Sunday, 24 June 2018

Spark in the stubble - Colin Morris of Zambia


Leslie Charlton's book (Epworth Press, 1969) is focussed on the independence struggle and the early years afterwards, and tells us about Morris and his influence at that time from the pulpit of the Methodist Chingola Free Church, and during his brief political career. The title is taken from a verse in the book of Wisdom: "In the time of their visitation, they shall shine and run to and fro like sparks in the stubble".  Apt.

Morris had arrived in Zambia in 1956, when the independence movement was taking off. At Oxford University he had met African political activists, and had already formed strong opinions before he arrived in South Africa, as we are told, clutching Trevor Huddleston's banned book, "Naught for your comfort". But his preconceptions were quickly shattered as he found most of the white people he associated with moderate and reasonable. It was some time before his anger was reawakened by inequalities in treatment of African miners and he fully committed to a political stand on the need for independence.

'Turbulent priests': Michael Scott, Colin Morris and Merfyn Temple
Morris seems to have picked up many nicknames that highlight his influence at the time: "the fighting parson", "Rhodesia's Trevor Huddleston",  "the turbulent priest", "the best hated man in central Africa". We are left in no doubt of his commitment to the cause of African self government, although he stopped short of standing for UNIP (which Kenneth Kaunda offered to him), as he alternately emptied and filled his church, dealt with hecklers and fended off attacks on the church itself.

The book includes a good account of the Lenshina uprising, including a personal account from Revd Paul Mushindo on the birth of the Lumpa sect.  He says:

It was on 18th September 1953. Alice Lenshina Mulenga Lubusha of Kasomo Village, Chief Nkula's area, gave birth to a child and became fainted, which shows immorality according to Bemba custom.

The news went abroad that she was dead. In three days time she rose up again. This untrue rumour attracted many people to her. For about two to five days Alice was being treated for her fainting by people who know the African medicine for such occasions. Then she came to Lubwa to look for [me] for advice as to how to rejoin the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia.

... being a full church member she had the right to hold church services. But being an illiterate woman she preached what she had been taught.... but with it she emphasized that she rose up from the dead; and God has sent her to save people from their sins.... Then in her preachings she used their superstitions. She said that God had sent her to save people from dying the death caused by buloshi. (witchcraft)

Lumpa 'Passport' with a Chinsali District stamp
Although initially the Lumpa church was not an issue for UNIP, in fact it was 'regarded as a spiritual arm of nationalism', Alice made a political error in telling her people to support the ANC. This, combined with her breaking away to form her own villages without permission and assaults on local people (who also attacked Lumpa members), eventually led to the catastrophic attack on the church. The impressive structure they built (without any European assistance) now lies in ruins.

Morris and other ministers were involved in trying to resolve the issue before the attack took place. Officially, 704 were killed, according to BBC documentary 'The Reckoning', which I'll blog on later.  Many carried 'passports' promising to turn bullets to water. (See also here for an article by John Hannah, District Officer of the area at the time.)

It is notable also that Colin Morris insists we just don't know whether Alice rose from the dead or not. We must assume it could have happened, he says.

There are many interesting stories in this book, but I will end with a quote about Morris: 'He tore up the rule book and put his foot through the stained-glass windows to let into his church the harsh light of an underprivileged world'. I wonder if the day of the turbulent priests has gone. I would like to think not.

Colin Morris passed away on May 22nd, 2018.  He was awarded the Companion Order of Freedom by Kenneth Kaunda.

Names in the book 'spark in the stubble'

Acheson, Dennis
Barnes, Jonathan (church treasurer)
Barton, Frank
Benson, Arthur (Sir)
Bolink, Peter
Bulawayo, Fines
Burton, Lillian
Castle, Barbara (UK labour party)
Catto, Charles (Revd; Chingola FC; president UCZ)
Chabukasanshya, Clement (RC)
Chembe, Francis
Chitambala, Frank
Clayton, Eric (Bancroft Mine chairman)
Collins, John (Canon)
ffoulkes, Maurice (church secretary)
Fleming, James (mayor)
Foy, Whitfield, Rev (Salisbury, Rhodesia)
Franklin, Harry
Frazer, Donald (Dr)
Frazer, George
Gilchrist, Tom
Gondwe, Alfred
Gray, Douglas, Chipembi Girls School founder, and Chingola Free Church minister
Greenfield, Julian (Salisbury)
Hanna, John (District Officer during Lumpa crisis)
Hess, Ian (editor Central African Examiner)
Hewitt, George (Canon)
Hincks, William
Ibiam, Francis (Sir; Nigerian doctor)
Kapwepwe, Simon
Katilungu, Lawrence
Lehmann, Dorothea
MacCleod (colonial secretary; Lancaster House conference)
Macpherson, F. (Revd)
Magnus, Val (UFP Party; defeated Morris in election)
Mataka, Filemon
Matthews, J.L. (Revd) Len
McKenzie, William (Bill)
Moffat, John (Sir; Central Africa Party)
Mukondo, Samson
Mulenga, Alice Lenshina
Mulford, David
Musakala, G. (Revd)
Mushindo, Paul (Revd)
Musunsa, Doyce (UCZ)
Mutemba, Andrew
Mwape, Jackson (president UCZ)
Nightingale, Edward G. (Revd)
Nkumbula, Harry
Reeves, Ambrose
Rogers, Edward (Revd)
Scott, Alexander (Constitution Party)
Short, Arthur
Soper, Lord
Taylor, John
Temple, Merfyn
Todd, Garfield
Welensky, Roy
Whelan (Justice)
Wilkinson, Oliver Green
Williams, Thomas (Sir)
Wina, Arthur
Wina, Sikota

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