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Southeast Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS)

The Kafulafuta Mission in Zambia

Brian Siegel (Anthropology)
Sociology Department, Furman University
Greenville, SC 29613

Spring 1999 SERSAS Meeting
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte, NC
April 3, 1999

Kafulafuta mission was part of the colonial enterprise in British Central Africa, and it largely framed the colonial experience of the rural Copperbelt's Lamba people. For just four years after the British South Africa company (BSAC) opened its boma there in 1900 (Siegel 1988: 67-70), William A. Phillips of the Nyasa (Baptist) Industrial Mission Society's station near Blantyre petitioned BSAC's Administrator in Fort Jameson (modern Chipata) for one of the last unallocated mission "spheres" in North-Eastern Rhodesia. This was Kapopo (soon, Ndola) District and its 20,000 square miles of Rhodesian Lambaland (Cross 1925:5-6; Doke 1975:90; Lambaland 56 [Jul.1930]).

In August 1905 missionaries W. A. Phillips and Henry Masters, along with two Ngoni "Christian boys," arrived at Kapopo. That December, during the rainy season, they moved onto their chosen mission site, a low malarial rise on the Kafubu-Kafulafuta River confluence, about halfway along the 80 mile route between Kapopo and the new Ndola Boma. Villagers were hired to clear the bush and, by the time of missionary John Springer's 1907 visit, the mission - with its church, dispensary, day-school and saw-pit - included three houses, several huts, substantial gardens, and the beginnings of a citrus orchard (Cross 1925:9-12; Masters & Masters 1920:166-74, 198; Moubray 1912:112-13; Springer 1909:83-84).

Perceptions of the Lamba

The two missionary accounts of Kafulafuta Mission, the Masters brothers' In Wild Rhodesia (1920) and Cross's Twenty Years in Lambaland (1925), are both steeped in the cant of colonial evangelism. They both invoked Livingstone's name when writing about spreading the Gospel and advancing civilization, and they both agreed that the Lamba needed to be saved from themselves. For the Masters brothers, Lambaland was a microcosm of Africa, where "[t]he unspeakable horrors of spirit worship, witchcraft, human sacrifice, live burials, and cannibalism are prevalent more or less in all pagan tribes: (Masters & Masters 1920:121). The "disorganized but docile" Lamba, while "among the laziest of African people" (pp. 217, 181), were actually far tamer than the Masters' list of immoralities implies. Yet Arthur J. Cross characterized these "'scattered and peeled'" slave hunters' prey in terms of a "lethargic apathy in all things save the grossest sensualism" (Cross 1925:5-6). Clement M. Doke (1931:29) was evidently the first Kafulafuta missionary to reject this view of the "degraded" Lamba.

The Northern Rhodesian and Katangan stereotype of the "wild" (farouche) and "lazy" Lamba contained a grain of truth. For by 1900, the Lamba's 40 year experience with slave raiders, warfare and famine had taught these to run away from strangers, tax collectors, and porterage and road-building assignments (Siegel 1989). These, rather than immoral customs, were the concerns of the BSAC authorities. It was not until the mine development work of the mid-1920s, and the parallel developments in Lamba market gardening, that the Northern Rhodesian authorities saw the proposed Native Reserve as a way to address the frustrating shortage of local labor:

The local [Lamba] native is not very popular with a number of employers of labour who consider him particularly stupid and dislike his tendency to work only for a month or two at a time. Agricultural products have a ready market in an area with so much mining activity and the local man naturally prefers to get his [hut tax] money in this way by which he can live at home (NR, n.d.b: 12-13).

Kafulafuta's Religious Competition

In part, Masters's and Phillips's views of the Lamba reflected their disappointment with the response to their efforts. They were, for example, elated with the initial turnout of neighboring villagers for church. But they were taken aback when, after the first month of services, headman Katangan demanded the villagers' pay (Lambaland 62 [Apr.1932])

Though the missionaries thought they were filling a religious vacuum, there were other new movements then vying for the Lamba's interest. They were likely aware of the series of African prophets to the south, in the Kafue Hook, from 1906 on, and some Lamba definitely participated in the 1913-14 movement of Mupumani Cheso (i.e., "Jesus"), the Ila visionary who preached an end to witchcraft and the imminent return of the Creator (Smith & Dale 1920, ii:141-52; Beech 1953:47-48; Chibanza 1961:78-81; Harris 1914; Lambaland 6 & 8 [Jan. & Jul.1918]).

