for his return. Being a democrat that he is, President Banda is asking for a robust debate to continue about whether the Zambian people want him to return or not. Indeed, no one in Zambia should be stopped from expressing their opinion to call back Banda to deliver us from this clueless don’t kubeba. But since Banda wants to hear from Zambians, I must add my voice. It would be a bad move for himself, for the MMD and for Zambia to have Rupiah Banda return back to the political fray.

Rupiah Banda’s 2011-concession speech is perhaps one of Zambia’s greatest political speeches. I would put it on the same level as President Kaunda’s Independence speech and Chiluba’ inaugural address. In that conceding speech, Rupiah Banda asked for peace to prevail in the nation. He counseled the winners to treat the defeated with dignity. He then encouraged the young people to take over the leadership of the country. He also availed himself to provide guidance and counsel to the nation. A few months after that loss, Banda relinquished his MMD presidency and the party found a new leader. In confirming, Banda’s foresight, the MMD found a younger leader: Nevers Mumba.

Dr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda

Dr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda

But as expected, Nevers’ leadership was not going to be the magic wand for the MMD. It is ridiculous to suggest that a new MMD president would restore the popularity and clout of the MMD overnight. This is where the anti-Nevers cartel in the MMD got it wrong. Mumba or any other person could not have possibly redeemed MMD that easily. The MMD had lost an important election. It now is in opposition. Its stature as a ruling party had been diminished. To rebuild it needed patience, unity and support from all the concerned. The problem with rumours of President Banda’s return is the destabilizing effect it has on the MMD and on the leadership of Nevers Mumba. It does not matter that Rupiah Banda could be adopted by a different party. Just the idea of his return is enough to destabilize the MMD and Zambian democracy.

Rupiah Banda still has huge clout in the MMD. This should be expected. To date, MMD campaign materials being used in by-elections still bear his portrait. In the East, where MMD is the strongest, it is clear that the party remains strong there due to RB’s influence. It is for this reason that Banda should exercise wisdom and leadership by stopping those calling for his return, as it would subvert the party.

If Banda wants to remain true to what he said in 2011, he should support the younger people instead of allowing himself to get into the political ring again. Not that I have anything against age, no one is born old, but we should clearly remind ourselves that if RB stood in 2016 he would be around 80-years old. Nevertheless, the MMD under younger leaders now looks like it can rebuild. After the election of Muhabi Lungu as national secretary, it now seems like the MMD can get reorganized.

Eastern province is in many ways a democratic hub of Zambia. The East does some amazing things to our democracy. The converse could also be true that democracy can be killed much more easily in the East. Just when we had the East as a great UNIP stronghold after the 1991 elections, it was Kenneth Kaunda’s continued interference in the affairs of UNIP that led to its great instability in the East. Had UNIP continued with its strong showing in the East, Chiluba could not have had the majority he had in 1996 to reverse much of our democratic gains. But Kaunda insisted on a comeback that hurt UNIP and hurt Zambia in the long run. I am afraid that, just was the case with Kaunda, Banda’s desire to return does have the potential to destabilize the MMD in the East and in essence kill the MMD.

If Banda were to decide to return, I have no doubt that the East would support him. Nevertheless, even if the East supported him, he is likely to lose an internal MMD poll if he were to challenge incumbent Mumba. The reason is simple: the internal party polls in Zambia never support challengers of the incumbents. Party polls in Zambia are never free and fair. Mumba is likely to beat Banda if the MMD went to polls. But the political fallout is likely to damage the MMD brand further.

For the MMD to survive, it needs the Eastern Province. Without the East, the MMD will crash. Every political party in Zambia must be a regional party first before it becomes a countrywide party. It is from regions that any party in Zambia can then plot its national growth and appeal. The PF’s region is clear for all to see, Luapula and other Bemba speaking regions. Sata does not need to campaign in Luapula. For the UPND it is the South. Hakainde gets huge votes there. For the MMD it has happened ironically, that it is the East. It is this East support that Rupiah Banda must direct towards the current MMD president.

The accusations against Nevers are quite unfounded. No one in MMD was going to redeem this party. This party must start afresh. It needs support. It needs sympathy. It now looks like it has a brilliant duo heading it: Nevers and Muhabi. They need to be given a chance. If Rupiah wants admiration, he must channel his political clout properly for the good of the party and the nation.

Rupiah Banda's return will hurt and divide the MMD - Munshya wa Munshya

Rupiah Banda’s return will hurt and divide the MMD – Munshya wa Munshya

Muhabi Lungu was a UNIP firebrand when Kenneth Kaunda led to its downfall in 1995. It would be terrible to see Muhabi Lungu preside over the death of another party, the MMD, with the infighting that could rock the nation, if Rupiah Banda were to challenge Nevers. The young Muhabi should not become an undertaker in the death of political parties in Zambia. He must be given the chance to serve the MMD and work with Nevers to help the MMD rise from its ashes. For the sake of the MMD and Zambia, it would be a bad idea for Dr. Rupiah Banda to tolerate the idea that he could be President of Zambia again.

