Sunday, 18 June 2017

Zambezi: A Town Divided On Ethnic Lines

A ZNBC Cameraman Kashete Sinyangwe getting an aerial
 view of the Zambezi river in Zambezi town
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

There are very few places in Zambia with such a spectacular view of the Zambezi river.

Zambezi town in the North Western province is a possible tourist destination due to its location.

The river passes through the town and divides it into two.

This division is also seen in terms of language and culture.

The west bank of the town is predominantly Luvale speaking while in the east bank, people speak Lunda.

The district has two rival chiefs who do not see eye to eye.

In the west resides Senior Chief Ndungu of the Luvales while on the east bank is Senior Chief Ishindi of the Lundas.

Over the years, there has been problems with the dominance of these tribes on either side of the Zambezi.

These divisions have also entered the church, an unlikely place where most people would think tribalism can not be practiced.

Fr Haaninga on the Chinyingi bridge
which connects Zambezi east to Zambezi west 
At the moment, the Catholic Church in the area is caught up in this dilemma.

For example Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is located in the middle of town, holds separate services for Lundas and Luvales.

Father Noel Haaninga overseas Zambezi District and he explains the challenges he goes through in bringing the two tribes together.

"I superintend over 29 churches in Zambezi and there are certain areas where certain songs from this other side of the tribe are not allowed to be sung in church and vice versa. Even at the boma church were am based, you are able to see tension even on small issues like choosing church leaders, people would want to have their own to lead the church," said Father Haaninga who has been based at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Zambezi for the past six and half years.

Because of this tension in the church, Father Haaninga says he is forced to conduct two separate services for the two tribes as a way of accommodating them.

"We are now forced to conduct two separate services one for the Lundas and the following week one for the Luvales. Even when we do so, the day we conduct a Lunda mass, the Luvales will be few and they will not be active during mass. And when its the turn for the Luvale mass, the Lundas will be few and they wont be active. Now you wonder what the solution is for these people," revealed Father Haaninga.

In schools, there is still a division in the delivery of education services.

According to the school curriculum in Zambia, each district is supposed to adopt one local language for pupils from Grade one to four.

However, in Zambezi, pupils in the west bank are taught in Luvale, while in the east bank are taught in Lunda.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in Zambezi

In the town area where there is a high concentration of both tribes, English is the language of instruction in primary schools.

"I was the first District Commissioner under the Patriotic Front Government in 2011. We had found that the schools in Zambezi were being taught in three languages: on the east bank it is Lunda and English. On the west bank its Luvale and English. Thats the same process we are following upto today because thats what government has set up as zonal language," said Lawrence Kayumba who is the District Commissioner in Zambezi.

A few years ago before this policy was introduced, local media reported that one female teacher was assaulted by Grade One pupils when she taught them in a rival language which they termed offensive.

This forced authorities in the town to close the school and classes only resumed after tensions where calmed following the zoning of the entire district into the three languages of instruction.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is a former Zambezi Member of Parliament and understands the challenges in this town.

He shades more light on the history of this tribal tension which dates back to Zambia's pre-independence era.

"There was a white District Commissioner during the British rule here in Zambezi and i think his name was Lawrence. That man used to play what we call divide and rule. Whenever Senior Chief Ishindi came to his office, he would find his portrait stuck on the wall. When Senior Chief Ndungu also goes to his office, Mr Lawrence would remove the portrait for Senior Chief Ishindi and place that for Senior Chief Ndungu. That is the genesis of divide and rule," said Mr Sakuwuka who also served as Zambia's first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Kayumba (in blue suit) and Mr Sakuwuka (right)
He however says there is need for both the Luvales and the Lundas to co-exist since they inhabit the same territory.

"Since you came to Zambezi, have you seen Lundas physically fighting the Luvales? Have you seen separate shops for Lundas and others for Luvales? All am saying is colleagues, lets avoid this issue of divide and rule. Lets avoid escalating the situation."

In terms of politics, Zambezi is divided into two separate constituencies and the boundary is the Zambezi river.

However,  the whole area is governed as one district.

Despite all this, Zambezi is a lively town.

People here go on with their normal lives despite the divide in their ethnicity.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

How Two Lepers Found Love And Raised A Family In A Hospital

Kenneth, his wife Grace and their grandchildren sitting
outside their one roomed house at the Leprosarium
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

Some stories are very sad.

But sad as they maybe, they have a happy tinge in them.

The story of 86 year old Kenneth Samanenga and his wife Grace Kachana 76, is one of these.

Their story is an old one.

They met here at Chitokoloki leprosarium in Zambezi District in the North Western Province.

Both were patients as lepers and they found love at the hospital despite their affliction.

Kenneth came to the leprosarium as a single man in 1952.

He lived here until he was treated.

When he was discharged, Kenneth found that he had nowhere to go.

Family members he had left in the village had moved elsewhere and those that remained did not want to have anything to do with him.

Finding himself with no place to go, Samanenga returned to the leprosarium.

Like many lepers who are healed, the disease had left its mark: he lost his toes and fingers.

And meeting Grace was a blessing in disguise.

“We got married in 1978 and God has blessed us with children and grand children. We live here with all of them. This is our home,” said the smiling Kenneth.

His wife also has her version of the story.

“I was born in 1941 and I came for help here at the leprosarium in 1952. We got married and we now keep our children and their children here. I love my husband and we live happily,” said Grace.

The two have been married for the past 39 years.......years happily spent here at the leprosarium.

Two of their children and their five grand children also live here.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is a busy place.

In fact it is more than a leprosarium – it is a colony.

There are 150 houses specifically built for lepers.

This is perhaps the biggest and oldest leprosarium in the country.

The only other known leprosy centers in Zambia are at Liteta in Chibombo District and at Ibenga in Masaiti District.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is said to have been started by missionaries Suckling and Thomas Hansen around 1928.

Despite having no medical background Suckling and Thomas carried to the best of their abilities, providing drugs, food and clothing to their patients.

According to historical records, the history of this place is closely tied to Dr. James Worsfold who pioneered leprosy work in Chikoloki in the 1940’s.

Today, the leprosarium is more of a place of refuge for many who are now unable to return home.

Some of the oldest residents here do not even want to go back home.

They prefer to continue living here.

“I have spent many years here. They keep us well and I do not want to go back home. Am comfortable just here,” said one of the lepers in an interview.

And some people, who are attending to patients at the hospital, also occupy some of these houses meant for lepers.

Thankfully today, the number of leprosy patients has gone down drastically.

Only the likes of Kenneth and Grace who have only known this life here for the major part of their lives now remain.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first produced as a documentary and it was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 08 June 2017 and it can be watched here.