Thoughts are Free: Prison Experiences and reflections on
Law and Politics in General By Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
(Africa in Canada Press, Toronto, 1991), 390 Pages.
Reviewed in West Africa magazine.


BOOK REVIEW
 
Struggle Behind Bars: A Commentary On Mandela's A Prisoner
In The Garden (Penguin, 2005)
2005

Struggle Behind Bars: A Commentary On Mandela's A Prisoner In The Garden (Penguin, 2005)

(Submitted To Pride, December 2005)

Just when you think almost everything has been written about South Africa , something else startling comes along. I thought that after reading Nelson Mandela's LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, I need not read anything else about South Africa . Then came Walter and Albertina Sisulu's biography. Then another biography on Oliver Tambo came. Each added another layer and twist of our knowledge of that great country.

Now comes Nelson's prison archive entitled A PRISONER IN THE GARDEN (Penguin, 2005) about Mandela's experiences and writings while he was incarcerated. Mandela fought tough battles while in prison using the power of the pen and the archive contains some of his writings, musings, plans and struggles while in prison. Mandela was a walking archive while in prison.

Mandela fought disbarment from the practice of law from his prison cell. He advocated for the improvement in the treatment of fellow prisoners and for the well-being of his family and all others while in prison and using the power of the pen. The pen can be in the long term mightier than the sword.

Mandela has always insisted on the important role of education for individuals and the maintenance of records for posterity. He has just achieved by example the twin struggles for education and maintenance of archival records through this publication. The apartheid state failed to destroy Mandela's prison record.

This record is part of the Mandela Memory Project intended for posterity. It is a very good holiday read. It is so empowering. I present to you, Mandela's A PRISONER IN THE GARDEN.

 

 

   
 
Thoughts are Free
Toronto, 1991

Books and Publications- When Thoughts Are Not Free

Thoughts are Free: Prison Experiences and reflections on Law and Politics in General Bye Munyonzwe Hamalengwa (Africa in Canada Press, Toronto, 1991), 390 Pages. Reviewed in West Africa magazine.

"I SHALL SWIM, crawl, hike, ride, fly, and walk to get an education", so (un)solemnly declared Munyonzwe Hamalengwa in 1976. The venue was a dingy cell at Mumbwa Detention Prison where he and other student leaders were being held following demonstrations against the Zambian government's handling of issues related to Angola's independence.

Thoughts are Free is principally inspired by prison experiences but at a more global level, it is a touching account of a young man's for purposeful education and enduring freedom.

When I met Hamalengwa at York University in Toronto in 1978, he instantly struck me as a young man who had traveled life's road in an assortment of carriages. Though barely 23, he demonstrated an amazing maturity, intellectual power, and political wisdom. He was already versed in political organization, and possessed that genuine warmth and geniality that made him so easy to work with. Naturally , we became close friends and comrades. Thus, in a way, I was witness to some of the experiences and events narrated in Thoughts are Free.

The book is is an unorthodox potpourri of autobiographical anecdotes, political thoughts, pamphleteering, Black nationalism, and poetry. But running through this disparate inventory is a relentlessly positive spirit always eloquent in Defence of justice and human freedom.

But far more engaging portion of Thoughts are Free are the first seven chapters which Hamalengwa's ordeal in a Zambian prison, and his escape to Tanzania. At the very beginning the author takes us through the horrors of his arrest along with other student leaders right on the University of Zambia campus, and their, long blindfolded journey to Mumbwa Prison, a famous incarceration centre for political dissidents since the colonial days.

in prison, reduced to a state in which they had to "eat, shit, and pee' in windless little cubicles, the author and his comrades cheated the listlessness and boredom of detention by playing games, reading, and debating.

For Hamalengwa it was also a time for reflection on the corruption, injustice, abuse of power, and the one-party constitutional tyranny in Zambia and other parts of Africa. In particular, his mind concentrated on the evil regime in South Africa, and he never ceased wondering why the West has always found it convenient to ally with enemies of Black people. The West, Hamalengwa insists, has inflicted deep wounds on Africa, and “what keeps the wound healing is that (it) has never collectively and openly acknowledged the wrong done to Africa and Africans… (P.18).

