By Yuyi Libakeni –
I HAVE personally known Alexander B. Chikwanda, ABC as he is popularly known, for some fifty-five years now. We first met at Munali Secondary School in 1958 for our Senior Secondary.
He came from Malole Secondary School, and I from Mongu now Kambule. We were assigned to the same dormitory, Moffat house. In classwork he was certainly far above average.
He loved arguing his point through and clearly even with seniors, but none considered him controversial or a problem student.
In October 1959, there was a student protest at the school which arose from publication of an essay praising the Federation written by one student, AD Zulu, demortuis nil nisi bonum.
The Central African Post newspaper edition of November 18,1959 referred to the essay “the most famous essay yet written in the Federation” was sponsored by the Herald Tribune of New York newspaper containing assertions such as the following:
“Before the white men came, there was no country known as the Federation or Northern Rhodesia. All was empty land with a few natives here and there.
Many Africans today are being educated and their hopes are to get rid of the white man. What good will that do? Europeans have come to stay with us and in fact no one who is now living in the federation, African or European, was here a few hundred years ago.
In most parts of the Federation civilisation is taking the place of ignorance. Who brought this civilisation?……..why not ask for more to come to our country so that we have better civilisation than this.”
The Federation was imposed in 1953 upon the Africans of the three territories, [Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland]against their will. It was hated by most African peoples, the ANC fighting it abinitio.
And so for an African to author such an essay was an act of treachery and betrayal against the African cause. And so the whole student body rose in protest against Zulu, calling for his dismissal. There were of course many Capricorns who were dealt with like all turncoats are.
The situation became explosive and the Minister of African Education, Gabriel Musumbulwa of the UFP, came in but his threats just worsened the situation.
Three brave students Justin KatongoChongo [Form IV], Alexander BwalyaChikwanda [ABC] and YonaSimwanza [both Form III], pitched up at the Principal’s office and declared themselves ring leaders and that they were ready for the consequences of their action but that school remains open for the rest of the student body.
They all were a fine breed of intelligent northerners with a flair for mathematics and all residents of Moffat House. What a great sacrifice of their future: all for the creation and the future of a new nation, our Zambia, strong and free!
The school was nonetheless closed and all expelled. Chikwanda and his two friends were not allowed back into the school when it re-opened, meaning that they could not be enrolled in any other school in the country. It was the closed end of their education, for your freedom, equality and development. What bravery, what nationalism, and what self consideration can we see in such a man?
But the trio had started a movement, a beat and the beat caught up like wild fire, Hodgson [DKS], Chikuni, Fort Jameson [Chizongwe] ……… all were closed. Doesn’t Chikwanda’s hand smell nationalist savours, if not who is?
ABC and his friends had taken on the role of a political party to mobilise the people; yes, ZANC was banned and leaders in restriction, ANC was breaking up and UNIP was not yet fully born!
Having earned the distinction of being a school outcast, Chikwanda went straight into the political field. And when on November 9, 1959, a week after closure of Munali, the big guns met at Matero House No. 3144 for the purpose of electing an interim Executive of the nascent UNIP [in-formation], Chikwanda found himself recruiting party members and organising the grassroots, first as Constituency Secretary 1959 – 1962. It is at this time that the new party UNIP organised the first 39 UNIP Scholarships.
Three for University studies at Addis Ababa, India and the United States of America and the rest for local secondary places. Former President R.B. Banda took up the Addis Ababa Scholarship. Chikwanda was associated with these arrangements.
Back at Munalithe seed that he had planted kept sprouting and changing the political orientation not only of Munali but the whole educational system. In October, 1962Chikwanda’s spirit visited Munali.
The October 1962 [15-15-15] elections did not produce an outright winner, neither the white pro-federal UFP nor pro-African majority rule UNIP could form government on their own.
Each needed a partner to marshal the necessary majority in Legco. And this was where the catch was: the only bride available for either suitor was ANC. If Congress went with UFP, forget about Independence, but if she wedded with UNIP, Independence assured within a year.
Chikwanda’s spirit showed up and there was a question on every lip, “if Chikwanda did it, why can’t we DID it?’ We shall overcome” Munalisix-formers under the banner of their School Captain Sam Sikaneta matched to both Mapoloto, Chilenje, [ANC HQ], and Freedon House [UNIP], Stanley Road [now Freedom Way] to deliver messages demanding an ANC-UNIP coalition. It worked.
It was not until July 1963 that I met ABC, now UNIP Regional Secretary in his office in Mufulira. I was then in the company of the late NaluminoMundia, UNIP Deputy National Treasurer and Director of Elections, who was visiting party field offices. I was on my way to Makerere University College, all made possible for me by Chikwanda’s selfless hand.
In January 1964, ABC was the UNIP candidate for Kitwe North which he won easily butresigned the seat in favour of his senior AB Muntemba. An act of high-minded obedience in response to a national call or what is called spread-eagleism, certainly not selfishness.
Independence now on the table and having fought a good fight, Chikwanda now thought of taking his course. He did it at Lund in Sweden. We know Sweden is not British but the British have respect for Sweden.
Finishing his course Chikwanda came back for duty, serving as Minister variously in Agriculture, Finance and Planning and Local Government. I had the privilege of working under him at both Finance and Planning in both the first and second Republics. He was always in control and at home with his staff.
He took time off, having done his duty, during the tight years of the Kwacha and Leadership Code, the economy sagging under the weight of government controls which he opposed.
They were killing the economy and with it the people, his own. He could not fight the supremacy of the Party. He took leave. I recall during a national convention called to discuss these issues held in Mulungushi Hall in 1988, how Chikwanda, Arthur Wina confronted President Kaunda and walked out.
Always relaxed and unassuming with disdain for protocol, Chikwanda is a pleasant and open minded man to work with.
He has a knack for making the more complicated the more simplified to comprehend. Loaded with pencil and paper his agile nimble fingers can run faster than a computer and astound those whose training it is to interpret the ages of the inanimate, and misconstrue him.