This week I will write about opposition politics in Zambia. I will also look at individuals dubbed ‘dissidents’ by the UNIP government who condemned the government. Join me as we go down the turbulent memory lane listening to Rikki Ililonga’s Love Is The Only Way.
1. Shortly after independence March 8, 1966 Kenneth Kaunda refused to meet Berrings Lombe, the leader of the United Front Party (UFP) later known as United Party (UP) for an inter-party meeting. Later the new leader of the party Mufaya Mumbuna questioned the prolonged incarceration of the self-styled prophetess Alice Lenshina. UNIP started showing clear signs of intolerance to opposition and UNIP cadres later beat both Lombe and Mumbuna in Livingstone.
2. At a meeting addressed by Mumbuna at Luburma market in Lusaka, government security men handed Mumbuna with a tape recorder to record everything that he said at the meeting. Lombe quit UP because of harassment from UNIP members. Several other UP leaders followed suit citing constant harassment from UNIP cadres. The UP national organising secretary William Chipango had his house searched for ammunition by government security men. Other UP members had their houses petrol-bombed by UNIP cadres. A Mr Kalaluka of Chimwemwe in Kitwe and his wife sustained serious burns when his house was torched at night.
3. An unruly UNIP mob stoned a UP member who attended a UP meeting addressed by Mundia. The government later arrested Mundia on 13 June 1968 and charged him with four counts under the Secrets Act. On 14 August of the same year, UP was banned and Mundia was restricted to his natal village in Kalabo. Several UP members were jailed at Mumbwa prison. Upon release they were restricted to their home villages. They included Henry Ndhlovu, Julius Namakando, Dickson Chikulo, and Blatson Mushala. Some UP members defected to ANC led by Harry Nkumbula. UNIP felt UP which enjoyed overwhelming support in western province especially from the Litunga was more of a threat to the new government than ANC. The Litunga whose autonomy was lost under UNIP banked on UP to restore his lost autonomy. The Lozi king had reluctantly accepted UNIP’s victory over the settler government.
4. After banning UP, UNIP turned it’s wrath on ANC starting with countrywide anti-ANC speeches and harassment of ANC members. The education Minister Wesley Nyirenda banned ANC in Livingstone and Mumbwa and warned that the ban was going to be extended to other towns in the country. He said multi-partism was retrogressive in Africa since it only bred chaos. There were clashes between UNIP and ANC members especially in Mufulira leading to several deaths.
5. Africans who had not long ago lived majorly along tribal lines were not used to live with members of other tribes in the new republic called Zambia. The colonial government had somehow succeeded in uniting them using force. Tribalism surfaced within UNIP fanned by several tribal factions. Some Bembas leaders who felt Bembas or the Bemba speaking group which enjoyed numerical advantage over several other tribes were sidelined in the party. Kaunda dismissed several Bemba leaders James Chapoloko,Justin Chimba, Alfred Chambeshi and John Chisata. The foremost Bemba leader in the party Simon Kapwepwe who was vice president quit his position to form UPP on 22 August 1971. Kapwepwe had complained all along that Bembas had been sidelined in the party. Throughout his tenure of office, Kaunda had played a juggling game in uniting tribes in Zambia. The Bembas were proud of their historical military conquests and felt they were a superior tribe. The Lozis were also proud of their kingdom and academic superiority over other tribes. Conscious of these tribal rivalries among ‘big’ tribes Kaunda sometimes using their differences to his advantage. He also incorporated other members of the minority tribes by tribal balancing.
6. Kapwepwe’s resignation from the party was a big blow to UNIP and the government. UNIP realized this and quickly issued a press statement arguing that Kapwepwe had been pushed to form a party by drunkards and failures.
