His Royal Highness Mwanta Ishindi Kazanda Chanyika III presides over 12 chiefs in the Ishindi dynasty of the Lunda in Zambia’s North Western Province. At approximately 1100km North – west of Lusaka, Mwanta Ishindi’s Palace is one of the furthest places-by road- from Lusaka in Zambia.
The Lunda Empire is headed by the Mwanti Yamvwa who is the emperor under whom seats roughly 300 chiefs spread out across Eastern Angola, Luapula and North-Western Provinces in Zambia and the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as some parts of Tanzania and Namibia. The tribe has an estimated population of roughly 1.5 million people.
The origin of the Lunda can be traced back to the Luba Lunda Empire of the Kola region in the DRC. The Empire, under Mwanta Yamvwa, was one of the greatest kingdoms to emerge in central Africa between the 15th and 16th century. Mwanta Yamvwa’s palace at Musumba (in modern day Katanga province – DRC) was the region’s political and economic hub with a monopoly on trade – especially in ivory – with European explorers.
There was a mass migration from Kola in the 16th century as a number of Mwanta Yamvwa’s subjects set out to conquer vast lands in modern day Angola and Zambia on behalf of the emperor. Mwata Kazembe went South East of Luapula and Mwanta Ishindi travelled South West along the Zambezi River while others went west into Angola as far as Luanda.
THE ISHINDI DYNASTY
Belgium’s occupation of the Congo, the start of British rule over Zambia and Portugal’s occupation of Angola effectively divided the Ishindi dynasty – and by extension the Lunda Empire – into three main regions with Mwanta Ishindi’s Mukandankunda Royal Capital left in the North Western province of modern day Zambia.
His Royal Highness Senior Chief Mwanta Ishindi Kazanda Chanyika III – 18th successor of the Ishindi dynasty throne – told the Partners Guide that “The Lunda people remain united as one despite being separated by international boundaries. Transnational borders count for nothing in the Lunda Kingdom and this is why our culture in all three countries has remained unchanged.”
THE LUNDA LUBANZA CEREMONY
This traditional ceremony is held every August and embodies Lunda heritage and history from celebrating victories won over tribes encountered during migration from Kola to adolescents’ rite of passage into adulthood. However in modern times, the ceremony once famously attended by Dr David Livingstone in 1854 is used as a unifying factor for Lundas from Angola, the DRC and Zambia.
“The Lunda Lubanza ceremony is a celebration where chiefs from all over the Lunda kingdom come to pay homage to Mwanta Ishindi” says Senior Chief Ishindi.
“During the ceremony, different Lunda cultural dances are performed for the king and spectators. These include a dance paying homage to the king, an initiation dance for boys performed at Mukanda circumcision camp, a girls’ initiation dance to celebrate a girl’s acceptance into society as an adult and a hunter’s dance – performed to celebrate any great achievement by a hunter.”
“Some of the issues frequently discussed at this meeting are any achievement made in the kingdom regarding development; what the government has done in the kingdom in terms of infrastructure development and what the kingdom itself has done to get development to its own people regarding promotion of good health, access to education and ensuring food security.”
“The meeting also looks at how natural resources in the area are benefiting the Lunda people in terms of poverty reduction while strategies to mitigate the effects of economic activities – like charcoal burning – destroying local forests are also tabled.”
“We engage government to include some of our plans in its economic policies and to see how best the Lunda kingdom can participate in economic and developmental policy related matters to ensure the whole area is developed. “
“Other stakeholders like cultural associations, chiefs and foreign agencies receive invitations to this meeting.”
“At this year’s ceremony, there will be increased emphasis on displaying Lunda cultural arts ranging from fishing baskets and iron works to thatched houses and many other hand crafted artefacts.”
“We are considering setting up a cultural museum where these and other artefacts will be displayed permanently as opposed to temporal displays as witnessed during the ceremony. Plans have reached an advanced stage and the major obstacle currently being faced is funding to erect the museum structure.” the Chief narrated.
INFRASTRUCTURE, AGRICULTURE AND TRADE
The Lunda mainly occupy the eastern bank of the Zambezi River while the Luvale settled on the west. The eastern side has three mission stations at Chavuma, Chitokoloki and Dipalata that once had operational schools. Today, all three stations only offer services related to missionary work and medical care. Fertile soils found on the eastern bank of the Zambezi have made agriculture the region’s main economic activity with cassava – the Lunda’s traditional food- being one of the main crops grown.
“The whole of Zambezi depends on the eastern bank for agricultural produce” said Chief Ishindi. “Farmers trade their produce for cattle, fish and other products from the western side. This interaction between the eastern and the western bank of the Zambezi is facilitated by a footbridge near Chinyingi mission and two motorized pontoons at Chavuma and Zambezi town. The pontoons are used to ferry vehicles across the river while others use canoes for transportation.
“One of the two major food supply routes in the region is a road stretching from Zambezi town to Mpidi area of Chief Mpidi. This road is in a deplorable state and very difficult to drive on. The other route runs from Zambezi town to Chieftainess Nyakulenga’s area.”