Prison life was dreary and choking, but occasional whiffs of fresh air came in through letters from outside. Thus, like Antonio Gramsci, the famous Italian anti-fascist activist, and the legendary Nelson Mandela, Hamalengwa found correspondence a significant lifeline. However, not all these letters are soul lifting. There was one, for instance, which carried the painful news of the detainee’s girl friends break of faith. But there were other letters which made the pain of seclusion a little easier to bear, for example, the letter of July 5, 1976 written in the author’s mother tongue by his father, expressing comradeship, solidarity, loyalty from fellow students outside the prison walls.

Thoughts Are Free offers a useful peep into Zambian student unionism in the 70s. The student releases reproduced in this book manifest significant revolutionary fervor and combative patriotism, even if tinged here and there with different tendencies of idealism. While demonstrating support for their imprisoned colleagues, the students never lost sight of progressive lecturers, both African and foreign, who were also herded into detention. Nor, they spare those careerist, opportunistic dons who made academic freedom and social progress impossible.

Hamalengwa and others were released after six months in prison, and reinstated into the University. However, he and two others were expelled a few weeks later for showing no signs that they had “reformed”. He sneaked out into Tanzania, (then the haven of radical thought and politics in Africa). Enjoyed the marvelous hospitality of Tanzanian students, before leaving for York University, Toronto on a World University Service Scholarship.

Thus Canada became Hamalengwa’s next theatre of political and intellectual action. In pursuance of that Mumbwa Prison declaration, he earned a BA and MA in quick succession, spent some time on the PhD before finally going on to earn a degree in Law. At the extracurricular level. He initiated moves to unite the university’s Third World Group, which before then was plagued by divisiveness and pettiness. Much later, he joined two other Africans to found the Forum for African Students in Toronto (Fast), which became a vibrant platform for political and intellectual activism.

But the highpoint of Hamalengwa’s achievement was the instrumentality in the award of and honorary doctorate degree to Nelson Mandela (then in Apartheid prison) by York University – the first Canadian university to perform that significant act.

For Hamalengwa Canada remains a grand paradox. She has enabled the fulfillment of a laudable educational dream, but now stands in the way of a decent job. A sizeable portion of this book is devoted to the problems of racism in Canada, her “exclusivist” immigration policy, her marginalization of Blacks, native Canadians, and other minorities. But some space is also reserved for Canada’s positive aspects.

Aesthetically, Thoughts Are Free is gross in parts; it contains many pieces that should have been put away for another book. But Hamalengwa deserves credit for the meticulousness with which he has preserved many of the documents reproduced in this book over 15 troublesome years.

Even more remarkable are his warm and spontaneous generosity, his sense of gratitude to friends and benefactors, and above all, his fearless engagement with the world.

By Prof. Niyi Osundare



 
 
Thoughts are Free
Toronto, 1991

Book Review of Thoughts are Free: Prison Experiences and reflections on Law and Politics in General By Munyonzwe Hamalengwa (Africa in Canada Press, Toronto, 1991), 390 Pages. in HAKI Kenyan Human Rights Publication, August/ September 1991. Reviewed in Nairobi Law Monthly (Kenya).

On Saturday June 23, 1991 members of Toronto's African Community gathered at the African Training and Employment Centre to witness an important cultural event.

The occasion was the official launching of the book, Thoughts Are Free by Munyonzwe Hamalengwa. Among the people who spoke at the event was the the well known activist, Lennox Farrel and professor Julius Ihonbvere of the university of Toronto.

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is a Toronto based Barrister and Solicitor specializing in criminal and Immigration Law. Since October 1977 he has been living in Canada. That was where he came after leaving the land of his birth in Zambia. In Toronto, Munyonzwe has earned himself a name as an activist on issues of African and World liberation. He was one of the founders of the Forum for African Students (FAST) as well as the Nelson Mandela Law Society.

The book details Munyonzwe's experiences as a student leader forced to flee for his own safety to Tanzania because of the militant Zambian students' Opposition to the policies of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.

Other Chapters in the book deal with his arrest, detention, his flight abroad, life in North America and reflections on Nelson Mandela. There is a separate chapter on the crime of apartheid and the author's many attempts to convince the Canadian government to prosecute apartheid war criminals.

Chapter 17 is devoted to Gitobu Imanyara of Kenya. Munyonzwe quotes extensively from Imanyara's press statements, editorials and speeches. This chapter is a tribute from one human rights activist to another.

Thoughts Are Free is a book which would make an interesting addition to the libraries of all those who struggle for justice all over the world.

By Kiraitu Murungi

 

   
 
CLASS STRUGGLES IN ZAMBIA AND THE FALL OF KENNETH KAUNDA
1993

CLASS STRUGGLES IN ZAMBIA AND THE FALL OF KENNETH KAUNDA.

