By Sishuwa Sishuwa

Zanco Mpundu Mutembo
Zanco Mpundu Mutembo

Last Friday, 25 May 2018, marked Africa Freedom Day. Like every year, our political leaders and foreign dignitaries gathered at State House to offer platitudes on African unity and freedom. Earlier, they had gone to the Freedom Statue where they laid wreaths in honour of those who died in pursuit of the freedom of Zambia and Africa. This is an appropriate time to reflect about this day and ask: what is it that we are celebrating or commemorating? What does Africa Freedom Day mean for the ordinary citizen? What is it that Zambians are free to do on Africa Freedom Day? If those individuals celebrating independence in October 1964 could have seen a vision of what Zambia would be like in 54 years’ time, they would undoubtedly have been disappointed. Take the sorry and shameful case of Mpundu Mutembo. Many Zambians, especially residents of Lusaka, will know what this man looks like although they have never met him and he does not occupy a prominent position in public life. This is because Mutembo is the model for the famous Freedom Statue on Independence Avenue depicting a man breaking the chains of colonial oppression that had shackled Zambia’s people.

The Freedom Statue in Lusaka

Mutembo himself has little to celebrate. This man, on whom one of our national symbols is based and who appears on the Kwacha, lives in poverty. Successive governments have forgotten him. Promises to provide an income, housing and food security have all been broken. Even the land he lives on in Mbala, Northern Province, was not a gift from the government. It was in fact granted to him by the last colonial governor of Northern Rhodesia. The governments of an independent Zambia have given him nothing. They all have forgotten him. Yet every year, on 25 May, our leaders go to the Freedom Statue to pay homage to a sculpture that he inspired. “I am suffering. I walk on foot. I don’t eat properly. Some of my children have died in poverty. I can’t even take my children to school. Where do I find the money? Very shameful,’ Mutembo told News Diggers on Africa Freedom at a braai organised by opposition National Restoration Party leader Elias Chipimo to raise funds for him. A few metres away from the venue of the braai, those for whose freedom the starving 82-year-old had fought and who have since neglected him, were having a buffet. It is not too late to provide Mpundu with some dignity in his old age. Those who go to pay homage to the statue depicting him will do well to provide something for the man himself and for his fellow citizens who live in the same conditions of squalor. Chipimo deserves credit for inviting Mutembo to Lusaka and holding a braai meant to raise funds in his honour. This freedom fighter is surely owed more than a square meal or a medal. I plead with our political leaders to give this man some dignity. Please help him before he dies.

The ill-treatment we have accorded Mutembo should be a matter of deep shame for our country, but perhaps it is appropriate that our national symbol is a forgotten hero of our nationalist struggle living in poverty. It is at least consistent with how another national hero was treated. Mpundu Mponde Mutale, the singer of Africa my Africa, a song that has effectively become the official anthem at celebrations to mark Africa Freedom Day and which has brought a tear to the eye of successive generations of Zambia’s political leaders, was solely forgotten. He too lived in squalor and was literally left to die. Every year, on Africa Freedom Day, a very expensive car from State House would arrive in Chibolya, an impoverished slum in Lusaka, behind SOWETO Market, where he lived alone in a single-roomed shack made of cardboard and worn metallic sheets, partitioned in the middle by a filthy piece of well-worn cloth. Possibly the only time in a year that he rode in a car, it would collect and bring him to State House, where he was asked to sing the song, to convey history through music, and feted for a few hours in what constituted a brief acknowledgement of his role. After the celebrations, Mutale was again discarded, only to be remembered the following year on 25 May.

Freedom Fighters lay wreaths at the cenotaphs during the commemoration of the African Freedom Day held at Kasama Civic Centre

Evidently a pauper with cracked lips and matted hair, the scruffy-looking Mutale had no decent house, no job, no income, no running water, no electricity, no proper clothes and no access to healthcare. He went for days without a meal and only survived through the kindness of a fellow struggling neighbour who shared the little that she occasionally gathered. This is a historic wrong and injustice, one that now cannot be righted, as Mutale is dead. Although the official cause of his death was diabetes, a disease that is easily manageable when the necessary support is available, Mutale was killed by our inhumanity – the same cold-heartedness that is about to take another life of an outstanding patriot of our country. For a long time, like Mutembo, Mutale cried for help from the government and other well-wishers, but his cry always fell on deaf ears. “I feel my life is falling apart. Misfortunes are happening in quick succession. First, it was diabetes. Now, I am too broke to support myself and to have my music and film on the market. I have been calling for help for a very long time”, complained Mutale in July 2006, a few days before he died. On 25 May that year, our national leaders listened to his enlightening and incriminating track while they were drinking and eating. They have been doing the same thing before and ever since. His words still bring a tear to the eye, but those crying are not crying for him.

