LITUNGA LEWANIKA II, KING OF BAROTSELAND FROM 1968 TO 1977


By

Kabeleka Wasa Mundia



He was born Akabiwa Sandi Mbikusita Lewanika on 3rd February 1905 in Lealui. He ascended to the throne on 15th December 1968, and reigned until his demise in 1977. His shrine is in Lishekandinde royal village.

King Lewanika II received formal education from Barotse National School, University of Capetown (South Africa), the University of Wales at Aberystwith.

Amongst his noticeable achievements, he initiated the Kuomboka-Kufuluela Committee in 1971 to expand the level of participation in the planning processes of the ceremonies.

His shrine is in Lishekandinde

In summing up his legacy, Prince Dr. Akashambatwa Mbikusita had this to say on the One hundred and fifteenth anniversary of his birth in 2020;

In the course of his 72 years life, from 1905 to 1977, Mbikusita Lewanika was the Founder Secretary of the Livingstone African Welfare Society in 1928, which became more prominent after 1929. He was a key translator of the Bible from English to Silozi, in addition to translating the book Pilgrim’s Progress. He was the first indigenous African north of the Zambezi and south of Lake Tanganyika to author of a full length book written in English, and published in 1941. He was a pioneering sensitiser and organizer of the founding trade union groupings. He was Founder President of the Kitwe African Society in 1944. He was Founder President General of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress in 1948. He was the fourth and last son of King Lewanika I to seat on the Barotse throne in 1968. He was one of Zambia’s path finding founding fathers, even though crowded out of a distorted history, by later day inheritors and hijackers of his contributions.

In Zambia’s history and society, of Mbikusita Lewanika pioneering and foundation laying contributions, I have elsewhere written that:
“Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s there was ever escalating demands, by European settlers, for amalgamation between Northern and Southern Rhodesia. For this purpose, representatives of White workers formed a European settler political party. In response, in 1944, the Kitwe African Society, under the leadership of Mbikusita Lewanika, issued the Kitwe Resolution protesting against European settler escalating agitation for amalgamation of Northern Rhodesia with Southern Rhodesia, under European settler colonial hegemony. Leaders of this Association also protested against the inappropriate and inadequate representation of African interests in the Legislature. They called for African interests to be represented by African elected by Africans, meaning indigenous Africans not restricted to those originating within the colonial territory of Northern Rhodesia. They spoke strongly against a partition proposal to have the Copperbelt and urban areas for White settlers and merged with White controlled Southern Rhodesia, and leave only rural areas a Bantustan, which could eventually come under Africa internal self-rule. They fought against the idea of ‘responsible government’ to limit voting rights and governance in the hands of a European majority and a few ‘civilised’ Africans.

In response to African nascent political pressure, the colonial authorities undertook some progressive steps, in 1948. The Ninth Legislative Council consisted of the first Speaker, 9 officials, 10 elected members, 2 nominated unofficial members (European) to represent African interests – all Europeans. For European, what was significant was that elected unofficials and officials equalized with ten seats a piece. For Africans, what was significant was that, for the first time, the Legislative Council had two African members, Nelson Nalumango and Rev. Henry Kasokolo, were elected by the African Representative Council. The Kitwe African Society called for the Federation of African Welfare Societies to be transformed into an overtly political organization, in order to enhance fight for African human rights.

Thus, in 1948, in Lusaka, the Northern Rhodesia African Congress was constituted, with Mbikusita Lewanika as its Founding President General. Dauti Yamba and Mufana Lipalile, the former President and Vice Presidents of the Northern Rhodesia Federation of Welfare Association were, respectively, elected as Vice President General and Treasurer of this first African political party. Donald Siwale, Safeli Chileshe, Mufana Lipalile, Mateyo Kakumbi, Dickson Konkola, Isaac Mumpanshya, Nelson Nalumango, George Kaluwa, Gabriel Musumbulwa, Simon Kapwepwe, Francis Chembe, Laban Zulu, and Justin Simukonda were among the founder leadership, delegates or proponent of the move in absentia with apologies.

