By Eugene Makai



The wife of Zambian Defence Minister Wilson Mofya Chakulya, Mrs. Susan Chakulya was arrested in the United Kingdom on a drugs charge and produced at Dudley Crown Court.

Mrs. Chakulya was arrested for smuggling 65 pounds (29kg) of marijuana into Britain. Chakulya, who ironically had been Minister of Foreign Affairs before assuming the Defence portfolio, was also a senior member of then President Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP)’s central committee.

He was sacked by Dr. Kaunda after his wife stood trial at Dudley Crown Court, on 9th July 1984 along with two Britons and another Zambian, Doreen Chishimba.

Mr. Chakulya was a real force and influential player in liberation and post independence politics in Zambia. It is a wonder that he is not mentioned in the same breath as names that easily come up when discussing Zambian politics. In 1959 as a member of the Zambia African Congress (ZANC) he was convicted on a charge of sedition and sentenced to sixteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

As a unionist, Chakulya was as influential and stands amongst the great names such as Lawrence Katilungu, Matthew Nkoloma, Basil Kabwe and others. He was General Secretary of the Northern Rhodesia Trade Union Congress [1956-1964] and General Secretary of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions [1967-1971]. A staunch supporter of Dr. Kaunda and having served in other important portfolio’s including being the first African to be Managing Director at Nchanga Consolidated Mines [himself an ardent advocate for Zambianisation], Labour Minister and High Commissioner to Canada, it was a real scandal for him and the Zambian government after his wife was arrested.

He was appointed Defence minister in December 1980 after a turbulent year in the security of the country and re-organisation of the security apparatus by Dr. Kaunda. It was a few months after in September 1980 then chairman of the ZCTU Fredrick Chiluba was threatening nationwide strikes, an attempted coup was reported to have been foiled with a shootout at a farm house in Chilanga on 15th October 1980 and alleged coup plotters detained.

A dusk to dawn curfew was imposed on the eve of the 16th anniversary of independence on 23rd October 1980 as a result of the security situation. On 27th October 1980 Dr. Kaunda accused South Africa of being behind a coup plot and on 7th November 1980 announced that all was under control and those behind the coup plot involving Zairean (Congolese) mercenaries sponsored by South Africa’s apartheid regime had been detained. Among those arrested were prominent lawyer Edward Shamwana, former Bank of Zambia Governor Valentine Musakanya, former Diplomat and banker Elias Chipimo (Sr.), top civil servant Patrick Chisanga, newly sworn-in Airforce Commander Major-General Kabwe and two air officers, Godwin Yoram Mumba, Anderson Kabwili Mporokoso, Thomas Mpanga Mulewa and Zairean nationals Deogratis Symba, Albert Chimbalile and Laurent Kanyembu.

Subsequent arrests included absconding military man Godfrey Miyanda [Now retired Brigadier General] on May 22, 1981, who was on the run and taken into custody in Zaire by the Zambian security officers and immediately flown to Lusaka, Zambia, where he was then served with Presidential detention order, pursuant to Regulation 33 (1) of the Preservation of Public Security Regulations, and was, in terms of Article 27 (1) (a) of the Republican Constitution.

Others whose passports were seized and more or less put under house arrest were former Foreign Affairs minister Vernon Johnson Mwaanga.

The environment in which Wilson Chakulya became Defence minister was one of tension and unease by the presidency of Dr. Kaunda. Chakulya’s hardline stance on many things including his dislike of foreign domination made him a strong candidate for the position. This was a crucial time as the treason cases went on in the Courts in Zambia resulting in death sentences for the accused. It was also a time Zambia was still home to a number of liberation movements and the nerve centre of the Frontline States.

The changes made by Dr. Kaunda were not only at cabinet level but also at state house where Mr. Mark Chona who was Special Assistant to President Kaunda for Political Affairs was replaced by Mr. Wilted Phiri who was pulled from Home Affairs [a demotion] to be his replacement and former Attorney-General and minister of Legal Affairs Frederick Chomba to take his place as Home minister.

Chakulya had in 1979 as Foreign minister famously labelled former British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington as an ‘Arch-fascist’ for what he saw as his role in installing Bishop Muzorewa as the black face of racist Rhodesia and sidelining the Patriotic Front of Nkomo and Mugabe. This was at the height of poor relations with Britain and angry anti-British demonstrations outside the British High Commission in Lusaka by UNIP cadres and days after Dr. Kaunda declared Zambia in a ‘state of war’ with reservists called up for duty.

The Zambian government held the British responsible for Rhodesian bombings of three bridges including the main bridge on the TAZARA railway, key to imports and exports through Tanzania. The Rhodesians also bombed six Zimbabwe African People’s Union – Patriotic Front [ZAPU-PF] camps in the country. this was after enduring the bombing of Joshua Nkomo’s residence and raiding a ZIPRA safe house in Lusaka’s Roma township.

The arrest and conviction of Mrs. Chakulya was a real comfort for the British who had come to dislike Chakulya and as a British diplomat and High Commissioner to Zambia [1978-1980] Sir Walter Leonard Allinson recounted in an interview with Jane Barder in 1996, “….., in Zambia, I was treated with the utmost suspicion and mistrust and it was very hard to have a really good working relationship based on mutual respect with many of the Zambian officials and ministers. In fact one or two ministers were positively weird.”

“It was really very difficult in Lusaka. One day the Rhodesian aircraft came in the morning and caught a whole Zambian battalion of Nkomo’s men on parade just outside Lusaka and bombed them, causing tremendous casualties, hundreds of casualties. It was a 900 man battalion, caught in the open.”

“The Zambians brought the bodies and injured back through town and Lusaka’s a small town, through the main streets to the hospital (which incidentally was only able to treat them because I had arranged for some medical supplies to come only the week before) and the ordinary Zambian in the streets saw these corpses and bleeding bodies trailing blood being driven through the streets and there was a briefly very bad attitude towards all white people in town. Some people got chased and scragged and I and the papal nuncio and I think the Swedish ambassador, on behalf of the diplomatic corps went to see the Minister of Foreign Affairs to demand that the Zambians protected foreign nationals, which in fact they did.”


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