By Eugene Makai
Whatever his paternity and circumstances, what we are missing here in the matter of Shadrick Chite Mukenge aka Mumba Yachi, is the essence of the charges against him by the immigrations authorities – misrepresentation. Just because someone has roots in Zambia does not mean they are free to be foul of the laws of the land no matter how much we enjoy their music.
There are many people who are not even ethnically tied to Zambia who have acquired citizenship or national registration without resorting to illegal means. In fact with Mukenge’s strong ties to Zambia and his impact on its socio-cultural landscape he was a fit candidate to properly and legitimately acquire citizenship.
I honestly don’t see why if we could offer Zimbabwean boxer Charles Manyuchi citizenship [which he declined] we could not lobby for Mukenge’s own.
On the matter of the Lumpa Uprising and Alice Lenshina (Regina) Mulenga Lubusha, I am surprised that Dickson Jere is taking an unofficial account of a DC who was in Isoka and not the DC of Chinsali, Priestley or the government of Northern Rhodesia including the Governor Sir Evelyn Hone’s official statements on the matter. Hone was so close to the matter because as the Head of State, his Prime-minister Dr. Kaunda who had only been in government a few months since January 1964, had to inform him of every decision concerning a matter that had become a state of emergency.
“Genocide”? Let us not be overdramatic.
I am shocked Dickson Jere categorises Hudson’s book as ‘unbiased’ and believes that Lumpa was an ‘apolitical’ organisation when in 1962 Lenshina forbade Lumpa members to join UNIP, publicly burned UNIP party cards, and instead issued Lumpa membership ones called ‘passports to heaven’ after saying that the nationalist activists killed during the ‘Chachacha’ would not go to heaven.
The burning of party cards may seem trivial in this day and age but was greatly symbolic of the struggle for independence and resistance to colonial rule categorised by the burning of ‘ifitupa’ or identity passes that limited African travel in their own land. It was an emphatic rejection of UNIP and its agenda for independence.
Lenshina was bent on setting up a theocratic parallel government to an extent that she forbade her followers to send their children to school, forcing government to issue the ultimatum leading to the final conflict. Unlike the popular myth that Mr. Jere would like to perpetuate, entreaties were made to her variously including a visit by veteran Freedom fighter and President of the African National Congress (ANC) Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula but to no avail.
On 15th June, 1963 Simon Mwansa Kapwepe mediated between 900 Chinsali UNIP activists and 400 Lumpa members. At that meeting, Lenshina is reported to have agreed to discipline members calling for or burning UNIP party cards while local UNIP members agreed not to burn Lumpa churches or provoke Lumpa members. But things deteriorated resulting in the arrest of 37 Lumpa members for arson over burning of seven houses of UNIP members allegedly after they burnt 3 Lumpa churches.
Jameson Chapoloko the Regional UNIP Secretary based in Mpika who later became Member of Parliament for Chinsali appealed to Lenshina to make peace and reign in her followers to no avail. The Chinsali DC Priestly in a letter written to Chapoloko identified the issue of demanding of party cards as a thorn in the already sore flesh in the district and despite Chapoloko’s original resistance at stopping it, Kapwepwe prevailed on him and the practiced ceased.
Chapoloko wrote to Priestly and reported to his superiors as follows:
“In a desperate effort to try and make Lenshina see sense I have persuaded the District Commissioner Priestley to see if we can avoid blood-shed in the District […]. A wave of violence is increasingly getting worse on side of Lenshina and her followers more than three houses have been set on fire and assault[s] are many on our leaders in Branches. Even though I have appealed for peace and Bwana [Aaron] Milner has done so […] I doubt if this will still hold water, because there is a limit to which a human can endure.”
However, Kaunda visited Lenshina on 5th September 1963, and persuaded her to sign another truce resulting in an agreement between the DC, Priestley, Chapoloko, and Lenshina on 9th September 1963 a few months before Kaunda took over as Transitional Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia.
