ZAMBIA AT FIFTY YEARS: What went right, what went wrong and wither to? A treatise of the country's socio-economic and political developments since independence

ZAMBIA AT FIFTY YEARS: What went right, what went wrong and wither to? A treatise of the country's socio-economic and political developments since independence

by Royson Mukwena


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ISBN-13: 9781482861235
Publisher: Partridge Africa
Publication date: 03/19/2016
Pages: 402
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.89(d)

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Zambia At Fifty Years

By Royson Mukwena, Fanuel Sumaili

Partridge Africa

Copyright © 2016 Royson Mukwena & Fanuel Sumaili
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4828-6123-5


Zambia's Political History: From Colonialism to the Third Republic

R. Samuel Sakala


Before independence, present-day Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia. It was a protectorate in South Central Africa, formed in 1911 by the amalgamation of the two earlier protectorates of North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. It was initially administered by the British South African Company (BSAC), a chartered company on behalf of the British government.

Zambia is a landlocked country which lies approximately between latitudes 8 and 16 degrees south and longitudes 22 and 36 degrees east, covering a total surface area of 752,614 square kilometres (of which 740,724 sq. km is land and 11,890 sq. km water). It occupies the northern part of the southern African plateau and is surrounded by eight countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo in the north, Tanzania and Malawi in the north-east and east, Mozambique in the south-east, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia in the south and south-west, respectively, and Angola in the West (Phiri 2006).

Zambia's political history can be divided into two broad categories: the pre- independence and the post-independence periods. The pre-independence era is further divided into two periods, the precolonial era, which ran from around 1890 to about 1924 when the country was placed under the administration of the BSAC, and the colonial period, which ran from 1924 to 1964 under Britain. During this period, the country was placed under direct control of the Colonial Office in Britain. The post-independence dispensation is from independence in 1964 to the current period. This era is divided into three periods, viz. the First Republic from 1964 to 1972, the Second Republic from 1972 to 1991, and the Third Republic from 1991 forward (Phiri 2006).

This chapter will endeavour to highlight the major successes, challenges, and/ or failures encountered from the precolonial through the colonial periods into independence. It will attempt to bring to the fore the prominent features of Zambia's political history from 1890 and then relate them to events since independence (Tordoff 1974). It is true that every nation is a product of its past. Zambia is by no means an exception to this fact. Thus, in order to understand the problems, policies, and political developments in present-day Zambia, it is imperative to address the past and assess how the historical political developments have impacted the political and social developments in Zambia since independence in 1964.


Colonial rule came to Zambia at the extreme end of the nineteenth century. The area of what became Northern Rhodesia, including Barotseland and lands as far as Nyasaland to the east and Katanga and Lake Tanganyika to the north, was placed under BSAC administration by an Order-in-Council of 9 May 1891 (Galbraith 1974). Before 1911, Northern Rhodesia was administered as two separate territories named North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. The former was recognized as British territory by the Barotseland and North-Western Rhodesia Order-in-Council of 1899 and the latter by the North-Eastern Rhodesia Order-in-Council of 1900. Tordoff (1974) states that while the causes were those underlying the general 'scramble for Africa', the most immediate factor was the large gold discoveries of 1886 in South Africa. However, these new mines were located in Transvaal, the Boer-controlled territory. Cecil Rhodes, who was the prime minister of the Cape Colony, decided to bypass the Boer-occupied territories and establish British colonies to the north. By so doing, he hoped to find new minerals there. As a result, he founded the British South Africa Company (BSAC), which established itself in present-day Zimbabwe. He then sent agents to sign treaties with various chiefs to the north of the Zambezi. The most significant of the treaties was that signed with Lewanika, the king of Barotseland, in 1890. This became the basis of the company's claims to mineral rights over the country far beyond Lozi control in later years (Tordoff 1974).

Tordoff (1974) further states that there were a number of features that obtained in Northern Rhodesia which have had continuing relevance in the independent state. One of these was that the new colony was made up of not one traditional state but a large number of fragmented polities of varying sizes, state systems, languages, and cultures. To this effect he reckons that the colonial period was too short for the members of these fragmented precolonial societies to be completely integrated into a single united nation.

Secondly, the absence of prolonged and destructive wars that was characteristic of the imposition of colonial rule in other parts of Southern Africa helped the traditional authority systems in Zambia to survive though in an increasingly modified and weakened way. This is evident even to this day, fifty years after independence, where these traditional authority systems such as the Litunga of Barotseland and Chitimukulu of the northern region have continued to be the major focus for subnational group loyalty which repeatedly threatens national integration and unity.

