by Sophena Chisembele


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Zambia obtained independence in 1964 after a bitter freedom struggle with the colonial power Britain. This book covers that period and events that followed the attainment of self-rule. The story is biographical in context, and describes through the personal and political life of one of Zambia’s most prominent freedom-fighters Sylvester Mwamba Chisembele, a social and political history which includes the intrigues and plots that emerged before and after independence. Sylvester Chisembele was born in Luapula Province, Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia). He was educated at Lubushi Seminary run by the Catholic White Fathers from where he entered the political campaign for freedom from colonial rule. He quickly rose to prominence and became a leading figure in the struggle. During this period he survived an assassination attempt on his life as well as a failed plot to charge him with treason instigated by the colonial administration. Amongst other important events a description is given of the circumstances surrounding the imposition of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland; the broken promises made to the Litunga, ruler of Barotseland; the visit of the British Prime Minister to the territory in the early 1960s and the subsequent boycott of the Monkton Commission.

The colonial administration went to extraordinary lengths in order to keep the people in check. They attempted to involve the Prefect of Fort Rosebery Catholic Church who, misinformed, threatened excommunication to those who joined the freedom fight. Once the freedom struggle was underway, the story describes the indifference of the colonisers which escalated into a cruelty and hostility that saw people maimed, shot and killed. The book recalls the dismay of some British Members of Parliament who were appalled at the treatment, illegal arrests and imprisonment of freedom fighters and trade union miners’ leaders.

From the attainment of independence the book moves on to Zambian rule, the difficulties, the corruption and the endeavours made to reduce the power which a British-prepared constitution gave to one individual. That led to one-man dictatorship which took years to remove and still exists in principle today.

After independence Chisembele played a prominent role in public life as a Member of Parliament holding various ministerial positions in Zambian governments from the outset in 1964 until 1983, after which time he continued as an advisor, opponent and outspoken critic of corruption in government administrations, which saw him victimized but unrelenting. The book covers the transition of power from Kenneth Kaunda after a groundswell of public opinion forced him to allow multi-party politics which in the following general elections saw him lose power after 27 years of one-man rule. The book also records the efforts that Chisembele made to bring some justice for the aging, neglected freedom fighters of Zambia when he attempted to obtain reparation from the British Government by taking a test case to the European Court of Human Rights whose ruling was that the incidents happened before the relevant Convention was in place, rendering the case inadmissible. An account is given of the events both political and personal up until the end of his life on February 5th 2006 and the aftermath.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780993409509
Publisher: sophena alison
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Pages: 356
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Sophena Chisembele is the surviving wife of Sylvester Mwamba Chisembele. She was born in London, England in 1936 and is of mixed parentage. Her father, Yusuf Mohammed Ali, came to the U.K. as a seaman travelling on merchant ships which traded between India and the London Docks during the 1920s. He met and married a woman of Scottish descent, Ethel Emma Wallace. Sophena's father served in the R.A.F. during the Second World War but he did not survive and he is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Brookwood Military Cemetery in England. She and her three siblings were brought up by their mother on her own.

Her sister Dr. Sheila Ahern went to New Zealand and held the post of Head of Department, History, at the Victoria University in Wellington. Sophena in her turn went to Zambia in the early days of independence, under the auspices of the British Crown Agents. Sophena worked as secretary/pa to Sylvester Chisembele. In 1969 she became a pawn in a political intrigue which saw her arrested and declared a prohibited immigrant. The attempted deportation was aborted at the last moment when the plot failed, causing political repercussions which are described in this book.

She married Sylvester Chisembele in 1970 and played a full part in his life and activities. After his death in 2006 she published articles in a local newspaper which were a critique of the administration, the corruption and a description of the circumstances of the death of Sylvester Chisembele, the consequence of which saw the newspaper temporarily closed and banned from publishing any further article from her.

Since the death of her husband she has submitted papers to various universities and institutions which have been accepted for their archives, among them the Vatican, the Bodleian Library Oxford, Cambridge University, SOAS University of London, University of Cape Town, universities in Zambia. She survived an armed break-in at her residence in Lusaka where she was living alone after the death of her husband, an ordeal which saw her tied-up and threatened at knife-point. She then followed earlier advice from the British High Commission and left Zambia in 2009 and is now living in Axminster, England.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi
Acknowledgements xiii
List of Illustrations xv
List of Acronyms xvi

PART ONE: The Freedom Struggle 1948-1964

1 (1948 - 1959)
On the way to emancipation
Actions and consequences
State of Emergency

2 (1960 - 1964)
British VIP visits
Broken promises
Independence achieved
PART TWO: The Kaunda Era 1965-1991
3 (1965 - 1969)
Early days
Personal relationships
Intrigues and repercussions

4 (1970 - 1972)
Chisembele in Barotseland
"Committee of 14"
Bans; arrests; suspensions and changes
New alliances and new parties

5 (1973 - 1977)
One Party State
General Election; Luapula stands firm
Chisembele in Eastern Province
Tension and underground campaigns
Detentions and aggravations
Chisembele in Copperbelt

6 (1978 - 1979)
Presidential challengers outmanoeuvred
General Elections veto in use
Chisembele excluded from Cabinet
A word on our farming programme

7 (1980 - 1983)
Deaths in England and Zambia
Chisembele's last Commonwealth
Parliamentary Conference
General Elections; prominent leaders ousted
Chisembele retires
Kaunda adopts IMF measures

PART THREE: Retirement Onwards 1983-2009

8 Some words on youth and character of Chisembele

9 (1984 - 1990)
Food riots shock Kaunda
Instability, detentions and extreme measures

The Chiluba Years: 1991-2001

10 (1991 - 1995)
Multi-party politics re-introduced
Historic Election brings change
Euphoria and hopeful beginnings
Disillusion and disappointment
Rumours of "Zero Option" coup plot
State of Emergency

11 (1996 - 1999)
Kaunda seeks to regain control
General & Presidential Elections
Kaunda barred; UNIP boycott elections
MMD retain power
"Captain Solo" coup attempt and repercussions
Chiluba and Kaunda face citizenship challenge

12 (2000)
Kaunda steps down from UNIP presidency
Chisembele farm illegally removed
Chiluba "regrets psychological torture ..."

The Mwanawasa Years: 2001 - 2009

13 (2001 - 2003)
Chiluba's third term bid fails
Chiluba appoints Mwanawasa successor
General Elections Mwanawasa wins
EU Observers fail to sanction election result
MMD in disarray; leaders split
Chiluba's immunity from prosecution removed
Chisembele submits claim to British Government for atrocities committed during the struggle
Mung'omba Constitution Commission

14 (2004 - 2005)
Chisembele brings compensation claim on
British Government before the ECHR
Mwanawasa and government officials face corruption allegations
Chisembele refuses Independence Day honour
Chisembele submits paper to Mung'omba
Constitution Commission

15 (2006 - 2009)
Traumatic death of Chisembele
Mwanawasa and Kaunda argue over neglect of freedom fighters
General Elections
Mwanawasa wins and riots follow result
Death of Mwanawasa
Family matters and departure from Zambia

Appendix A "Luapula Province's Contribution to Political Independence and Democratic
Governance" by Valentine W.C. Kayope
Appendix B Part autobiography Sophena Chisembele
Chapter Notes

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