Pop Quiz: Whaddya know about Zambia and Malawi?

One reason to travel: learn the history, culture, and geography of a place.  If you are a ZamMal (Zambia and Malawi) expert, please stop reading.  But, if you, like me, have little knowledge of these countries, here are some bullet point of history and interest (some lifted directly from the Lonely Planet, so don’t quote me!)…

  • ZamMal are inhabited by the Bantu people — people who speak a language rooted in Bantu.  (Many people refer to all black southern Africans as Bantu, as in a race of people, but that is as problematic as referring to people from Asia as “orientals”.)
  • The Portuguese were the first to explore this area (Mozambique to ZamMal to Tanzania).
  • During the height of slavery in the 19th century, the busiest areas were here, in ZamMal.  Neighboring tribes were used to round up people and bring them to the coast where they were then shipped to Zanzibar.  Historians estimate that two of three people taken from inland Africa died during their voyage.
  • Dr. Livingstone, I presume:  Livingstone’s life work was to end slavery.  In part because of that goal, he also was an explorer…  Livingstone discovered (funny to say he discovered when the local folks knew about the falls for ages) and named Victoria Falls in 1855 and Lake Malawi in 1859.  He died in 1873 in Zambia (likely from malaria), where his heart is buried under a tree in Copperbelt Province (north of Lusaka), and his body was carried back to England.
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks, the Rhodes Scholarship, Northern and Southern Rhodesia…  all roads (hah!) lead to Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company (BSAC).  Backed by the British government to exploit minerals and keep the Portuguese from coming further inland, Rhodes and the BSAC laid claim to the lands north of South Africa — especially after copper was discovered in Northern Rhodesia (present-day Copperbelt Province in Zambia).  Colonial rule began in earnest in the 1890s, and settlers from Britain started to arrive.  Much of the resources from Northern Rhodesia were diverted to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and the effects of this resource movement are still felt in Zambia today.
  • Push-back to the colonial powers began in the 1910s, and African Nationalism was seeping through the countryside.  After efforts to co-opt this movement, elections were held in Zambia in 1958 and Kenneth Kaunda was elected president; the Northern Rhodesia African Congress boycotted the elections, and Kaunda was imprisoned.  In Malawi, a similar storyline occurs with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
  • !960 – 1964: Dr. Kaunda leads civil disobedience movements (including the decisive Chachacha Rebellion), leading to independence and Kaunda becoming president.  Similarly, Dr. Banda becomes president of an independent Malawi.
  • Kaunda was President of Zambia for 27 years.  He mixed traditional African values with Marxism to create what he called “humanism.”  Under his leadership, Zambia becomes one of the poorest countries in the world.  Pressure begins to build in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Kaunda is forced to allow elections where Frederick Chiluba wins.
  • Banda in Malawi, like Kaunda, becomes “president for life.”  He banned the press, miniskirts, men with long hair, and women in trousers.  He was so politically conservative that he chose to support the Apartheid government in South Africa, much to the dismay of his African brethren.  He was quite a flamboyant dresser: wearing gangster style hats, carrying an African fly whisk, surrounded by group a women who danced and chanted about his greatness while wearing clothes made of fabric with his face printed on them!  Like Kaunda, in 1993, Banda was forced to allow elections, and Bakili Muluzi wins.
  • The 1990s to now: ZamMal have both experienced their share of corruption, leadership changes, and political power grabs.  Both current presidents (Rupiah Banda for Zambia and Bingu wa Mutharika for Malawi) seem to have gotten to their places with some measures of fair voting, illegal maneuvers, and luck.  The economies of both are apparently stabilizing (with inflation down to single digits and debt forgiveness), and that has made an impact.
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