27 June 2007

Zambia: Memoirs of a Moral And Political Leader

book review

ALEXANDER Grey Zulu is one of the longest serving political leaders in independent Zambia who also witnessed the freedom struggle.

As one of the surviving freedom fighters, Grey Zulu, who retired from active politics when the country returned to multi-party politics in 1990, but only quit office the following year, is one of the country's great moral and political leaders.

Since his retirement, he has largely decided to remain quiet and has often refused to comment on burning issues whenever the media has pressed him to do so. In fact, it is only recently that he has been able to open-up to the media. And that could be because he has had a book coming through the mill!

Indeed, one of the complaints held against many freedom fighters, is their unwillingness to chronicle their personal contributions to the independence struggle in writing for easy reference by both this generation and posterity.

Therefore, in writing this book, Memoirs of Alexander Grey Zulu (Times Printpak, 464 pages, K220, 000), the former UNIP Secretary-General is answering to the wishes of many. Of course, some may think the book is long over due as some of his contemporaries that may have been mentioned in the account may have since passed on while his memory of some major events may also have faded, but still, the most important thing is that he has finally written.

And in so doing, he joins other luminaries like John Mupanga Mwanakatwe, Andrew Sardanis, Vernon Mwaanga, Kapasa Makasa, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Sikota Wina, Simon Zukas and Elijah Mudenda, among others, to have offered their respective accounts on the history of this country.

That said, there is special reason why Grey Zulu's book occupies a certain special place among these accounts. For a start, he is one of the leaders regarded to have been a close lieutenant of Dr Kaunda, having served closely under him from independence to 1991 when the country reverted to multi-party politics.

Additionally, he is one of the few survivors under the leadership of Dr Kaunda. Further still, he was there when the country made major transformations in its political and economic systems as well as the time when such crushing events as military coups occurred.

With that therefore, one might say Grey Zulu is likely to have more to say than some of his colleagues who later left government and went on to pursue other endeavours or indeed fell out of favour with Dr Kaunda's establishment.

It is against that background that the memoirs of Grey Zulu are (or should be) accorded a special place on the book shelf.

And it is not just because it is Grey Zulu writing, but also because of the topics that he re-creates. From his humble childhood days in Chipata, to his days in Broken Hill, now Kabwe, to his involvement with ZANC, to his discovery of the Mulungushi Rock of Authority, the five attempted coups, nation building vis-à-vis One Zambia, One Nation and the One Party State, the author takes the reader through a long journey in 465 pages of a compelling insight.

Just for the record, Grey Zulu was the first Minister of Defence and a key architect of Zambia's civil control of the military, and also served in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Lands and Co-operatives, Power Transport and Communications, Mines, Home Affairs, and was secretary general of UNIP at the time the Party came first before the Government and counseled Dr Kaunda when he briefly resigned in 1968.

Otherwise, Grey Zulu is almost of the same age as Dr Kaunda, having been born in September of 1924 in Khwaya village of Chief Mafuta, Chipata district, where he says, even as a youngster, he did not hesitate to express his opinion on important issues that affected the community to his siblings. In fact, he thinks many people in the village regarded him as a clever boy. Whichever way, it is from there that he went on to play a significant part in the history of this country. Indeed, no history of this country can ever be complete without mention of Grey Zulu's name. And it is not just for the mere fact that he met such greats as Abdel Nasser, Kwame Nkhrumah, Bronz Tito, Emperor Haile Selasse, Indira Ghandhi or Saddam Hussein, but for the undisputed fact that he was around during the country's most defining moments.

Take for instance the February 7, 1968 UNIP National Council meeting at Chilenje Community Hall in Lusaka which resulted in the brief resignation of Dr Kaunda as Republican President. Grey Zulu writes (Chapter 24, page 309) that the meeting was characterised by infighting based on regional and tribal lines between the two groups: G7 and G14.

The G7 was the Eastern and Western faction led by Reuben Kamanga, himself a product of Eastern Province, while the G14 encompassed Northern and Southern provinces led by Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, who had previously beaten Kamanga for the vice-presidency in the party elections held at Kabwe's Mulungushi Rock of Authority.

