The Rock of Authority is considered as the â€˜birthplaceâ€™ of Zambiaâ€™s independence.
CARLOS BUNDA, Kapiri Mposhi
CENTRAL Province is a host to some noteworthy sites and events that significantly shaped the liberation struggle of Zambia.
The province plays host to the name Mulungushi, derived from a prominent river meandering through several districts in the region, which has taken on a symbolic and historical meaning synonymous with the independence and identity of the country.
Considering its acclaimed historic significance, a number of events, locations and buildings have been named after Mulungushi in the country.
One of these localities that has incisively claimed a portion of Zambiaâ€™s political background and still continues to be used as a host of various functions that demand for the sense of serenity and commonality is the Mulungushi Rock of Authority.
The Mulungushi Rock of Authority, considered as the â€˜birthplace of Zambiaâ€™s independenceâ€™, became famous in 1960 in the then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, whenÂ nationalists who had broken away from the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) gathered there to scheme a futuristic direction on how to accelerate the process of Zambiaâ€™s attainment of independence.
It is at Mulungushi that these splinter anti-colonial separatists that included the likes of first President Kenneth David Kaunda, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Mainza Chona, Grey Zulu and many others, convened a conference under the flagship of a new political party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
The nationalists chose a rocky area by the Mulungushi River, now a geographic boundary of Kapiri Mposhi and then Broken Hill (Kabwe) districts, where up to a 2,000-strong membership secretly met in the open air and camped in temporary shelters.
This secretive and rather desolate place was preferred to others in the country because it harboured physical features for the nationalists to impeccably dodge the eye of the colonial authorities because at that time gatherings of such nature were highly treasonable and in conflict with the laws of the colonial administration.
The area was also probably chosen because of its central location, which enabled more members of the new revolutionary party and its sympathisers to move from different parts of the country for the common goal of planning for independence.
This widely acclaimed conference resulted in the consolidation of leadership structures of UNIP, the party which later became a major part of Zambiaâ€™s independence on October 24, 1964 with Kenneth Kaunda as its leader.
Thereafter, the Mulungushi Rock was used for UNIPâ€™s conferences and for major policy speeches such as the Mulungushi Declaration in 1968, which spelt out governmentâ€™s intentions to acquire 51 percent equity in a number of foreign-owned companies in the country which were to be controlled by a parastatal, the Industrial Development Corporation (INDECO).
Later on, the place came to be known as the Mulungushi Rock of Authority and is still being used by various political parties and other groupings such as the labour movement for their conferences, from which they symbolically draw their authority to govern.
Joseph Katampi, 78, was among the over 2,000 participants who took part in the 1960 conference at Mulungushi Rock of Authority and recounts the proceedings of that da, which ushered in a new political front to counter white dominion and outlined a precise course of action to secure the emancipation of Zambia.
Mr Katampi, who served as UNIPâ€™s Mkushi party constituency secretary then, says the landmark meeting at Mulungushi Rock was convened to confirm the membership of the partyâ€™s Central Committee and make some changes to the leadership outlook of the party where Munukayumbwa Sipalo was replaced with Mainza Chona as UNIP secretary general.
Mr Katampi, who was in the company of other party leaders from Central Province who included Andrew Sikazwe, Chembe Nsofu, Andrew Salamu and Justine Mukando, said the general membership at the conference demanded for an aggressive and inspired leadership to ignite a new breath of life in the political party that would resolutely wrestle political power from colonialists.
other notable leaders such as Solomon Kalulu, Reuben Kamanga, Nakatindi Wina and Mama Kankasa also attended the conference.
â€œWhen we gathered at Mulungushi Rock, we resolved to take any course of action by using any means to indicate our seriousness about independence to the white government… we resolved not to compromise with the British governmentâ€™s interest of giving us the Macleod constitution but a constitution that allowed for one man one vote,â€ Mr Katampi said.
Macleod was the Foreign Minister in Britain in charge of African Affairs at the time.
â€œAfter the conference, we proceeded with Chachacha to fight segregation, push for equality by forcing the white government to allow black people to vote and guarantee majority rule which resulted in the colonial government allowing blacks to register as voters in 1962,â€ Mr Katampi said.