“Zambezi is connected by a relatively new tarred road to Solwezi that also runs through Chavuma to the Angola border. This road eases the flow of goods from wholesalers in Solwezi to retailers in Zambezi.”
“Traders bringing in products from Lusaka generally take the western route via Kaoma and Lukulu before finally reaching Zambezi. The road from Lusaka to Kaoma is tarred while a 195km gravel section links Kaoma and Lukulu. An almost impassable 160km stretch connects Lukulu to Zambezi town. This is one of the shortest routes connecting Lusaka to Zambezi but the deplorable state of the final stretch from Lukulu makes it one of the least desirable. The road was probably last serviced 20-30 years ago and can only be navigated using off-road vehicles or oxcarts especially in the rainy season. “
“The sad state of the roads has greatly hindered the progress of development in the area because accessibility to internal villages has been restricted.”
“Access to some of the health posts in the area built by government is still a challenge from certain parts of the district mainly due to the long distances involved and the poor state of the roads and this has had an impact on maternal and infant mortality in the area with expectant mothers unable to give birth in a proper healthcare centre. “
“Despite the many challenges however, Zambezi has a lot of positives in as far as development and government support is concerned. “
The Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP) has greatly boosted agricultural production in the area hence improving the region’s food security. Zambezi is now able to produce enough maize to feed itself with the surplus exported to Angola and surrounding areas.
Many traders from Angola use undesignated border crossings to transport farm products they buy or intend to sale in the Zambezi area. Groceries on the other hand are usually transported via official border crossings because fewer restrictions are put on their export and import thus less documentation is required from the traders.
Financial services can be accessed from a bank located at the Zambezi boma while a new filling station – coined Kwasha Mukwenu – was commissioned on 10th March 2015.
“I built this filling station using a loan obtained from the Citizen’s Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) in partnership with Puma Energy plc. This facility was constructed at a total cost of K2.6million and is expected to play a significant role in mitigating fuel shortages which are a common occurrence in Zambezi and surrounding areas thus reducing the locals’ dependence on impure fuel from vendors. These vendors are in a habit of blending petrol with kerosene which harms the engines.”
“A contractor has been engaged to pave the road network in Zambezi Township while another is on site to connect the whole area to the national power grid to tackle the erratic power supply to the region. The areas that will be some of the first to be connected include Kabompo, Chavuma, Lukulu, Mwinilunga and Mufumbwe. The project is expected to take two years to complete.”
“Zambezi is mainly serviced by old thermal generators that sometimes breakdown – interrupting supply to the area. The generators are only able to supply townships and a few surrounding area including my palace at Mukandankunda and Mize capital. All missionary stations in the area depend on their own diesel generators.”
“In terms of agriculture, Zambezi is in the process of establishing a cattle development project which will allow farmers to crossbreed local cattle with public cattle as a way of empowering local livestock farmers. 16,000 hectares (ha) of land has already been allocated to agricultural projects.” the Chief said.
Zambezi district has rich limestone deposits hence creating a great investment opportunity in cement processing. Further, core sample analysis from exploration works done in the area in 2012 by an Australian mining firm shows promising estimates of potential copper deposits.
Chief Ishindi said “Large scale investments in the area can be very beneficial in that the local population will be empowered through job creation by companies contracted or subcontracted to carry out certain projects thereby improving the welfare of the community. Large companies need to give something back to the communities in which they operate and not just in their field of investment.”
“For instance a mining firm can help set up community empowerment projects outside of mining. It can help fund the establishment of food processing plants to add value to agricultural produce; provide farming equipment to farmers to improve farm output or assist communities in the construction of dams or ponds to bolster aquaculture and fish conservation. Other firms can help improve the road infrastructure in the area if they have the capacity to do so – this is a critical area of economic development.”
EDUCATION IS KEY
His Royal Highness Senior Chief Ishindi Kazanda Chanyika III is one of the first traditional leaders to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Zambia’s highest institution of learning – The University of Zambia (UNZA). Chief Ishindi is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is a passionate advocate for education at all levels in his Chiefdom.
“When I went back to my chiefdom after a stint as a Director in the ministry of health, I decided to initiate programmes to improve education, health and the agricultural sector in my area. One of my areas of focus was the upgrading of primary schools to high schools.” he said.
“As Chief, I need to understand the role of government and its institutions while being able to engage them and other civil society organisations on a level that I am able to articulate what they are doing or ought to be doing. Further, there are many laws administer natural resources as well as developmental projects that require chiefs’ and community participation and without a reasonable level of education it would be difficult for me and the community to do so competently.”
A number of primary schools in my chiefdom have been upgraded to secondary schools thus improving the education standards in the area. Unfortunately most of these schools do not have adequate teacher accommodation and this has negatively impacted to attract qualified teachers to the area so the teachers working there are not fully qualified. This is unfortunate when the area’s desire for education is on the rise.”
“There is great need for Northwestern province to have its own university in order to give everyone in the area a fair opportunity in accessing tertiary education.” “Education is key to national development because an educated community will not only be well informed but will also have a clearer perception on various developmental issues thus enabling them to ably participate in growing the economy” Senior Chief Ishindi Kazanda Chanyika III concluded.