Mr. Jere may not be aware of the troubles in neighbouring Congo (DRC) that led to the toppling of Patrice Lumumba and his eventual murder. Secessionism was the biggest threat facing Zambia before and immediately after independence. The Katanga incident and troubles in the Congo were not a world away from Chinsali and had shown how quickly things could get out of hand if everyone wanted to carve a small part of a country for themselves.
There was so much restraint on the part of Dr. Kaunda who had a personal stake in a matter that was threatening national security. For those who may not know, the Lumpa followers to him were not just those opposed to UNIP or the legitimacy of the transitional government of Northern Rhodesia but they were his family members, friends and relatives.
His mother Helen Kaunda was a member of the Lumpa Church and his elder brother Robert was a deacon in the same church. It was a painful decision for him as Prime-Minister to take, after all efforts at dialogue and reconciliation failed with Lenshina and the death toll in the UNIP-Lumpa conflicts became a national emergency. Police and Military intelligence reports led by facts on the ground [you may want to know that both Police and military chiefs and command were Northern Rhodesians of British stock] indicated a danger to the yet unborn Zambia on the lines of the Congo that was unacceptable for a country heading to independence in a few months.
The sheer numbers of the Lumpa Church were staggering, an estimated 60,000 in 1955-56. In the report of the colonial authorities by the District Commissioner of Chinsali titled ‘REPORT OF THE LENSHINA MOVEMENT’ available in the National archives of Zambia (NAZ) as NAZ, NP 3/12/3 he estimated that 95% of all the residents of the district were Lumpa supporters. Lumpa’s reach was wide including the Copperbelt and Eastern Province, especially Lundazi District a matter highlighted in the Northern Rhodesian Political Intelligence Report, Feb.-Mar. 1956, NAZ, NP 3/12/3.
The challenges that the transitional government faced from those who did not want an independent Zambia was really grave.
An example of the depth of hatred for UNIP and its agenda for independence can be seen from the deportation and removal orders issued in June and July 1960 at the instance of the Chitimukulu when Kaunda visited Northern Province with a view of holding meetings in Kasama and Abercon (Mbala). Kaunda made a tour of the Northern Province in October and again in November 1961 but permits to address meetings was denied him. The Litunga refused him entry to Barotseland and he was also barred from parts of Eastern Province.
The antagonism Kaunda attracted from chiefs was clearly as a result of the threat they felt for their privileged position under colonialism. What got them even more enraged was that Kaunda called for passive resistance rather than violence which would have been an easier route to brand him a terrorist. The Litunga for instance had made it clear that he was not opposed to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at a time when African passions were very high against it and nationalism was sweeping the sub-continent [Extract of House of Commons Debate on Federation 04 May 1953 Vol 515 cc37-167].
The Registrar of Societies refused the re-registration of United National Independence Party (UNIP) branches in Abercon and Kasama after UNIP was banned and despite the Governor’s announcement on 1st November 1961 of the revocation of the general order declaring these branches unlawful in certain Provinces on the same grounds that it was likely to be prejudicial to peace and good order, the Registrar of Societies under influence maintained its position.
The Chitimukulu and other chiefs continued their antagonism and influence against Kaunda and UNIP much to the anger of the young and impatient cadres that Kaunda had to restrain from violence. The Chitimukulu who on a visit by the Governor Sir Evelyn Hone to the province complained that the Northern Rhodesia government should ‘protect his tribe from the violence and terrorism of UNIP’ was clearly fearful of the reduced role he saw for himself in an environment in which UNIP took over.
The official report of ‘THE COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO THE LUMPA CHURCH (Lusaka, 1965) is available. The original security reports upon which the diary of events in the Report is based can be found, as ‘DIARY OF EVENTS FROM 25TH JUNE TO 15TH OCTOBER’, 16 Oct. 1964, in the National Archives of Zambia (NAZ), Lusaka, MHA 1/3/10.
The exact number of dead and wounded in the conflict including the storming of Lenshina’s Cathedral (Sion) at Kasomo village in Chinsali district is unclear and will probably never be known but the Report cites 707 killed and 404 wounded during security operations in Northern and Eastern provinces.
