By AUSTIN KALUBA-
The late Sikota Wina’s career, first in the UNIP government where he was in the first cabinet as minister of health and later by holding several positions in the post-UNIP era, encapsulated much of this country’s history, from the racial nuances of the struggle against white minority rule to reversion to plural politics.
In fact, long before the reformists met at the Garden Motel in Lusaka, Wina had courageously condemned the one party system from his Makeni residence in Lusaka, a denunciation that emboldened other critics to come out in the open and denounce the Kenneth Kaunda regime.
His contribution to the independence fight included editing the African Life magazine. The publication printed in Ndola exposed the injustices of the white settler minority rule.
During the run-up to independence, Wina, together with other nationalists was a victim of the amended Emergence Power Ordinance that authorised the governor to detain people without trial to forestall action that might lead to an emergency.
In 1959, under this draconian law, more than fifty nationalists were arrested among them Kaunda, Simon Kapwepwe, Rueben Kamanga, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Justin Chimba, Dingiswayo Banda Alexander Zulu and Wina. The colonial government’s strategy was to detain leaders far away from their homelands to avoid them fomenting trouble among their supporters.
Wina was sent to Luwingu where he wrote to his cousin in June quoting a poem by the Russian Poet Boris Pasternak:
I am like a beast in an enclosure;
Somewhere are people, freedom and light;
Behind me is the voice of pursuit
And there is no way out…
Together with his brother Arthur and UNIP nationalists like Munukayumbwa, Wina was responsible for persuading the Litunga to allow the party to campaign in the then feudal backwater of Barotseland where the traditional leader had banned all political parties regarding them with great mistrust.
Wina also showed his influence in the region when the party formed government when he warned the Litunga to accept a UNIP candidate Hastings Noyoo who was elected by the National Council to be the new Ngambela.
The post had been vacant ever since Siyubo who held it had been forced by political pressure to resign. The Litunga showed reluctance to accept Noyoo despite several visits by UNIP officials including the vice president Kamanga to make the traditional leader change his mind.
The Barotse leadership found excuses to postpone the installation of Noyoo that included a traditional ceremony of immersing the premier in the Zambezi river. The traditional leadership at one time refused to carry out the ceremony arguing that the moon was in the wrong position. It had to take Wina, who was then local government minister to warn the Litunga, Sir Mwanawina that the central government was prepared to rule by decree. The Litunga finally allowed the installation on December 19th of 1964.
Wina’s contribution to the struggle earned him the nickname ‘the UNIP cowboy’ and he later recounted his days as a nationalist recalling how he used to walk on a daily basis from his modest home in Matero to his workplace at old Freedom House on Cha Cha Cha road despite being a university graduate.
Mr Wina said walking to work was not a big deal as there were no minibuses and owning a bicycle put someone in the league of rich people.
“We would also walk from Matero to Chilenje and we never complained because we were used to it,” he said.
Mr Wina added that he continued living in a two-bedroom thatched house even after being appointed Minister of Education. Matero, which was the first compound for Africans in Lusaka comprised urbanized well to do Africans.
He also remembered how Vice-President Guy Scott’s late father, Dr Alexander Scott being the first person to build a house in Lilanda and allowed Africans to build houses on his farm.
Mr Wina also recalled getting arrested in 1954 when he, his brother Arthur Wina, Wesley Nyirenda and others all who were smartly dressed in suits deliberately went to one of the restaurants for the whites ignoring racist directives that it was a no-go area for ‘natives.’
He was born in Mongu in 1931. His father was Chief Minister to the Paramount Chief of Barotseland. He attended the prestigious Kafue Training School and later Munali Secondary in Lusaka before going down south to study at the University of Fort Hare where he was expelled for his political activity.
Upon his return to Northern Rhodesia, he joined the Information Department of the colonial government working as a journalist, a profession that was a preserve of whites at the time. However, his political consciousness had already been sharpened by his education and experience in South Africa.
In 1956 he began editing the African Life magazine. He was later arrested again in March 1959 as part of a drive against “suspected subversives”. After being released from detention, he joined the (UNIP) and became its publicity director.
In 1962, Wina was elected to the Legislative Council for Copperbelt West in the general elections of that year. He subsequently became Parliamentary Secretary to Kaunda when Kaunda was appointed Minister of Local Government.
In the 1964 general elections, Wina was elected in the Luanshya-Kalulushi and was later appointed Minister of Health. He later held the position of Minister of local government and was re-elected to the National Assembly in the 1968 general elections representing Roan Constituency after abolition of the Luanshya–Kalulushi constituency.
In 1968, he was appointed Minister of information, Broadcasting and Tourism.
He left politics in the 1970s and in 1984 he was arrested at Bombay Airport in India for alleged drug smuggling. According to Indian government prosecutors, he jumped bail and used a fake Sudanese passport that identified him as Hussein to fly back to Lusaka.
Upon his return to Zambia, he claimed the drugs had been planted. Together with his wife, Mukwae Nakatindi, Wina was jailed in April 1985, but was released the following year without facing a trial.
After multi-party politics was introduced at the start of the 1990s, Wina became a member of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) and was elected to the National Assembly in the Chililabombwe constituency in the 1991 general elections.
Following the elections, he was appointed Deputy Speaker, but resigned from the post in 1994 after another drug-dealing scandal. He was re-elected in 1996 but defected to the United Party for National Development (UPND) prior to the 2001 general elections and ran in the Mulobezi constituency which he lost to the MMD’s candidate Michael Mabenga, though the result were overturned by the Supreme Court in September 2003 which argued that Mabenga had used state resources during the election campaign. Though Wina contested the subsequent by-election, he was defeated by Mwiya Wanyambe of the MMD.
Always a writer at heart, he penned the book The Night Without A President published by Multimedia Publications in 1985 and was also founding leader of the Zambia National Association of Writers (ZNAW) which was launched by Kaunda at NRDC in 1978.
He had earlier married Glenda Puteho McCoo, an African-American, before marrying his second wife Nakatindi, a politician and member of the Barotseland royal family, in the 1970s. Nakatindi died in 2012 and there were rumours of Wina trying to marry a young woman.
The UNIP cowboy died at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka on June 15, 2022, after being in poor health for a long period.
Church service for the late Wina was held at Lusaka’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross yesterday before his body was flown to Western Province in readiness for the burial programme today at Royal Nawinda Village in Mwandi District.
His life was characterized by making bold moves; from the time he challenged racism at Fort Hare where he was expelled, to his aloofness against white rule, his escapade in India and his denunciations of Kaunda’s one party rule.