Then, from 1924 on, Kafulafuta was in direct competition with the Watchtower movement of Jeremiah Gondwe, who offered baptism as a protection against and as a means to rehabilitate witches. Until his capture and imprisonment in 1929, Gondwe roamed Ndola District, preaching against the government and its "puppet" chiefs (Cross 1970; Lambaland 37, 44, 63, 114, 133 [Oct.1925, Apr.1926, Jul.1927 & 1932, Jan.1948 & 1953]; Rotberg 1965b:140-41). Though the mission supported the government's efforts to suppress, then, after 1932, supervise Gondwe and his followers, these three forms of Christianity became unwitting allies in the abolition of Lamba spirit huts, female initiation rites, and funeral dancing and drinking - all of which are now considered fintu fya busenshi (pagan things).

Educating Native Evangelists

Headman Katanga remained on friendly terms with the missionaries, if only for their supply of calico, salt and medicines (Lambaland 62 [Apr.1932]). Many of Kafulafuta's first laborers and students were recruited from his village. And when, after two year's instruction and observation, four of the nine initial inquirers were admitted to baptism, they included two of Katanga's sons and his successor, Katanga's eldest sister's son. The latter, Sandabunga Katanga, was the mission's first Lamba translator and, in time, its first native evangelist (Cross 1925:15-17; Masters & Masters 1920:189, 194-5, 206-7).

Thanks to Phillips, a three year, ciNyanja-speaking veteran with the Nyasaland station, Kafulafuta was a remarkably focused mission. He presumably recruited the Ngoni evangelists, Luke and David (and David's wife) who both offered the Lamba models of African Christian life, and helped the missionaries during their early preaching and touring efforts. Phillips is also credited with most of the early translation work, beginning with school pamphlets of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and 35 hymns. Henry Masters, by comparison, had none of Phillips's linguistic or construction skills (Cross 1925:15; Masters & Masters 1920:178-9, 187, 192, 194, 200-02).

Phillips also linked the mission's rudimentary educational training - the reading and memorization of ciLamba Scripture and hymns - to evangelization. Such Christian schooling was, in fact, part of the Nyasa Industrial Mission's strategy to "train, inspire, and organise a staff of native evangelists" who could "present the Truth more powerfully [and economically] than any missionary, no matter how fluent and earnest he may be" (Masters & Masters 1920:199, 191-201; Rotberg 1965a:108). Given Kafulafuta's deliberate and long-term reliance upon African evangelists and, after 1950, pastors, it is little wonder that the Baptists became the Lamba church - even if it denied membership to those who continued to smoke, drink or dance.

When Phillips returned from furlough in 1910 with H. L. Wildey, a mechanical engineer and amateur linguist, they translated additional portions of Scripture - including Jonah, Job and Mark - and opened the boys' boarding school. Students there were required students to earn their keep by gardening , plank-and brick-making, and carpentry work (Cross 1925: 22; Masters & Masters 1920:201-04). Such work was clearly included in the students' 1912 contract, which, in translation, read:

I hereby make an agreement with European missionaries to the effect that I will stay with them for two years to learn things of civilization and be instructed in the faith. They on their part agree to teach, feed, and clothe me. I will try to aspire to knowledge. I will obey them without fail. I promise never to criticize them. I will work as directed by them. I will live in peace and friendship with my friends, all students, loving them (in Rotberg 1965a: 112-13).

By 1916 the boarding school's 60 boys and youths were bound to a daily course of morning devotions, two instructional sessions, and three hours of manual labor (Lambaland 2 [Jan.1917]).

The Nyasa Industrial Mission Society, like the Plymouth Brethren and South African Baptists, was one of Northern Rhodesia's several small evangelical denominations which shared a common belief in the literal interpretation of Scripture and a daily witness to one's faith (Rotberg 1965a:76-77). They were among the many mission societies the BSAC had brought into Northern Rhodesia to teach Africans to accept European authority. They may have offered their students and followers some limited training in brick-making and carpentry - all of which did contribute to the material improvement of village life. But their own purpose for entering mission work was to save souls and to create localized Christian communities. Unlike the London Missionary Society (Anglicans) or Free Church of Scotland (Presbyterians), they were not interested in teaching English or offering an academic education (Gadsden 1992:98-99, 103). These small, "radical Protestant" societies did promote Westernization through membership in the universal Church, but only in a very particularistic and evangelical form (Ranger 1993: 88-92).

Thus while Kafulafuta, until about 1950, was quite content with a curriculum emphasizing basic Bible literacy in ciLamba, and was quite proud of its printing press and religious pamphlets, the District Officers regularly despaired of its teachers' poor training and the fact that none of its schools met the government's grants-in-aid standards. Lamba seeking other instruction had to turn to Musofu (Seventh Day Adventist) School (est. late 1930s). Local Form IV and VI (six- and eight-year) programs did not exist until the late 1940s, and were initiated by the Franciscan Fathers' (St. Theresa's) mission (est. 1936), 12 miles up the Kafulafuta River. It is little wonder then that many third generation Lamba Baptists complain that Kafulafuta's schools only trained the Lamba for work as domestic servants.

The Transfer to the South African Baptists

While two more missionaries and Mrs. Masters joined Kafulafuta's staff in 1909-10, finances forced the closure of the two-year-old station near the Lukanga Swamp in 1912. And when Frederick S. Arnot, the Plymouth Brethren missionary of Garenganze fame, paid a visit that year, he was told that the Nyasa Industrial Mission society was overextended, and ready to surrender Kafulafuta (Cross 1925:23-24; Doke 1975:1, 64).

Johannesburg's Rev. Joseph Doke was then trying to persuade the South African Baptist Missionary Society (SABMS) to extend its network of 20-odd stations north towards the Baptist and he and his 20-year-old son, Clement, took the train to Bwana Mkubwa and toured Kafulafuta with Phillips in July 1913. Joseph died on his return trip in August, and that October the SABMS started the Doke Memorial Fund to acquire the Lambaland mission. Thus in 1914, with support from Joseph Doke's in-laws and the Colonial Aid Society of London, Clement Doke and Mr. and Mrs. German arrived to assume the SABMS's control of Kafulafuta mission (Batts 1923:145f; Cross 1925: 24-25; Doke 1975:16-67; Lambaland 2 & 21 [Jan.1917 & Oct.1921]).

The Masters had already left, but Phillips and Mr. and Mrs. Wildey stayed on to continue the boys' boarding school with Clement Doke who, along with his linguistic and folklore studies, helped complete the ciLamba translation of the New Testament. Olive Doke, Clement's sister joined the mission's six other Europeans in 1916 (Cross 1925: 25). Her arrival coincided with the first printing of Lambaland, the mission quarterly sent to British supporters. She later ran the mission's own printing press. Later, in the mid-1920s, Olive Doke opened the boarding-school to girls, but this experiment soon ended after all 25 students ran off to become temporary wives at Luanshya's Roan Antelope mine (Davis 1933:387; Lambaland 36 & 41 [Jul.1925 & Oct.1926]).

But the seven Europeans at Kafulafuta in 1916 were the most it ever had. Health (i.e., malaria) forced the Wildeys and Germans to leave in 1917, and his wife's health led Clement Doke to leave for SOAS in 1921; by 1924 he was Professor of Bantu Languages at Witwatersrand University, though he continued his translation work for the mission. Arthur J. Cross and his future wife, Frieda Stern, replacing Mr. And Mrs. Doke, joined Phillips and Olive Doke in 1921 in establishing a constantly shifting network of four to seven village out-schools staffed by native evangelists (Cross 1925: 24-28; Lambaland 3, 19, 21, 25, 41 [Apr.1917, Apr. & Oct.1921, Oct. 922, Oct.1926]). The ciLamba New Testament translation came out in 1921, and in 1923 Baptist native evangelists made two documented appearances among the Lamba chiefdoms in Katanga (Verbeek 1983:33; 1987:285). One assumes that the motive for these evangelists' singular, cross-border visits was the distribution of the newly published Gospel in ciLamba.

Kafulafuta's Urban Ministry

By the time Dr. Clement Doke returned in 1926 to offer his testimony to the Native Reserves Commission, the gravely ill Phillips had left to raise funds in Europe, and Arthur Cross and Ngoni evangelist David Kasangula were becoming increasingly absorbed in their ministry to the Copperbelt's urban Africans. Cross, in 1922 and 1924, had twice started an out-school in Ndola's African location (NR, NRC n.d.:9-10) and became pastor at Ndola's European Baptist church. Thus, in 1925, he was delighted to discover a vital, autonomous and non-denominational African congregation in Ndola, one almost exclusively composed of second-generation Christians from Nyasaland (Malawi). He became the European sponsor and visiting advisor to this Union Church of the Copperbelt (UCCB), but did nothing to hamper its political or financial autonomy (Davis 1933:294-96, 369, 385). And when in 1936 the UCCB became the core and financially dominant member of Rev. Reginald ("Mike") Moore's all-Protestant United Missions in the Copperbelt, Cross resigned from Kafulafuta mission and moved to the United Missions' new headquarters at Mindolo, the future site of Kitwe's Mindolo Ecumenical Centre (Lambaland 37, 60 & 61 [Oct.1925, Jul. & Jan.1932}; Taylor & Lehmann 1961:33-43).