Other credible sources of the Lumpa Uprising can be found in the National Archives of the United Kingdom and Church mission diaries that reported on the conflict in the area.
Official Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) reports on events in Chinsali alone say four (4) members of the NRP were killed and seven (7) wounded. Six (6) Northern Rhodesia soldiers and 185 civilians were killed by Lumpa rebels while 472 Lumpas were killed in assaults on the security forces and 46 were killed by other civilians including UNIP cadres.
Contrary to some beliefs, the security forces were not tools of UNIP but impartial peacekeepers whose duty it was to protect the state.
There has been an attempt to change the narrative that the events [particularly the storming of Sion] was a massacre and not the quelling of a rebellion and civil insurrection against a legitimate government.
The Lumpa Church which rebranded as ‘Jerusalem Church’ after years of exile in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has perpetuated a partisan version of events neglecting the fact that through the 1950s and early 1960s, it was an antagonist of many including the European established mission churches in Chinsali notably the Catholic Church, it rebelled against the political authority of the colonial administration, spurned Bemba chiefs and their claims to ancestral and religious authority and literally competed for the soul of Bemba ethnicity and Zambian nationalism.
An attempt to tell a story neglecting these factors more recently by Kampamba Mulenga’s book, ‘Blood on their hands’ (Lusaka, 1998) is a denial of the truth despite the horror of the tragedy.
There was also a ‘Nativism’ to which Kaunda unfortunately fell victim as sentiments to have a ‘true-blood’ Bemba lead the nationalist agenda caught up with him. This sentiment against his origins from Nyasaland was exploited not only by the Chitimukulu and political foes such as the ANC who were anti-Nyasa and pro-Katanga but also the Lumpas.
It did not help him when in 1962 an ANC communiqué issued by Daniel Mungoni Liso, demanded the immediate expulsion from Northern Rhodesia of Yatuta Chisiza, the Malawi Congress Party’s administrative secretary, who was accused of having called upon ‘Nyasas’ working in Northern Rhodesia to rally behind UNIP which was led by his nephew Kenneth Kaunda.
Liso stated: ‘Chisiza realises that Nyasaland is a poor country and is pulling wool over the eyes of true N. Rhodesia[ns], so that if Kaunda became the Prime Minister, Nyasaland shall be milking N. Rhodesia in the same way as she and S. Rhodesia are doing now…’[Minutes of the ANC National Assembly, 10 March 1962.]
This was also seen in the so-called ‘The Voice of Zambia Front’, a propagandist and Bemba-centric pamphlet allegedly issued in the name of UNIP on the eve of the 1964 elections by an ANC propagandist and divisionist Dominic Mwansa appealing to the Bemba people to support the ascent of Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe as a means of entrenching Bemba ethnic superiority.
“All tribes shall be under one BIG TRIBE in our Zambia, that is Bemba Tribe. We shall have one vernacular language in our Zambia. BEMBA will be the MAIN LANGUAGE in our Zambia. All tribes shall be united and shall be called “The United Tribes of Zambia”. Every one shall speak Bemba. In every school of Zambia children shall be taught in Bemba, white or Black. The Bemba tribe shall be honoured for their bravery for bringing Freedom in Zambia. Vote KAPWEPWE, our first Prime Minister.”
There is no question that there were excesses on both the UNIP and Lumpa side mostly fuelled by revenge and tit-for-tat killings and the mutual suspicions and jockeying for influence. The bottom-line was really the emergence of the Lumpa movement as a political organisation that was ready to oppose and topple a legitimate government in order to establish its own brand of social order and governance rather than merely stick to its own brand of religion.
It is important for us to understand Lumpa ideology and behaviour before looking at the final tragedy at Kasomo village.
On the right of return, I believe all those exiled due to their religious beliefs and affiliation with the Lumpa church should be given an opportunity by the government to reclaim their citizenship despite many rejecting an amnesty accorded them earlier. After all if we can integrate Angolan and Rwandan refugees, why not returnee Zambian ones? Mumba Yachi or more rightly Shadrick Chite Mukenge has every right to become Zambian by descent after his legal troubles are over.