Mutembo and Mutale are unfortunately representative of the awful plight of freedom fighters: impoverished, without the essential basics, neglected and waiting to be freed by death. There is no national policy to even identify and locate former freedom fighters, let alone acknowledge their roles. Many live in obscurity and degrading human conditions in the land they fought to free. If this is the way we treat freedom fighters, then what hope does the common man or ordinary citizen have? During a recent visit to Muchinga and Luapula provinces, I was stunned to see the degrading and dehumanising conditions under which rural citizens continue to live in independent Zambia. Housed in grass huts, with no provision of services, struggling to earn a basic living from subsistence fishing, agriculture and selling charcoal, I could not hold back my tears. No human being, let alone a fellow Zambian, should live that way. However, I know that what I saw in Luapula and Muchinga is representative of how millions of rural Zambians and the urban poor in other parts of the country live. What has 54 years of independence meant for these people? How can they be expected to live in this way? Where is our humanity? How do Zambia’s leaders sleep at night?

A key reason that made the generation of Mutembo and Mutale great was their genuine humility, their sense of vision, their spirit of sacrifice, service, community and their ability to care about others and in many cases to help provide for them. Today, I fear that we are losing these humane values and becoming a nation of self-centred individuals with no interest in the future of Zambia. Millions of Zambians, with their expectations of independence thwarted, live as Mutale did. The haunting story of Mutembo, like that of Mutale before him, is a Zambian story; it is one that represents the plight of the common man, who is free only to rot in poverty. For the ordinary citizen or common man, Africa Freedom Day or Independence Day is simply another day of struggle. Political leaders today have no vision or clear strategy to bring about the badly needed change. They are content to bicker over inane and trivial matters, or to use their time in public office as an opportunity for personal accumulation and self-enrichment. Just where does our hope lie?

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38 COMMENTS

    • This is shocking, the Statue is Mutembo Mpundu? I have to read this once more.
      The man on kwacha is Mpundu Mutembo?
      Can some one explain to me the article before I make a phone call?

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    • Mushota do something for the first time in your life! Or ask bazungu to “adopt” one of these old men or woman-like God will bless you richly in heaven! Do think about shopping on the high streets as you say you like doing!

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    • Mushota do something for the first time in your life! Or ask bazungu to “adopt” one of these old men or woman as God will bless you richly in heaven! Don’t think about shopping on the high streets only as you say you like doing!

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    • The freedom statue was built to symbolize the breaking free of Zambians from the colonial yoke of supptession and not Mpundu Mutembos strength to break chains. Does it mean all the wreaths layed at the statue all the past years were meant to remember this one man who is still alive? Nowhere on the statue is it written that it was built to remember this one man forgetting the many others who even lost their lives during the independence struggle. While appreciating Mr Mutembo’s role during the independence struggle let’s not distort history. And how come we never learnt of this man in school?

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    • I disagree with Sishuwa here. These former freedom fighters are totally responsible for their plight. They allowed UNIP to derail the economy by discouraging self-enterprise, homeownership and entrepreneurship. Kaunda is responsible for their poverty. He made people dependent on the government for everything. No one in the civil service could buy his own home because of frequent transfers and council and government accommodation. The same people continued to oppose the free market politics of the MMD after 1991. These people who believe in big government have regrouped in the PF and they are dragging the country back to the dark ages. If KK approves of what Lungu is doing, there is something wrong.

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    • This plight of Zanco Mpundu Mutembo is surprising me as it keeps on coming every year during Africa Freedom Day. There are a few things I need to understand:
      o There were many freedom fighters and Mpundu was just one of them – This is a fact.
      o Mpundu was handcuffed with chains which he broke in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns – to earn his freedom.
      o Why is it that other freedom fighters like the Winas made a living by working in Governement and earned a living without begging?
      o Did Mpundu and those championing his plight expect him to just sit at home and earn a free salary from Government? Is this what the rest of the freedom fighters were or are doing?
      o Was Mpundu just street monger for him not to be part of Kaunda’s government just like the other freedom…

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    • o Was Mpundu just street monger for him not to be part of Kaunda’s government just like the other freedom fighters did?
      o Mama Kankasa, The Winas, Changufu, Grey Zulu to mention a few are all freedom fighters. Why is it that some of these were in government and name of Mpundu and others are no where in the governing equation? Did they have less education to be considered for positions in Government? Or Kaunda is hiding something that we do not know???

