What Happened to MaKasai and MaGomani Compounds?

by Robert Nasilele
(Windhoek, Namibia)

I have never liked archeology but I must confess I used to pinch a few coins from my mother's Piggy Bank to buy tickets for the Indiana Jones movies. Now, for some reason memories flood my mind and I want to excavate, well, to unearth some issues from the past which I feel contribute to what the Zambian society is today.

In my last article I alluded to the fact that Zambia is a pot puree of all peoples and cultures. The harmony that makes this country stand out from others lies in the historical integration of many tribes from the early days of independence. There were tribal/ethnic compounds in Lusaka that many people can't remember now. They simply evaporated into the teaming scores of harmonious shanty townships on the Zambian peace landscape.

Does anybody remember the compounds once called MaKasai and MaGomani in Lusaka? Where are original inhabitants and what do we know about them? All I can say in advance is that they were "foreigners" who for political, social and economic reasons fused in into Zambian society. Those who enjoyed and embraced the educational system of the country ended up as ministers in the Zambian government, directors, teachers, conmen, wives and husbands.

Let me admit it; even when I was young I never liked President Kaunda for a mirriad of reasons but I admit the old man played such a significant role in uniting Zambians. Despite my hatred for him, that is one distinction that can never ever be wiped out of his leadership qualities. I will return to this later.

Before the vast Kanyama compound in Lusaka was what it is today, it was clearly demarcated into two "war zones". New Kanyama was a United National Independence Party (UNIP) stronghold, with very few Tonga or Lozi speaking people. Its boundaries began at the market and ended at "Mutandabantu" grocery, west of New Kanyama.

The UNIP war machine in that part of Kanyama was commanded by a notorious figure of Congolese origin fearfully known as Ojukwu. (It was during the time of the Nigerian Civil War when Eastern Nigeria or aptly, Iboland, wanted to secede from the Federal state under the name Biafra. Its rebel leader was Chukuemeka
Odumegu Ojukwu). New Kanyama, around 1967- 1970 was known as Biafra.

Old Kanyama boundary began somewhere near Balovale Bar and covered what is today part of New Nkana, including KwaKola, opposite the motel on Mumbwa road. There was an empty space of about 500 metres between the New and Old Kanyama demarcations; some kind of "no man's land". UNIP and ANC used to fight pitched battles here. Spears, kobkerries, bows and arrows and catapults as well as rocks were the weaponry I can remember.

Old Kanyama had a heavy concentration of Ilas, Tongas and Lozis. Much as there were some Luvales and Lundas, mainly sorrounding Balovale bar, these were "indigenes" of Chibolya, where veteran opposition politicians William Chipango and John Njapau held the fort for the ANC. By this division of tribal setups, it was inevitable(?) that "KuOld" and Chibolya became strongholds of the African National Congress (ANC) of the late Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula.

Caught up in all this were obscure compounds of MaKasai and KwaMagomani. Those who grew up in the once seperate Kanyamas would remember the compound that was tucked between New Kanyama and Chinika Primary school up to 1969 or thereabout. It was inhabited by Congolese people. However, they were lumped together as (ba Kasai). There is a Pentecostal church built on the place today, and all those industries and the extension of Kanyama to the North East was all MaKasai compound.

Our parents used to scare us that ba Kasai were cannibals. I suppose this was due to the nature of the inhabitants of that compound. Either they were not accepted by New Kanyamans or they just wanted to keep in their own cocoons, I dont know. These man - eating and other weired stories (lies, of course) made us children shiver.

Unfortunately, the only way to Chinika Primary was through that scary compound as everything was tall elephant grass. (I wish it was still there,
with its occasional dikers). Out of fear we began to concorct weird stories too, like our parents. Every week there were children refusing to go to school fearing they would be stewed up in a Kasai pot.

