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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Time to Mourn (Lumpa Church)

A Time To Mourn (A personal account of the the 1964 Lumpa Church revolt by John Hudson). My copy is from Bookworld Publishers, Lusaka, 1999.

The episode in Northern Rhodesian history is well known and there are several accounts in print.

In 1953 the Lumpa Church was founded as an offshoot sect of the local Catholic church in Chinsali district. Its founder, Alice "Lenshina" (Regina) Lubusha , was "a failed catechumen" according to this account.

Something happened to Alice: an illness, a vision, a hallucination perhaps, in which she believed she had died and risen from the dead four times, and had seen God. After a period in which she remained in her original church, during which perhaps all the trouble might have been avoided, she established a breakaway church with a focus on confession of witchcraft. (Of course, failure to confess might mean guilt. This may have contributed to the quick rise in her church membership.) Crucially, also, the church was against participation in politics or membership of political parties, and this would ultimately lead to conflict and bloodshed. The time, of course, was leading up to the independence of Zambia, and UNIP members were militant. In the final stages, roughly two months before independence in October 1964, the army moved in on Lumpa Church settlements.

The Lumpa church members were not only suspicious of outsiders and political party members, but openly hostile. There had been skirmishes and a few deaths and reprisals before the real massacres began. Lumpa church members stopped sending their children to school. In addition, the church had defied local law and set up villages without permission of local chiefs. This disregard and isolation led to suspicion and aggression. Animosity had grown between church members and UNIP supporters.

Kenneth Kaunda certainly tried to avert the crisis, but perhaps at that point things had gone too far. An agreement brokered by KK was drawn up for church settlements to disperse, but this was not honoured or enforced. The church began to develop end-time tendencies, believing that their time on earth was short. They stopped cultivating food and had to resort to raids on neighbouring villages instead.

The Lumpa church members were mostly armed with sharp sticks, spears and pangas, whilst the Northern Rhodesia Regiment (NRR) were armed with automatic rifles. In spite of there having been a couple of causalities on the army side (mainly during their attempts to negotiate) there was no contest in the end. As many as a thousand Lumpas were killed. With independence approaching, the killings did not perhaps receive the kind of attention that they might have done in less tense circumstances. The government was more concerned with preparation for independence. However, the authorities concerned are left looking pretty bad, in my opinion.

Surprisingly, after such a disastrous event and although Alice was sent to prison and died a mysterious death in 1978 under house arrest, the Lumpa (excelling/exceeding) church still survives today.

I came across some quite horrific footage on-line, of an attack on a Lumpa Church, I believe the main church building, judging by its size. Why this footage was shot and how it has survived to see the light of day are a mystery to me. One would imagine it would have been destroyed.... These pictures can't bring home the full horror of it. I have avoided the worst images. The violence perpetrated against people who clearly are not attempting to fight is completely unjustifiable.

A White Father was trying to help the injured.

One can only say that 'a time to mourn' is quite right....

Here are some of the names in the book:

Baker, Lt col. Bill p43, 47, 110-11
Bell p72
Bennet, Peter p60
Bird, J.D.O. (police) p41-42
Chansa, constable (killed) p41, 87
Chibolya, Maini p78, 108-9, 128
Chikwa, chief p.47
Chisolm, Dr James A. p75
Chitimukulu, paramount chief p29
Chiwale, chief p72
Clay, Gervas p74, 78, 135
Drysdale, p72
Ellis, Senior inspector p38
Forbes (1895) p71
Gillies, inspector p46
Gore Brown, p131-34
Hannah, John (D.C. Chinsali) p40, 86
Hannah, J.W. p41-44, 46 failed to get surrender
Hoare, Major Paul p94
Hone, Sir Evelyn p54
Hopwood, detective inspector p38, 43
Hudson, Rowland p134
Jones, "Ropesole" p73
Jordan, inspector (killed) p42, 43
Kakokota, Fr p29
Kameko (Lumpa boy chastised by UNIP uncle) p38
Kamfwimbi, chief p128
Kapele, Alfred p62-3
Kapwepwe, Simon p55
Kaunda, David p.11 @ Lubwa mission
Kaunda, Helen p56
Kaunda, Kenneth p54-6
Kaunda, Robert p56
Kihn, Dr Ron p87-8
Lalonde, Fr (White fathers, Isoka) p88-9
Large, Philip p81
Legum, Colin p56
Lehman, Dorothea (missionary and author) p21
Ling, Colin (DO Lundazi) p47, 95-6
Lester, assistant inspector p38
Lubusha, Alice Mulenga, a.k.a. Lenshina p12 (whole book)
Lungu, Jacob (ex army) p36
Macpherson, Revd Fergus p12-15
McKinnon, Charles p72

McMinn, Revd Robert p19
Miller (Nyala area) p72
Moir and Stewart, African lakes company19th C.
Morris, Revd Colin p35
Moss, Mr P. p43 (district officer)
Mpapa, constable p40, 42
Mubanga, Chief p38
Mulenga, Petros Chitankwa p12, 20, 23, 29, 40 (husband of Alice)
Mumba, Joseph (church member) p29
Mushindo, Paul p15, 19
Musukanya, Valentine & Flavia p77 
Musukwa, Timothy p77-8, 81, 82, 85, 99-103, 111, 119-129
Muyombe p82-5
Ngandu, Lupele p62
Nichelya, Musuku p62-3
Nkula, Chief p29,30
Northey, General E. (WWI) p112, 116
Paishuko, p48-51
Reid, Brigadier T.N.S. p117
Robins, John p77, 106-8, 123
Shimulopwe, assistant inspector p38
Sinkamba, Gideon p78, 109-10, 128
Smith, Derek (killed) p40, 87, 102
Smith, lieutenant p89
Stacey, Charles (solicitor) p60
Standaloft, assistant inspector p42
Stevenson, James p71 19th c.
Sumaili, Lameck p60
Thompson, Hugh p60
Trant, Dr Hope p78, 87-9
Von Lettow Vorbeck, Paul (WWI) p112, 116

Young, "Bobo" p72


  1. Thanks very much for that. I'll put an extract and a link to it on the forums for discussing African Independent churches and new religious movements.

  2. Where can Ibuy this book please...?

  3. My usual sources: amazon, bookfinder, abebooks... I found nothing there. But you can register a want at abebooks and they will tell you if they get one in. Possibly (though probably not) still available in Lusaka bookshops. Someone local can tell you.

  4. Perhaps try one of these addresses for BookWorld


  5. its sad that this has been hidden to the young generation. & very sad indeed for the defenseless people that lost their lives

  6. Very sad to know of the story in 2016

  7. Refreshing my memories. Having been a victim of the
    circumstance and survivor.

    1. Hi, i found your comment interesting and would like to find out more about your experience during that time, I'm asking for any form of contact i can use to talk to you?


Please leave your comment and I'll get back to you if I can help.