Buchanan Collection: 'Ndola Diary': UNIP Public Meeting & Demonstration, Ndola 1961

This film is held by the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum (ID: 2003/110/001).


Item 1: Footage of a UNIP (United National Independence Party, Northern Rhodesia) public meeting held in 1961 at Twapia Township, near Ndola on the Copperbelt. Speakers include party president Kenneth Kaunda. Item 2: short sequence of Federal Army (white soldiers) marching. Item 3: Footage of a UNIP demonstration at Ndola Airport in 1961. The placards relate to the visit of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and proposals to change the Constitution (referred to as the 'Mathematical Constitution' because of its guarantees for minorities).

Production / Donor Details: Mr Buchanan is a former member of the Northern Rhodesian Police Special Branch. The film was taken in the early 1961. He has also donated other items related to political events in Northern Rhodesia at the time.



February 1961 saw the announcement by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Iain Macleod, of a proposed new constitution for Northern Rhodesia. The proposal was the end result of the Federal Review that had opened in December 1960, and the conferences held during the same period, concerning constitutional reform for Northern and Southern Rhodesia (a new constitution for the other member state of the Central African Federation, Nyasaland, had already been agreed in mid-1960). Attended by African nationalist leaders from all three Federal States (Kenneth Kaunda and Joshua Nkomo of Northern and Southern Rhodesia respectively, and Hastings Banda of Nyasaland), the talks were the scene of a three-way political struggle between the British Government, the settler-led Federal Government and the African nationalist parties or representatives: the end result, in historical terms, was the escalation of a chain of events that doomed the Federation, and would quickly lead to full independence for Northern Rhodesia (1964) and Nyasaland (1963). The more entrenched and militant settler government of Southern Rhodesia would unilaterally declare independence from Britain in 1965.

The review and conferences were fraught, and marked by walk-outs, boycotts and intense behind-the-scenes activity as the African parties pressed the Government hard for reforms that would fully enfranchise Africans, while the Federalists, led by Northern Rhodesian Federal Prime Minister Sir Roy Welensky, lobbied with equal vehemence for delays, concessions and special exceptions toward preserving white rule and saving the Federation (see Mulford 1967, 178-84 for a detailed account). The final announcement on Northern Rhodesia’s constitution, issued by Macleod on the 20 February, declared a new constitution that guaranteed significantly improved African representation and enfranchisement, but nothing like full suffrage. The proposed voting system which would deliver the new Legislature and Executive Council would have baffled Byzantium – Hyam describes it as being of ‘incomprehensibly labyrinthine psephological complexity’ (Hyam, 2006, 285) – and led to the labelling of the proposal as the ‘Mathematical Constitution’.

Neither the Federal Government nor the nationalists lead by Kaunda were happy. Though the system was atrociously complicated, it did actually contain the possibility, albeit rather unlikely, that an African majority could be returned; the Federalists became restive, and Welensky rejected the plan with some sabre-rattling by mobilizing Federal troops in South Rhodesia. African nationalists also reacted strongly against the constitution, objecting to the implication that a transition to majority rule was still being indefinitely delayed and to its limited extension of suffrage (wealth and education-based criteria were used to divide the African vote into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ rolls, and only around 78,000 people were actually granted the vote: see Mulford op. cit.: 184-6). The ‘Mathematical Constitution’ having been roundly condemned, Macleod went back to the drawing board, and an amended proposal was announced in June 1961.

These proposals too were unacceptable: in fact they had been effectively altered in favour of the U.F.P. (United Federal Party), and made a white majority executive much more easily obtained at election. At a U.N.I.P. rally held at Kitwe a few days prior to Macleod’s announcement, Kaunda had already raised the possibility of a mass non-violent protest (a ‘master plan’) to bring North Rhodesia to a standstill (‘Remember…that we control the kitchens, the mines, the airways, the shops…’; Macpherson 1974: 335), and at the U.N.I.P. Annual Conference on 9 July in Mulungushi, a few days after Macleod’s announcement, the wheels of direct action were set in motion.

At Mulungushi, Kaunda gave an impassioned speech again stressing the need for non-violent protest, but making it clear that a new phase of struggle was imminent. Tensions had reached breaking point, and he was questioned by delegates on the policy of non-violence. Repeated shouts of ‘Cha-cha-cha’ – the name of a Cuban-inspired dance and also of a revolutionary song, ‘Cha Cha Cha Independence’, that had been the anthem of freedom in the Belgian Congo in 1960 (ibid.: 345; Sardanis 2003: 91) – were heard during his speech. Questioned about the meaning of ‘cha-cha-cha’, Kaunda replied that it indeed meant to dance: ‘Cha-cha-cha means real dancing. Europeans will take part along with Africans…Yes, even the Queen will dance Cha-cha-cha. Cha-cha-cha is for all’ (Macpherson op. cit.). It was to be a dance with and against the authorities, ‘the people of Zambia dancing the Chachacha and “shaking” the Colonial Government out of office’ (Sardanis op. cit.).

Disturbances began soon after the Mulungushi conference. The U.N.I.P. publication Voice of U.N.I.P. had implored its readership to wait for Kaunda’s ‘green light’ before launching into the widely publicised but still vague 5-stage ‘master plan’, but the U.N.I.P. leader was in Dar Es Salaam when major protest and sabotage broke out in the northern and Copperbelt areas. The demand for non-violence was largely obeyed and persons were not targeted, but identity and marriage certificates were burned, schools closed and burned down, and roads and bridges were sabotaged (ibid.: 349-51). The ‘Master Plan’, or ‘Cha-cha-cha rebellion’ had been spontaneously launched, and an ugly security crackdown came in its wake. By the end of the disturbances in early October, several dozen people were dead, villages had been razed by the security forces, and dozens of bridges destroyed. Most importantly though, Cha-cha-cha had brought Macleod back to the table – in mid-September, after talks with Kaunda in London, the British Government announced it was ready to receive further representations on the constitution.  