7. UNIP organized a protest against UPP on 27 August 1971. The Women Brigade headed by Chibesa Kankasa organized women in the party stripped to their petticoats and marched in the streets chanting anti-UPP songs and singing a parody of Tiyende Pamodzi changing the lines to Tengani Kapwepwe ku Chainama. They were addressed by Copperbelt cabinet Minister Alex Shapi who appealed to Kaunda to be ruthless with the rebels.
8. Kaunda who was in Mfuwe on a working holiday warned UPP and ANC that he would brook no nonsense and blamed Kapwepwe for joining hands with Nkumbula whom he had earlier condemned as having no principles. He said Kapwepwe was being sponsored by South Africa, Portugal and Rhodesia. Kaunda also revealed that he knew all along that his childhood friend haboured ambitions to be president. He ended his speech by chillily warning that UNIP was a live wire that would burn anyone who tried to upset it.
9. Kapwepwe whose party’s main aim was to improve the welfare of workers failed to woo ZCTU support. UPP had little time to expound it’s principles because of harassment from the government and negative media reports on the new party. The Zambia Daily Mail carried a cartoon of Kapwepwe dressed in his traditional African attire kneeling before Balthazar Vorster crying ‘the South Africans have not paid me.’ The cartoon was entitled tribal chief. Kapwepwe sued the paper and won.
10. The governor of the Ministry of development, planning and national guidance Rueben Kamanga who had been defeated for the post of vice president by Kapwepwe said multi-partism had not only been condemned in Zambia but in heaven!
11. At a UNIP seminar in Ndola rural at Masaiti Institute Oswald Chimavu, a UNIP leader said that when Lucifer who was second to God tried to overthrow God, he was thrown out of heaven because the heavenly kingdom did not want any crisis and confusion. It was this party-engineered sycophancy that made it clear to historians of Zambian politics that UNIP was bent on banning multi-partism shortly after independence.
12. To strengthen it’s membership against UPP, UNIP incorporated some former ANC members to it’s fold. Long after ANC was banned, it’s former leader Harry Nkumbula was harassed by the government. Nkumbula complained that he was broke after the government froze his bank account and closed his mine the Nkumbula Gem Processing Limited.
13. UNIP’S honeymoon of plenty was gone and between 1974-76 the copper revenues nose dived sharply forcing Kaunda to look to agro programs which he hastily and haphazardly implemented. The food prices rose leading to discontent in the country. A state of emergency was declared in January 1976. Kaunda was retained as the sole candidate in the elections held in December 1978 and in October 1983.
14. The One Party State saw guerrilla activities by Adamson Mushala in north western province. Mushala had been trained in military warfare and caused havoc for seven years before being gunned down in 1982. There were also constant protests from UNZA students in the 80’s.
15. Addressing the Ndola branch of the Law Society of Zambia, the chairman of Standard Bank Zambia Limited Elias Chipimo urged leaders in Third World countries especially those in Africa to review their policies towards single party constitution and introduce flexible mechanisms to allow for change of leadership. Chipimo added that multi-partism was a surest way of avoiding coups and eliminating the disgraceful tendency of presidents ending up with bullets in their heads.
The party and it’s government which thought it had successfully muffled all diverse views by banning opposition did not take Chipimo’s ‘outbursts’ kindly. UNIP members protested against ‘dissidents’ who included Chipimo himself, former Finance Minister John Mwanakatwe, Barclays Bank Manager Francis Nkhoma, former Bank of Zambia governor Valentine Musakanya and former Mines Minister Andrew Kashita. They went to their offices to drag them to Freedom House. Fortunately, most of the rebels were out of their offices apart from Nkhoma who was harassed by the irate cadres. The cadres called on the government to try the ‘dissidents’ without trial or confiscate their passport. Some cadres even suggested that the rebels be hanged. Chipimo resigned his position long before Kaunda held a press conference accusing the four of being behind a plot to incite the army to overthrow the government. Emmanuel Kasonde issued a statement that there was nothing wrong in debating why Zambia had a single candidate for presidency. During his tenure of office, Kaunda survived 4 coups imagined and real.