Features In focus

Livingstone: Capital city for 30 years

NANCY MWAPE, Livingstone
LIVINGSTONE has an enthralling story as one of the first white settlements in Zambia and the first capital city for 30 years.
The captivating beauty of the Victoria Falls attracted early European travellers to the district. Livingstone is a cosmopolitan district that offers a blend of culture, adventure and history.
The district is named after Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who named and publicised the Victoria Falls after his trip into Central Africa.
For centuries, the falls region has been inhabited by the Leya people. Today, it is under two traditional rulers; Chief Mukuni on the eastern side and Chief Sekute on the western part.
The district is also home to the oldest Jewish settlements in Africa. European Jews first came to Zambia at the end of the 19th century, when the country was still called Northern Rhodesia.
The early arrivals were pioneers looking for better economic opportunities; but they later came as refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. They first settled at Old Drift, a site on the north bank of Zambezi River about 10 kilometres up-river of the Victoria Falls within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park.
Kunyama Nobu, the curator at the Jewish Museum, explains that when the Jews arrived in this part of the country, they were received by King Lewanika.
Mr Nobu says the Jews were industrious and built a lot of historical buildings that are now found in the city centre.
They built a synagogue, established burial societies, owned hotels, boarding houses and a cinema (today’s Capital Theatre).
Among the prominent Jewish families were the Susmans, who built a fortune in cattle trade. The Susmans, together with Harry Wulfson, formed Susmans Brothers and Wulfson Company and started a blanket factory. They were also major shareholders in Zambezi Sawmills.
In the 1930s, the Jews received competition from business people of Asian origin who now run small trading shops in the city centre.
Administratively, Livingstone was founded in 1905 by the British South African Company, a firm created by Cecil Rhodes. The district enjoyed the status of capital city until 1935 when it was moved to Lusaka due to the latter’s central geological location.
Despite Livingstone losing the capital city status, it remained the provincial headquarters of Southern Province.
After the end of World War II in 1945, Livingstone experienced stable development which saw modern buildings, good roads, increased job opportunities, new housing units, textiles, farming activities, an airport and increased population.
The biggest enterprise in the early days was Zambezi Sawmills, which expanded as demand for wooden railway sleepers replaced iron sleepers, creating a timber boom.
There was also the Livingstone Motor Assembly Plant which once produced Fiats and Peugeot vehicles.
Historical buildings, sites
Livingstone hosts historical infrastructure erected before 1924. These include St Andrews Church which was built in memory of David Livingstone, the Old European Library opposite Boma Clinic, the Jewish Synagogue, Livingstone Hotel, Coillard Memorial Church and Stansley House.
The Mukuni Park across Mosi-o-Tunya road is a historical site that was set aside as a recreation park in 1905.
The Livingstone Museum, the oldest and biggest museum in Zambia, holds vast archaeological collection and a rich ethnographic assortment dating back to the early 20th century.
The Railway Museum, now declared as a national monument, also gives an excellent understanding of railways and sawmills, preserving locomotive sheds and engines.
Within the premises of the Railway Museum is the Gateway Jewish Museum, a permanent memorial to the role the Jews played in pioneering the development of Zambia.
Livingstone has undergone tremendous growth and is today the greatest Zambian tourist destination.
Apart from having the largest curtain of falling water on the planet (the Victoria Falls), the district offers various tourist activities. These include game viewing, elephant safaris, helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls and adrenalin ventures like white water rafting, bungee jumping, gorge swinging, jet boating and abseiling.
For art lovers, the Maramba Cultural Village provides an atmosphere where Zambia’s cultural dances are performed. An art gallery offering a display of Zambian artwork ranging from painting, photography and sculptures, was also opened to the public last year.
In 2011, late President Michael Sata moved Southern Province’s headquarters from Livingstone to Choma, leaving the former as Zambia’s tourist capital.
With the liberalisation of the economy and the subsequent privatisation of parastatal companies in the early 1990s, Livingstone has seen expansion in accommodation services from five-star hotels and first class luxury lodges, rustic bush camps, guest houses and campsites.
Council public relations manager Emmanuel Sikanyika says Livingstone has over the past three years implemented unprecedented infrastructure development projects aimed at boosting tourism.
Government has on the other hand constructed a new terminal at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport and a two-storey modern market while construction of an intercity bus terminus is underway.
Mr Sikanyika says one of mandates of the council is to ensure that the city is clean, habitable and attractive to visitors.
Location and population
Livingstone is located in Zambia’s Southern Province on a number of cross-border routes. It offers exceptional opportunities linking Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The district can be accessed by railway, air or road, offering an excellent link with neighbouring countries. It is about 500 kilometres south of Lusaka and has reliable and timed coaches running between it and the capital city.
According to the Central Statistical Office 2010 census report, Livingstone has a population density of 142,034, the highest in Southern Province. It lies on an area of 688, 201 square kilometres.
Christianity is the main religion in Livingstone which accounts for about 95 percent of the population.
Muslims account for two percent and another two percent of city dwellers practice other religions while one percent represent those with no religion at all.

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