KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
AS A child, Daniel Munkombwe only lived with his father Philip Chibbwalu Moono and mother Mankuche Mwaanga for seven years.When he was seven years old, his father was recruited into the colonial army for six years until 1945.
After his father left Mbole village in Choma to join the army, his father’s older brother Meleki Machenje Moono, who lived in Keebeka near Choma, went to collect him because he did not want him to live with his mother.
His father’s older brother had two son’s, Tenson and Tochi Moono.
“My stay with my uncle was not without problems. The problems arose from his two vicious sons [Tochi and Tenson]. They would make us look for bees and we were made to get honey without fire and if we failed to do so, we would be beaten senselessly by these elder cousins,” Munkombwe wrote in his autobiography.
“Several other cruel acts were inflicted on me and another boy, who was named Dingu. Each time I complained to Machenje, he simply said I would remember him long after he was dead and that he was training and hardening me.
“In fact, whenever I complained to him about the mistreatment I was receiving from my two aunties, Bina Mulumbu the senior wife and Bina Simolooka the junior wife, I was often beaten.”
Munkombwe said his uncle would sometimes suggest he beats his aunties if he thought that they had crossed the line.
One day after he came back from herding cattle, he was sent to collect water from about half a mile away and was given a three-month-old baby named Dule Mankampa to carry on his back.
But he only managed to draw 10 litres, of water, which was just half of the 20 litre container. On his return to the house, Machenje’s senior wife Bina Mulumbu was very furious and got a sjambock and started beating him.
“I cried and pleaded with her to stop beating me but to no avail. I then ran to get a spear from the house and threw the spear at her. She was lucky because the spear only grazed her neck and she began bleeding heavily before Bina Simolooka tied a piece of cloth around her neck which stopped the bleeding,” Munkombwe said.
Afterwards, Munkombwe went to hide in the nearby bush because he feared his uncle would kill him when he returned from Choma town where he had gone in the morning.
But when the uncle returned, things went a little differently.
“He grabbed my hand and started beating me and said ‘why did you miss her? I should have found her dead’. He used to tell us that if you pick an axe and aim at someone, don’t hesitate to throw it at that person,” he said.
“I was surprised by his reaction. I thought that he was beating me for throwing a spear at my auntie but I was beaten because the spear missed her.
“He then turned his anger on his two wives and told them the reason why he decided to fetch me from my mother’s place to come and live with him after my father was recruited in the army was because he did not want me to be taken care of by a woman.”
In his book, Munkombwe does not give reasons why he left Matopo Mission School in Bulawayo in the then Southern Rhodesia in 1954.
But Vernon Mwaanga does in his autobiography An Extraordinary Life.
“Daniel Munkombwe had been sent to Matopo Mission in Bulawayo where he was doing his secondary school and was expelled after he beat up the wife of the Principal while he was doing house vacation job,” VJ says.
“She had uttered what he considered politically insulting remarks and he decided to form a one, man justice brigade.”
When he completed Standard 4 in 1950, his father was offered a job as a fire ranger in charge of five farms in Choma West which included Roy Ross, Blackburn and Yates Jones.
Munkombwe heard about a bursary scheme under the War Memorial Fund for the children of ex-soldiers who fought in the World War II. He decided to travel to the District Commissioner’s office in Choma to obtain a warrant in order to travel to Mazabuka where the fund was being administered from in order to obtain benefits.
In Mazabuka, he had difficulties with the messengers who wanted to know the contents of his introductory letter which he had been given by the Choma District Commissioner for presentation to his counterpart in Mazabuka.
“I was very angered by the way the messengers behaved and their attitude towards people generally,” Munkombwe said.
“I remembered the political lectures I used to get from my uncle, the late Simon Mudenda, Elijah Mudenda’s older brother. This political foundation would always be treasured in my life.”
Munkombwe then created a scene that attracted the attention of the senior clerk, Richard Hamuuntu, who later became Chief Mwanachingwala. Mr Hamuuntu was displeased with the conduct of the messengers.
When the District Commissioner asked him about the incident, he said it was his messengers who were not in order.
“To the surprise of the messengers, the District Commissioner agreed with me, and then directed the senior clerk to process bursary papers and gave me money for school fees,” he said.
After leaving Matopo Mission, VJ’s father arranged to find employment in the metrology department for Munkombwe.
After interviews with the provincial metrological officer, it was decided that he be sent to Kalomo. There, he found a young Englishman of about 20 years. Munkombwe was 23.
“This young Englishman greeted me by saying ‘good morning my boy’. I looked at him and said, ‘is that the way you greet older people?’. He arrogantly replied by saying ‘if you are rude, you will have no place here’. He then instructed an elderly office orderly to take me where I was to stay as a trainee metrologist,” Munkombwe said.
“The following morning, he greeted me in the same manner and I then told him to keep his job and headed back to Livingstone where I reported my predicament to my uncle, Samson Mwaanga, and to my surprise, he approved of my decision to quit my new job.”
Munkombwe was to later embark on a successful career as a prominent businessman, farmer and politician.
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka