GODWIN MBIKUSITA LEWANIKA (1907- 1977)
This is the man who organised a scholarship for Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Mainza Chona, Naluminno Mundia and Daniel Lisulo to go and study in India in the 1950s.
Founding father of the political movement to independence and a pioneer of the trade union movement, but even he has predecessors. He became the Founder Secretary of the Livingstone African Welfare Association in 1929, when he was 24 years old, and the future President Kenneth Kaunda was five years old!
Zambia’s independence history needs to be reviewed to appreciate that it was achieved by ideas and efforts of more than one person, generation and organization. The current situation may be likened to doctoring the Biblical Exodus story by giving all credit to Joshua and none to Moses! This distortion of history is a caustic disservice to honestly well intended nation building. It has done fatal damage to the Zambia project.
In the 1930s, he was a principal participant at the Kafue first attempt to found an African National Congress north of the Zambezi, served as Private Secretary of the King of Barotseland, wrote the first full length English language book by a native in his part of Africa, The Visit of Paramount Chief Yeta III to England.
In the 1940’s, he moved on to a Nkana-Kitwe working life, which did not depend on ethnicity or royal pedigree. He labored for twenty years, as Senior African Clerk, Senior Welfare Officer, Personnel and Public Relations officer for a copper mine. He led and guided fellow African workers in countless ways. He served as Founder President of the Kitwe African Society, proposer of the formation of the Northern Rhodesia Federation of African Welfare Association in 1946, pioneer promoter of trade unionism and became Founder President-General of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress. He also took wrote several other books and publishing articles, in Africa and overseas, and later translated the Bible and the classic Pilgrim’s Progress into SiLozi.
Efforts and fruits of Mbikusita Lewanika his endevour are illustrated, in an acknowledgment of his contribution, Simon Zukas grants that “He had established a good relationship with the Indian High Commissioner in Nairobi (Kenya) … and obtained several scholarships for Northern Rhodesian Africans to study in India … Simon Kapwepwe and Munu (kayumbwa) Sipalo had already been sent there.”
As Founder President General of the Northern Rhodesia African Congress, Mbikusita Lewanika undertook the 1950 pioneer visit to India. This trip was part study tour, which had him visit every part of India and many of its socio-economic centres. It was a political mission, which had meet leaders of the Indian Congress Party and Government at many levels and in many locations, culminating in meetings with the first Indian State President, Dr Rajendra Prasad and first Indian Prime Minister Nehru (with future Prime Minister Indira Nehru Gandhi taking notes!), as well as a military ceremony for him to lay a wreath at the grave site of Mahatma Gandhi. It was also a scouting mission for opportunities and facilities for African further education and human resource development, one of whole tangible and long term results was to conclude and sign for an Indian scholarship scheme with Prime Minister – in various and much expanded form this seed he planted continues to grow more trees and bear more fruits of education. This tour turned into an Official Visit, he addressed the Indian nation on All-India Radio.
This pioneer visit to India consummated what has become the Indo-Zambia bilateral relationship, at a meeting with Indian first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He initiated programmes for sending young future leaders for overseas higher education, at least four of who were to be in the first post colonial Cabinet of Ministers. He facilitated oversees education of one of Zambia’s Vice Presidents, Simon Kapwepwe, and three of its Prime Ministers, Mainza Chona, Naluminno Mundia and Daniel Lisulo. He was the first and only African from Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland to address a meeting attended by Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords at Westminster, in London, where he spoke against the proposal to establish the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He pioneered cross- border consultation and cooperation among leaders of African freedom movement. This was through correspondence with Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of the Gold Coast and meetings with nationalist leaders Mbiyu Koinange and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya as well as liaison with African support groups in London, through personalities such as George Padmore and Dr. Hastings Banda.
In 1977, Goodwin Mbikusita Lewanika died a king of the Barotse. In honouring him, we honour the best within ourselves.