Mr Katampi also served as Native Authority Council chairman for Mkushi district between 1962 and 1963 during which Dr Kaunda was a parliamentary representative for Mkushi Constituency.
â€œThis aspect and history has not been fully documented to say Dr Kenneth Kaunda also served as an MP for Mkushi at the same time he served as the countryâ€™s Prime Minister between 1962 and 1963â€¦ he was the first black MP for Mkushi until he became President in 1964,â€ Mr Katampi said.
He said Dr Kaunda only relinquished his position as Mkushi MP after he became Zambiaâ€™s President in 1964 and was replaced by late Goodson Liyalabi who won the seat in a by-election.
â€œThe reason why Dr Kaunda was made to stand and become MP in Mkushi was that the party did not want to expose him too much. The Central Committee then decided that he be allowed to stand in Mkushi because Mkushi was very safe and peaceful and had no other political party structure other than UNIPâ€™s,â€ he said.
Mr Katampi, who was also later in 1973 elected as Mkushi MP after the Magoye Declaration which pronounced the one- party state and resulted in the amalgamation of the African National Congress and UNIP, says Central Province played a crucial role to realise the independence of Zambia.
the general feeling from nationalists who gathered at Mulungushi was that the white administration was not interested in giving the people what they wanted.
â€œSo we began destroying bridges and burning farms belonging to white farmers here in Central Province, especially in Mkushi, which also included parts of Kapiri Mposhi. We destroyed farm equipment and burnt farm produce such as tobacco and unharvested crops in the fields and that which was already stored in barns,â€ Mr. Katampi said.
Mr Katampi, who also prides himself on being the first governor for Kaputa in Northern Province, a position he held between 1979 and 1986 when he retired from active politics and settled in Lunchu area of Kapiri Mposhi where he is doing farming, says most white settlers in the area ran away as a result of the pressure that the nationalists exerted on them after the Mulungushi Rock of Authority conference.
â€œThe white settlers ran away to Salisbury [Harare] and Lusaka fearing our aggression and attempt on their lives. But for us, this was a great achievement in the province because we were in line with what came out of the conference and we knew that in no time the white government would not stand the heat but concede to our demands,â€ he said.
Mr Katampi has urged Zambians to maintain the peace that was â€œfiercely fought forâ€ by the countryâ€™s forefathers and to learn to amicably resolve socio-political differences.
Zambians, Mr Katampi said, should not take the existing freedom for granted because it was â€œattained in exchange for bloodâ€.
And Jameson Chifunda, 79, recalls how the 1960 conference still lingers on in his mind.
Mr Chifunda, who now operates as a newspaper vendor in Kapiri Mposhi, worked as a Bemba column editor for the African Eagle between 1959 and 1961, a Northern Rhodesia newspaper which was being produced in several major Zambian languages in Salisbury (Harare).
He returned to Northern Rhodesia, Zambia, in 1961 after being fired as editor for the publication owing to his political inclinations. He later worked as principal editor for the Zambia News Agency (ZANA) before being retired in 1990.
Mr Chifunda said the Mulungushi Rock of Authority conference greatly inspired many people in Central Province and the nation at large to unite in pursuit of Zambiaâ€™s mission to gain self-rule.
â€œThere was a lot of unity of purpose among the black majority and moderate whites like some Indians that lived here such as the Kapdis to demand for self-governance. The Mulungushi conference had fuelled most of the actions that were taken and led to a countrywide demand for self-rule,â€ Mr Chifunda said.
He is however concerned that most people in Central Province who gave their lives to the struggle for Zambiaâ€™s independence have not been recognised and honoured.
Mr Chifunda said there is need for government to move into remote areas to document the freedom struggle as this will help in preserving the countryâ€™s political history.
In all, Central Provinceâ€™s contribution to Zambiaâ€™s freedom struggle can be explained in many perspectives considering the pedigree of local events, sites and personalities that played a part in the liberation struggle of the country.
As Zambia commemorates its golden jubilee on October 24 this year, it is therefore prudent that these sites, events and personalities that have seemingly been forgotten are considered for appropriate and judicious preservation and documentation for posterity. – ZANIS.
The Rock of Authority is considered as the â€˜birthplaceâ€™ of Zambiaâ€™s independence.