ONE day in December 1972, Adamson Mushala bundled his wife and five children, including a two-weeks-old baby, into agovernment Land Rover 109 station wagon and drove off from his home in Mufumbwe.
He had told his wife that they were going to attend a friend’s wedding in Mongu, Barotseland but they soon found themselves crossing the border into Angola.
That was Mushala’s escape out of the country to begin his armed rebellion against the Kaunda government that would last from 1976 to 1982.
Before he was finally killed by government soldiers, Mushala had morphed into an enigma who inspired both fear and admiration.
Thirty-six years after his death, his widow, Rejoice, remembers a smartly dressed gentleman with a beautiful smile.
On the wall of her living room hangs a black-and-white studio photo of her husband.
“He took that picture when we were in Angola,” she says calmly after noticing my curiosity as we sat in her living room.
Rejoice lives in a small settlement called Kivuku in Kasempa, North-Western Province.
Her house is just a few hundred metres from where she first met her husband – at Mukinge Mission School, back in the 1950s.
When Mushala completed his Standard Six Upper, he went to train as a game ranger, while Rejoice went to live in Chizela (now Mufumbwe), where she worked as a community school teacher.
It was here that the two former school-mates ran into each other again and fell in love.
Rejoice says she had a number of suitors before Mushala, including Emmanuel Mulemena, who later became a kalindula music maestro.
“There are many people who proposed to marry me, but I think God arranged for Adamson to be my husband,” she says, a slight glint in her eyes.
She adds: “I don’t know what attracted me to him. Of course he was tall and very smart. He really looked nice in his suits, but I think it was just God who brought us together.”
“I liked the way he walked and he had a beautiful smile. I also liked his complexion,” says Rejoice.
She still refers to Mushala as “my black-shine”.
In 1959, Mushala and Rejoice got married at Chizela Bible School in Mufumbwe.
According to Rejoice, the European missionaries at the Bible college had helped to sponsor and arrange the wedding.
“Many people came to witness our wedding because it was the first of its kind in Mufumbwe,” says Rejoice.
“It was a wonderful wedding held in Christian tradition,” she adds.
Rejoice describes her marriage as “wonderful”.
“He really loved me,” she says.
On January 16, 1960, the couple had their first child called Bert.
But by this time, Mushala had become completely disillusioned with the British colonial government.
“He was not happy with the white colonialists and he really wanted to join the fight for independence,” says Rejoice.
Shortly after, Mushala quit his job and joined the independence struggle.
Both Mushala and Rejoice had been actively involved in the fight for Zambia’s independence under the United National Independence Party (UNIP) led by Kenneth Kaunda.
In fact, Rejoice says she was present in 1961 when Julia Chikamoneka and other women protested topless in the capital against colonial rule.
Mushala, himself, was sent to organise party activities in North-Western Province.
“He was really involved in the fight,” says Rejoice.
A GIRL NAMED MAO
Then in 1962, at the height of the struggle for independence, Mushala and several young men were sent to China for training in guerrilla warfare.
Rejoice recalls seeing off her husband at the airport in Lusaka.
At the time, Rejoice was expecting the couple’s second child.
While in China, Mushala had met Mao Zedong, better known as Chairman Mao, who is the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
Actually, there is a romantic story to their meeting.
When Chairman Mao learned that Mushala’s wife was expecting a child, he gave him a parcel for the baby, with a special request – to name the baby after him.
When Mushala returned home in 1963, Rejoice had given birth to a baby girl. Mushala named the girl “Mao”.
Rejoice says the parcel from Chairman Mao contained baby clothes and toys.
When the country attained independence on October 24, 1964, Mushala was living in Kamwala, Lusaka.
Rejoice remembers the day clearly.
“We all wore suits and went to celebrate,” she says.
But for Mushala, that celebration was short-lived. He was soon discontented with the Kaunda government.
He was particularly unhappy for being passed for appointments.
Mushala wanted to be in charge of wildlife.
Rejoice thinks people close to Kaunda had warned him against appointing her husband to head the department of wildlife, saying he would use the position to rise against government.
“But he just loved the job of a game ranger, his plan was not to turn against Kaunda,” says Rejoice.
When he could not bear his frustrations any longer, Mushala turned his back on Kaunda and UNIP and got involved with a new opposition party called United Party led by Nalumino Mundia.
But his activities would soon get him into trouble, and he ended up spending months in detention in Chinsali.
Rejoice says she was never told where her husband was during that period, and she herself had been placed under house arrest in Mufumbwe.
According to Rejoice, when Mushala came back, he was bitter, and started having clandestine meetings with some people.
“He never shared his plans with me. Whenever I asked him, he used to tell me that women are not supposed to know everything that a man was doing,” she says.
In December 1972, the country was declared a one-party state.
Rejoice says Mushala hated the one-party state.
“He used to say to me ‘why should a man stand against a frog, does it mean a frog represents us the people?’” she recalls.
Under the one-party state, citizens only had two options on the ballot – YES or NO, Kaunda or a frog.
A REBEL IS BORN
One of Mushala’s close friends at the time was Mulondwe Muzungu.
According to Mr Muzungu, in December 1972, shortly following the declaration of one-party state, Mushala had walked into his office on Cairo Road to pay his premium on his life insurance policy under the Old Mutual financial company.
Mr Muzungu remembers one remarkable detail about his friend that day – he was driving a brand new Land Rover 109 station wagon.
