Paul Bwembya Mushindo
|Occupation||Church minister, teacher, author, politician|
|Known for||Translating the Bible into Bemba|
|Spouse(s)||Theresa Mwila Mushindo (d. 1999)|
|Relatives||Patrick Mumba (son)|
Early life and education
Rev Mushindo was born in 1896 in Chinsali District. Both his mother and father were members of the Bemba royal family. His father Mr Mushindo was a first nephew of Chiti Kafula, one of the important members of the Bemba royal household. His mother, Kapolyo Mwaba was the daughter of Chief Mwaba Kabundi of the Ngulube clan in the Bemba district of Nkulungwe.
Like many Zambians who went to school in his time, Rev Mushindo graduated as a teacher and taught at the Church of Scotland school at Lubwa Mission near Chinsali Boma and at Shiwa Ng’andu where he met Sir Stewart Gore-Browne, a colonial settler who genuinely and steadfastly supported African advancement and emancipation.
While working as a teacher, he proceeded to Livingstonia, the present day Malawi where he studied theology and qualified as Minister of the Church of Scotland.
In 1947, Rev Mushindo was ordained Minister of the Church of Scotland and was instrumental in the formation of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ). He later retired as Minister of the Church of Scotland in 1965 but volunteered to continue evangelising in order to help the growth of the UCZ.
In 1971, at the accession ceremony for Chitimukulu Bwembya, Rev Mushindo became the first Christian minister to be asked to speak at the traditional rites. It was a great expression of the respect that the Bembas had for his knowledge of their traditions and history as it was also a confirmation of his aristocratic ancestry.
Translation of the Bible
When he was headmaster at Lubwa, he worked at the school from 07:00hr to 12:30 and then after an hour’s rest he would spend the rest of the afternoon from 13:30hr to 17:30hr on the huge task of translating the Bible from English to Bemba language, a task that took 53 years to complete. The translation of the Bible led by Reverend Robert McMinn started in 1913 at Mpandala and was only completed in 1966 at Lubwa.
All that time, Rev Mushindo walked and cycled barefoot. Nobody remembers the exact date when he stopped wearing of shoes, but the incident which led him to stop wearing shoes is well remembered and collaborated by many who lived with Rev Mushindo.
One day, it happened that while at Mpandala working on the translation of the Bible in the 1940s, a hawker passed through Rev Mushindo’s office selling some merchandise which included a pair of shoe. Rev Mushindo bought without knowing that it was stolen somewhere. A few days later, the hawker was arrested and he revealed that he had sold the shoes to the Reverend. The hawker was taken to Mpandala where Rev Mushindo was found wearing the shoes. After hearing the story and the confession of the hawker, Rev Mushindo took off the shoes and handed them back to the owner and, vowed never to wear shoes again. He stuck to this decision until his dying day. He never forgot the incident, which he even made as his main theme in many of his sermons.
He always warned people against stealing saying in Bemba: "Nga waiba ilaya lika kulaya umweo, Nga waiba akaputula kakakuputula umweo, Nga waiba insapato shikakusapulula umweo." (If you steal a shirt it will steal your spirit, if you steal a short, it will break your spirit, and if you steal shoes, they will desecrate your spirit).
Sir Gore-Browne encouraged many Africans to take an active part in politics and supported their education. He was responsible for the sponsorship of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula’s studies at Makerere University in Uganda. It appears Sir Gore-Browne’s influence led Rev Mushindo to develop interest in politics. In 1944, Rev Mushindo was appointed a member of the Northern Rhodesia African Representative Council for the Northern Province and later became its chairperson. During debates in the council, he consistently opposed the establishment of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
In 1950, he joined Donald Siwale, the chairperson of the African Welfare Societies, in advocating African rule in Northern Rhodesia and spoke on many other subjects that affected the livelihood of the people of his area. For example in 1948, he called on the government to establish a secondary school in Northern Province and campaigned for better prices for African foods and for an increase in the size of land allocated to peasant farmers.
It is incredible that Rev Mushindo had time to write books despite his heavy days.
He wrote three Bemba titles:
- Imilumbe Nenshimi (Riddles and Folktales) - 2 editions published between 1957 and 1960 in Bemba
- Amapinda Mulyashi (Proverbs in Conversations)
- Ulubuto Mumfifi (Light in Darkness) - 1 edition published in 1970 in Bemba
and two English titles:
- A Short History of the Bemba - 7 editions published between 1976 and 1977 in 3 languages
- The Life of A Zambian Evangelist: the Reminiscences of Reverend Paul Bwembya Mushindo - 1 edition published in 1973 in English
Historian Andrew D Roberts describes Rev Mushindo’s A Short History of the Bemba as a ‘very important source for Bemba history up to the death of Chitimukulu Chitapankwa in 1883.’
Another writer Audrey I Richards describes the book as “the fullest version of Bemba traditions to be written by a Mubemba and the people of Zambia will be grateful to Mushindo for writing down these traditions before the old men and women who could remember the past had died one by one, taking their memories with them.”
Rev Mushindo was able to collect the traditions of the Bemba because he spent his childhood in the royal palace of two Chitimukulu; Sampa and Makumba. His works made him a venerable figure among the missionaries and the people alike were called upon to lead prayers and deliver historical accounts at many important functions.