Fiwale Hill, Famine, and Rendall's Marketing Scheme

When the new Lamba-Lima Native Reserve was marked off in 1927-28, Chief Mushili lost 80% of his former area, and those Lamba who had lived near Ndola and Luanshya's urban produce markets - along with recent Lamba immigrants from Katanga - were "chased" south of the Kafubu River, just inside the Reserve's northern boundary. Kafulafuta's missionaries had always endorsed the government's attempts to induce Lambaland's scattered shifting cultivators to adopt more permanent settlements, and were delighted with their area's sudden population increase (Lambaland 6, 47, 50, 52, 61, 64, 66 [Jan.1918, Apr.198, Jan. & Jul.1929, Jan. & Oct.1932, Apr.1933]).

But the area with the highest population densities was 25 to 30 miles farther east, south of Ndola, near the railway siding markets and the Seventh Day Adventist (Congo Border) mission and its government-aided school at Musofu. So when Kafulafuta ceded its southern mission field to the Swedish Baptists at Mpongwe in 1931, and two of its missionaries were withdrawn, the remainder decided to counter the Seventh Day Adventists by building a new station at Fiwale Hill. The SABMS headquarters was moved there in 1935, and a 25 mile, east-west road connecting it to Kafulafuta was begun in 1939 (Lambaland 57, 64, 71, 73, 90 [Oct.1930 & 1932, Jul.1934, Jan.1935, Jan.1935, Apr. 1939]; NR n.d.a: Nos. 4/1938 & 3/1940).

Fiwale Hill and its road to Kafulafuta became a lifeline to the Lamba, for the unusually heavy 1939/40 rains ruined three-fourths of the sorghum crop in the overcrowded northern Reserve, and the 1940/41 famine followed. In response, Fiwale Hill opened a government-sponsored station to sell mealiemeal (Lambaland 96 & 98 [Jan. & Oct. 1941]; NR n.d.a: Nos. 3 & 6/1940). Then in 1942, in order "to contact the Watchtowers and Seventh Day Adventists, and to help the local Christians," Fiwale Hill's William Rendall began a government-lauded vegetable marketing scheme which brought significant amounts of cash into the very areas worst hit by the famine. Rendall continued his scheme years after his retirement, and it only ended in 1956, when the mine messes stopped issuing produce in kind to the mine workers.

The Lamba had long grown produce for the Copperbelt's urban markets. But bicycles were still scarce, and most gardeners had no easy way to get their citrus and irrigated, dry season vegetables - cabbages, tomatoes and onions, along with carrots and peas - to town. Rendall's initial, weekly truck service provided a total of £60-100 per month to some 150-200 gardeners (Lambaland 102-03, 109 [Jan. & Jul.1943, Jan. 1946]). By 1949, its 250 participants were served twice a week, and some made as much as £5 a month from the 35 tons in monthly sales to the Roan Antelope and Nchanga mine messes (NR n.d.a: No. 4/1949).

Church offerings also increased, and the number of Baptist members (i.e., baptized adults) rose from 234 to 555 from 1949 to 1952, and from 946 to 1209 between 1957 and 1962 (Randall 1970: 53). The leading vegetable growers were Fiwale Hill's own evangelist-teachers and, after 1950, its pastors' school students, who used Rendall's scheme to support their families. It was no accident, then, that many of the district's first government-sponsored peasant farmers were Lamba Baptists and pastors.

The Second Transfer and Institutional Change

Throughout the 1950s Kafulafuta basked in the reflected glory of the station at Fiwale Hill, and it often seemed the senior mission might be closed. But the previously town-based Franciscan Fathers were allowed to open a mission at Ibenga in 1936, and a combination of rivalry and sentiment kept Olive Doke stationed there - often as Kafulafuta's only European resident. Following independence in 1964, Zambia cut all ties to South Africa. The SABMS then withdrew, and turned the Lambaland Baptist Church over to the Australian Baptists, who committed themselves to leave the field by 1985. Olive Doke retired to a mine house in Luanshya, and was buried at Kafulafuta in 1972.

