Debate about whether Zambia is sliding toward a One Party state or not is something Zambians are beginning to debate about. It is a road that Zambians have taken before in the heat of divisive tribal politics that saw UNIP, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula’s African National Congress (ANC) and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe’s United Progressive Party (UPP) violently clash routinely.
It had become so bad that UNIP and ANC supporters regularly clashed that it threatened the peace of the nation. Political affiliation had become the basis of access to certain entitlements or the denial of them. The country teetered perilously on the edge of violence and pushed then President Dr Kenneth Kaunda to sign the Choma Declaration virtually confirmed Zambia as a One Party State.
As old Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula lent his signature to the Choma Declaration to a document that ceased the existence of all political parties except the mighty UNIP his thoughts may not have lingered further than the troubles of that political season (that is not to take away anything from the selfless spirit of the old lion of Zambian politics). The declaration was signed on June 27 1972 after the Mainza Chona led constitution review commission had gone round the country.
In trying to find answers to these questions, we stray into Maala Village in Southern Zambia to converse with Old Harry as he lies peacefully alongside one of his better known sons Baldwin and Biggie among others.
The gravesite is not exactly in the condition that a political colossus the Old Lion of Zambian politics should be lying as there are unkempt shrubs around.
Staring over his grave is equally a less than impressive impression of a lion that Old Harry himself may not have been proud of. It is even more surprising that handful workmen around the village set up, are oblivious to the larger than life reputation that Old Harry carries beyond his grave and find our curiosity a little out of order.
But Old Harry is seems ready for us, but the eerie environs suggest that even Old Harry may not have predicted that Zambians would be back to asking the questions that he may have asked himself way back in 1972 about political division.
Old Harry and his comrade and later political adversary Kenneth Kaunda were down this road. The country was hurting and threatened with division and the two gentlemen had to act. They had fierce political differences but they met half way and saved the day for mother Zambia. Maybe not coincidental, that Namwala should take part of the spotlight in the post election violence that recently rocked Zambia. Could it just have been an accident of history that Namwala should again be part of finding a solution?
Would Old Harry have made such a politically suicidal decision to forgo his political party for the sake of preserving the unity of mother Zambia had he foreseen that the country would be back here 45 years later?
Old Harry may after all have opted festering his presidential ambitions, had he known that his and his fellow nationalists’ idea of unity would be so cheaply thrown away by the current generation of politicians.
Though not openly admitted the political divide is largely between North and South something that shamefully should not have happened given the bond forged by Old Harry and the more radical Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in the heat of political adversity (definitely a story for another day).
Wandering within the precincts of Old Harry’s resting place, one gets the feeling that the Old Lion of Zambian politics could be telling President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema to learn from Dr Kaunda and his example of meeting to make hard decisions for the good of the country. It may not be declaring Zambia a One Party State but somehow meeting and finding a lasting solution. That is what nationalists do. If any of this two gentlemen is to be in KK and Old Harry’s selfless political league it is time to meet and dissolve the tension.
With the political war between Presient Lungu and Hichilema maybe the two should look no further than Old Harry for a selfless example and embrace the One Zambia One Nation doctrine that Nkumbula demonstrated with his political life. By the way the pastoral people of Maala encapsulate their hard work culture in a beautiful phrase, “Maala zuma watazuma walya mankomona” (loosely translated as work hard, if you don’t you will eat the bitter fruit from a known indigenous tree (mankomona).
Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula was born 1916 and died on October 15, 1983.
Nkumbula was leader of the African National Congress Party until it was dissolved in 1972 when Zambia became a One party state.