Sunday 18 June 2017

Zambezi: A Town Divided On Ethnic Lines

A ZNBC Cameraman Kashete Sinyangwe getting an aerial
 view of the Zambezi river in Zambezi town
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

There are very few places in Zambia with such a spectacular view of the Zambezi river.

Zambezi town in the North Western province is a possible tourist destination due to its location.

The river passes through the town and divides it into two.

This division is also seen in terms of language and culture.

The west bank of the town is predominantly Luvale speaking while in the east bank, people speak Lunda.

The district has two rival chiefs who do not see eye to eye.

In the west resides Senior Chief Ndungu of the Luvales while on the east bank is Senior Chief Ishindi of the Lundas.

Over the years, there has been problems with the dominance of these tribes on either side of the Zambezi.

These divisions have also entered the church, an unlikely place where most people would think tribalism can not be practiced.

Fr Haaninga on the Chinyingi bridge
which connects Zambezi east to Zambezi west 
At the moment, the Catholic Church in the area is caught up in this dilemma.

For example Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is located in the middle of town, holds separate services for Lundas and Luvales.

Father Noel Haaninga overseas Zambezi District and he explains the challenges he goes through in bringing the two tribes together.

"I superintend over 29 churches in Zambezi and there are certain areas where certain songs from this other side of the tribe are not allowed to be sung in church and vice versa. Even at the boma church were am based, you are able to see tension even on small issues like choosing church leaders, people would want to have their own to lead the church," said Father Haaninga who has been based at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Zambezi for the past six and half years.

Because of this tension in the church, Father Haaninga says he is forced to conduct two separate services for the two tribes as a way of accommodating them.

"We are now forced to conduct two separate services one for the Lundas and the following week one for the Luvales. Even when we do so, the day we conduct a Lunda mass, the Luvales will be few and they will not be active during mass. And when its the turn for the Luvale mass, the Lundas will be few and they wont be active. Now you wonder what the solution is for these people," revealed Father Haaninga.

In schools, there is still a division in the delivery of education services.

According to the school curriculum in Zambia, each district is supposed to adopt one local language for pupils from Grade one to four.

However, in Zambezi, pupils in the west bank are taught in Luvale, while in the east bank are taught in Lunda.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in Zambezi

In the town area where there is a high concentration of both tribes, English is the language of instruction in primary schools.

"I was the first District Commissioner under the Patriotic Front Government in 2011. We had found that the schools in Zambezi were being taught in three languages: on the east bank it is Lunda and English. On the west bank its Luvale and English. Thats the same process we are following upto today because thats what government has set up as zonal language," said Lawrence Kayumba who is the District Commissioner in Zambezi.

A few years ago before this policy was introduced, local media reported that one female teacher was assaulted by Grade One pupils when she taught them in a rival language which they termed offensive.

This forced authorities in the town to close the school and classes only resumed after tensions where calmed following the zoning of the entire district into the three languages of instruction.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is a former Zambezi Member of Parliament and understands the challenges in this town.

He shades more light on the history of this tribal tension which dates back to Zambia's pre-independence era.

"There was a white District Commissioner during the British rule here in Zambezi and i think his name was Lawrence. That man used to play what we call divide and rule. Whenever Senior Chief Ishindi came to his office, he would find his portrait stuck on the wall. When Senior Chief Ndungu also goes to his office, Mr Lawrence would remove the portrait for Senior Chief Ishindi and place that for Senior Chief Ndungu. That is the genesis of divide and rule," said Mr Sakuwuka who also served as Zambia's first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Kayumba (in blue suit) and Mr Sakuwuka (right)
He however says there is need for both the Luvales and the Lundas to co-exist since they inhabit the same territory.

"Since you came to Zambezi, have you seen Lundas physically fighting the Luvales? Have you seen separate shops for Lundas and others for Luvales? All am saying is colleagues, lets avoid this issue of divide and rule. Lets avoid escalating the situation."

In terms of politics, Zambezi is divided into two separate constituencies and the boundary is the Zambezi river.

However,  the whole area is governed as one district.

Despite all this, Zambezi is a lively town.

People here go on with their normal lives despite the divide in their ethnicity.

Thursday 8 June 2017

How Two Lepers Found Love And Raised A Family In A Hospital

Kenneth, his wife Grace and their grandchildren sitting
outside their one roomed house at the Leprosarium
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

Some stories are very sad.

But sad as they maybe, they have a happy tinge in them.

The story of 86 year old Kenneth Samanenga and his wife Grace Kachana 76, is one of these.

Their story is an old one.

They met here at Chitokoloki leprosarium in Zambezi District in the North Western Province.

Both were patients as lepers and they found love at the hospital despite their affliction.

Kenneth came to the leprosarium as a single man in 1952.

He lived here until he was treated.

When he was discharged, Kenneth found that he had nowhere to go.

Family members he had left in the village had moved elsewhere and those that remained did not want to have anything to do with him.

Finding himself with no place to go, Samanenga returned to the leprosarium.

Like many lepers who are healed, the disease had left its mark: he lost his toes and fingers.

And meeting Grace was a blessing in disguise.

“We got married in 1978 and God has blessed us with children and grand children. We live here with all of them. This is our home,” said the smiling Kenneth.

His wife also has her version of the story.

“I was born in 1941 and I came for help here at the leprosarium in 1952. We got married and we now keep our children and their children here. I love my husband and we live happily,” said Grace.

The two have been married for the past 39 years.......years happily spent here at the leprosarium.

Two of their children and their five grand children also live here.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is a busy place.

In fact it is more than a leprosarium – it is a colony.

There are 150 houses specifically built for lepers.

This is perhaps the biggest and oldest leprosarium in the country.

The only other known leprosy centers in Zambia are at Liteta in Chibombo District and at Ibenga in Masaiti District.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is said to have been started by missionaries Suckling and Thomas Hansen around 1928.

Despite having no medical background Suckling and Thomas carried to the best of their abilities, providing drugs, food and clothing to their patients.

According to historical records, the history of this place is closely tied to Dr. James Worsfold who pioneered leprosy work in Chikoloki in the 1940’s.

Today, the leprosarium is more of a place of refuge for many who are now unable to return home.

Some of the oldest residents here do not even want to go back home.

They prefer to continue living here.

“I have spent many years here. They keep us well and I do not want to go back home. Am comfortable just here,” said one of the lepers in an interview.

And some people, who are attending to patients at the hospital, also occupy some of these houses meant for lepers.

Thankfully today, the number of leprosy patients has gone down drastically.

Only the likes of Kenneth and Grace who have only known this life here for the major part of their lives now remain.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first produced as a documentary and it was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 08 June 2017 and it can be watched here.

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.