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  1. PF sharks don’t care ,they’re selling prime school land and inflating GRZ tenders left and right.Bwana Mpundu you’re on your own sadly under this dog eat dog administration.

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  2. That is the problem with Zambians. They like handouts. The government might help but it is not the governments obligation to give free food to people. People should learn to earn their own living by being productive. What Mpundu do with his land? Does he farm? This articles is encouraging laziness among Zambians and LT welcomes it to be part of free free free things that has been a disease for most Africans. This free mentality is what has underdeveloped Africa.

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    • The government should have set up a grant system( consolidated by a law) for those who fought for our freedom.This should have been done after 1964.Its disheartening that our heroes become destitute. They are a national symbol and its better some of our tax goes to them than to fund useless trips abroad and shopping sprees of our various corrupt leaders.Its not laziness its appreciation ,gratitude for our elders. Africans are not lazy we have just been exploited by those who colonised us in very subtle ways and our leaders continue paying tribute to them kwati fipuba(giving away land and resources willy nilly)

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    • flag Alternative Facts Fake News S**thole Countries Social Mobility Chinese Zambia Police Reservists Corruption scandals: Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans

      MateI think you missed the essence of the article, the theme and the message conveyed in the article. I suspect you didn’t read the whole article. Yes you are right that we should never encourage handouts and laziness but the government needs to provide an enabling environment and system where everyone can thrive to the best of their abilities. Do you really think this PF govt today provides such an opportunity and a ‘fair go’? As it is right now in Zambia, you have to be part of the ruling group and enjoy in the corruption spoils. Get real mate!

      The irony about what you have written though is that your entire govt thrives on handouts, aid and laziness.

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    • True. We are so docile that we are just waiting for handouts. It’s a shame.
      Muzungu opusa promised you 5%of National Budget??? That’s a lot of cash Bwana Mpundu

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    • Successive governments have forgotten him. Promises to provide an income, housing and food security have all been broken. Even the land he lives on in Mbala, Northern Province, was not a gift from the government. It was in fact granted to him by the last colonial governor of Northern Rhodesia. The governments of an independent Zambia have given him nothing. They all have forgotten him. Yet every year, on 25 May, our leaders go to the Freedom Statue to pay homage to a sculpture that he inspired. “I am suffering. I walk on foot. I don’t eat properly. Some of my children have died in poverty.

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  3. flag Alternative Facts Fake News S**thole Countries Social Mobility Chinese Zambia Police Reservists Corruption scandals: Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans

    I never new that the man depicted in that freedom statue is actually alive and well today. I learned something today, thanks Bo Sishuwa.

    Incredible, these are the people who supposed to be enjoying our resources not these crooks who don’t deserve it.

    Very well written article but Bo Sishuwa but please learn to write shorter articles. You could easily make your point in a shorter, brief but to point article. My train ride is only 10 minutes, enough for me to read and write a comment and browse through the PF vuvuzelas like B R Mumba haha.

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  4. SISHUWA SISHUWA you are a good for nothing citizen!!!!
    Next time when you visit Zambia we will seize you by your balls and am sure you gonna squeal like a pig. Why cant you yourself support the likes of Mpundu?

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    • @ Bo Munyenge Munyenge, sure ulichinangwa no wonder you came up with that name. In your foolish mind you don’t get anything from Sishuwa before you are a cadre who support nonsense. This man is a freedom fighter and he is suffering and yet you still support this. We mbwa we!