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Suggested Citation: Munshya, Elias. (2014). “Bwezani Nafuti: should Dr. Rupiah Banda return to active politics?” Elias Munshya blog. (www.eliasmunshya.org)

The King of Zambia: Mwanawina III and the making of a new nation

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

This republic we now call Zambia is a product of several currents. As we celebrate 50 years of its existence we must look at all the stories that could help us navigate through these currents so that we can learn from history and not repeat mistakes from that history. Fifty years after our independence, there is no issue that could potentially divide our nation more than the contentious Barotseland Agreement of 1964 (BA 64). Nevertheless, as contentious as it may be, we would be doing a great disservice to ourselves if we do not confront this story. The BA 64 and the role of King Mwanawina III in the formation of our nation are important Zambian stories. Discussions on the BA 64 have dwelt on its formation in 1964 and its abrogation months after independence. However, in order for us to understand the role, if any, it played in the making of our nation, we must situate it within its own context and milieu.

King Mwanawina III

King Mwanawina III

The Supreme Court in the case of Lewanika and Others v Chiluba (1998) paid some cursory attention to the fact that the homeland we now call Zambia pooled several territories administered by the British prior to 1924. Northwestern Rhodesia, Barotseland and Northeastern Rhodesia combined to form the British Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia administered by the British Colonial Office. In the treaty-making system, the British South African Company (BSAC) identified powerful chiefs, signed agreements with them and then used those treaties as the basis for colonialism. By far, one of the most powerful empires in what would become Zambia was Lewanika, whose Lozi Empire covered parts of present Namibia, Angola and Zambia prior to 1924. As such, it was quite natural that the BSAC’s desire to legitimize its colonial crusade involved signing some kind of a treaty with Lewanika. By the time the British Crown commenced its direct rule over Northern Rhodesia in 1924, Lewanika’s Kingdom was somewhat definable. During the struggle for independence, Mwanawina III was the Litunga of Barotseland. He reigned from 1948 to 1968.

President Kenneth Kaunda and King Mwanawina III

President Kenneth Kaunda and King Mwanawina III

Both before and after 1924, when the British ruled over a unified Northern Rhodesia, the Litunga maintained some level of autonomy. This autonomy, however, was a two-edged sword. A Litunga would be influential only to the extent that the British permitted him to. As such, the Litunga’s power was simply an extension of British rule. Even though the British had early treaties with the Litunga, the only thing that seems to matter for them was that they had a dominant king whom they were “protecting”. The subtlest effect of this “protection”, however, had to do with how the British extended this protection to the rest of the Rhodesian territories. While the less powerful kings and traditional rulers still exerted some moderate influence over their areas, Litunga was more formidable over his areas due to the direct consent of the British. This became the dominant political perception of Litungas and the times they lived in. It was certainly so, for Mwanawina III who reigned during the difficult time of the dawn of independence. Barotseland subjects, had by the 1950s come to perceive and begrudge their king not as a liberator but as a collaborator with the British. At one time, the White settlers of Southern Rhodesia were even considering a federation of sorts involving Rhodesia, Barotseland and Katanga. Rumours of such maneuvers were damaging to the standing of Mwanawina III among his people. This became one issue Kenneth Kaunda exploited during the 1964 elections.

Sensing the changing tide for independence in what would later be called the Republic of Zambia, the British decided to side-step King Mwanawina III and gave in to popular demands for native direct rule for all territories in Northern Rhodesia including Barotseland. By the 1950s when Kaunda led the splinter group away from the ANC, there was clear consensus that it was he and his more radical group that would best epitomise and actualise the dream of freedom for all blacks in Northern Rhodesia. Indeed, in the elections of the Barotse National Council itself, Kaunda’s UNIP soundly defeated political parties that were aligned to the ruling aristocracy of the Barotse nation.

However, the greatest historical mistake Kaunda ever committed was misinterpreting the meaning of this win in Barotseland. The reason why the BA 64 will continue to haunt Zambia is closely connected to the way UNIP’s win was taken both by the British and by Kaunda himself. For sure, Kaunda interpreted his win in Barotseland as a sign that the people were solidly behind him to push through an independent nation while ignoring Litunga Mwanawina III. The British too, fearful of UNIP and its mandate were reluctant to side with Mwanawina. Indeed, the king of the once great Lozi Empire was now in a corner. He had no political capital and his British backers had abandoned him. It seems Kaunda had the support of the people of Barotseland, but Mwanawina III still had the throne. A compromise had to be forced. It is this compromise, which would continue to haunt the new nation 50 years after its independence.

