@50 Jubilee

Zambia’s political freedom and after

By TENTANI MWANZAH – Lusaka
ON October 24, 1964, Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, the first country in the British Commonwealth to be granted republican status on the very day of attaining independence.
independence was won dramatically and it was a proud African people who witnessed the lowering of the Union Jack and hoisting of the Zambian flag, signalling the end of 70 years of foreign rule.
Today marks 50 years from that day. Happy jubilee celebrations Zambia! Apt is the theme chosen for the celebrations:
“Commemorating God’s favour of Zambia’s 50 years of independence for continued peace, unity, democracy, patriotism and prosperity”
By Command NQ 7637; between British South Africa Company (BSA Company) and the Foreign Office and by memorandum signed by Sir Percy Anderson and John Cecil Rhodes, on November 24, 1894, the territory of Northern Rhodesia became a geographical expression.
This had been preceded by agreements being made with a few traditional rulers. The years that followed saw the crushing of any form of resistance. The most notable was the Angoni War of 1898 led by Ngwenyama Mpezeni’s eldest son, Nsingu, who was captured and assassinated.
The BSA Company that had briefly administered the territory west and east of the Kafue river as North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia, respectively, amalgamated the two in 1911 into one territory of Northern Rhodesia.
From that time, the borders were defined of what we call Zambia today. In 1924, the British Crown took over the administration of the territory from the BSA Company and it became a British “protectorate”.
Colonialism, by whatever name, is a form of subjugation and resistance by the subjugated which begins at inception and ends only at the demise of that relationship. There was African resistance in different forms throughout the whole period of foreign rule.
The notable form of resistance was the formation of welfare associations. In order to speak with a stronger voice and greater effectiveness, the Federation of Welfare Societies was formed in 1946 with leaders like Dauti Yamba and Pascale Sokota gaining prominence.
Two years later in 1948, the federation metamorphosed into the Northern Rhodesia African Congress (NRAC), the first African-led political party of the territory.
NRAC’s first leader was a Lozi prince, Godwin Mbikusita Lewanika, who later became Litunga of Barotseland, a component of Northern Rhodesia/Zambia from the earliest times.
Hence the assumption of the presidency of NRAC by a Lozi aristocrat was no surprise. He played his part in having an organisation established. An achievement not to be overlooked was the close relationship he developed with envoys of the newly independent state of India.
India was keen to give a helping hand to people from the still colonised parts of the world. The NRAC president managed to organise scholarships for those eligible to study in India.
The celebrated Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe studied in India on a four- year scholarship organised by NRAC’s first president.
Mbikusita by all accounts became reactionary in later years; Pixley ka Isaka Seme, first black South African lawyer and main organiser of the Native National Congress (NNC), forerunner of the African National Congress of South Africa, had also become a disagreeable personality in later years who led ANC membership drop to an all-time low the years he was president.
The correct way of dealing with such individuals who made errors is not to obliterate them from history the Stalinist way, but to recognise their contributions and errors so that we learn a thing or two from their lives.
Zambia is not an island. It is an African country whose history is closely tied to that of the rest of the continent. From the time slavery went commercial in 1441 accompanied by the denigration and dehumanisation of the dark -skinned people in the 400 years that followed, Africans starting with those in the diaspora developed a tenet that Africans in one part were responsible for the plight of other Africans wherever they may be.
Those others treated black people as one and in their response the black people had to act as one. In the 20th century, the term Pan-Africanism was coined and a movement was born to act as the principal agency for the self-definition of the African peoples.
It is that tenet tracing its origins to the solidarity of the slaves that made Pan-Africanism simultaneously a brand of nationalism and internationalism.
The turning point for African liberation was the Pan-African Conference held at Manchester in 1945. No record shows that anyone from Northern Rhodesia attended the conference.
But the declarations made during that conference were on behalf of all Africans and reverberated throughout the entire length and breadth of the continent.
Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula is given the honorific title of ‘Father of Nationalism in Zambia’ for his role in igniting the torch of freedom by bringing into the movement the much desired militancy.
