By E. Munshya wa Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
The book, “Prophetess Alice Lenshina: God’s African Commander, Her Generational Blessings and Legacy” is a 224-page book. Its author, Apostle Margaret Wealth Mwila Buter claims to have been inspired to write it out of a prophetic word she received while listening to a message from her Pastor in London, England. Out of this prophetic word came a rediscovering of Apostle Margaret’s own history and heritage. This would eventually lead her to write the book on Prophetess Lenshina within a few weeks. Drawing on her journalism training and experience coupled with a strong religious background she decided to tackle the history of one of Zambia’s most controversial women.
I bought this book on Apostle Buter’s website (
). I paid about $25 through PayPal. She then posted an autographed copy to my address in Canada. I am most grateful for her kind gesture. I got it within two weeks and was excited to have to read about the history of one of Zambia’s most significant women. To understand the book, however, it is important to first get to know a few underlying currents that have defined the book’s author herself. Without understanding these currents it would be difficult to appreciate this book.
The author does seem to be a Pentecostal charismatic Christian. This can be seen from her work title as an “Apostle”. This is also evident through the style employed in her book. Pentecostals believe in the immediacy of the presence of God. They also believe that God is at work today in the way he used to work in the Bible days. Pentecostal theology is also quite consistent with an African religious worldview, which regards suffering as evil. Such a worldview puts God not only as a good God who rescues people from suffering but also empowers people to overcome these evils. Another important element to note from the author is that within her faith tradition, women do have prominent leadership roles. For within the Pentecostal tradition God speaks through men as well as women. The intersection therefore between Apostle Buter’s faith, and her desire to write a book about Prophetess Alice Lenshina should not come as a surprise.
Apostle Buter is quite passionate about Prophetess Mulenga Lenshina whom she calls God’s African commander. She draws upon her personal family history (her father was a relative of Lenshina’s) to explain the events surrounding the rise of an obscure young woman known as Mulenga who as a result of a heavenly visitation receives a commission from Jesus to become a preacher. Jesus himself gives Mulenga the name Lenshina and ordains her to rid the society of witchcraft, sorcery and various sins. It is this commission that brings Prophetess Lenshina into conflict with the traditional leaders (Chief Nkula), the religious leaders (Rev. MacPherson at Lubwa Mission), and indeed the political leaders (such as UNIP and Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda). Apostle Margaret collects first hand accounts from eyewitnesses to explain the intrigue that surrounded the growth of Prophetess Alice Lenshina’s church to a membership of over 150,000 people. This growth coupled with jealousies and political maneuvering finally led to the Church’s clash with Kaunda’s government forces.
The story is just so full of mystery and intrigue. Read through the book and Apostle Buter takes you through the suspicions, the lies, the murder, the escape, and indeed the imprisonment of Zambia’s most famous prisoners. I never knew how long Prophetess Lenshina had been imprisoned without trial until I read this book. It is also interesting to note the lawyer whom Alice Lenshina and her colleagues relied on for legal advice. The lawyer just passed on a few weeks ago. The book also explains how ordinary Alice Lenshina was. How loving she was to her children. And curiously one of her children had a Lozi name. This is one of the many surprises about Prophetess Lenshina that Apostle Buter brings out.
In the book, the members of the Lumpa Church are brutally murdered by Kaunda’s forces in Chinsali. They become refugees in their own country. Their leader Prophetess Lenshina voluntarily surrenders herself to the state to avoid further bloodshed. She is imprisoned for years without trial. Members of her church group are exiled in the Congo DR, and are settled near Lubumbashi and at Mokambo. Meanwhile as all this is happening, a lot more intrigue and suspense is happening in Zambia as prisoner Lenshina keeps rotating around various prisons in the country.
Apostle Margaret addresses what she calls lies that the state perpetrated against the Lumpa Church. According to popular narratives, Prophetess Lenshina used to force her followers to drink her urine. In fearless courage, Apostle Buter debunks this myth. She equally addresses the reasons why members of Alice Lenshina’s church were difficult to shoot at by Kaunda’s forces.
From the style of the book, Apostle Buter did seem to write this book not for the general audience but for people within a Pentecostal tradition. This I think may be the greatest drawback to this book. Additionally, Apostle Buter does seem to be so informed by her faith tradition that she links Alice Lenshina’s story as an extension of the biblical experience. Obviously, in portraying Lenshina it is better to state the facts, and leave it to the readers to make up their minds about those facts. Prophetess Alice Lenshina’s story need to be told in a way that is more faithful to a broader audience than just the Pentecostal believers. Indeed, the style of writing, prophetic prose, which Apostle Buter employs, may not be familiar with people outside the Pentecostal tradition.
And then Apostle Buter begins to link Prophetess Lenshina to specific events in Zambian history. It is these events that she calls, Prophetess Lenshina’s “generational blessings and legacy.” These include, Zambia’s independence in 1964 and President Chiluba’s declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation in 1991. All these form part of the legacy as narrated by Apostle Buter.
Prophetess Alice Lenshina: God’s African Commander is a book that all those that want to hear a different perspective on Prophetess Lenshina should read. I highly recommend it for all.
© 2012, Munshya wa Munshya