If "Christianity has demonstrated a remarkable ability to take on different cultural shadings in a local settings" (Hefner 1993:5), it should come as no surprise that the Lambaland Baptist Church would eventually address the customary religious issue of spirits and spirit possession. A Lamba Jehovah's Witness once offered me a Biblical proofs for the reality of witchcraft and evil spirits, and such proofs could not have escaped the attention of Lamba Baptists as will. Such beliefs, however, were not encouraged by the SABMS missionaries, whose society was earlier discomfited with the religious enthusiasm shown by Africans returning from study-tours to the American South (Batts 1923:144 ).

Clement Doke's (1931) ethnography offers a dispassionate discussion of customary spirit beliefs and practices. But William Skinner, a Kafulafuta missionary from 1927-30, explicitly associated such beliefs with primitivism, and asserted that, "A person, when soundly converted, gives up these superstitions" for "the final revelation of God as the Father in Jesus Christ" (Skinner n.d.). A Swedish pastor with Mpongwe's Scandinavian Baptist Church took a similar line in 1978, telling me that the Lamba were all too receptive to such ideas and that, so as not to encourage them, he deliberately avoided discussing such ideas when church members came to discuss their personal afflictions.

Yet the Australian Baptists whom I met in 1977-78 took a very different view, and firmly believed in the reality of Lamba spirits and spirit possession. And in 1968-soon after beginning their tenure with the Lambaland Baptist Church, and just prior to Archbishop Milingo's controversial healings in Lusaka (ter Haar & Ellis 1988)-a Pastor Duma from Durban began the first of four visits to instruct the local pastors and church elders in the casting out of evil spirits. Such affairs had always been domain of the Lamba seers (bamukamwami) and witch-finders (abalaye or shing'anga). But Pastor Duma taught the Lambaland Baptist pastors and elders their Christian authority over the very same spirits and, by so doing, made them the only local Christians - save for the post-1970 Shona immigrants' Apostles of John Maranke - to offer such a ministry. There were at least three pastors and elders doing this work in 1978, and they had abandoned public for private exorcism in order to protect others from wandering, cast-out spirits, to conserve their own spiritual energies and, it appeared, to protect the afflicted (usually women) from scandal or ridicule. One such elder chuckled, for example, when describing a recent case of possession by "a promiscuous spirit (umupashi wa buchende) from Zaire".

Concluding Remarks

Apart form its dispensary and printing press, the government's annual and tour reports on Ndola District invariably described Kafulafuta mission as unenergetic and ineffective. The missionaries often seemed to agree, though they usually attributed their lack of influence to Lamba character, and most successes to the cosmopolitan influences of the Copperbelt towns.

Yet I would argue that such evaluations are mistaken. The Baptist missionaries set relatively strict standards for their baptized members and, unlike the Roman Catholics, forbade them to smoke, drink, dance, or (polygynously) marry a dead brother's wife. But the fact that 39.7% of 174 Lamba villagers (111 men and 63 women) along the Luanshya-Mpongwe road in 1977-78 said that they "prayed at" the Baptist church (as compared with 28.2% claiming Jehovah's Witnesses, 12.6% Roman Catholic, 5.7% Seventh Day Adventist, 2.9% United Church of Zambia or New Apostolic Church, and 10.9% "none"). This suggests that the Baptists have a far larger following than actual members. By contrast, almost all of the cash-cropping and individual tenure Lamba farmers claim to be Baptists; the rest being Seventh Day Adventists.

The Nyasaland Industrial and South African Baptists came to spread the Gospel among the Lamba. They did, in fact, publish the New Testament in ciLamba in 1921, and the entire Bible in 1959, and this translation is used by all of the region's denominations but the ciBemba-speaking Roman Catholics. The Baptist schools, until 1950, offered a limited curriculum. But the skills they taught led to the diffusion of handsome mudbrick villages shaded by mango and citrus trees, and helped establish the Lamba market gardening industry which allowed many Lamba the enviable, if ultimately stigmatizing (Siegel 1989), freedom to earn their tax monies at home. Later, helped by Fiwale Hill's market scheme, this same industry helped the Lamba recover form the 1940/41 famine.

Finally, given its long-term reliance upon native evangelists, some of whom then graduated from Fiwale Hill pastors' school in the early 1950s, Kafulafuta created a local Christian community with its own, autonomous church. Kafulafuta was originally established to spread the Gospel and to establish a local Christian community. And if it is evaluated in terms of its original, particularistic and evangelical mission, it was an unqualified success.


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Last Revised: 12 April 1999