The story of Zambia is incomplete without Mwanawina III - Munshya

The story of Zambia is incomplete without Mwanawina III – Munshya

What can we learn from the context surrounding the Barotse negotiations? First, Kaunda should have treated Mwanawina III more like a partner than as a minor. Truly, Kaunda had the people, but it was naïve of him to push through some changes without having recourse to Mwanawina III’s genuine concerns. Second, KK should have known that winning elections in the Barotse National Council did not mean that the people of Barotseland had decided to do away with their king or their customs. Third, KK should have been more humble after winning and he should have used that leverage to come up with an agreement that was more acceptable to the Litunga and through him, the people of Barotseland. Perhaps KK should have been open to the idea of either federalising or even prevailing upon the British to grant Mwanawina III some boosted autonomy. It has been 50 years since the BA 64 and yet the question of Barotseland still haunts our young nation. Nevertheless, King Mwanawina III remains one of the important figures in Zambia’s history. He was a king, in Zambia.

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Suggested citation:

Munshya, Elias (2014). The King of Zambia: Mwanawina III and the making of a new nation. Elias Munshya blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (October 12 2014).

Chikwanda’s other bombshell conversation with Edgar Lungu

Chikwanda and Lungu

You’ve all read the wiretap story from The Post about Chikwanda having a conversation with The Post’s employee. I also wiretapped Chikwanda. This time he was talking to Acting President Edgar Lungu. The issue with my wiretap though is that it is true and I have the tape to prove it. Anyway this is how it went.

Edgar Lungu: Ba mudala mwa lenjamba. Ninshi ulwambo so?

Chikwanda: Mwaice wandi tu be practical. Before nshila asuka, teti unweko ka good, red French wine?

Edgar Lungu: Ehe ba mudala kuti nanwa, as long as na mukwata ko ka crate ka Mosi.

Chikwanda: Efyo na kutemenwa mwaice. Waliba close na bantu elo walikwata na humility. Ani crate iyi.

Edgar Lungu: No problem ba mudala. Ni pali cimbuya kaili. Mwe ba Bemba, katwishi nga muli ba Bisa, mutila “ici kalilwa pa nsaka musumba wa bwali.” Nga katubi, katata na lutuku ili kuti?

Chikwanda: Iyo ifyo nshinwa. Nwafye ama “wines” abalumendo bandi bantumina from London. Any way uyu ceremonial umusungu, tatu mfwana iyo. Alintumina utusungu tubili. Nakene fye njebele naliba moral ine. Twali leniko Fraud Mmembe.

Edgar Lungu: Naumfwa mudala, aleni natu bombeshe apo absent landlord tala bwela. Teti cimoneke bwino ukumusha eka ne cilafi.

Chikwanda: Nifyo fine mwaice. Here, more red wine from France. At least we are not owing ZRA K24 Billion, yet. Natu kolwe apo Disaster Msiska talaisa tupinda VAT. Ine nalikwata sana ama company ayengi. Pressure nai fula sana nomba.

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There is a little problem, however with this conversation. It seems it is real only in my mind. – Munshya wa Munshya (Additional edits to the original post).

UNIP is one of the  most significant political movements in Zambia's 50 years of nationhood - Munshya wa Munshya

There is a little problem, however with this conversation. It seems it is real only in my mind. – Munshya wa Munshya

Fall of Kaunda’s UNIP: Zambia’s 50-year lesson in power and politics

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

Many have eloquently told the powerful story of the founding of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). I should not retell that story here. My concern now is to acknowledge that UNIP remains the most significant political movement in the history of Zambia. If we are to be faithful to the Zambian golden jubilee story, we must be faithful to the story of our country that considers the role-played by UNIP. Nevertheless, with this in mind, it is prudent to discuss how this great movement got reduced to a level where it is basically extinct in 2014. What happened to UNIP?

Some analysts point to the 1991 election loss as the primary reason why UNIP is dead today. With due respect, I find this reason not to be compelling. In as much it was a very desolate loss, UNIP could have survived and, in fact, it did survive for several years after 1991.

United National Independence Party (UNIP)

United National Independence Party (UNIP)

Some have suggested that UNIP has died due to poor leadership from its president Tilyenji Kaunda. If parties died just because of bad leadership, almost all parties in Zambia would be extinct by now. Most parties in Zambia do actually have bad leadership. I know of a political party currently run by a president who has not been seen in public for over 90 days. That party is still winning elections in spite of its president being AWOL. That being the case, Tilyenji’s no-show in UNIP cannot be reason why his party has become extinct.

