JACK ZIMBA, Chinsali
SIMON Mwansa Kapwepwe, the legendary freedom fighter who died in 1980, yesterday had his last wish granted – to have his wife Salome buried next to him.
Mr Kapwepwe had chosen the burial site, situated on a hill on the family farm in Chinsali, long before he died.
Salome, who was aged 90, died in her sleep last Tuesday, and was accorded a State funeral by President Lungu.
At Chinsali Girls Secondary School, where a memorial service for Salome was held, in the dimly-lit hall, there was not enough space to accommodate the thousands of people who turned up.
A larger crowd followed proceedings from outside.
Mrs Kapwepwe was sent off with full military honours, her casket draped in the national flag.
It was carried into the packed hall by young female police officers and prison wardens, as a man read Bible scriptures to a hushed audience.
The family gave tribute to a woman who was not only a freedom fighter, but a mother and grandmother.
Her son, Mwansa Kapwepwe, said: “You may give her many titles, including freedom fighter, but we believe the greatest she carried was mother,” he said.
Bishop Kapwepwe also spoke of her strong faith in God.
Mrs Kapwepwe’s funeral was closely followed by her compatriots – a now petering generation of freedom fighters.
After the church service, the procession headed for Kasembo farm, where Mama Salome lived for over 30 years and where she died.
Crowds had gathered on a hill a few metres from the house, where Simon Kapwepwe’s grave lies. Next to it, Salome’s grave.
At exactly 16:16 hours, the sound of gunshots broke the silence on the hill, followed by the sound of the bugle, signifying the closing of a chapter for Salome Kapwepwe.
At the grave site, cultural groups played traditional drums called ishingili, which are reserved for chiefs.
Here in Chinsali, which is considered by many as the birthplace of Zambia’s political struggle, Salome had become the last living reference point of that history – a true representation of her late husband and his political legacy. That she was herself a freedom fighter of note notwithstanding.
However, a down-to-earth woman, who led a quiet life after the death of her husband, Salome could not probably have imagined such a stately funeral for herself.