The Northern Rhodesia African Congress represented escalating demands for African political rights, including voting rights, beyond working conditions and social welfare demands. Having gotten a foot into the legislature, the Congress leadership demanded equal representation with European settlers’ elected unofficial members. This begun the independence struggle in earnest, together with the fight against plans to impose a European settler dominated Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The twin slogans of Congress were ‘Unity in Team Work,’ and ‘One man, One Vote,’.”
The priceless right to vote, which many now take for granted and, even, give to the highest bidder, is credit to Mbikusita Lewanika and his team of pioneering leaders. The team spirit of collective leadership, and inclusive organisations, which seems to be alluding our generation, are some of the principles of genuine national service we should recapture from the heritage left by Mbikusita Lewanika and his colleagues, who we have chosen to forget.

In judging a life, as full and long as that of Mbikusita Lewanika, the truth shall not change people whose hearts have totally been conquered by the darkness of ignorance, unfounded hatred, misplaced fear and misguided envy. However, it may enlighten the open minded, and, in any case, it is important to place it on public record. Of Mbikusita Lewanika, let it be acknowledged that he run pioneer (and most difficult) part of the relay race of life and national service well. He properly handed over the baton of his pioneering trade union work to Lawrence Katilungu, the baton of his founding political service to Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, and the baton of his traditional authority to Ilute Yeta Lewanika (Litunga Yeta IV) – all of whom were worthy successors.

On judging Mbikusita Lewanika’s family life, and its continuing impact on national service, it is illustrative to note what his children have achieved and contributed to national service integrity in public service, in the fields of education, community development efforts, civic service, political struggles, economic development, science and technology, arts and culture, environment and natural resources preservation, international development, traditional governance, etc. We, his children, are ever mindful that what we say and do must affirm and progress Mbikusita Lewanika’s clarity, courage and contributions in public service. How we react to life’s challenge and people’s need must attest to our father’s kindness that left lasting impressions in many lives. How we serve people and how we conduct public service must reflect his way and manner. However tough and unfair it gets, and it was ALWAYS tough and unfair to him, we must join in his unrestrainable laughter that still echoes in all ears that was blessed enough to hear it. And we were blessed!

It is possible to identify those who equal, but not those who surpass Mbikusita Lewanika’s contribution to the political freedom and social advancement of Zambians and his preparedness to carry the cross of unpopularity and insults on behalf of the people and future of Barotseland. He bent backward and reached out in hope and faith that it would be possible for Barotse to “give and take” and still be Barotse and proud while ultimately being Zambian and happy.

Unfortunately, in his life time, and for the 42 years since his death, what has triumphed are the ideas and power of those who are detained to ensure that Zambia cannot survive unless Barotseland dies. These hero-worshipped victors do not genuinely believe in unity in diversity or in the possibility of Africa modernizing and democratising without abandoning its African cultural roots. They have acquired false images of being freedom fighter and African liberators but, in practice, they have continued the European colonialists’ mission to finish off Africa and African culture.
In his life’s work, Mbikusita Lewanika assisted and inspired countless people, including those who have later found it expedient to erase him from the history he made or to spread misinformation against him, in life and death. Of his life’s contribution to the founding of Zambia, much has been deliberately ignored and much has been selectively marginalized. Under these circumstances, it has been easy for the present generations to take it for granted. As the African-American poet, Arna Bontemps, noted:
And men will never think this wilderness
Was barren once when grass is over all
Hearing laughter they may never guess
My heart has known its winters and carried gall
In judging the worthiness of a public life’s work, and if a public figure’s lasting contribution is to be determined, it is useful to look at the subject personality’s successors and offspring, and what they found and what progress they had an inherited opportunity to fulfill or betray. On this account, Mbikusita Lewanika prepared and facilitated inheritors of his trade union, party political, royal authority and family responsibilities to have a chance of fulfill the mission for African social security and welfare, education and skills training, democracy and development as well as nation building in the diversity of political association and diversity of African traditional backgrounds. This was despite being born in difficult circumstances, and, certainly, life and work to him was ‘no crystal stair’ case, as far as welfare work for miners or pioneering the labour and political movements. If Mbikusita Lewanika is to be judged on what he improved upon, husbanded and handed over, then, it can be said that he fulfilled his generation’s mission, at great personal sacrifice and with little or no appreciation.

Indeed, it can be said of Mbikusita Lewanika, as another African-American poet, Robert Hayden has said of Frederick Douglas:
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
And terrible thing, needful to man as air,
Usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
When it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
Reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
Than the gaudy mambo jumbo of politicians:
…this man, superb in love and logic, this man
Shall be remembered. O not with statutes, rhetoric,
Not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
But with the lives grown out of his own, the lives
Fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.”

Indeed, a great man he was but little acknowledged and appreciated.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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