The Father Of Multi-Partism

Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe


Born on April 12 1922 in the Chinsali district of the Northern Province of Northern Rhodesia. Chinsali was remote from the country’s urban centres, it was an area of early educational development, due to the presence of two rival missions. The Presbyterian Livingstonia Mission of the United Free Church of Scotland situated in Lubwa (next to the Kolwe River from 1913) and the Roman Catholic White Fathers’ Mission situated in Ilondola (from 1934).

Mr David Kaunda from Malawi became Chinsali’s first missionary he is also Kenneth Kaunda’s father (who became the first African Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia in 1963 and then the first president of Zambia in 1964). Simon Kapwepwe became the country’s second vice-president.

Mr Kapwepwe’s primary education started in Chinsali. His Standard 3 and 4 were done in Mwenzo which is another mission of Livingstonia. In 1942 – 1943 he then did his Standard 5 and 6 in Lubwa.

Mr Kapwepwe became driver at the Public Works Department in 1944, and in 1945 a primary school teacher at Lubwa. In September 1947 he went to Tanganyika, looking for work, together with Mr Kenneth Kaunda and Mr John Malama Sokoni.

In June 1948, he became an Assistant Welfare Officer of the Kitwe Municipal Council, in the Chingola district, and then a teacher at Wusakile Primary School in Kitwe

The Struggle For Independence
Due to his dissatisfaction with the policies of the colonial Northern Rhodesian government, Mr Kapwepwe became a founding member of the Northern Rhodesian African Congress in 1948. The party was soon renamed the Africa National Congress (ANC) under the leadership of Harry Nkumbula. Kapwepwe was a member of the national executive and became secretary of the Kitwe Branch.

Mr Kapwepwe secured an Indian Village Industrial Scholarship in 1950, he then stayed in Bombay from 1950 – 1954, after studying Hindi in Nairobi. Subjects he studied were pottery and journalism.
In October of 1953 the Central African Federation (Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) was created. The African majority’s opposition to this new entity was organized by the ANC, but it was unsuccessful.

When Tat’Kapwepwe made his comeback to Northern Rhodesia in January 1955 he found that the ANC was leaderless, due to the imprisonment of both Tat’Harry Nkumbula and Tat’Kenneth Kaunda for a period of two months for distributing literature, which was considered subversive.

Mr Kapwepwe then became the Acting President of the ANC. When Mr Nkumbula returned from prison, he appointed Kapwepwe to the position of Acting Provincial Organizer for the Northern Province.
In August 1956 Tat’Kapwepwe became Treasurer of the ANC, based in Lusaka. Tat’Nkumbula’s alleged autocratic leadership style and his willingness to accept participation in the national elections of 1958, allowed the vote to only 25,000 Africans,this led to a rift within the ANC.

Tat’Kapwepwe, together with Tat’Kaunda, Sikota Wina and others, broke away and formed the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. The party was declared illegal in March 1959, and its leaders were placed under a banning order. Tat’Kapwepwe was sent to Mongu, in Barotseland.
In 1960 Tat’Kapwepwe and Tat’Kaunda attended the Federal Review Conference in London, together with Mainza Chona and Harry Nkumbula. This conference marked the beginning of the end of the Central African Federation, and it laid the foundations for Zambia and Malawi’s independence, As for Southern Rhodesia not as yet.

During Northern Rhodesia’s elections held in October 1962. Tat’Kapwepwe challenged Dauti Yamba and won convincingly. The result of the election was a UNIP/ANC coalition government, in which Tat’Kapwepwe was given the post of being the Minister of African Agriculture.

After Independence

The General Elections, held in January 1964, resulted in a win by UNIP with 55 seats, as opposed to the ANC’s 10 seats. Tat’Kapwepwe was given the post, Minister of Home Affairs.

In September of 1964, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and held that post for three years. During that time he lambasted the British government for failing to intervene after Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith, the leader of the Rhodesian Front, in 1965.
Despite their friendship from childhood, Tat’Kapwepwe and Tat’Kaunda drifted apart after leading Zambia to independence. In 1967 Tat’Kapwepwe led a rebellion within UNIP. He stood against Mr Reuben Kamanga and won the UNIP’s position of deputy leader.
Tat’Kaunda consequently promoted him to the position of Vice President. He used his new position to push economic policies that differed from Kaunda’s, but his views were sidelined. He also campaigned for the preservation of Zambian culture through the teaching of indigenous languages in
In August 1969, he offered to resign from the Vice Presidency as well as the deputy leadership of UNIP. This move was precipitated by tribal friction within UNIP. Tat’Kaunda did not want to lose him and managed to dissuade him from taking that move. However, in October 1970 Tat’Kaunda replaced Tat’Kapwepwe with Mainza Chona for the post of Vice President. Kapwepwe was allowed to keep the posts of Minister of Culture and Minister of Local Government.

Tat’Kapwepwe’s life in the 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 Tat’Kaunda dismissed four cabinet ministers on suspicion of being clandestine members of the new party. In August of 1971, Tat’Kapwepwe resigned from UNIP and the government this was followed by an announcement he made that, which confirmed he was 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 attending four months of public hearings, the commission’s report was submitted to Tat’Kaunda in October 1972. The Second Republic was inaugurated on 1 January 1973, the day after Tat’Kapwepwe was released from detention. Despite the fact that they had already bullied him, they continued to harass him even after he had been politically emasculated. He was arrested in February 1973 for illegal possession of two guns. He was given a two-years suspended sentence.

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The UNIP’s control over Zambian media led to propaganda being spread the media reported that Tat’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.

Tat’Kapwepwe then turned his back on politics and went to live on his farm in Chinsali. In the spirit of national unity which was fake Tat’Kaunda asked Tat’Kapwepwe to return to UNIP in September 1977, and he did. When he tried to test the sincerity of the request made by his friend when he stood for the 1978 presidential nomination he was disqualified due to last-minute changes in the UNIP’s constitution.

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

The Father of multi partism, never really enjoyed the fruits of leading with people who genuinely believed in his capability to do so, Tat’Kaunda’s leadership style resulted in the bullying of those who he viewed as a threat.

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