WUS Zambia’s work with refugees during wars of liberation, 1987 to 1992

The establishment of WUS Zambia

The WUS Zambia Chapter was established at the University of Zambia soon after the university was opened in 1965. WUS Zambia operated at the campus of the University of Zambia until 1980 when a new committee led by Dr. Caleb Fundanga as President was elected to office. The immediate task of this committee was to re-establish credentials and firmer relationships with the WUS global fraternity. The administrative office of WUS was also relocated from the university to down town Lusaka to give the organisation a broader outreach and appeal. For the first time, the WUS committee included nonacademic members who were passionate about the objectives and ideals of the organisation.

Dr. Fundanga stepped down as President of WUS Zambia upon his election to the position of President, WUS International in 1987 at the Congress held in New Delhi, India. I succeeded Caleb Fundanga as President of WUS Zambia and served in that position till 1992.

Internationally participation

During this period, WUS Zambia was an active member of the WUS world fraternity and participated in the domestic and global issues of the organisation. WUS Zambia was proud to have nominated Caleb Fundanga to the high position of President of WUS International. Another leading position held by another member of WUS Zambia was Ngande Mwanajiti who worked in the WUS International secretariat in Geneva. WUS Zambia enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with WUS Germany, particularly during the 1980s until 1990.

WUS Zambia’s most active years were during the 1970s and 1980s supporting refugees and displaced people during the liberation wars in Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

Political instability

The 1980s in central southern Africa were marked by political instability with the intensification of nationalist struggles against colonialism and racism. The liberation struggles in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa witnessed an influx of people fleeing the wars and freedom fighters who sought bases in neighbouring countries.

Zambia, by its geographical location, was at the centre of the liberation struggles of the neighbouring countries and hosted large numbers of refugees and nationalist movements.

The scholarship program of WUS Zambia

Among the refugees and cadres of liberation movements who came to Zambia during this period were youth whose normal education had been disturbed by displacement and the racial policies of their governments. WUS Zambia was overwhelmed with applications by these young men and women in refugee camps who desired to continue their education in Zambian schools and abroad.

International support

In collaboration with WUS International and WUS chapters elsewhere in the world, including WUS Germany, WUS Zambia established a scholarship program to assist with the continuation of the disrupted education of these refugees and displaced youth. The program was also supported directly by governments and some donor agencies that were sympathetic to the cause of liberation and democracy in Southern Africa. However, by mid-1980s Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe had gained independence, so that the bursary and scholarship programs were targeted to South African and Namibian refugees. WUS Zambia collaborated with the ANC of South Africa and SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) of Namibia in the selection and placement of eligible students.

Local Support

At the peak of the South African and Namibian (SAN) program, there were over 150 students supported by WUS Zambia with scholarships and bursaries. Most of the students were placed in Zambian schools and colleges, including the University of Zambia. A few students were supported with external scholarships for tenure at overseas universities and colleges. The SAN scholarship program was discontinued in 1991 with the attainment of independence in Namibia in 1990 and with the release of Nelson Mandela and others from jail and the legalisation of the liberation movements in South Africa.

Manpower development

As part of the worldwide WUS network, WUS Zambia contributed, in a small but strategic way, to the development of manpower, particularly for South Africa and Namibia. Some of the people that passed through WUS Zambia now hold high positions in the public service and in commerce and industry in south Africa and Namibia. At present, for example, Dr. Caleb Fundanga, Governor of the Bank of Zambia, plays a leading role in shaping the economic future of our country. No doubt, he and others are contributing to the social and economic development agendas of their respective countries!

Author profile
James Matale

James Matale was President of WUS Zambia from 1987 to 1991. He was active in the South African and Namibian scholarship programme. The programme placed several young South African and Namibian refugees in Zambian and overseas colleges and universities. James Matale started his career with the government and the Development Bank of Zambia. He later joined the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Ltd. and became Deputy Director responsible for non-copper mining operations. Between 1992 and 1994 he was director of the Zambia Privatisation Agency. James Matale holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Zambia and an MBA from the Institute for International Management Development, now of Lausanne, Switzerland. At present, he works as a consultant in Lusaka on issues of investment, institutional reform, privatisation, project planning and analysis.