"I must admit that, to my disappointment that the country was split along tribal groupings. We sank so low, such that we began to embrace tribalism and regionalism as means for venting anger against each other to settle old scores some of which had their origins from the controversial Central Committee elections held at the UNIP general Conference in 1967 at Mulungushi in Kabwe," he writes.

Grey Zulu says this event is one of the saddest moments he had ever experienced in the Party since independence. On his part, he says he remained neutral and did not get involved in the issues about which of the two groups were basing their anger against each other.

In the end, however, and after the late Reuben Kamanga and the late Simon Kapwepwe spoke, Dr Kaunda spoke announcing that he was writing a letter to the Chief Justice concerning his resignation as President with the main reason he gave being tribalism, regionalism and sectionalism which he said had taken root in the party.

Later, Grey Zulu called for order in the Hall and told the delegates that the country was in crisis and ordered that no delegates should leave the Hall until he came back. He further told the delegates not to tell the police about what was taking place at the Council Hall saying this was an internal matter whose solution lay within the Party.

Thereafter, he went to State House to try and persuade Dr Kaunda to come back to the Hall. At State House, he found Dr Kaunda finalising his letter of resignation. He pleaded with him to rescind his decision. The rest, as they say in the business, is history.

The other aspect that may interest the reader is Grey Zulu's take on the five coup attempts (Chapter 32, Page 417), starting with the first involving William Chipango, a former Mayor of Livingstone in 1973. The second was in the mid 1970s that was led by Adamson Mushala for having been denied the post of chief game warden while the third was in October 1980 involving some Lusaka-based lawyers, professionals and former military officers in collusion with the ex-Katangese political dissidents. Although, he does not name those involved, avid readers will remember that this is the coup that implicated among others, former Vice-President Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda, late Bank of Zambia governor, Valentine Musakanya and late Lusaka lawyer Edward Shamwana. The fourth attempt, which again, he does not mention the names of those involved, was in the late 1980s and involved former Vice-President General Christon Tembo, a former Army Commander who was posted to the diplomatic service. The fifth and final coup attempt under UNIP was in the early hours of June 30, 1990 when an Army Lieutenant, Mwamba Luchembe went on national radio and announced that he had taken control of the government.

Here, Grey Zulu maintains that this coup involved an indisciplined officer who was drunk, and that he planned and executed his plans alone without the support of the defence forces. He says the whole defence force was unaffected and unconcerned.

"Fortunately, the Defence and Security Forces contained the situation by arresting the coup plotter almost immediately when he ended the announcement of the coup attempt. The Air commander flew to my residence in a helicopter and reported of what had transpired. The commander, his men and I flew to ZNBC and I personally informed the nation both on radio and TV that no coup has taken place," he writes.

But on Mwamba Luchembe, Grey Zulu's account differs with the one given by the coup plotter himself in John Mwanakatwe's End of Kaunda Era. In this book, Luchembe says he only said that he was drunk to make the legal defence easier.

Either way, it is therein that the importance of writing accounts is appreciated. Had Grey Zulu not written his account, the reader would have only known the side of Luchembe as he puts it in Mwanakatwe's second book.

But that is not all to this book. There is also a section on the One Party Participatory Democracy which Grey Zulu defends by giving the reasons for its introduction. Otherwise, the book is a comprehensive work that covers almost all the major happenings in pre and post colonial Zambia. He also covers the contribution of Zambia to the liberation struggle.

However, even as one reads the book, they discover that not much has changed about Grey Zulu, he is still the same meek, loyal man who would never betray the system. In fact, even in this book, he does not want to ruffle people's feathers nor does he condemn any of the works of Dr Kaunda. In other words, he is still loyal, and if he was to live through again, he will still go the same path with little changes.

That said, this is a welcome to the national book shelf, and students of history as well as political observers, will gladly welcome it. (KK)

Title: Memoirs of Alexander Grey Zulu

Author: Alexander Grey Zulu

Pages: 465

Price: K220, 000

Publishers: Times Printpak (Z) Limited

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