@50 Jubilee Features

Female freedom fighter recounts horror of struggle

Rachel Lwando

AT the age of 15, marriage seemed like the only golden ticket out of poverty for Rachael Lwando. Although, it was during British colonial rule, she hoped for a better and fulfilled life with the man who would provide the security that she much needed. But that was not to be.
Ms Lwando who was born in 1948 in Ndola’s Chifubu Township was brought up in an impoverished home after losing her parents within a space of three years. She lost her mother at the age of six and her father at nine years.
“I was the first of three children raised in poverty because my parents had no money. I never had an opportunity to go to school. However, things took a turn to the worse when my mother died in 1954. My father also died in 1957,” she said.
The environment in which she grew up was not conducive as at the time, Zambia, then Northern Rhodesia, was a British colony. With no money or trade to make ends meet, Ms Lwando decided to join a youth movement against colonial rule.
It was during her interactions with the youth movement that she met the man she later got married to.
“It was an extremely difficult time for me. I needed some form of security in my life and for me marriage was what I thought I needed. So when youths were forming movements, I opted to join and that was where I met my husband.
I was inspired by his lifestyle and his energy. He was a rebel of a youth movement in Ndola fighting against the colonial masters. I wanted to be like him because I equally did not like how we as blacks were being treated,” Ms Lwando said.
Not long after they met, the two love birds got married in 1963. Together, Ms Lwando and her husband recruited 10 women and men to join their youth movement before they started terrorising their masters in Ndola.
With the training from the men, Ms Lwando said the women actively participated alongside the menfolk in petrol bombing buildings belonging to the colonial masters so much so that they soon became a force to reckon with.
Even after she fell pregnant, Ms Lwando said she did not slow down as her zeal to have Zambia liberated was still high.
“One night in early 1964, we had gathered our equipment as usual to go and bomb Bwana Max’s building. Bwana Max was a rich white businessman. He came out and shot my husband who died on the spot. I was broken. We were all shaken but we knew that we needed to continue in the struggle for the sake of my husband’s blood otherwise his death would have been in vain,” she said.
After the death of her husband, the movement re-grouped and went on rampage by petrol bombing any building in the township belonging to the colonial masters.
Ms Lwando said her group unfortunately had a rival group called the Nkumbulas; a movement by blacks against blacks who they were working with the colonial masters. She said the rival group with their sophisticated weapons begun terrorising her group and the liberation struggle heightened in 1964.
It was not long after their fights with the Nkumbula’s that Zambia got its independence on October 24 1964.
“In the end, we won as Zambians. We participated in our small way to the country getting independence from the colonial masters. I might have lost my husband during the struggle but the price he paid for his freedom is why we are all free to live in peace and unity.
Some people wonder how I managed to continue fighting after the death of my husband but I always say that I refused to be defeated because that would have meant my husband died for nothing,” she said.
A mother of four and grandmother of 11 grandchildren, Ms Lwando is constantly reminded of the sacrifice her husband paid during the liberation struggle but comforted by the fact that her children and grandchildren are living in a free society partly because of their grandparents’ contribution to the liberation struggle.
After Zambia gained independence, Ms Lwando relocated to Mansa hoping to start life on a clean slate but that proved difficult especially that  she had never seen the inside of a classroom.
“Yes, schools were there in the colonial times, there were also hospitals and shops and all the other amenities but segregation and racism was deep rooted among the colonial masters. Maybe my life would have been different now had I acquired an education but I didn’t so after independence, I started vending as a livelihood,” she said.
Ms Lwando said 50 years of independence as country still enjoying peace and united as ever is no joke because the environment that the older generation lived in under the colonial cannot be compared to the free environment.
“Zambia has so much to smile about. We are free in so many ways; most importantly we are governing ourselves so decisions being made are those that can benefit us and move us forward as one people,” she said.
However, Ms Lwando, now 66, said it is also important for government to pay particular attention to all the unsung freedom fighters who participated in the liberation of the country as their sacrifice is invaluable.

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