The other reason proposed is equally deficient: that of internal squabbles. All parties in Zambia do face internal squabbles. But these squabbles do not lead to the demise of these parties. The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has had its own squabbles. The Patriotic Front (PF) has squabbles every day. There is always a fight between the A-Team and B-Team. The United Party for National Development (UPND) was itself embroiled in serious squabbles after the death of its founder Anderson Mazoka. Internal squabbles are insufficient to explain the fall of UNIP.

When UNIP lost power in 1991, it had a series of seats in parliament. In fact, all of the parliamentary seats in Eastern Province were held by UNIP. It had 25 out of the 150 seats in the 1991 parliament. Relatively speaking then, with 25 seats UNIP was still a significant political force. Having sunk so low, the only way for UNIP was for it to rise from the ashes of the 1991 defeat. And rising it did rise.

President Kenneth Kaunda

President Kenneth Kaunda

What is telling about the 25 seats was the fact that they were regional seats. This is perhaps one of the most important trends in strong parties in Zambia; they must first and foremost have a strong regional base. If UNIP was going to rise out of the ashes of 1991, it needed to preserve this regional base and then build from there to grow back its share countrywide. Any political party that does not have a regional powerhouse cannot survive in the Zambian political landscape. Post-1991 UNIP was going to become a nationally significant party again only by building from its regional base of Eastern Province. What was true for UNIP in the 1990s remains true for all other parties today. Let me take the UPND for example. The power of the UPND lies primarily in its regional base of Southern Province. If it loses that support, it would become extinct as well. As such, there is some hope for UPND as long as it can build upon its regional base and then expand into other areas as well. Expanding it must do, but it cannot go for the false security of expansion at the expense of losing its base. The same applies to the ruling PF. At the time it was founded in 2001, the PF became a party for the discontented urban areas as well as a non-compromising regional base of Luapula-North corridor. If the PF loses this base in the North, it could potentially be extinct too. In fact, the PF can spread into other areas, to become a resemblance of a national party, by first recognizing its strength as a regional party. In Zambian politics, any political party of consequence must have the backing of a region. You lose a region you are gone.

This is the greatest challenge faced by Nevers Mumba’s MMD today. If MMD does not commandeer a loyal region in Zambia, it would be extinct. Its resurgence depends upon its ability to hold a region, and then from there rebuild its national character. Those in MMD that are thinking that it will remain a balanced national party do so at their own peril. Most indications are showing that the stronghold for MMD is ironically going to be the Eastern Province. If they lose the East, MMD will be toast for they will not have any regional stronghold from which they can plot a political revival.

Having looked at present realities, we must now return to how UNIP handled its regional power after the 1991 elections. By 1993, it had become apparent and clear that the resurgence of UNIP had commenced. After the jostling of internal power politics, Kenneth Kaunda returned as party president. By 1995 Kaunda and his UNIP were again causing headaches for President Chiluba’s MMD. Some Zambians were indeed seriously considering voting UNIP back into power. The founding political movement of the Zambian nation was winning back its support.

Kenneth Kaunda

Kenneth Kaunda

President Chiluba knew the political threat posed by Kaunda’s UNIP in 1995. With Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta as party vice-president, it had become apparent that UNIP was looking to expand beyond the East. To forestall this growth of UNIP, Chiluba came up with the 1996 constitutional amendments, which purported to stop both Kaunda and Inyambo Yeta. The parentage clause was inserted to bar Kaunda whose father and mother apparently came from Nyasaland. Yeta was also barred by the constitutional provision that prohibited traditional chiefs from participating in active politics. However, the way UNIP decided to react to these provisions is what killed it. Had UNIP decided differently, it would still be present today!

Kaunda and his party vice-President decided to lead UNIP into a boycott of the 1996 elections, “mu cipyu”. National politics should never be decided “mu cipyu.” This was a bad call on Kaunda’s part. It is a no brainer that he was victimized and was indeed unfairly treated, but Kaunda’s decision to boycott the 1996 elections meant that UNIP would cease to represent its regional Eastern block. With the loss of that Eastern region came the rapid fall of a party that once led Zambia into independence. Ironically, the same man who built UNIP to its climax in the 1960s also presided over its downfall in the 1990s. With that 1996 boycott, Kenneth Kaunda hammered the last nail in UNIP’s coffin. As we reflect on the past 50 years of our independence, I just hope MMD, UPND and PF will learn important lessons from the rise, and fall of UNIP. But are they?

UNIP is one of the  most significant political movements in Zambia's 50 years of nationhood - Munshya wa Munshya

UNIP is one of the most significant political movements in Zambia’s 50 years of nationhood – Munshya wa Munshya

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Suggested Citation:

Munshya, E. (2014). “Fall of Kaunda’s UNIP: Zambia’s 50-year lesson in power and politics”. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (12 September 2014)