HERE AND THERE…BY PHILIP CHIRWA
AS it was pointed out in last Thursday’s article, Easterners were not happy with the results of the August 1967 UNIP Central Committee elections at Mulungushi in which one of their influential members, Reuben Kamanga, lost the vice-presidency to his tribal cousin, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe.
The Easterners had alleged that the elections were “rigged” and ordered a recount, prompting Dr Kaunda to immediately appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the Central Committee elections in question.
Chief Justice Jack Blagden
After the inquiry, headed by the then Chief Justice Jack Blagden, the commission came up with its findings which were to the effect that there were a number of “substantial errors” in the counting of votes but that these did not alter the results of the elections themselves.
What this meant, in effect, was that the status quo remained.
Mr Katongo said he and his fellow anti-UNIP “plotters” knew from the very beginning that the appointment of the commission would not achieve anything as it would be a “miracle” that it could come up with any findings that could alter the final result.
“You see, we did a lot of homework before those elections. We were not fools. We knew what we were doing,” he said, adding that with him as a “master planner” of things nothing could possibly go wrong.
Mr Kamanga accepted his defeat
Although Mr Kamanga publicly announced that he had accepted his defeat and his new appointment as Foreign Minister, his fellow Ngonis (i.e Easterners) didn’t; for they were soon to form a very powerful pressure group operating under the slogan “Umodzi Ku M’mawa”(Unity in the East).
Initially, the group operated as an underground movement one only heard being whispered about in drinking places. But some months later, it came out in the open through a circular issued by the then Chipata Central constituency secretary, Mr Josiah Lungu, sometime in January, 1968.
Crucial national council meeting
In the circular, issued as UNIP prepared for a crucial National Council meeting in Lusaka scheduled for February 5 that year, Mr Lungu had indicated that party members in the province might put up their own candidates to oppose the official party candidates in the 1969 general elections.
He said the only true members of the Central Committee were those who went unopposed at the previous year’s elections “and anyone reasonable should support those, but those who support the rest help to destroy true One Zambia, One Nation. Anyone can lose in an election but not the system carried out at Mulungushi.”
The candidates who were returned unopposed at the 1967 elections were Dr Kaunda for presidency; late Solomon Kalulu for national chairmanship; Dingiswayo Bnnda for youth and sport and Sikota Wina for information and publicity.
Denying the existence of tribalism
Denying the existence of tribalism in the province, Mr Lungu said if there was tribalism “civil servants (in Eastern Province) could not be given free chickens.” But he attacked the idea of “one tribe dominating other tribes.”
As expected, on February 5, 1968, the National Council meeting in Chilenje Community Hall was nearly aborted when delegates split into tribal camps. The situation was so bad that Dr Kaunda was forced to ban all ministers, parliamentary secretaries and members of parliament from visiting any province unless they had his written permission, saying:
“It is very surprising that some of you regional leaders get so much deceived by those of us who come from Lusaka that you follow this stupid, and I am afraid, dangerous and destructive course. This path can only lead to murder and complete destruction of the country.”
Apparently, despite his warning and advice, the delegates continued talking tribal politics, prompting him to resign his job for “eight or nine” hours on the night of Tuesday, February 6, 1968.
A section of the National Council had apparently demanded that the policy-making body elected at Mulungushi the previous year be dissolved and fresh elections held while others were in favour of the committee continuing in office.
The president could not stomach this, so he stormed out of the conference hall and drove back to State House, leaving the delegates confused and perplexed. It took Kapwepwe and other national leaders to persuade Dr Kaunda to change his mind.
Although the National Council finally endorsed the Central Committee elected at the previous year’s elections, it became quite apparent that Easterners were still bitter with the results and hence their continuation of the Umodzi Ku M’mawa slogan.
Umodzi Ku M’mawa movement
It was then that the self-proclaimed “master planner” and “expert fault-finder,” Mongu businessman Pardon Katongo, decided to do something to neutralise the activities of the Umodzi Ku M’mawa movement.
To this end, Katongo formed a three-man committee consisting of him as chairman and two members from the Eastern Province. The latter had been condemned as “outcasts” by the Umodzi Ku M’mawa group for aligning themselves with the Bembas.
Operating from a house in Lusaka’s Lilanda Township, Mr Katongo’s committee, which operated as an undergroup group, was charged with the responsibility of “sniffing” for any juicy scandals involving leaders known to be against Kapwepwe as Vice-President.
This entailed preparing anonymous circulars for distribution to influential people in the country. It was arranged that the circulars would be posted from various parts of the country to create an impression that Kapwepwe enjoyed nationwide support.
“Since we did not have our own people to type these circulars, we made arrangements with some trusted government typists to do the work for us. We would give them our draft copies and they would type them for us on stencils at a nominal fee.
“We used government date stamps to post the circulars to various parts of the country, including chiefs in the rural areas and other influential people. Members of parliament received their circulars through their pigeon holes at the National Assembly.”
One of the first circulars was one pertaining to an allegation that one of the senior cabinet ministers hailing from the Eastern Province had a love affair with a white woman and that the Zambian government had paid a lot of money to the woman as compensation in order to cover up the scandal.
The author is a Lusaka-based media consultant, recipient of the 1978 Best News Reporter of the Year Award and a former diplomat in South Africa and Botswana. For comments, sms 0977425827/0967146485 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.