Mumba Yachi, Lenshina and the Continuing Challenges of Zambian Citizenship
E. Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.DIV.
It was a bright sunny Chiwempala morning in 1992. Some looked extremely old, but they all appeared exhausted. I cannot quite remember seeing the young or the children among them. I can vividly remember the women, the old women. Their wrinkled faces with pleasantly wrapped ifitambala on their heads. I can’t quite recall where I was coming from or what led me to Chiwempala Community Hall on that day. But there I was. I knew something was different about this group of wearied people. If this was part of the Frederick Chiluba democratic project, my little mind would come to find out. The group was receiving a lot of attention too. A stout looking man with a big camera and long lenses was constantly photographing the group. “Odd”, I thought and off I went on with my business. I can’t still quite recall what my business was that day. But the wrinkly and hungry faces of those people had never escaped my little curious mind.
It was only until the next day that I got to know what had taken place at Chiwempala Community Hall, as it was all over the news. The man with a camera I saw, was a journalist. He had travelled to report and witness a part of history. In the newspapers was carried the story – members of the Lumpa Church who had been exiled in Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of the Congo) had returned. Their foe President Kaunda was no longer in power. Chiwempala was the receiving place. They had nowhere to go and the Chiluba government was looking for a way to accommodate the returnees and settle them. The Lumpa exiles were members of Alice Mulenga Lenshina’s church. They were exiled to Congo DR during the reign of Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda in the 1960s and later in the 1970s. The little I knew about the Lenshina movement was the slight vague stories in Grade 7 – that Alice Lenshina’s followers used to drink her urine. This erroneous narrative was only challenged many years later, when as an adult, I came to learn that Prophetess Alice Mulenga Lenshina was an anti-establishment religious leader who got on the nerves of Prime Minister Kenneth David Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She refused to tow Kaunda’s line. And she and her followers paid dearly for it. After suffering a brutal attack on the hands of Kaunda’s thugs, the Lumpa Church ran away and got exiled in the Congo DR. In the Congo DR, they split into mainly two camps: one settled near Lubumbashi and the other settled in Mokambo, a Lamba town and chiefdom that straddles the border between Zambia and the Congo DR.
Chief Mokambo, Lambas welcome the world!
Mokambo village is part of the Congolese Pedicle, a piece of Congolese territory which when viewed together with Zambia on the map appears to penetrate Zambian territory. On each side of the Congolese Pedicle is Zambian territory. The Copperbelt Province is on the southern side of the pedicle, while Luapula Province is on the northern side of the pedicle. A road from Mufulira famously known as the pedicle road passes through Mokambo, meanders through the Congo DR, and about 90 kms later, reaches Zambian territory on the northern side. I use the term the pedicle peoples to refer to tribes that inhabit the pedicle areas. These peoples are mostly the same on either side of the Congo DR and Zambia. These peoples include the Ushis, the Lambas, the Lalas and several other Bemba speaking peoples. Mokambo (also adulterated at Mikambo) was a very popular point for both Zambia and the Congo DR. The village was near the economically vibrant Copperbelt Province in Zambia, and was the major village linking either sides of Zambian territories through the pedicle.
Through history, the Lamba peoples of Mokambo had learnt to welcome many pedicle peoples and many other peoples, including the Lumpa exiles. Mokambo was a village and a half!
Mumba the Lumpa!
Zambian folk musician Mumba Yachi has been arrested by Immigration Zambia officials. They allege that he is a Congolese national and not a Zambian citizen. Immigration Zambia is also alleging that Mr. Yachi obtained Zambia’s National Registration Card by false pretences. Mr. Yachi has been remanded in custody pending appearance in court during the week of September 3, 2017. Curiously, Mr. Yachi was arrested at Chirundu Border post on his return to Zambia.
If Ms. Mulenga Kapwepwe is to be believed, she situates Mr. Mumba Yachi within the story of the Lumpa exiles and the struggle some of them have faced. According to Ms. Kapwepwe, when the final Lumpa exiles returned to Zambia during the early days of the Chiluba administration, some of the exiles decided to stay behind in the Congo DR. Some had been married to host peoples in the Congo DR and others just wanted to stay. It is reported that Mr. Yachi’s mother decided to stay behind in the Congo DR but sent the young Yachi to live with her relatives in Zambia. There is probably no one returning episode of the Lumpa exiles. In addition to the formal return, likes of which I had witnessed in Chiwempala, some exiles returned informally. Mr. Yachi could belong to the informal returns. If indeed Mr. Yachi is descendant of the Lumpa exiles, the question will be: is he entitled to Zambian citizenship? The second question after having established his citizenship will be whether he declared false information when applying for a green National Registration Card (NRC) and Zambian passport. These are questions that will have to be answered in court.
Immigration Zambia is claiming that Mr. Mumba Yachi has already, after questioning, admitted to being a “Congolese” national. My question is; so what? What does being a Congolese national even mean? A person could consider themselves a Congolese national and still be or be entitled to Zambian citizenship. Claiming that Mr. Yachi has admitted to the things doesn’t mean much. Zambian citizenship laws are not subject to feelings or claims. One is not a Zambian because they believe or think they are. Citizenship is a matter of fact and law. The idea that Mr. Yachi confesses to being a Congolese does not address the legal questions of whether as a descendant of the Lumpa exiles he is entitled to Zambian citizenship. Mr. Yachi should be provided legal counsel and advise so that lawyers can help him navigate through the law. If he is a descendant of Lumpa exiles, I do not see how he would not qualify for Zambian citizenship.
