Early Zambian Politics In The Making!


Early Zambian politics saw the rise of gallant men such as Simon Kapwepwe, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Kenneth Kaunda, who later became Zambia’s first president, Arthur Wina, the Lewanikas and many more.

Movements of people from different tribes in search of jobs on the mines were also a catalyst in making the population aware of their rights.

As the country became more urbanized, many people in towns got more aware of the political imbalance in the country. The result was the formation of welfare groups which eventually led to the formation of political parties.

The land was initially the territory of the British South Africa Company and Livingstone was its capital. However, the British took over and decided to form the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The prime minister was Lord Marvern and from 1956, Roy Welensky. This was met with strong resistance because most of the money went to develop Southern Rhodesia.

The energy and sacrifice which went into opposing the federation, propelled the early Zambian politics. This led to the formation of the first political party, the African National Congress out of which some time later, the United National Independence Party was born. The federation was dissolved on 31st December 1963.

After a lot of protests and demonstrations, the British government gave the country independence in 1964 with Kenneth Kaunda as its new President.


The early pre independence Zambian economy only woke up after the discovery of copper deposits on the Copperbelt. However, these were in the hands of foreigners. Africans, the owners of the land, were only regarded as a source of cheap labour.

Most people could barely afford bare necessities of life. Very few managed businesses of their own.

Yes, early politics now entered into the management of the economy. The trading Sector was a preserve of Indian nationals who apparently had no interest in running the mines. The British South Africa Company had a lot of stake in the mines, because of its mineral rights.

The Africans were side-lined to manual jobs and most were in the rural areas as subsistence farmers. The most common career was in the mines.

The federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland deprived Northern Rhodesia (now known as Zambia) of cash from the mines as most of it found its way in Southern Rhodesia, giving Northern Rhodesia very small chances of developing its economy.


Missionaries played a big role in opening up the country to the outside world. The first schools were built by them and most people got educated by them. Their desire to introduce Northern Rhodesia (Now Zambia) and Africa as a whole to the outside world took them to a lot of places.

Hospitals were erected and people had a feel of modern medicine for the first time. Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) had a fair share of missionary schools and hospitals which the colonial masters failed to provide.

Building A Nation Vs Early Zambian Politics

The early Zambian politics push towards independence was started in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) by the Welfare societies based both in the rural areas and in towns. No political parties were in existence by then. Living conditions especially on the mines were not very good. Despite all the hard work they put in for their masters, the wages were nothing to talk about.

These miners had left families back home at their respective villages and they were bread winners. They needed something to send home. They started holding meetings and agitating for better working conditions. There was a feeling of unequal distribution of resources by the majority.

No unions were allowed by then. But people from different welfare societies met and formed the Federation of African welfare societies, which was later transformed into Northern Rhodesia African Congress.

People started demanding a larger share in running the country, both economically and politically. This was when the first political party was founded; the African National Congress, (ANC) led by Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and a host others who had been privileged to have attended missionary schools.

Some people were not impressed with his leadership and so they broke away and formed the United National Independence Party led by Kenneth Kaunda.

After fighting and staging some demonstrations against the British government, the people were given representation in the Legislative council. On 24th October 1964, Zambia became independent under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda as its first President.

Thus, 1964 closed the chapter of the early Zambian politics.

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