Simon Mwansa kapwepwe


(part one)

By Chibolya Kimber Solwezi

Simon Kapwepwe was born on 12 April 1922 in the Chinsali district of the Northern Province of Northern Rhodesia (which then included the present day Luapula Province) .

Although Chinsali was remote from the country’s urban centres, it was an area of early educational development, because of the presence of two rival
missions, the Presbyterian Livingstonia Mission of the United Free Church of Scotland (based at Lubwa (next to the Kolwe River from 1913) and the Roman
Catholic White Fathers’ Mission (based at Ilondola from 1934).

Chinsali’s first missionary was David Kaunda from Malawi, the father of Kenneth Kaunda (who became the first African Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia in 1963 and then the first president of Zambia in 1964). Simon Kapwepwe became the country’s second vice-president.

Kapwepwe started his primary education in Chinsali. He did his Standard 3 and 4 at Mwenzo, another mission of Livingstonia. In 1942 and 1943 he did his Standard 5 and 6 in Lubwa.

In 1944 he became driver at the Public Works Department, and in 1945 a primary school teacher at Lubwa. In September 1947 he went to Tanganyika, looking for work, together with Kenneth Kaunda and John Malama Sokoni.

In June 1948 he became an Assistant Welfare Officer with the Kitwe Municipal Council, location Chingola district, and then a teacher at Wusakile Primary School in Kitwe.


Due to his dissatisfaction with the policies of the colonial Northern Rhodesian government, he became a founding member of the Northern Rhodesian African Congress in 1948. This party was soon renamed the Africa National Congress (ANC) under the leadership of Harry Nkumbula. Kapwepwe was a member of the national executive and became secretary of the Kitwe Branch.

Kapwepwe secured an Indian Village Industrial Scholarship in 1950. He stayed in Bombay from 1950 to 1954, after studying Hindi in Nairobi. Subjects he studied were pottery and journalism.

In October 1953 the Central African Federation (or the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) was created. The African majority’s opposition to this new entity was organized by the ANC, but it was not very successful.

On Kapwepwe’s return to Northern Rhodesia in January 1955 he found the ANC leaderless, since both Harry Nkumbula and Kenneth Kaunda had been imprisoned for two months for distributing literature, considered subversive.

Kapwepwe became then Acting President. When Nkumbula returned from prison, he appointed Kapwepwe to the position of Acting Provincial Organizer for Northern Province.

In August 1956 Kapwepwe became Treasurer of the ANC, based in Lusaka. Nkumbula’s allegedly autocratic leadership and his willingness to accept in 1958 participation in national elections, which allowed the vote to only 25,000 Africans, led to a rift within the ANC.

Kapwepwe, together with Kaunda, Sikota Wina and others, broke away and formed the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. This party was declared illegal in March 1959, and its leaders were placed under a banning order or goaled. Kapwepwe was sent to Mongu, in Barotseland.

While the ZANC leadership was in jail or away, Mainza Chona and other nationalists from ZANC formed a new party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) to replace ZANC. Kapwepwe and the other imprisoned leaders of ZANC joined the new party.

Join me tomorrow with part 2


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