There are reports that Mr. Yachi has admitted to the last name of Mukenge. With due respect, last names, particularly in matrilineal tribes do not mean the same thing as in patrilineal tribes. If Mr. Yachi is from the Lumpa exiles or one of the pedicle tribes such as we the Ushis, the Lambas, or the Lalas, last names don’t mean much. Most matrilineal tribes don’t follow the surname naming system practiced by patrilineal tribes in Zambia. You can’t know the family connection of a person by their father’s last names only. Matrilineal tribes don’t typically name their children after their surnames. The idea of deriving a last name from a father is an invention among matrilineal tribes. It is quite recent.
Congolese Father? So What?
Some reports claim that Mr. Yachi’s father was Congolese. If at all that is true, then Mr. Yachi would qualify for Zambian citizenship based on the other parent. It doesn’t matter that the other parent is a mother or a father. In Zambia, having a Zambian mother is sufficient on its own to confer Zambian citizenship on a child.
A child born from a Zambian mother is a Zambian, regardless of the citizenship of the father! This is the similar issue going on with Dora Siliya’s boyfriend or is it fiancé – Mark Mubalama. Mubalama claims that his mother was a Lamba from kwi Lamba, but his father was a Katangese ka Lunda. Well, the fact that his mother is a citizen of Zambia makes Mr. Mubalama a Zambian citizen. Full stop.
The legend of a Green National Registration Card (NRC), includes the myth probably perpetuated from the Kenneth Kaunda days. An NRC (green) is a proof of registration of citizenship. It isn’t a document that confers citizenship. It does not prove citizenship, it proves REGISTRATION of citizenship. I’m a Zambian, not because of the NRC but because of birth and descent. Registration doesn’t confer citizenship, but registers it. We could as well have thousands of Zambians who have no NRC. Not having an NRC doesn’t rob one of your citizenship. Some Zambians along the pedicle don’t have an NRC. But that doesn’t rob of the right to citizenship conferred to them by birth or descent.
It is, therefore, possible that a person who is rightly a Zambian as operation of the law and fact, could not have obtained an NRC. Consequently, it is possible that people who are rightly citizens of Zambia could misstate facts when applying for registration (doing so is a criminal offence, we will deal with this next).
Is the Whole Nation Guilty?
This might sound bizarre, but here it is. Giving false information at the time you’re obtaining an NRC or passport is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Zambia. So giving a false birthday, birth year, your village or your chief is a serious offence punishable by imprisonment. This includes claiming that so and so are your children when in fact they are your nieces or nephews. This does not even excuse customary adoptions. Customary law adoptions have been supplanted by statute. So many Zambians today who have the wrong birthday on their NRCs are criminals. Most of your parents, that is the first and second NRC obtainers in Zambia who obtained them in the 60s, 70s and who changed their names, changed their birth dates are all guilty of crimes. Is the Zambian state going to prosecute all these NRC liars? Your guess is as good as mine.
That makes the prosecution of Mark Mubalama even more bizarre. The state having found that Mark’s mom was a Zambian, they couldn’t catch him on citizenship. Now they want to catch him on giving false information when applying for an NRC and passport. And what’s that false information? The claim that he attended Kansenshi Primary School when he didn’t. Is this what they will do to Mr. Mumba Yachi as well? If it is false NRC information, then charge the whole Zambia! Or perhaps we need a truth and reconciliation commission in Zambia regarding borders and citizenship.
If indeed Mumba Yachi is found to be a false Zambian it will make us wonder why Zambia should lose such a talent. Yachi’s music is unique. He’s not a bubble gum musician. He actually sings and plays instruments. The guy is an artist. Why shouldn’t Zambia have good talent? Of course, Yachi is equally bizarre and eccentric. But that’s what it means to be an artist. He has adopted a style, a form that is controversial, villagic and truly artistically unique. Zambia does better with such a guy.
Some are saying that it is his colleagues who have out of jealous reported him to the authorities. If Yachi’s story of having sufficient Zambian connections is true, then it is a pity that some in the industry would report him out of envy and jealous. The music industry in Zambia is a small market. Like every industry there are petty jealousies here and there. Those jealousies however may even go towards doubting the competitors’ citizenship. “Othering” is the first step towards exclusion and jealousy. We see it in politics all the time. It is now acceptable for example for some politicians to allege that President Lungu is a Malawian, to make him the “other”. In fact, Acting President Guy Scott in 2014 foolishly sent Immigration Zambia to Lundazi to investigate these claims that Edgar Lungu was a Malawian. These petty jealousies must stop and Immigration Zambia must refuse to be used by disgruntled fellows.
As an Aushi, I am very aware of the many times our relatives have been victimized and falsely accused of not being Zambian enough. Luapulans and other pedicle peoples must come together and speak some sense into the double standards. Above, I have noted that President Lungu and even Dr. Rupiah Banda have been accused of being Malawian and yet for some reasons Malawian allegations are much easier to survive than being of Congolese heritage. These double standards must not be allowed to continue.
Mumba Yachi is unparalleled among current musicians in his awareness of Zambian culture and history. His music has explained the Lenshina Mulenga story. His music has explicated his nostalgic memory of Mokambo. He has told the story of Mongu Rice. In his bizarre villagic costumes, he’s evoked the greats of PK Chishala considering Chishala as a role model of his music. If indeed this chap is a Congolese then he is a Zambian too. For no one can play this music and resonate this history without having the deep Lumpa, pedicle or Luapula roots in him.
I don’t know about you, but for me, Mumba Yachi is my artist. My Zambian artist.
About Elias Munshya: I am a Zambian based in Canada where I practice law at West End Legal Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
Suggested Citation: Munshya E. (2017). Mumba Yachi, Lenshina and the Continuing Challenges of Zambian Citizenship. Elias Munshya Blog. September 3, 2017. http://www.eliasmunshya.org