By Kapasa Makasa Kalulu
Sad day in my homeland Chinsali. We have lost Ba mayo Ba Salome Kapwepwe the wife to the Late Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe. “Perhaps not much is known about the contribution she made to Zambia’s independence because she was possibly overshadowed by her more active husband, but Salome occupies a special place in the politics of Zambia.
She was born Salome Chilufya Besa on August 8, 1926, at Lubwa, Chinsali, Muchinga Province, an area largely considered a birthplace of Zambian politics.
She went to school at Lubwa in Chinsali, gaining her Standard Five certificate there. Among her classmates were the late Professor Lameck Goma, Otto Vibetti, and Dingiswayo Banda. After completing her Standard Five, she underwent two years training as a teacher.
She started her career at Lubwa as a teacher in 1946. At Lubwa, she met Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe whom she married on August 3, 1946.
After their wedding, Simon and Salome were sent to teach at Nkula, where Mr Barson Luo was headmaster.
While teaching there, she gave birth to their first born, Mwamba Kapwepwe in 1947.
In 1948, the young couple moved to the Copperbelt where both were employed as teachers at Wusakile Primary School in Kitwe.
Salome briefly returned to Lubwa in 1949 to give birth to her second child, Sampa.
When she returned to Kitwe, she found that her husband, Simon Kapwepwe, was now working for the Kitwe Welfare Department.
Under the stewardship of such men as Godwin Mbikusita-Lewanika and Lawrence Katilungu, Simon and Salome became members of the African Social Welfare Society, which although ostensibly non-political, was raising issues of African welfare with the colonial administration.
In 1951, Salome gave birth to her second daughter and third child, Chilufya Kapwepwe, and in that same year, Simon Kapwepwe won a scholarship to study at the University of Bombay and left for India. Salome became active in politics and the welfare of her countrymen and women and continued with being an active member of the African Social Welfare Society.
She returned to Lubwa after her husband left for India. Salome continued being involved in uplifting the welfare of her fellow men and women even while her husband was away in India. She was deeply committed to the idea of a free people under their own rule.
In 1952, leaving her baby Chilufya, who was at the time breastfeeding, in the care of her mother, Salome set off to learn how to effectively organise the grass roots to fight for their own betterment and freedom.
Being the only woman with five others, among them the late John Malama Sokoni, the late Mr Aaron Lombe Mbalashi, and the late Mr Robert Kaunda, she cycled from Lubwa to Kasama to meet with Harry Nkumbula and to learn more about organising people around what had now become a serious political struggle.
She spent a week learning about strategies and methods for organising political party branches and raising awareness for the struggle among the people.
When she returned to Chinsali, she once again continued being active in organising and raising awareness around the freedom struggle as a member of the African Social Welfare.
Simon Kapwepwe returned from India in 1954, and in 1955, another son, Mwansa Kapwepwe, was born at Nkula, where Salome was teaching.
The following year, 1956, the Kapwepwes moved to Lusaka in order to join the freedom struggle.
They found a place to live at house no. 177 in Chilenje. At this time, Simon and Salome became members of Harry Nkumbula’s African National Congress Party.
It was at this point that Salome met Julia Chikamoneka, who was already an active member of the ANC.
Salome Kapwepwe worked with Ms Chikamoneka on many occasions and enjoyed an especially close relationship with her, to the point where Ms Chikamoneka, although much older than Salome, allowed her to simply call her as Julia, a sign of deep affection and mutual respect in Bemba culture. She remembers her as a brilliant organiser, fearless, and totally committed to attaining freedom from the colonial powers.
On October 7, 1958, Salome delivered a set of twin girls, Chileshe and Mulenga. On the 24th, Simon, Dr Kaunda, Ms Chikamoneka and others broke away from Harry Nkumbula’s ANC and formed the Zambia African National Congress. Soon afterwards, Simon Kapwepwe and Kaunda were arrested.
When the duo was released, they found Mainza Chona and others had formed a new party called the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Salome joined the party along with her husband, and at the beginning acted as treasurer and looked after funds that were being raised for the organisation, and was one of the signatories to the UNIP account.
Salome was often requested to pass on or keep top secrets and documents that were critical to the success of the struggle.
Oftentimes she was the only one who knew where certain sensitive documents were kept from the colonial security wings.
During the struggle, Salome looked after many freedom fighters from all parts of the country, offering food and accommodation, sometimes for a few hours, and sometimes for long periods of time.
After the politics of the freedom struggle were over and independence attained, Salome went back to school and completed her Standard 6 with the British School Of Careers in Lusaka.” As quoted by the family.