Ompie Nkumbula Liebenthal, his daughter, has been in the news in recent times promoting his image. With the assistance of  enlightened freedom fighter Sikota Wina, she tells us in an article how the Old Lion of Zambian politics, to use another accolade of her father, carried the day in a July 1951 in-house election to succeed Mr Mbikusita as party president.
The Nkumbula win was made possible because he came out as a Pan-Africanist. Let us quote Ompie in full because of the importance of the lines:
“To demonstrate Africans’ total rejection of the federation, my father burnt the white paper proposing the Federation and circulated the resolution passed at the Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England in 1945 against colonialism.
“The language of that resolution was new to Northern Rhodesia, including such statements as ‘…All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control whether political or economic. The peoples of the colonies must have the right to elect their own governments without restriction from foreign powers’….”
Kenneth Kaunda, who became ANC secretary general two years later, nonagenarian today young delegate then, told me that “We spontaneously shouted Long Live Harry!”
In 1958, Dr Kaunda broke rank with Mr Nkumbula over differences on matters of strategy and tactics. Together with other Congress leaders, among them Mr Kapwepwe, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Mr Wina, Grey Zulu and Reuben Kamanga, he formed the  short-lived Zambia African National Congress whose successor, the United National Independence Party(UNIP), led the country to independence six years later.
Dr Kaunda, in justifying his economic reforms of 1968/69 has always emphasised the point that the reforms were necessary to create a spirit of entrepreneurship in the citizenry because at independence, the only business in their hands were tea carts or ‘ntemba’.
In that state where Africans in Northern Rhodesia had no money, the role of solidarity in our liberation struggle cannot be overemphasised.
Mr Wina, veteran UNIP strategist, has disclosed that the first fat cheque his party received was from Ghana of the doyen of Pan-Africanism, the greatest African that ever lived, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
Many freedom fighters, apart from that cheque, went to Ghana for political education. That cost money. Every African country benefitted from Nkrumah’s indefatigable personality in line with his landmark proclamation in his midnight independence speech:“The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
To many, including Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Fela Anikulapo Kuti of Nigeria, Mr Nkrumah was nothing short of a prophet.
A day after a memorial service to remember the purposeful life of Kwame Nkrumah, the headlines read “We owe our independence to Kwame-KK.”
In the African language from Zambia, the adage goes “ushitasha mwana wa ndoshi. (a person who doesn’t appreciate is a sorcerer’s son).”
Not to be associated with children of witches, Dr Kaunda in his eulogy decreed the renaming of Kabwe Secondary Teachers College to Nkrumah Teachers College; it has since become Kwame Nkrumah University.
In his autobiography published in 1963, the influential Tom Mboya of Kenya, reputed to be the American man in Africa, proudly writes in justifying the role of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East Central and Southern Africa (PAFMECSA) that the organisation pumped in money “to help Kaunda in the 1962 elections.”
After independence, Zambia, as a Pan-Africanist duty, was preoccupied with the liberation wars in the still unliberated parts of Africa.
The Portuguese colonialists in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe refused to leave peacefully. To them, those colonial possessions were overseas provinces of Portugal and would not be let go.
Apartheid South Africa was adamant the abominable system was going to stay. In Rhodesia before it became Zimbabwe, white settlers unilaterally declared independence.
In a nutshell, this meant huge costs to the national economy. Economists are still working out figures on the estimated costs. Victory came in Portuguese colonies after the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon which saw fascists removed from power in April, 1974.
By 1975, they were all free. Zimbabwe attained its freedom in 1980. Namibia raised its flag in 1990.
Nelson Mandela, the symbol of the anti-Apartheid fight, won his freedom in 1990. After further negotiations, every person regardless of race, voted on April 27, 1990, signalling the end of Apartheid.
Internally, the political economy was affected. In-fighting within UNIP led to the creation of a one party state. With the economy taking the plunge due mostly to external factors, there were economic hardships.
When multi-party rule was reinstated in 1990 and elections held a year later, the new outfit MMD won with a landslide. MMD stayed in power for 20 years and lost to the PF in 2011.
UNIP handed over power peacefully in 1991. So did MMD in 2011.
Long Live Zambia

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