Simon Mwansa kapwepwe

Final Extract on the late Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Freedom Fighter : The father of multi-partism


Kapwepwe’s life in UNIP began drawing to an end when he was linked with rumours of a new party called the United Progressive Party (UPP) that had been formed on the Copperbelt.

He did not own up until Kaunda dismissed four cabinet ministers on suspicion of being clandestine members of the new party. In August 1971, Kapwepwe resigned from UNIP and the government and announced that he was, indeed, the leader of UPP.

In December 1971 he won a by-election for the Mufulira West constituency, and became his party’s sole representative in parliament. Kaunda was not pleased with this development. So, on 4th February 1972, he banned UPP and imprisoned 122 members of the party, including Kapwepwe.

Kaunda’s excuse was that UPP was an instrument of the Rhodesian, South African and Portuguese governments, which favoured White minority rule. Kapwepwe was kept in prison until 31st December 1972. By then, Kaunda backed by strong political ties with China (The Chinese were critical of European colonial rule of African territories,therefore, sided with a number of African freedom fighters like Kaunda during the liberation struggles for independence. see Taylor, 2006 for an analysis of Sino-African relationship) had neutralized any threat that Kapwepwe could pose: the Chona Commission, under the chairmanship of Mainza Chona, was appointed in February 1972 to make recommendations for the constitution of a ‘one-party participatory democracy’ (i.e. a one-party state).

After collecting four months of public hearings, the commission’s report was submitted to Kaunda in October 1972. The Second Republic (i.e., the one-party state) was inaugurated on 1 January 1973, the day after Kapwepwe was released from detention.

Kapwepwe was harassed even after he had been politically emasculated. He was arrested in February 1973 for illegal possession of two guns. He received a two-years suspended sentence. The UNIP- controlled Zambian media reported that Kapwepwe had sent

The UNIP- controlled Zambian media reported that Kapwepwe had sent people for military training outside Zambia. He sued the Zambia Broadcasting Services, the Times of Zambia and the Zambia Daily Mail for libel and won when he proved that they had made false reports.

Kapwepwe turned his back on politics and went to live on his farm in Chinsali. In the spirit of national unity, Kaunda asked Kapwepwe to return to UNIP in September 1977, which he did.

To test his erstwhile friend’s sincerity, Kapwepwe stood for the 1978 UNIP’s one-party presidential nomination against Kaunda. He was disqualified by last-minute changes to UNIP’s constitution.

He retired for good from politics and returned to Chinsali. He died on 26 January 1980, after suffering from a stroke.


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