@50 Jubilee Features

Grey Zulu reflects on independence

LACKSON MAKODZA, Lusaka
IT is only after making a reflection on the country’s past events that the citizenry will appreciate and cherish the freedom being currently enjoyed.
It is also important that annals of history be revisited for the country to appreciate its selfless heroism.
An old English adage says “A country without history is a dead country”, hence the need to revisit the pages of the Zambian pre-independence period.
Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia, was a British protectorate and her affairs were presided by the colonial masters.
The British ruled Zambia with an iron fist as most of the rights of the native Zambians were tramped upon. The colonial masters had very little or no regard for indigenous persons, hence the cruelty levelled against the majority Zambians.
UNIP’s first Secretary General Grey Zulu recalls some of the hardships that made Zambians to rise against the colonial rule.
Sharing the traumatising ordeal British colonialists inflicted on the people at his residence in Lusaka’s Makeni, Mr Zulu, a former freedom fighter, recalls that the British never wanted to mingle with the black indigenous people at any level of society.
With a sad face, Mr Zulu explained that blacks were restricted from visiting or going to residential areas for the whites.
Blacks were issued with special passes that determined areas they could go to and the pass was to be carried at all times. For instance, if people lived in Matero, their passes hindered them from going to Chilenje.
Police officers frequently asked for the passes each time they came into contact with a native black so as to ascertain the legality of one being in a particular area.
Mr Zulu, who is now 90 years old, further explains that the use of passes curtailed the free movement of native blacks as passes restricted people to visit certain locations.
Zambians were opposed to the use of passes in their own country while there was free movement for colonial masters.
If anyone deliberately ignored the restriction imposed on the pass, police officers dealt severely with such a person.
The ill-treatment that blacks suffered at the hands of the whites became fertile ground for an uprising against the colonial rule.
In 1951, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula formed the Northern Rhodesian African Congress and was elected president. The party was soon renamed African National Congress (ANC) and in 1953; Kenneth Kaunda became Secretary General of ANC.
Opposition to Mr Nkumbula’s alleged autocratic leadership of ANC eventually resulted in a split. Dr Kaunda went on to form the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958.
ZANC was banned in March 1959 and in June Dr Kaunda was sentenced to nine months imprisonment. While Dr Kaunda was still in prison, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) was formed late in 1959.
After he was released from prison, Dr Kaunda took over the presidency of UNIP, which became better organised and more militant than Mr Nkumbula’s ANC. Due to this, UNIP rapidly took the leading position in the struggle for independence, eclipsing ANC.
Abraham Chomba, a retired politician, who was instrumental in forming the first UNIP branch in Lusaka’s John Laing, recalls that the social ills the people suffered during the white minority rule made it easier to mobilise party members.
Mr Chomba narrated that the whites treated blacks as inferior human beings who did not deserve to be treated with human dignity.
At the height of colonial rule, products meant for the whites were more expensive compared to products meant for indigenous Zambians.
“A chicken reared by a white person would not sell at the same price as a chicken reared by a black man because of the inferior complex the whites attached to natives.
“For a party to acquire a police permit, the police demanded that the speakers at the public rally explain to the authorities what they would tell the people before addressing them. Further, the police wanted to know the age limit of the people expected to attend the public rally,” Mr Chomba recalls.
The public rallies were characterised by heavy presence of police officers who were monitoring speeches made by political leaders.
As branch organising secretary, Mr Chomba was responsible for party mobilisation for Lusaka South, which covered all the townships from Chibolya up to Chilanga.
The political situation was tense as Zambians were ready to govern themselves.
And Yotam Chikamba, a freedom fighter, remembers that the housing units blacks occupied were in a form of a village hut. The round houses were made of iron sheets, making them very hot during the hot season and very cold in the cold season.
Mr Chikamba narrates that the houses only had one window on top, resulting in poor ventilation. The living conditions for families inhabiting the village “hut” houses were not conducive for human habitation which made many blacks detest the white government.
The poor housing units steered anger among the natives as whites occupied big and better houses. It is these inequalities that prompted the blacks to rebel against the colonial masters who had taken away their human dignity.
The inhuman treatment blacks suffered at the hands of the whites played a major role in shaping the events that led to Zambia’s independence.
Mr Chikamba explains that on the Copperbelt, miners were not allowed to live with their wives in their quarters. Miners who left their families in the villages in search for work in urban areas were hindered from living in urban areas. Despite working under harsh conditions, the whites never considered the plight of blacks.
“As a sign of opposing the British rule, Zambians burnt the travelling passes which they were meant to carry at all times for easy identification. Major bridges were destroyed by freedom fighters that waged a guerrilla type of warfare,” Mr Chikamba recounts.
Political leaders were imprisoned over mere charges as a way of breaking the backbone of the opposition political party.  Despite resistance from the colonial masters to grant freedom, the natives continued scheming ways and means of frustrating white rule.
At this stage, the entire Northern Rhodesia was ready for political emancipation as the nation became unruly.
In 1953, Northern Rhodesia was the centre of much of the turmoil and crises that afflicted the federation in its last years. At the core of the controversy were insistent indigenous African demands for greater participation in government, but whites opposed the demands for fear of losing political control.
According to research, two-stage elections held in October and December 1962 resulted in a native majority in the legislative council and an uneasy coalition between the two indigenous nationalist parties. The council passed resolutions calling for Northern Rhodesia’s secession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government under a new constitution, and a new national assembly based on a broader, more democratic franchise.
On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became Zambia on October 24, 1964.
The freedom song was sung on that day of emancipation as the blood was not shed in vain by those who fought for liberation from the bondage of colonialism. – ZANIS

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