A Book review published in the International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 26, 2 (1993), by Mac Dixon-Fyle.

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa's study sets in some perspective the urban and industrial discontent that ultimately led to the defeat of the Kenneth Kaunda government in Zambia 1991. This seeming triumph of labor over the state bourgeoisie would not, however, signal the engagement of revolutionary socialist ideas. Rather , it won for capitalism a new lease life, free of the trammels of an inefficient parastatalism , and the self-serving humanist rhetoric of an acquisitive political elite.

Frederick Chiluba's stunning landslide victory of 1991 is presented as the culmination of an intense struggle between competing classes, with the holders of political power resorting in desperation to chicanery and the repression of the local trade union movement, after efforts to incorporate the latter into the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) had failed dismally. Hardly economistic in their orientation and purpose, the author argues, Zambian trade unions took to the political trails in the 1970's in a single-minded crusade against official corruption, wanton embourgeoisement, and the scarcely veiled indifference of the government to the worker's plight.

Hamalengwa is at his best when he supplements the records in document through well-selected informants official frustration- the difficulties of reigning the intractable leadership of the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), futility of an Industrial Relations Act that frails to curb strike action, worker reject of Work Councils assembled ostensibly to promote dialogue between employer and employees, and the ruling party’s inability to weaken trade unions when contrived to make them mass organizations, open to all.

The book unfortunately also has its moments of irritation. The Power message of struggle is many a time lost in indelicate phrasing and poor spelling.

The reader encounters such sentence as: “There is a blind eye to the historical lessons Zambia can learn from experiences of other countries” (p. 155); “the developments give rise to new military coups and hence to square one” (p 15)

“ It is also possible that the state has not totally desired much as it has attempted take over the labor movement like Tanzania…” (p.130) These sections are frustrating read, and they leave impressions that good ideas being slain rather indifferent proofreading.

The title of the book also makes confusion as it leads the reader expect some analysis of the wider circumstance surrounding Kauda’s fall. The matter is, However, handled summarily in a few pages at the end. This book was written for the most in 1986-1987, is about class struggles. The author should be complimented for attempting an update to incorporate the Chiluba victory. But the account of that interesting episode is only hinted at this ambitiously titled study.

Hamalengwa’s review of the political struggles between the State and labor movement convincingly rejects the labor aristocracy thesis for Zambia from the 1970s onwards. Workers and their leaders were political activists long before the formation of the MMD, and at great personal risk. The story of Chiluba’s Success in adeptly walking the tightrope of involvements with the government and the party on the one hand, and commitment to the cause of the workers, on the other, is yet to be told. International support, as well as goodwill in the rural areas (those abiding pre-capitalist bastions of the force of skepticism and independence may well have been crucial factors deserving attention. That Chiluba and his closest lieutenants avoided incarceration for as they did is itself an index of the fragility of State power, and the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the trade union leadership. It is a measure of UNIP’s myopia and operational poverty that the Kaunda government sought to combat this challenge principally by wishing it away on a tide of state-sponsored terror and institutional manipulation.

The MMD’s electoral success places it firmly at that historic conjuncture of twin loyalties- at once to a labor movement to which it owes its victory and will long be indebted. But also to a largely dependent capitalist system. Labor’s bête noire. The coming years will see Chiluba’s survival instincts being sorely tested, and perceptive observers like Hamalengwa should have a lot to say before long.

Mac Dixon-Fyle

DePauw University

 

   
 
CLASS STRUGGLES IN ZAMBIA AND THE FALL OF KENNETH KAUNDA
1990-1991

Class Struggles in Zambia, 1889-1989, and the Fall of Kenneth Kaunda, 1990-1991.
By Munyonzwe Hamalengwa. Langham, Md. : University Press of America, 1992. pp.ISBN 0-8191-8791-8741-0, $37.50

As indicated in the first part of this book’s title, Hamalengwa seeks to outline workers’ struggles in Zambia in the past 100 years. His major conclusion is that workers and their unions, through class struggles, have made positive contributions to the survival of a fragile democracy in Zambia. He also points out that Zambian labor movement, led by the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Mine Workers’ Union (MUZ), has remained relatively autonomous even under a one-party state. By thus drawing attention to a feature of Zambia’s industrial relations that contrasts with the general African trend, Hamalengwa reminds industrial relations researchers about the need to pay attention to specific situations and the limitations of broad generalizations.