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  5. “Political leaders today have no vision or clear strategy to bring about the badly needed change. They are content to bicker over inane and trivial matters, or to use their time in public office as an opportunity for personal accumulation and self-enrichment. Just where does our hope lie?”Which political leaders are you referring here?We had KK, FTJ, LPM, RB , MCS Kobra and no one mentioned this man.Now that this dude (Mpundu) surfaced, this guy “Plato” wannabe” Sishuwa Sishuwa from outdated Oxford want to show like he is so concerned about this man.That is extremely egocentrism.Sishuwa Sishuwa , your entire post is simply a pathetic justification for the irrational, the solipsism and the ignorant, in other words predisposed which is simply the copulation of ignorance with stupidity…

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    • CONT’D….
      Sishuwa Sishuwa , your entire post is simply a pathetic justification for the irrational, the solipsism and the ignorant, in other words predisposed which is simply the copulation of ignorance with stupidity to create a false belief that ECL and the PF government do not care about this Mpundu man. Sishuwa Sishuwa attempt to explain all reality – tries to tell us all the problems of this country– a task Sishuwa Sishuwa ultimately fails to find a solution. Sishuwa Sishuwa’s philosophy is so convoluted, byzantine, and disconnected from reality, that it lacks any practical usefulness. His cognitive political biased theories to favor his party UPND are like an oasis around a treacherous pool of nonsense, and nowhere beneath the foliage is the ground really firm.Waste of pen and…

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  6. CONT”D
    Waste of pen and paper rather tear and wear of a keyboard. from this douchiebag jerk…Spare us from your crap.

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  7. Indeed this country needs Elias Chipimo al leader whose focus is on people rather wealth power.HH and ECL are businessmen who do not have a heart for the people.NAREP has adopted the freedom fighter and we will try to help him while he carries on.We do not accept the current existing configuration of our freedom fighters.The PF govt is waiting for these freedom fighters to die so that they can come and give long speeches and draw allowances for attending the funeral.NAREP is the new hope for Zambia.

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  8. And the day this Mpundu Mutembo will pass on you will see expensive vehicles escorting his remains in an expensive casket to the final resting place

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  9. Several European and American inventors whose work benefits mankind to this day died poor, are the citizens of those regions blaming their governments??? Yet us Zambians (including this educated timewaster Sishuwa!!) want our government to give eternal handouts to models???

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  10. I am sure the writer can start first and we will follow! It is true that this man deserves the care of the nation. Another man Mpundu Mutale the singer of “Africa my Africa” died as a forgotten man. This must change in our country.

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  11. Nevertheless, UPND painting the government black with a brush – the real reason behind the HaTribes’ article! Hagenda!

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  12. The story is poorly written and it fails to highlight the freedom fighter by winding and hallucinating in the UPND innuendoes path of mediocrity! I think another article years back about the man was better! And so are other articles from other sites. Please google them than trying to read this failed thesis!

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  13. Hey Sishiwa, I like the manner in which you give your narrative reports. You have a very sound reasoning mind. I really enjoy reading your scripts. Are you into writing any books? Keep it up man.

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  14. I think it is nice that the man behind the statue is around.

    What is really sad is to expect that it is the responsibility of government to feed him. This is why Kaunda’s socialism was no go. In a normal society, when you render a service you ordinarily would get paid once. Not for life.

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  15. Zambia should never encourage this dependency.Mr Mpundu should’ve worked hard on his own to achieve comfortable life instead of this bad idea of encouraging a culture of dependency by this author.

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  16. One off help to Mr. Zanko Mpundu is enough. Not perpetual assistance. Last Friday when there was Africa Freedom Day celebrations at State House I saw one man who used to work in one of the government Ministries and retired about five years also ago who was claiming to be a freedom fighter. Through interrogation he couldn’t even say exactly what contribution he did during the struggle because by then he was still very young!

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  17. I met him at Millennium bus station on foot with the daughter. Non of the bus drivers and conductors knew him till i said so and there was commotion. When asked to pose for a photo by one bus driver he asked for money for a driver. The driver said he didn’t have and our Zanco walked away. I wasn’t surprised, he is an icon but poverty has relegated him to professional begging. I was so heart broken. He is on our money but he doesn’t have the money for his basics? What an oxymoron?

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    • That’s tragically sad. And SISHUWA tries to highlight the poor man’s plight but all that some bloggers see is the usual politics, HH or EL. Goodness! What kind of a people are we? We are so polarised that we walk over people that genuinely need help. The lack of literacy and grammar on this site alone is enough to scare me. We are a country in decline, but we just don’t have enough kind, like-minded people to fend off the tide of ignorant fools, yes, on both sides of the political spectrum. Go ahead and mock, I’ve already lost hope that anyone can and will even listen.

      And those saying Mpundu should sort himself out are not just confirming the author’s point that we are now a selfish lot but also forgetting that they are free to express themselves today partly because of his efforts…

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  18. When did you ever hear anything positive about Zambia from the department of HaTribes?

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