Further, British common law became the basis of the administration of Southern and Northern Rhodesia while Roman Dutch law applied in South Africa. In 1889, the British South African Company assumed the power to establish a police force and to administer justice within Northern Rhodesia. In the case of African natives appearing before courts, the company was instructed to have regard to the customs and laws of their tribe or nation. An Order-in Council of 1900 created the High Court of North-Eastern Rhodesia which took control of civil and criminal justice. It was not until 1906 that this British legal system provision was extended to North-Western Rhodesia. In 1911 the two were amalgamated into the High Court of Northern Rhodesia (Gann 1958). He also argues that the BSAC considered that its territory north of the Zambezi was more suitable for a largely African police force than a European one. However, at first the British South Africa Police patrolled the north of the Zambezi in North-Western Rhodesia, although its European troops were too expensive to maintain and prone to diseases. This force was replaced by the Barotse Native Police force, which was formed between 1899 and 1902.


According to Slinn (1971), the settlers in Northern Rhodesia were hostile to the BSAC administration and its commercial position from the very beginning of the company. This was mostly because the company opposed the settlers' political aspirations, and refused to allow them to elect representatives to the advisory council but only limited them to a few nominated members.

However, following a judgment by the Privy Council that the land in Southern Rhodesia belonged to the British Crown, not BSAC, opinion among settlers in Southern Rhodesia turned to favour responsible government and in 1923 this was granted. This development left Northern Rhodesia in a difficult position since the BSAC had believed it owned the land in both territories and some settlers suggested that land ownership in Northern Rhodesia should also be referred to the Privy Council. However, the BSAC insisted that its claims were unchallengeable and persuaded the United Kingdom government to enter into direct negotiations over the future administration of Northern Rhodesia. As a result, a settlement was achieved by which Northern Rhodesia remained a protectorate but came under the British government, with its administrative machinery taken over by the Colonial Office, while the BSAC retained extensive areas of freehold property and the protectorate's mineral rights. It was also agreed that half of the proceeds of land sales in the former North-Western Rhodesia would go to the company. On 1 April 1924, Herbert Stanley was appointed governor and Northern Rhodesia became an official protectorate of the United Kingdom, with Livingstone as capital. The capital was later moved to Lusaka in 1935 for administrative convenience (Slinn 1971).

Under the administration of the BSAC, the administrator had similar powers to those of a colonial governor, except that certain powers were reserved for the high commissioner for South Africa. There was neither an executive council nor a legislative council, but only an advisory council, consisting entirely of nominees. The Northern Rhodesia Order in Council of 1924 transferred to the governor all power or jurisdiction previously held by the administrator or vested in the high commissioner for South Africa. The order also provided for an executive council consisting of six ex-officio senior officials and any other official or unofficial members the governor wished to appoint. At the same time, a legislative council was established, consisting of the governor and up to nine official members, and five unofficial members who were to be elected by the small European minority consisting of 4,000 people only, as none of the African population had the right to vote (Gann 1958).

The political development of Northern Rhodesia was shaped by Cecil Rhodes' belief that the territory was to be ruled by whites, developed by Indians, and worked by Africans. This became essentially the philosophy of British colonialism in Central and Southern Africa. However, BSAC rule did not survive for very long because the company was not really designed to govern.

Phiri (2006) argues that as a commercial company, BSAC's primary objective was to make profit and not to spend on administration. As such since Europeans had to be encouraged to come to Northern Rhodesia, they were given heavy tax exemption incentives. The fear was that heavily taxing the Europeans would have discouraged many from coming to the territory.


The BSAC ruled Zambia from the 1890s until 1924 when it handed over its administrative role to the British Colonial Office. Britain retained ultimate control over the territory until independence in 1964 (Tordoff 1974). Present- day Zambia was officially created as a British colony in 1911 when the separate administrations of North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia, first divided by the Kafue River and then by the railroad line, were amalgamated by the BSAC to cut down cost (Phiri 2006). The resident commissioner, who was answerable to the high commissioner, was appointed to preside over the affairs of the newly created territory. The BSAC ruled the vast region with the financial support from Cecil Rhodes. However, its powers in Northern Rhodesia were limited and the Colonial Office felt that it was not advisable to strengthen the company's hand in Northern Rhodesia.

In the early stages of European occupation, the BSAC had little interest in Northern Rhodesia. This is because it was never envisioned that the territory would develop into a white colony in the same way as in Kenya, where European settlement was adopted as official policy as early as 1902. The original reason for occupying the territory was, according to Ian Henderson, that it would be a labour reserve for the development of white areas of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa (Phiri 2006). However, the outlook changed gradually as it is evidenced by the growing number of white settlers in the region. For example, between 1904 and 1911 a total of 159 farms were established between Kalomo in the south and Kabwe in the north.

Phiri (2006) further stresses that with this increased European population came an increased European participation in local politics. The white population of Northern Rhodesia attained membership on various quasi-political bodies from which they sought and secured great influence on the colonial officials towards the colony. It must be understood that European participation in local politics developed over a long period and that the process itself was influenced by both fear of the indigenous population and the desire to be free from BSAC administration.