On theories of industrial relations, Hamalengwa points out the drawbacks inherent in the major schools of thought- the labor aristocracy and the Marxist/radical perspectives. He advocates a closer scrutiny of the actual contexts in which unions operate and their internal dynamics. Thus, he emphasizes the value of empirical studies in industrial relations theory building.

In this book, however with few exceptions, Hamalengwa himself does not explicitly and consistently base his conclusions on complete and well-documented evidence. Only in Chapter 7 does Hamalengwa present adequate documentation and discussion of issues such as state-union relations from 1976 to 1989, the politically sensitive roles of unions in Zambia, and how ZCTU and its affiliates checked the excesses of the single party.

This study might have explain the unique characteristics of Zambia’s industrial relations, answering such questions as why (according to the author) no union has been liquidated by statutory authority of Presidential decree (p 116); why the Kaunda administration, under a one-party system, did not fully co-opt the unions or coerce them into joining with the party; and why the independence of the judiciary made it feasible for the Zambian High Court to declare unconstitutional the detention of union leaders. It is regrettable that Hamalengwa provides only hints in support of his major assertion that Zambian unions played an important role in preserving democracy in the country. The reader only glimpses the adult education programs of the unions, workers’ protests against a high cost of living (especially the high price of corn meal), and labor leaders’ pronouncements on the responsibilities of the government. This subject is one on which advocate of workers’ rights need to focus research. The literature is almost silent on the positive social roles of unions. Elaborating on the services unions can do render to society at large could go a long way to increase the perceived legitimacy of unions, especially in Africa and the rest of the Third World.

Also superficially treated in the history of unions and, more specifically, how and why colonialism gave birth to working classes and their struggles in the Zambian context. Readers of this book who are unfamiliar with the literature will not appreciate the extent to which contemporary Zambian industrial relations was shaped by colonialism. To take but one example, post-colonial constraints such as the country’s precarious dependence on copper exports and its massive imports of basic needs are only mentioned briefly. With inadequate analysis of their repercussions on workers’ struggles and their relations with the state in post independence Zambia.

The value of this book lies in the pertinent issues it raise but does not address fully. A better-documented, more empirically based treatment of several of these issues would be a more illuminating additional to the literature.

Kwamina Panford

Assistant Professor

African Studies

Northeastern University, Boston

Book Review: Watt, D., & Fuerst, M. (1989). Tremeear's
Criminal Code. Toronto: Carswell. 1368 pages.

 

   
 
Review by Munzonzwe Hamalengwa, articling student, Ruby & Edwardh

Review by Munzonzwe Hamalengwa, articling student, Ruby & Edwardh, Toronto.

Practitioners of criminal law now have a choice as to which annotated Criminal Code they may take to the courtroom. Until now, there was no question that judges, prosecuting attorneys and defence counsel would take Martin's Criminal Code to the courtroom. Even though the annotations were sometimes long and cases were inserted in the middle or at the end of the annotation, (thus creating the possibility of missing a case), Martin's was attractively printed in bold letters.

Now there is a new kid on the block, in the form of the new 1990 Tremeear's Criminal Code by Mr. Justice Watt and Ms. Michelle Fuerst. The old format of Tremeear's provided a useful research tool, but it was too long-winded and the print was too small. Moreover, it was organized in parts and volumes, which made it inconvenient to consult.

The new format of Tremeear's is very well organized in one volume, and it includes after each section a short explanation of the principle of the section. (Martin's Criminal Code does not state the principles of the sections). There then follow the most important cases in which the section finds interpretation. Another difference from Martin's Criminal Code is that the cases are cited first and then followed by one to several sentences of annotation. If the section contains various elements of an offence, these elements are separately annotated. In addition, if the annotated section has related provisions within the Code, these are also mentioned at the end of the annotation. This makes it easier to obtain a complete picture of the issues that may be involved by reading one particular section.

One of the most important and indeed now indispensable features of the new Tremeear's Criminal Code, and another difference from Martin's Criminal Code, is the annotation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both the landmark Charter cases bearing on criminal law and the interpretation of Charter guarantees are annotated under the relevant section. A lawyer therefore now needs only one book to take to court. The annotation of the Charter in Tremeear's may now mean Martin's Criminal Code has to include this feature or risk the prospect of being consigned to the library rather than to the courtroom in the next several years.

But the threat won't be very serious until the price of Tremeear's is cut. Right now it is too high compared to Martin's.

 

 
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