Saturday, 3 June 2017

Moses Luneta: Chavuma's Little Known Freedom Fighter

Mr Chilemu and Mr Lufupa at the gravesite of their comrade
By Paul Shalala in Chavuma

Perhaps the history books on the struggle for Freedom in Zambia are unfair or even selective because there is so much that happened which has not been documented.

Or, it may be that some of those who sat down to document this history were not privy to certain information or occurrences in some areas.

Of course, it is also true that not everything that happened......has to be inscribed into the annuals of these journals.

But there were instances, incidents or events which cannot be ignored like the one concerning Moses Luneta and his contribution to the Freedom Struggle.

Thankfully Luneta has not been forgotten in his home town of Chavuma in the North Western Province.

In Chavuma, Luneta has been immortalized.

The author seated at the spot where Luneta capsized in 1961
This isolated burial site now a National Monument lies opposite the District Commissioner's office and just about 300 metres from where he drowned and died in the Zambezi river.

But he does not lie here alone.

Seven police officers who came from Kamfinsa in Kitwe to arrest him, also lie buried here.

The story of Luneta is a sad tale of an ultimate sacrifice on his part as he paid with his life.

No wonder the name Luneta is now a folklore of the independence struggle here in Chavuma where it is revered.

Friends and relatives, visitors and inquisitive minds come here now and again to pay homage to this gallant son taken away so young.

85 year old Peter Chilemu was a childhood friend of Luneta.

And so was Ison Lufupa who is now 78 years old.

It was in these waters on that fateful day on August 29,  1961 when Luneta along with eight Northern Rhodesia Police officers drowned when their boat capsized.

For Chilemu, Luneta was a classmate.

Rodgers Sakuwuka (left) during the interview at his residence
"He was in Standard four and i was in Standard two at Chavuma Secondary. After that, he went to Chitokoloki where he got his Standard six. And then from there, he went to Livingstone where he joined the struggle for independence. He was born in 1930, he had a wife, he left three children," said Mr Chilemu.

Lufupa remembers Luneta differently as they held various positions in UNIP.

Luneta was said to have been instrumental in organizing civil disobedience in Chavuma which annoyed the British colonialists.

Days before he died, Luneta is said to have organised a strike which incensed the last British Governor of then Northern Rhodesia Sir Evelyn Hone who travelled all the way to Chavuma to quell the unrest.

According to historical records, the colonialists sent a platoon of Police officers from Kitwe to arrest the ring leaders in the border town.

The plaque at Kamfinsa 
"The British arrested Nelson Kapaku who was UNIP Constituency Chairman, arrested Benua Sandu who was our Constituency Treasurer then Brian Mulungisi our Branch Chairman for Chingi. Then they crossed the Zambezi river to Makingila where they picked Luneta and his brother July Masumba who was our Branch Chairman for Makinjila Branch. On their way back, they capsized. He died with seven Policemen including a white Inspector," said Mr Chilemu.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is another freedom fighter who recals the exploits of Luneta.

He served as Member of Parliament for Zambezi, Provincial Minister,  Zambia’s first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

For him,  Luneta’s sacrifice should be recognized countrywide.

"Can you imagine, he was caught, chained, put in a boat crossing the Zambezi and the boat capsized and thats how he died together with some Police officers. A man like that dying for the country but unfortunately, i don't here anybody including during Africa Freedom Day to talk about Luneta. Obviously he was a great young man who fought with his life for the nation," said Mr Sakuwuka.

A sign post for one of the schools named after
 Luneta in Chavuma
As a way of remembering the fallen freedom fighter, government maintains this memorial site in his honour.

Even major local government functions are held at this site.

"Luneta is being remembered in so many ways. During independence day, everytime we normally have the celebrations near the memorial site where our elder brother was put to rest," said Chavuma District Commissioner Benjamin Mufunga.

The eight Northern Rhodesia Police Officers who perished along with Luneta have also been honoured elsewhere.

Seven of the officers who drowned in the Zambezi river  were from the School of Public Order at Kamfinsa in Kitwe.

A plague has been erected in Kamfinsa in their memory and a clinic there named Chavuma, in their honour.

As for Luneta, much more has been done in his home town of Chavuma to keep his legacy alive.

Two schools, a primary and secondary school carry his name.

Today, Luneta maybe dead but his legacy lives on and generations to come will keep learning about this youth from a small town who died in the most cruel way for the sake of freedom.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video version of this story was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 25 May 2017 and it can be watched here.

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