In 1947, Rev. Mushindo was honoured by King George of England for his contribution to society.
Rev Mushindo and his wife, Theresa Mwila Mushindo (died 1999), had two children. Their first child Kapolyo died in early childhood and their second born son, Patrick Mutale Mumba, born in August 1932, died in his adult life in 1983 and is survived by several children.
He set up temporary residence at Mulashi Primary School which lies about three kilometers from Mpika town along the Great North Road. It was while he was cycling back from an evangelisation trip back to Malashi that he was killed in a hit and run road accident in December 1972. The car was driven by a white couple who were never identified or found.
He is buried at the Lubwa cemetery where all the pioneers of the Church of Scotland Mission and School at Lubwa are buried.
The North Eastern Presbytery of the United Church of Zambia approved the construction of a memorial church at Malashi and the congregation that gathers there is known as the Paul Bwembya Mushindo Congregation.
Family and aftermath
Rev Mushindo's son Patrick took Mumba, the clan name (Bena Mumba) of his father for his surname. Patrick completed his form six at Munali Secondary School in Lusaka, then went to Durban in South Africa before going on to study medicine in Russia. He did not complete his studies as he returned to Zambia soon after independence in 1964. He became the first Principal Private Secretary of president Kenneth Kaunda.
From State House, he was promoted to the rank of Director General for National Registration, Births, and Citizenship. He held this post until he left government service with the intentions of establishing a Museum in memory of his father’s life in 1972.
Patrick’s first born son Mutale Mumba is a qualified doctor and is currently working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a Medical Officer for the Immunisation, Vaccines and Emergencies Program.
Dr Mumba’s memory of his grandfather is ‘very hazy’ because he was only six years old when Rev Mushindo died, but he spent a lot of time with his late grandmother who shared a lot of her husband’s memories with their first grandson.
Dr Mumba says his grandfather’s works inspired him to aim higher and that as a child he pestered his grandfather with a lot of questions.
“I remember my grandmother telling me when I grew older, after grand dad had long died, that grandfather would occasionally complain about spending time with me when he was busy preparing sermons or doing some other important work in his study as I would not stop asking questions,” recounts Dr Mumba.
He says his grandmother told him that his grandfather was such a devoted Christian that he did not find it difficult to give up the better paying teaching job to become a Minister of the Church of Scotland saying: "Ifyo nde nonka mu milimo ya bu kafundisha fikapwa, lelo chebo chakwa Lesa chena tachakapwe pantu no uli munda akesa lyako." (The money I am receiving as a teacher will finish, but the word of God will never finish because even the unborn child will come and eat of it.)
Dr Mumba says the stories his grandmother told him about his grandfather and the statements that he read in the Legislative Council records that were made by Rev Mushindo really make him proud of his grandfather. “Grandfather made his contribution to politics and early preparation towards independence. He sat in the African Legislative Council during the colonial era and reading some of the statements he made in the council made me feel really proud of him,” he says.
Asked how he felt about the decision by President Michael Sata to build a university at Lubwa in memory and honour of his grandfather, Dr. Mumba had this to say: “I could not believe it at all. There are many people who made contributions to education, political and religious development in our country. “Some of the people may have quietly passed on as unsung heroes, so the recognition of my grandfather among the many gallant and equally patriotic sons and daughters of the soil who played significant roles in this regard is a great honour to our family. My family is truly indebted to President Michael Chilufya Sata and to the people of Zambia for this historic gesture,” Dr Mumba says. He added; “I know that Ms Mwila, my grandmother, would have been very delighted with this great honour that President Sata has kindly bestowed on our family – and I miss her.”
Dr Mumba says his grandfather should be remembered together with the many other courageous sons and daughters who gave themselves in various ways to make Zambia what it is today, because, even if they were not acknowledged, they left a legacy that we must preserve for posterity.
“The work of the people that came before us should inspire us, especially young people, to play our role and leave Zambia a better country for our children and all future generations,” Dr. Mumba says. President Sata is not the first President of Zambia to recognise the great works of the Rev Mushindo but President Frederick Chiluba recognised the Reverend by buying a house for Mrs Mushindo in 1998.
Theresa Mwila Mushindo
Mrs Mushindo had cataracts and developed temporary blindness. One evening in 1998, at the family house at Lubwa Mission, she fell and broke her hip bone. She was, through the kind arrangement of Dr Jonathan Munkombwe, flown from Chinsali to Lusaka by the Zambia Flying Doctor Service.
When President Chiluba was informed about the accident, he arranged for her to undergo a hip bone replacement operation at the Italian Hospital in Lusaka.
After the operation, she was transferred to Maina Soko Military Hospital where a Dr Banda operated on her eyes and her sight was restored. She spent many months recuperating in Lusaka and her nephew’s house.
President Chiluba visited her and during the visit, he learnt that the old lady would not be able to use a pit latrine at her Lubwa house because of the artificial hip bone. It was against this background that Dr Chiluba decided to buy a house for her in Chinsali Boma at a cost of ZMK 6 million (ZMW 6,000). She died in dignity in that house in 1999.
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