By Hon. Kalalwe Mukosa, Chinsali member of Parliament.
Many Zambians have been asking about Paul Bwembya Mushindo after a University in Chinsali was named after him. He is little known outside his native land and tribe.
But this excessively moderate man is a colossus among the pioneer Zambian ministers of the church, educationists, writers, and politicians and was honoured by King George of England in 1947 for his contribution to society.
Rev Mushindo was a quiet achiever who dedicated his life to the service of the church and his nation and was instrumental in the formation of the United Church of Zambia.
He was also instrumental in the unification of the protestant churches soon after the country’s independence.
A teacher, politician, author, and minister of the Church of Scotland, Rev Mushindo had seemingly endless energy combining all his demanding duties with the mammoth task of translating the Bible from English to Ichibemba, which took 53 years.
He was a very principled man and Zambians will be surprised to learn that he spent over 30 years without wearing any shoes.
He was born in 1896. Both his mother and father were members of the Bemba royal family.
His father Mr Mushindo the first was a nephew of Chiti Kafula, one of the important members of the Bemba royal household.
His mother, Kapolyo Mwaba was the daughter of Chief Mwaba Kabundi of the Ngulube clan in the Bemba district of Nkulungwe.
Like many Zambians who went to school in his time, Rev Mushindo graduated as a teacher and taught at the Church of Scotland school at Lubwa Mission near Chinsali Boma and at Shiwa Ng’andu where he met Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, a colonial settler who genuinely and steadfastly supported African advancement and emancipation.
While working as a teacher, he proceeded to Livingstonia, the present day Malawi where he studied theology and qualified as Minister of the Church of Scotland.
Sir Gore-Browne encouraged many Africans to take an active part in politics and supported their education.He was responsible for the sponsorship of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula’s studies at Makerere University in Uganda. It appears Sir Gore-Browne’s influence led Rev Mushindo to develop interest in politics.
Rev Mushindo was appointed a member of the Northern Rhodesia African Representative Council for the Northern Province in 1944 and later became its chairperson. During debates in the council, he consistently opposed the establishment of the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
In 1950, he joined the Chairperson of the African Welfare Societies late Donald Siwale in advocating African rule in Northern Rhodesia.
Rev Mushindo spoke on many other subjects that affected the livelihood of the people of his area. For example in 1948, he called on the government to establish a secondary school in Northern Province and campaigned for better prices for African foods and for an increase in the size of land allocated to peasant farmers.
He was the voice of the voiceless which made him an important figure for the people of Northern Province.
Rev Mushindo was ordained Minister of the Church of Scotland in 1947. His additional pastoral duties did not slow him down and Audrey I Richards who knew the Reverend well says in his preface to Mushindo’s book, a Short History of the Bemba: “From 1926 onwards, he was headmaster at Lubwa and was at work at his school from 07:00hr to 12:30 and then after an hour’s rest, he would spend from 13:30hr to 17:30hr on the translation of the Bible. A heavy day I think.”
The translation of the Bible which was led by Reverend Robert McMinn started in 1913 at Mpandala and was only completed in 1966 at Lubwa.
It is incredible that Rev Mushindo had time to write books despite his heavy days. He wrote three Bemba titles, Imilumbe Nenshimi (Riddles and Folktales), Amapinda Mulyashi (Proverbs in Conversations), and Ulubuto Mumfifi (Light in Darkness) and two English titles, A Short History of the Bemba and the Life of A Zambian Evangelist: the Reminiscences of Reverend Paul Bwembya Mushindo.
Historian Andrew D Roberts describes Rev Mushindo’s A Short History of the Bemba as a ‘very important source for Bemba history up to the death of Chitimukulu Chitapankwa (1883).’
“Mushindo gives much information not given by other writers, which no longer survives in Bemba oral traditions. His account of the Ngoni wars is particularly valuable in this respect, and on the whole it seems more accurate than the other published versions.
In writing my own account of Bemba history, I have depended heavily on Mushindo’s work to amplify, correct, or confirm my own records of oral traditions especially for events on eastern Bembaland,” says Roberts.
Another writer Audrey I Richards describes the book as “the fullest version of Bemba traditions to be written by a Mubemba and the people of Zambia will be grateful to Mushindo for writing down these traditions before the old men and women who could remember the past had died one by one, taking their memories with them.”
Rev Mushindo was able to collect the traditions of the Bemba because he spent his childhood in the royal palace of two Chitimukulu; Sampa and Makumba.
His works made him a venerable figure among the missionaries and the people alike were called upon to lead prayers and deliver historical accounts at many important functions.
When Sir Stewart Gore-Browne died in 1967, Rev Mushindo was asked to say the closing prayer at the funeral which was attended by first republican President Kenneth Kaunda and several ministers.
In 1971, at the accession ceremony for Chitimukulu Bwembya, Rev Mushindo became the first Christian Minister to be asked to speak at the traditional rites.
It was a great expression of the respect that the Bembas had for his knowledge of their traditions and history as it was also a confirmation of his aristocratic ancestry.
All that time, Rev Mushindo walked and cycled barefoot. Nobody remembers the exact date when he stopped wearing of shoes, but the incident which led him to stop wearing shoes is well remembered and collaborated by many who lived with Rev Mushindo.
One day, it happened that while at Mpandala working on the translation of the Bible in the 1940s, a hawker passed through Rev Mushindo’s office selling some merchandise which included a pair of shoe. Rev Mushindo bought without knowing that it was stolen somewhere. A few days later, the hawker was arrested and he revealed that he had sold the shoes to the Reverend. The hawker was taken to Mpandala where Rev Mushindo was found wearing the shoes. After hearing the story and the confession of the hawker, Rev Mushindo took off the shoes and handed them back to the owner and, vowed never to wear shoes again.He stuck to this decision until his dying day.That’s how principled, Rev Mushindo was. Eddie Mulenga Ndota, nephew of Ms Theresa Mwila Mutunga Mushindo, remembers Rev Mushindo as a strict disciplinarian but at the same time a very kind man who highly valued education.
“He was soft spoken but emphatic and what ever he said sank into one’s mind. He educated many people from his own extended family and that of his wife from his meagre earnings as a minister of the church,” recounts Mr Ndota. Mr Ndota said Rev Mushindo did not forget the incident of the stolen which he even made as his main theme in many of his sermons. He always warned people against stealing saying in Bemba: Nga waiba ilaya lika kulaya umweo, Nga waiba akaputula kakakuputula umweo, Nga waiba insapato shikakusapulula umweo. (If you steal a shirt it will steal your spirit, if you steal a short, it will break your spirit, and if you steal shoes, they will desecrate your spirit).
Rev Mushindo retired as Minister of the Church of Scotland in 1965 but volunteered to continue evangelising in order to help the growth of the United Church of Zambia.
He set up temporary residence at Mulashi Primary School which lies about three kilometers from Mpika town along the Great North Road.
It was while he was cycling back from an evangelisation trip back to Malashi that he was killed in a hit and run road accident in December 1972.
The car that killed Rev Mushindo was driven by a white couple who have never been found up to date.
He is buried at the Lubwa cemetery where all the pioneers of the Church of Scotland Mission and School at Lubwa are buried.