The Buchanan collection consists of a single film made by Mr. David Buchanan, a former member of the Northern Rhodesian Police Special Branch, for which he provides an explanatory voice-over. It contains three related items: the first and longest section shows a UNIP rally in Twapia township on the Copperbelt near Ndola, and includes footage of Kaunda addressing the crowd; there follows a brief section showing a unit of Federal soldiers on the march, and some shots of a car (accession materials identify the driver as Alec Ness, an Ndola area Police Special Branch Officer – Mr. Buchanan’s commentary notes that the Federal soldiers were not near the rally); finally there is detailed footage of a protest rally held at Ndola airport, most likely on arrival of Macleod’s successor, Reginald Maudling, for talks in December 1961 (though the commentary identifies the visiting colonial secretary as Macleod, a nearly illegible placard briefly visible at 5.24 appears to begin ‘Maudling Remember The People…’; given the fact that Cha-cha-cha signs are made by the crowd, it seems likely that this is late 1961, and the visit is being made by Maudling).

The events shown took place in the immediate aftermath of Cha-cha-cha, probably during the period October - December. Kaunda and U.N.I.P. had been banned from the Northern provinces during the disturbances, but it seems he was permitted to travel there from early October (Mulford op. cit.: 203). Maudling’s visit, probably that which is protested in the second sequence, took place in December 1961, as already noted. There is evidently a security presence at the rally shown in the first section of footage, and the microphone being held up to the speakers is for a police recording (all public political speeches were recorded as a matter of course, and as the commentary notes they would then be translated – any ‘seditious utterances’ would see the speakers prosecuted; see also Morris and Kaunda 1960: 57-60 and plate facing 16); Kaunda, with his distinctive swept up hair-style, can be seen from 3.46.

The several shots of waving hands circumstantially identify this footage as certainly post-dating Cha-cha-cha: Sardanis records that during the run up to the 1962 elections ‘the U.N.I.P. slogan was chisokone, which translates into “shake it”. It meant: shake Welensky, the Colonial Government, the status quo, whatever. The response to the slogan was to raise your right hand in the air and twist it around fast, to indicate turbulence’ (Sardanis op. cit.: 119). It is exactly this gesture, clearly related to the meaning of Cha-cha-cha, that the crowd in the film performs en masse, and Sardanis recounts too the dramatic effect seen here – ‘The shimmer of black and red from 100,000 hands waving chisokone was electrifying. It looked as if a bushfire was sweeping over the crowd’ (ibid.). The same gesture is performed for the camera by the demonstrators in the later section (see, for instance, at 5.36), dating this footage too to the second half of 1961. The commentary also identifies another hand gesture, signifying ‘burying the Federation’.

The footage is remarkable not only for what it shows, but for the position which it makes available for the viewer: this is the view of the security forces, surveying their prime opponents in the final struggle over the future of North Rhodesia. The film provides a privileged view from within the security apparatus of a colonial state. Moreover, it is the view from within a security apparatus on the back foot, having recently had to cope with a major outbreak of serious unrest, and standing accused of widespread outrages including beatings, torture, rape, arson and theft (see Macpherson op. cit.: 351-4; Mulford op. cit.: 201-7). In accordance with the cameraman’s identity and the circumstances recorded, we see a combination of shots: those which capture the events generally, sometimes panning to take in the whole scene, and those which focus on particular individuals – noticeably, the camera pays special attention to anyone in the crowd who is either standing or wearing distinctive clothing. Occasionally people are evidently asked to stand still for the camera. What is captured here is nothing less than the surveillance of a liberation movement by a colonial security force, bitter opponents who had recently tested each other in a ‘major crisis’ which could easily have escalated into something more: ‘the territory never brushed so close to armed rebellion as it had in August 1961’ writes Mulford (ibid.: 201-2).

In later sequences, we see that care is taken to capture the legends inscribed on the protesters placards, and this gives a very good idea of the situation on the ground, with banners emblazoned with slogans such as ‘TO HELL WITH THE MATHEMATICAL  CONSTITUTION’; ‘INDEPENDENCE IS OUR BIRTHRIGHT – NO COMPROMISE – STAGE 3 MASTER PLAN’; ‘KWACHA’ [‘dawn’, another slogan of the independence movement, and eventually the name of Zambia’s new currency] and perhaps most ominously for the visiting Maudling, ‘KAUNDA HOW LONG SHALL WE REMAIN NONE VIOLENT [sic]’  (visible very briefly – perhaps only a single frame – at 6.47).

Though the footage comes from a police source and is to that extent institutional in character, any judgement about it should perhaps not be extended to its author: included with the accession materials that Mr. Buchanan donated with the film were his membership cards for both UNIP and the North Rhodesian African National Congress.

Francis Gooding (March 2010)


Works Cited

Hyam, Ronald Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Kaunda, Kenneth and Morris, Colin Black Government? (Lusaka: United Society for Christian Literature, 1960)

Macpherson, Fergus Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia: The Times and The Man(Lusaka: Oxford University Press, 1974)

Mulford, David C. Zambia: The Politics of Independence 1957-1964(London: Oxford University Press, 1967)

Sardanis, Andrew Africa: Another Side of the Coin. Northern Rhodesia’s Final Years and Zambia’s Nationhood.  



  • Buchanan Collection: 'Ndola Diary': UNIP Public Meeting & Demonstration, Ndola 1961 (Archive)
Series Title:
Buchanan Collection

Technical Data

Running Time:
6minutes 44 secs
Film Gauge (Format):
VHS 8mm
approx 100 ft

Production Credits

Production Details
See synopsis