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The man on the Zambian freedom statue who broke the chains!

Mpundu Mutembo. He was born in 1936 in Mbala.

Zanco Mpundu Mutembo was arrested and handcuffed with chains which he broke in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns.

Mr. Mutembo was ORDERED TO BREAK FREE FROM THE CHAINS OR BE INSTANTLY SHOT DEAD.

Shockingly, he broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took shots of what seem like magical power.

He dropped out of school after his father’s death and joined the political struggle led by Robert Makasa and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe .

In 1957, having already made his impact in Northern Province, suffering imprisonment and beatings in the process, Mutembo, along with seven others were sent to Kenya where Dedan Kimathi was leading a rebellion against the colonial rulers. Their mission was to learn how to carry out their own rebellion back home.

Before Kaunda and others would speak, Mutembo would go on stage first to tell the crowds how bad the colonial government was hence the importance to fight for independence.

Early 1960s, Kaunda wrote a letter to the governor, Sir Arthur Benson, to protest against a clause in the constitution that gave Europeans an upper hand in the legislature. Mutembo took up the task to deliver the letter to Government House (now State House ).

On his way out, however, he was arrested and tortured. At about 15:00 hours that day, he was taken to Kaunda’s office in Chilenje where he was celebrated as a hero.

About 03:00 hours the following day, Mutembo was taken to Cairo Road where he climbed a tree with a megaphone to denounce the new constitution. At 06:00 hours, he started proclaiming his message, but was soon surrounded by police who threatened to shoot him if he did not get down. He was arrested.

Today, the tree still stands opposite the Main Post Office and later came to be known as “Zanco Tree “.

Mutembo appeared in court after having been involved in a political brawl in Matero . He had been badly beaten in the fight and lost two of his front teeth, a mark he still bears. When the judge asked him to demonstrate to the court how he had been beaten, the young freedom fighter walked across the courtroom from the witness box and, reaching where one of the prosecutors – a white man – was standing, and punched him in the face, giving him a bloody nose. His action was a blatant show of rebellion in the face of the colonial government. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus four lashes for punching the prosecutor. He was sent to Livingstone State Prison where he was held in chains.

At Force Headquarters, after being interviewed, he was taken to a room where 18 military officers stood with guns at ready. He was then handcuffed to a chain and ordered to break free or get shot. Shockingly, he pulled so hard and broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took photos of what seemed like magical power. It was from these photos that the Freedom Statue would be crafted by casting experts.

Mutembo was also given an official vehicle – a Land Rover station wagon – bearing the initials of his status “SNNRG” (symbol of the nation Northern Rhodesia Government) and a Union Jack.

A statue was made depicting the scenario when Mutembo broke the chains in 1963. On October 23, 1974, during the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of Zambia’s independence, the Freedom Statue was unveiled and became a symbol of Zambia’s freedom from the British colonial regime, and has earned its place on some of the country’s most important articles, including its currency. The statue is a reminder of Zambia’s fight for freedom. It is displayed at the Government Complex along Independence Avenue in Lusaka.

Zanco Mpundu Mutembo


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Sources: Lusaka Times | Smart Eagles

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