The discovery of large quantities of copper sulfide ores in Ndola attracted large mining companies to the area which developed into Northern Rhodesia's Copperbelt. The emergence of the Copperbelt had three major consequences. Firstly, it attracted increased white migration, including large numbers of skilled and semi-skilled mineworkers, mostly from South Africa. They all shared the determination to protect their privileged financial and social position by preserving a white monopoly of the more highly paid jobs (Phiri 2006). In the second instance, it is argued that copper mining also stimulated trade, leading to considerable development not only on the Copperbelt but also on the whole stretch along the railroad line. This area became an area of increased economic development and white domination. However, uneven development grew as the railroad area flourished while most of the country remained poverty- stricken. Thirdly, the development of the Copperbelt attracted a large African labour force. At first the labour force stayed for shorter periods, but later many began to settle almost permanently in unplanned settlements or compounds that sprouted in the mining towns and later along the Line of Rail.

However, because of cultural differences and the superiority complex of the white labour force, Africans were treated with a lot of disrespect. As a result of this perception by the whites, regardless of their origin, mining was made unpopular among Africans in the early years of the development of the mining industry. Thus, colonial Zambia's political history is essentially a story of race relations characterized more by the doctrines of paramountcy than that of partnership. That is, European demands on one hand, first for the amalgamation with Southern Rhodesia and later for a federation of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland, and African responses to these initiatives, on the other. The stage for these political events was largely the Copperbelt and the railroad line that formed the economic base of the territory (Phiri 2006).

The BSAC first introduced hut tax in North-Eastern Rhodesia in 1901 which was slowly extended through North-Western Rhodesia between 1904 and 1913. It was charged at different rates in different districts, but was supposed to be equivalent to two months' wages. The aim of the hut tax was to persuade or force the Africans into the system of wage labour in order to raise funds for administering the territory and provide labour for the mines. Its introduction generally caused little unrest, and any protests were quickly suppressed by the British South African Police force. Before 1920, it was commonly charged at five shillings a year, but in 1920 the rate of hut tax was sharply increased, and often doubled, to provide more workers for the Southern Rhodesian mines, particularly the coal mines of Wankie. At this time the company considered the principal economic benefit of Northern Rhodesia as that of serving as reservoir for migrant labour which could be called upon for the development of Southern Rhodesia where the white settlers had established themselves. However, a sharp increase in the rate of hut tax in 1920 caused unrest in the territory. Unrest also occurred on the Copperbelt in 1935 following tax rate increase. In 1935, the Northern Rhodesian government proposed to increase the rates of tax paid by African miners working on the Copperbelt, while reducing it in rural areas. Although the provincial commissioners had been told about the change in early 1935, it was not until later in May that year that the Native Tax Amendment Ordinance was signed, with rates implemented retrospectively to 1 January 1935. This retrospective implementation outraged the miners, who already had grievances regarding low pay and poor conditions. They also had issues with the Pass Laws (Chitupa) which had been introduced in 1927 requiring Africans to have permits to live and work on the Copperbelt. The tax rate increase provoked an all-out Copperbelt strike in three of the four mines in the area, namely Mufulira, Nkana (Kitwe), and Roan Antelope.


Excerpted from Zambia At Fifty Years by Royson Mukwena, Fanuel Sumaili. Copyright © 2016 Royson Mukwena & Fanuel Sumaili. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
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Table of Contents


Preface, ix,
Chapter 1 Zambia's Political History: From Colonialism to the Third Republic — R. Samuel Sakala, 1,
Chapter 2 A Critique of the Constitutional History of Zambia — Petra Rumbidzai Chinyere and Shakespear Hamauswa, 29,
Chapter 3 The Nexus of Political Culture and Citizen Participation in Public Affairs: Critical Reflections on Zambia's Fifty Years of Independence — Shakespear Hamauswa and Petra Rumbidzai Chinyere, 45,
Chapter 4 Sovereignty and Democracy: Zambia's Challenges — Torben Reinke, 65,
Chapter 5 A Critical Analysis of Zambia's Foreign Policy During the First Fifty Years — Royson M. Mukwena, 92,
Chapter 6 Fifty Years of Civilian Control of Zambia's Armed Forces — Njunga M. Mulikita, 137,
Chapter 7 Zambia's Dependency Syndrome — Christabel Ngongola, 164,
Chapter 8 Employment Creation Through Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in Zambia — James Mulenga, 191,
Chapter 9 The Evolution of Marketing Systems in Zambia — Maimbolwa Sepo Imasiku, 222,
Chapter 10 Harnessing Library and Information Services for Economic and National Development in Zambia: a Fifty-Year Retrospective Overview — Paul Zulu, 240,
Chapter 11 Labour in Zambia Since 1964 — Fanuel K. M. Sumaili, 271,
Chapter 12 The Evolution of the Civil Service in Zambia: Precolonial Period to Third Republic — Rabecca Banda-Shula, 308,
Chapter 13 History of Social Welfare in Zambia: Social Welfare Services and Social Work Education and Training — Chilala S. Kafula, 354,
Contributor Profiles, 387,

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