“It must have been grey or beige,” he says.
But it is the words that Mushala said to him as he walked out of his office that struck him most.
“As he was going, he said to me, ‘look after my children, for you will not see me, except on incarnation’. I did not understand those words, so I just laughed,” says Mr Muzungu.
The next time he would hear of his friend was on January 11, 1973.
“At lunch time, there was a news bulletin on Radio Zambia to the effect that William Chipango, Chrispin Mwendabai and magistrate Mwanamwale had been arrested in the Sesheke area, allegedly for ferrying people across the Zambezi into South-West Africa (Namibia) for military training, and that Adamson Mushala had fled the country,” he says.
But before then, Rejoice recalls that when her husband returned to Mufumbwe from Lusaka, he asked her to accompany him to a friend’s wedding in Mongu.
According to Rejoice, Mushala had tried many times before to persuade her to travel abroad with him, but she always refused.
This time, however, he was more persuasive.
“He insisted that we go together because his friend wanted to meet me,” she says.
But Rejoice was still recovering after delivering her fifth child.
“I told him I could not go on a long trip because my baby was just about two weeks old, but he insisted. He told me we would use a shortcut through Kabompo and that he would drive carefully,” she recalls.
Rejoice finally gave in, and around 16:00 hours on that day in December 1972, after saying goodbye to relatives, the family got on the Land Rover and headed westwards, making a stopover in Manyinga district for a week.
Later, on the way, Rejoice noticed soldiers in strange uniform.
“I asked my husband why there were many soldiers,” she says.
That is when Mushala explained that they were actually headed for Luanda, the capital of Angola.
“I didn’t know we were going to Angola,” says Rejoice. “He never shared his plans with me. You know how secretive men can be.”
The family passed through Makondo, Calunda and spent two weeks in Kazombo, before reaching Luanda.
When they arrived in Luanda, Mushala explained his plan to his wife.
“He told me that he was now going to fight against the one-party system,” she says.
Rejoice says while in Luanda, Mushala would usually go away for long periods from home.
“He used to fly from Luanda and go and meet his friends. I don’t know where they used to meet from, but I suspect they used to meet in South Africa,” she says.
After staying in Luanda for three years, Mushala moved his family to South Africa.
And in 1976 – Rejoice does not remember the exact date or month – Mushala said goodbye to his wife and headed back to Zambia.
“He told me if I was not afraid I could return to Zambia, but he also warned me that the authorities would either arrest me or kill me,” she recalls.
That was the last time Rejoice saw her husband, or ever heard from him.
“I remained like a widow,” says Rejoice, who was by this time training to become a doctor.
She says from then onwards, the whites who were taking care of her and her family would regularly update her about her husband and assure her he was okay.
“The whites who kept us used to give us updates about my husband. They would tell me where he was operating from and they told me he was safe,” she says.
But in November 1979, Rejoice decided to return to Zambia.
When I ask why she decided to return, she responds: “Why would I not return to my own country?”
She and her children, plus two other families, were driven to the border between Angola and Namibia by South African soldiers.
They then had to walk through the bush towards Zambia.
“We ran out of food and we had to depend on wild fruits,” she says.
After days, they arrived in Shangombo, which lies on the Namibian border in Western Province, and handed themselves to police.
“I introduced myself as Mrs Mushala. The officer-in-charge was really surprised,” she says.
According to Rejoice, the government wanted to send a plane to pick them up, but she refused.
“I refused to use a plane because there were other freedom fighters’ wives and I didn’t want to leave them behind.”
Later, they were driven to Senanga before being taken to Lilayi, where they were detained for about two months.
In January 1980, she was detained at Lilayi before being taken to Kawambwa and placed under house arrest.
While in detention, she repeatedly wrote letters to Dr Kaunda begging him to release her and the other detainees.
MUSHALA IS DEAD
According to Rejoice, on Sunday, November 27, 1982, around 09:00 hours, a man came hurriedly to the detention house and threw a copy of a newspaper inside.
“Mrs Mushala, look at this newspaper,” the man said.
“I got the newspaper and read that Mushala had been killed and that his body had been transported to Solwezi,” says Rejoice.
Rejoice says Mushala had appeared to her in a dream the previous night to say goodbye to her.
“He told me, ‘my wife, I’m gone now remain in peace, may God keep you till you grow old’.”
She says one of her children had heard her talking to someone in the night, and had asked her who she was talking to in the morning.
“I told him your father came and he was saying goodbye to me,” she says.
Rejoice said initially she was told she would be allowed to attend her husband’s burial. Then she was told the body would be transported to Lusaka.
But finally she was told she could not travel to Solwezi for security reasons.
“When they told me that, I collapsed, they had to rush me to hospital,” she says.
Rejoice and two other women into would remain in detention two years after Mushala’s death.
The women protested their detention with a hunger strike, which seemed to have gotten the attention of the authorities.
Rejoice says she finally got a chance to talk to Kaunda via phone when she was in Mansa.
“I spoke to Kaunda on the phone when I was in detention in Mansa in 1984,” she says.
She says Dr Kaunda told her that she was now free.
“That was the first time I spoke to Kaunda, and that was the last,” she says.
Rejoice says President Kaunda did not want her to return to Mufumbwe, but to settle in Lusaka.Rejoice refused and returned to Mufumbwe.
“I didn’t want people to think that I was working with the government against my husband.