Then the melt down occurred. Early one morning, I think it was in 1968, rumor swept both New and Old Kanyama that two school girls had been eaten by ba Kasai. Without verifying the story an Instant Justice Mob - IJB (as the Zambia Mail then called the unruly crowds) spontaneously went on rampage stoning Kasailand and beating, injuring (and raping?) those innocent people.

Lusaka Governor Boniface Zulu is said to have ordered the Police Mobile Unit (as the Para - para were known then)to quell the disturbances with batons and tear gas. Thanks to the primitive weaponry of the police, then. A few injuries, yes but nothing serious or deaths from police gun fire. Imagine unleashing G3 and AK47 welding maPara Para to do the dirty job!

I must admit there was subtle incitement to "fix" the Kasai. Police seemed to target only the inhabitants of that compound and urged Kanyamans to "go home", while they rounded up the Cannibals of Kasailand.

Next day, Governor Zulu ordered Kasailand destroyed and reintegrated into New Kanyama!Right now I can picture the younger people like me who used to pass through that place and were gripped by fear of being eaten.

Those who easily come to mind are "ZOZODI" Paul Chikwanda who went on to work as a senior at the Central Bank (at Kabulonga Boys we thought he would be a Zambian General because of his love for Cadet and Fry Bentos, Saul Zulu later a brilliant academic and lecturer at the University of Zambia, Late Peter Mweemba of ZNBC, and guess who... Reverend Peter Mulenga who became President of Zambia Union Of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) and later Diplomat under the Chiluba government. His first posting was Botswana, then South Africa. I don't know where else afterward.

Interestingly, Peter saved Chiluba . Chiluba was not supported by any Union and Peter worked it that Chiluba became a Trustee in Zufiaw. This is the body that saved his skin. So for dear Reverend it was good that he got "a good turn deserves another" in form of diplomatic postings. Wherever you are Peter, do you still remember ("Ku chaya chibojo mu class?")

I haven't forgotten MaGomani.

Somewhere between northern Old Kanyama and the Indian crematorium was a compound known as MaGomani. As those of Ngoni stock will remember, the Gomani Ngoni are remnants of the Umfecane triggered by Tshaka the Zulu. They are part of the larger group that finally settled in Malawi. Sometime during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland these Ma Nyasalande came to Zambia and settled in that area as migrant workers.

Because they were thought to sympathise with UNIP at the time of tensions by virtue of being Ma Nyanja speakers, they were always caught up in the political hooliganism that pervaded both Kanyamas. I can vouch they never initiated any fights. My elder cousin was an ANC Youth organizer and thug par excellent. He led skirmishes into MaGomani section.

Around early eighties there was a migration surge into Kanyama. All the empty spots were slowly filled by illegal squatters that even government could not contain. Many MaGomani also moved into the various empty spaces that were between New Nkana and Kanyama, Kanyama and Chibolya, Kanyama and Coller, Kanyama and new Laing, Kanyama and Kasailand and so on.

Today MaGomani and MaKasai are well integrated into Kanyama. I know some who have even served as Ministers, MPs, Managing Directors of state enterprises. How do I know? I grew up with them. My mother was a founder member of Kanyama's Bwafwano Cooperative Marketeers Union. My father used to sell fish (each time he came from Kalabo) to Congolese women who had made a heavy presence in that market.

They are no longer Chokani, Yapwanta or Matenje. Neither are they Bikokolo, Kazadi or Mutombo. Their National Registration Cards read Sajujuka Sakala, Kantunikake Milanzi, Bwembya Chalwe, Goodface Msatabe and so on.

Very Zambian.

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Apr 07, 2012
History Of Kanyama

I love the narration. Good for today when we do not have stories of origin. Or should I say we don’t now have those who want to identify with their origins?

Jul 26, 2011
History Of Lusaka
by: Anonymous

Hi Robert,

This is a nice piece of history about Lusaka, especially Kanyama!

You have written about the MaGomani and Makasai?

What about other aspects of Lusaka, especially for us who have come into Lusaka and every body is speaking the Bemba Language!

Anyone to chip in out there?


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