CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
AT THE age of 104, Samushi Mumba speaks with the fluency and presence of mind of a 70-year-old.
Mr Samushi is a former freedom fighter who served a two-year prison sentence in Samfya, Luwingu and Kasama under the Northern Rhodesian government at the peak of the struggle for independence.
Little wonder the vibrant centenarian is looking forward to celebrating Zambia’s 54th independence anniversary with youthful enthusiasm.
The ‘young old man’ is still able to move about with ease and carry out simple chores at Mukuopa village in Kapela area in Samfya district, Luapula Province.
Mr Samushi suffered physically and emotionally for his role in the liberation of Zambia from the yoke of British colonial rule, which is why he continues celebrating Independence Day.
As a youth, he like other native Africans, witnessed and experienced a lot of injustice at the hands of the colonial Northern Rhodesia government, which motivated him to join the struggle.
“I decided to join the struggle because I was angry. I couldn’t just watch,” he said in an interview in Kapela recently.
Luapula was part of Northern Province then. It contributed the largest percentage of migrant labour to the copper mines on the Copperbelt.
Academician Dr Henry Mibeelo, in his book The African Proletariat and Colonial Capitalism (UNZA), refers to how these traditionally militant migrant workers ‘exported’ their rebellious spirit to the mines.
They openly and covertly fanned civil disobedience among fellow miners to protest the oppressive, abusive and discriminative white mine supervisors, which later bloomed into a full-scale, countrywide unarmed struggle for independence.
In 1948, Mr Samushi also left Samfya and migrated to the Copperbelt, where he joined the trade union movement under the leadership of Lawrence Katilungu.
Later, in 1953, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) as a member under the leadership of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula.
He returned to Samfya (Kapela area) in 1960 where he organised Kapela branch of the new and vibrant United National Independence Party (UNIP) with the help of a Mr Muchengwa, the district chairperson.
“That time, meetings were held in secrecy. Most of the time, my home was our meeting place. Unfortunately, one day the colonial police found us holding a secret meeting at my house discussing our freedom and arrested me,” he recalls.
“I was sentenced to two years imprisonment and sent to Samfya State Prison. Later, I was transferred to Luwingu and Kasama to help build Milima Prison. I was released in 1962.”
Mr Samushi saw many people dying while in prison as a result of harsh conditions.
He has a message for Zambians.
“This peace we are enjoying today must be guarded jealously because many people died for it,” Mr Samushi said.
Ironically, for all his personal sacrifice as a freedom fighter, he remains ‘invisible’, an unrecognised hero.
“No one has recognised me in that category [as a freedom fighter], but I’m not bothered. I didn’t sacrifice and leave my family suffering for two years for recognition,” he explained. “I did what I did for the love of my people (Zambians).
“By the way, there are many people in Zambia like myself who fought for independence and were sent to prison, yet no one knows about them for one reason or another. I’m happy for those who have been recognised by Government for their contributions.
“For me, what is important is national peace. Mwebena Zambia ikataneni nokutwala icalo pantanshi [Zambians, unite and take this nation forward].”
How has he managed to live for 104 years when many people are dying before celebrating their 50th birthday?
Mr Samushi laughs before wittily quipping in CiBemba, “Mwebana, umuswema ukukosa ifupa, kutina inshila [My children, if a snake wants to live long it should keep away from the path walked by humans].”
He quoted the Bible where God says ‘if you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days’ (1 Kings 3:14).
“God also says ‘honour your father and mother for your days to be many’. This is the only secret for my long life,” he counselled the younger generation.
Mr Samushi’s son, Paul, a retired head teacher, describes his father as a true reflection of King Solomon’s wise words: “A grey head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:23)
The junior Samushi added, “On behalf of all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, I am saying we are very proud of how he has lived his life to the fullest, while keeping his Christian and hard-work values.
“We are very grateful to our God to have a patriarch like him, who indeed is a treasure of wisdom that will live on forever in our thoughts, hearts and minds and spirits.”
To his youngest brother, Dr Ng’andwe Mumba, who is dean of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the Copperbelt University (CBU), Mr Samushi is the pillar of the family.
“He has been a blessing. Samushi was our father’s lieutenant. They worked closely together and he has kept our father’s legacy. My brother has been a pillar to us,” Dr Mumba said.
He adds, “We are three surviving ‘boys’ and one surviving ‘girl’. Any wedding that he has not graced in our family has not been considered a wedding.”
Mr Samushi believes he has fulfilled his divine mission on earth, living through the two world wars and the independence struggle.
“I’m thankful to God that I have lived this far and am still strong. It’s God who has brought me this far,” he says.
How longer does he want to live?
“I am waiting for the day God will take me and give me rest, to wait for the resurrection of those who died in Jesus Christ,” the old man answered.
He was born on August 10, 1914 at Chipoka village, Chief Mulongwe, Mbabala Island, Samfya district.
His wife, Chita Samushi, is also still alive.
The 104-year-old man has 14 children, 141 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka