Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 15 November 2018

At the Crossroads: Mining and Political Change on the Katangese-Zambian Copperbelt

Abstract and Keywords

The Copperbelt region of Central Africa sits at the crossroads of political borders, trade corridors, migratory flows, and identity formations. The division of the region by a colonial/national border shaped not only its differential political economy, but also how this was perceived and represented. At the heart of all such representations was the relationship between minerals and their supposed capacity to effect economic, political, and social transformation. This article analyzes how this relationship has been understood and articulated from the precolonial period until today, and the ways that actual and potential mineral wealth have underwritten successive, often contested, political projects and aspirations. In identifying changes and enduring patterns in mining-based political representation, it suggests an alternative history of the Copperbelt region rooted in the political imaginaries surrounding mining and its potential for transformation.

Keywords: mining, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, political change, identity, borders


Mineral wealth is closely linked to political change in Africa today. It underwrites visions of transformative development, the raising of living standards, and the modernization of economies and societies. However, mining is also seen as central to the “resource curse,” undermining more sustainable economic development, reducing the accountability of political elites to electorates, damaging the environment, and creating societal conflict.1

These are not new concerns. The relationship between mineral extraction and the societies and states in which it takes place has long been a central issue in parts of Africa. Mining enabled some precolonial African societies to engage with the global economy, accumulate wealth, and expand control over territory and subject peoples. Mineral resources provided a primary motivation for colonial exploration and capitalist exploitation of the continent. Nationalist visions of postcolonial modernization rested on plans to exploit mineral resources for developmental purposes. States clashed with sections of their population with competing visions for using that wealth—in extreme cases fueling secessionism and civil war. More positively however, minerals have generated higher living standards and new urban communities with distinct cultural identities.

This potential for differing outcomes is often lost in political discourses concerning mining booms or slumps. On the one hand, at times of high mineral prices, African states and economic advisers optimistically stress the need to use mineral revenue for diversification, without learning from the continent’s historical failure to do precisely that. On the other hand, dire warnings about the “resource curse,” or “Dutch disease,” not only homogenize the continent’s varied experiences, but also tend to a fatalistic pessimism. The continent’s experience of mineral production and its sociopolitical consequences is not only diverse, but has been shaped also by the ideas and attitudes of Africans toward mineral wealth in ways that have commonly been neglected or taken for granted by analysts. We may better understand today’s debates over African minerals by examining the ways in which Africans have historically considered the relationship of minerals, societal development, and political change, and the circumstances in which different outcomes have resulted from the exploitation of similar mineral possessions.

In examining the Copperbelt of Central Africa in historical and comparative perspective, this article seeks to shed new light on the relationship between minerals and the development of African nation-states, societies, and ideas. It analyzes both the commonalities and the differences between the bordering copper-mining regions of Congo and Zambia, examining how their development has shaped political ideas, consciousness, and change. But this was also a single region, officially divided by a colonial/postcolonial border, across which flowed minerals and peoples as well as ideas regarding ways to organize the relationship between the former and the latter.

The relationship between mineral extraction and societal and political development is neither a linear nor direct one: the political economy of mining creates the circumstances in which the political culture of mining communities develops, but this process also involves a complex process of imagination, drawing not only on “modern” notions, such as nation-building and developmentalism, but also on more enduring themes, such as the construction of societal identities and the relationship between peoples and the land from which minerals are extracted—notions and narratives that have been deployed, consciously or unconsciously, to construct and articulate the demands that particular communities, nation-states, or social movements have made in relation to the wealth generated by mining. This relationship is further complicated, in this case by the intervention of academic analysts, who have shaped in significant ways the perception of these two regions, both among Western and African observers. Social scientists, it is well established, were by no means neutral observers of African societal development in the twentieth century—their work reflected both the dominant ways in which “Africa” was constructed in Western societies and the central role it played in shaping that construction.2 But the ideas and findings of anthropologists and sociologists were themselves decisively shaped by the ideas and initiatives of their indigenous interlocutors, African men and women who themselves had strong ideas of how their societies should be characterized, but who existed, almost by definition, in a liminal space between those societies and their Western employers.3 African actors also sought to shape the representations of their societies, understanding the political stakes that often flowed from supposedly disinterested intellectual observation. The resultant understanding of the two Copperbelts is the result of a long interaction, in which dances of determination took place between Western observers and African participants. These created enduring and politically influential ideas of Copperbelt society that owe only a tangential relationship to the realities of mineral extraction, filtered as they were through multiple layers of seeing and imagining laid down over nearly a century of urban life in Central Africa.

The “crossroads” of the title are therefore manifold: the region marks an important crossroads between two distinct colonial and postcolonial political projects; between parallel intellectual imaginations of urban space and development; and between fiercely contested and dynamic notions of African progress and modernity, funded and fueled by the profits and wider social benefits supposedly provided by mining.

Mining and Precolonial Societies

The “Copperbelt” of Central Africa has been mined for hundreds of years by African societies; indeed, it provided an important basis for the rise of major centralized societies, most notably the Luba and Lunda kingdoms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which exported copper ingots (along with other commodities) via African and Portuguese traders to the Atlantic coast.4 Mineral exports enabled the import of technology and knowledge, which raised population density, expanded land under harvest, and strengthened central state capacity to enslave subject peoples and extract tribute from areas such as the zone to the south and east of the core Lunda kingdom where copper was mined. The Luba state exported iron, salt, and copper (the last of these in the form of crosses or bars); such commodities served as the basis for the regional trading system. Lunda rulers controlled the mines but utilized subject peoples to provide unfree mine labor; this important distinction between “owners” and “workers” shaped the relationship between these societies and mineral-based wealth. Lunda rulers sought—like all subsequent rulers—to accrue benefit from this trade by the imposition of taxes, raising revenue that was used, like state revenue today, for patrimonial purposes.

Copper mining was not carried out on this scale in what is today the Zambian Copperbelt. Whereas in Katanga prominent outcrops provided significant copper ore, to the south copper sulphide ores lay deeper underground and could not be mined effectively without industrial technology.5 The Lamba, who inhabited what became the border region and who in the late eighteenth century engaged in copper and ivory trading with their Lunda neighbors, were the primary victims of the regional conflicts of the nineteenth century.6 This led to a vital difference in the way that copper mining is imagined in the two regions, an imagination that shaped their respective political trajectories: whereas in Zambia copper is largely associated with externally imposed industrial-scale mining and migrant labor, in Katanga there is a historical memory of indigenous precolonial mining.

Colonization and Mining

Mineral wealth, both known and imagined, was a primary impetus for the European “scramble” for Africa. The scramble was partly shaped by competing colonial projects to secure mineral-rich areas: indeed, the peculiar border between today’s Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was defined by competition between Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company and the agents of the Belgian king Leopold II. Mineral wealth had an almost magical quality for many colonial-era observers: like alchemists who sought to turn base metals into gold, Western actors, including mining companies, colonial and postcolonial states, labor unions, and academic researchers, saw mining regions as places where “bush” was turned into modern industry; where rural societies (static, superstitious, and backward places) were transformed into urban (rational, dynamic, forward-looking) ones; where tribalism was displaced by cosmopolitanism; where superstition was replaced by enlightened Christianity; where rural migrant labor was upgraded to stable working-class respectability; and where extended kinship supplanted was by domesticated nuclear families, the raw material for capitalist modernization. Some missionaries and anthropologists, however, attacked the forcible recruitment of labor, the undermining of “traditional” African society by male migration, and the introduction of cash-based consumerism, all of which sowed divisions in supposedly communitarian African societies.7

Both perspectives neglected the capacity of Africans—some with a precolonial history of mining or of trading mined commodities—to challenge and shape the power of colonially connected mining capital. Turning deposits of gold, copper, or diamonds into profit meant altering the legal ownership and the cultural meaning of land and converting “Africans” into “workers.” As Frederiksen has documented, colonial-era mining developments, on the Copperbelt and more generally, were understood as “scientific” projects involving the production of knowledge and its imposition on the African landscape.8 All such processes required economic, political, and cultural investment, each of which had to be negotiated and each of which was contested in unpredictable ways that ultimately shaped its outcome.

The outcome of such processes in different parts of Africa was also shaped by the geology and specific form of minerals. Whereas diamonds and gold could initially be extracted with relatively low-level technology, copper (and later cobalt) mining in Central Africa required large-scale industrial plant for refining and railways to transport the finished product to global markets. Mining companies not only administered mines; they also housed their workers and provided social and reproductive services in new spaces declared independent of either indigenous authority or the colonial state. Secondary industry (more so in the case of Katanga than the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt) and a wider urban population grew up around the mines, creating unintended and largely uncontrolled forms of African society. Because of its industrial scale, Copperbelt mining was dominated by large, multinational, but colonially connected companies: Rhodesian Selection Trust (RST), the Anglo-American Corporation, and (in the Congo) Union Minière du Haut-Katanga. These companies were themselves linked across the colonial border by their overlapping capital composition, shared infrastructure, and labor practices, although their specific interaction with particular colonial regimes and African societies also led to different approaches to the organization of labor and the new social spaces created by the mines.

Migration and Stabilization, Indigenes, and Strangers

A central role in the creation and imagination of the Copperbelt was played by those who migrated to labor in the new mines. Northern Rhodesian mines attracted artisanal “European” mineworkers, many of whom brought with them from Britain, the United States, and the “white” Commonwealth countries an internationalist left-wing but racialized artisan perspective.9 A similar population grew up on the Katangese mines, but, following the breaking of their 1919 strike by combined company and state action, many anglophone mineworkers departed Katanga, accelerating the Africanization of its skilled labor. The remaining European workforce, smaller in number and lacking the political influence acquired by the Rhodesian settler population, was less able to entrench its position as a racialized labor aristocracy.

The majority of workers came from African societies, but not usually those close to mining activities. Indigenous inhabitants responded to the imposition of colonial taxes and the presence of the mines by increasing agricultural outputs, selling foodstuffs, and thereby avoiding direct employment. Ironically, this enterprising activity led to their being stereotyped as lazy people unsuited to modern life, as Siegel explains for the Lamba.10 Northern Rhodesian mining companies, partly inspired by practices on the South African Witwatersrand, organized what resembled a migrant labor system, although it lacked the effectiveness of control and surveillance practiced on the Rand. The agricultural poverty of Bemba-speaking areas of northern Northern Rhodesia meant that these became an early labour-sending area, first across the weak colonial boundary to the mines of Haut Katanga, and later to the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt. With the hardening of colonial borders and the opening of a railway linking Katanga to Port Francqui in 1936, a new group of Kasai Baluba migrants flocked to work in the Katangese mines. New cosmopolitan urban African communities established themselves on both sides of the Copperbelt border. However, differences emerged between each territory’s legal regime of urban residence: while Northern Rhodesia’s mineworkers remained, officially at least, temporary migrant workers with no right of residence, Union Minière’s “stabilization” of African mineworkers (and their families) in Katangese mining towns from the 1920s, and their promotion to more skilled positions, reflected its more paternalistic, interventionist approach, which would shape the political identity of its African mineworkers relative to their Rhodesian counterparts.

African mineworkers on both sides of the border have been the subject of many claims by analysts seeking to make sense of their new identities in terms defined by Western notions of an industrial working class and its imagined political role in a “modern” urbanized society. Mineworkers certainly acquired what Higginson neatly describes as “an indigenous, homespun labor theory of value”—and the Northern Rhodesia variant of this drew particularly on the socialistic ideas of European mineworkers.11 However, this did not mean breaking from social, economic, and cultural ties to rural areas of origin, which were themselves altered by the dynamic flows of “migrants,” remittances, and ideas between town and country that persisted throughout the period under study, while taking different forms in different periods. Nor was the wider industrialization of the region ever fully realized: although significant secondary industry did develop in Haut Katanga, both regions remained essentially subordinate to the more fully industrialized South African and Southern Rhodesia and to the wider global economy in which they were integrated as suppliers of increasingly strategic raw materials. However, both Copperbelts did develop a large population of women and men—some with kinship ties to the formally employed—engaged in economic activities both symbiotic with and parasitic on the mine economy—charcoal burning, growing food (illegally) on mine-owned land, beer brewing, and so on. This was an essential but still neglected element of their actually existing modernization.

Production during World War II and the postwar economic boom ensured steadily growing demand for copper from Central Africa. Northern Rhodesian production reached 268,551 tons by 1941, with an African workforce of 26,023—a similar number worked in Union Minière’s mines.12 Bemba political leadership became prominent in Northern Rhodesian mining towns, with an urbanized version of the ciBemba language becoming a lingua franca. The Lamba were restricted in the 1920s to the Lamba-Lima Reserve, and they had their agricultural entrepreneurialism undermined as a result; the notion that they were ill-suited to modernity took hold among migrant communities themselves.13 Bemba-speaking mineworkers would play a leading role in union organization and in the emergence of Zambian nationalism in the 1950s. Katangese mines experienced an ostensibly similar dynamic: Kasai-Baluba mineworkers were stereotyped, like the Bemba, as culturally receptive to “modern” wage labor by modernizing state officials and, in particular, Catholic missionaries, who (unlike in Northern Rhodesia) were central to the Belgian colonial project. They were not, however, to play such a central role in Katangese political life, for reasons explained below.

Knowledge Production in the New Copperbelts

The mid-1940s saw, as elsewhere in colonial Africa and the Caribbean, a significant wave of labor unrest fueled by wartime inflation and the wider context of global political upheaval; African mineworkers struck on the Copperbelt (1940) and Katanga (1941). In the postwar period, Belgian and British authorities legislated to improve pay and conditions in the hope of dampening labor militancy, which might fuel demands for decolonization. As Rubbers and Poncelet explain, Belgium instituted a host of labor reforms: minimum wage regulations were introduced in 1946, trade unions legalized in 1946, and compensation for industrial accidents and workplace inspection followed three years later, with family allowances following in 1951, paid vacations in 1954, and an eight-hour day in 1957.14 Similar changes followed in the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, but commonly only after industrial action and against the wishes of the mine companies; in particular, Anglo American continued to display South African attitudes toward racial segregation and urban settlement. The two imperial powers took different directions in managing labor dissent: corporatist industrial councils in Katanga seem to have successfully channeled militancy, while the postwar Labour government in Britain introduced trade unions, with British Trade Union Council officials sent to Northern Rhodesia to establish African unions that would manage both reforms and expectations. The Northern Rhodesian African Mineworkers’ Union (AMWU), formed in 1949, took its cue as much from the militant European union, which had successfully extracted high living standards and a protectionist color bar for its members. In the 1950s, AMWU made demands for improvements of wages and conditions, backed by disciplined and generally successful industrial action. The different paths taken to modernization on each side of the border led Katangese mineworkers to take a more conservative approach to advancement than their Northern Rhodesian counterparts, who had to overcome more entrenched segregationist company policies and a color bar fiercely defended by white mineworkers.

For their part, RST officials seeking to introduce reforms traveled to Elisabethville in 1951 to learn from Union Minière’s job evaluation process and provision of education—reforms that, they claimed, they could only dream of introducing, in a context in which their every proposal was challenged by African union officials.15 Copperbelt Africans, they felt, had become more sophisticated and simultaneously been damaged by their relatively greater exposure to settler colonial society in general and the high standards of living of European mineworkers in particular, which they sought to emulate.16 The extent to which this was achieved should not, however, be overstated: at independence in 1964, thousands of Zambian mineworkers still lived in houses with no electricity or running water.

Bolstered by the relative certainties of the postwar long boom, copper production, mine employment, and the wider Copperbelt populations grew rapidly: by 1956 the Copperbelt population reached 375,981, with approximately 35,000 African mineworkers. North of the border, Elisabethville alone had a population of about 180,000 by 1957.17 With this growth came increasing anxiety—among white settlers, colonial authorities, and mining companies—about the societal and political trajectory of these new urban communities. This concern prompted substantial investment in knowledge production: urban African societies needed to be understood in order to be effectively managed. In a wave of new sociological and anthropological research, heated discussion arose as to the extent to which Africans could successfully “adapt” to modern life, namely, the money economy, wage labor, urban society and, ultimately, political self-rule.

Social scientists on both sides of the border identified parallel problems associated with industrialization and urbanization, but they came to markedly different conclusions regarding the capacity of Africans to manage their own transition to what were supposedly new urban identities. In challenging racialized notions south of the border, Rhodes-Livingstone Institute scholars such as Epstein and Clyde Mitchell asserted the adaptability of Africans to their vision of modern town life.18 What is less well known is the parallel process of colonial knowledge production in the Belgian academy.19 The Centre d’Études des Problèmes Sociaux Indigènes (CEPSI) was established in 1946 by liberal Catholic academics critical of settler colonialism; working with large-scale companies, particularly Union Minière, CEPSI researchers focused on absenteeism and poor labor productivity, which they associated with the difficulties experienced by Africans in coming to terms with the pressing requirements of modern life in urban centers of extra-coutumier (noncustomary) existence, that is, defined by the absence of customary authority rather than the presence of something new and modern.20 Trade unionism, the Belgian sociologists Doucy and Feldheim argued in 1952, threatened to undermine the paternalism that had previously underwritten colonial labor relations and which supposedly replicated the patrimonial basis of “traditional” African life.21 CEPSI and RLI research, although reaching contrasting conclusions, was decisively shaped by the political context of the late colonial period in which modernization theory defined “progress” solely in Western terms.22 In neither case was such a transition the dominant reality: in practice, the Copperbelt region developed in highly uneven ways, far from the confident imaginings of some social scientists or the racialized nightmares of others: mineworkers did not surrender ties to rural areas of origin; extractive mining did not stimulate wholesale industrial development; and tens of thousands of migrants scratched out a precarious living in “squatter” areas. People, goods, wealth, and culture continued to flow between villages and mining towns, creating unstable hybrid cultures that combined both reconstructed ethnic identities and displays of self-consciously “modern” materialism.

The specter of mass urban unemployment, and its potentially explosive political consequences, haunted the late colonial authorities and the nationalist politicians that sought to take their place. While mine companies asserted their sovereignty over vast tracts of land, they and their host states lacked the resources to exclude the uncounted African women, many of them mineworkers’ wives, who farmed “illegally” on territory officially assigned for future mining development.23 In this sense the Copperbelt of Central Africa, with its struggles for spatial control and contested modes of modernity, resembled the messy reality of urban life both in Africa and in the non-Western world more generally rather than the modernist visions of most Western observers.24 In the late 1950s, juvenile delinquency, particularly among the unemployed sons of mineworkers, was identified as a growing problem by the burgeoning number of social welfare and community development officials employed by both state and mines. Such institutions sought to train young people in morally acceptable and explicitly gendered pursuits—handicrafts and sewing for young women, farming in “back to the land” schemes aimed at young men.25 While elites promoted their notions of “good modernization,” Copperbelt youths from both mining and non-mining families increasingly engaged in “political” activities that led to their mobilization by nationalist parties as youth league/jeunesse activists, playing an important role in enforcing party loyalty in the years before and after independence.

Nationalism and Regionalism in Comparative Perspective

Nationalist politics in both the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt and Haut Katanga were framed in relation to the material wealth associated with the region’s mining industry and with the apparent potential for economic development that it represented. The particular vision of African nationalists for an independent state was constructed in an assumed context of perpetual mine profitability, mobilizing support around the idea of capturing a significant share of the revenue generated by mining and utilizing it for “national development.”

In the early twentieth century, the role of the colonial state in both Copperbelts had been limited to the facilitation of mining company operations. The vast majority of company profits flowed directly out of these territories, with little or no benefit to the societies in which their operations took place.26 This changed in the late colonial era, when the need to justify continued colonial possession to a skeptical world generated new investment in social welfare and development.27 The Central African Federation (CAF: 1953–63) can be understood as an attempt to redirect mineral revenue for “development,” in this case to subsidize the agricultural activities and living standards of white settlers, mostly in Southern Rhodesia. It emerged in response to the threat of federation in the early 1950s. Overt African nationalist politics first found organized expression in the anti-federation campaign of the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress (NRANC) (see below).28

It was no accident that the Copperbelt and Bemba-speaking areas, linked by the flow of remittances, the families of mineworkers, and political ideas, emerged in the mid-1950s as the vanguard of Northern Rhodesia’s nationalist movement. The NRANC, led by Harry Nkumbula (headmaster of a Copperbelt school), sought to mobilize the threat potential of organized Copperbelt labor against the CAF in its 1953 “Ten Days of Prayer” campaign. AMWU members had, however, already developed their own perspectives on political change; although some mineworkers did take strike action, AMWU president Lawrence Katilungu did not call all its members out on strike.29 The defeat of the anti-CAF campaign, and the demonstrable lack of unity among anti-colonial forces that it revealed, set back the Zambian nationalist cause for a number of years.

Across the border in the Belgian Congo, anti-colonial politics was shaped less by the direct contest between African nationalists and white settlers than by divisions between Congolese Africans themselves. Katanga’s limited and belated integration into the Congo, its distinct socioeconomic development shaped by mining capital and development, and, above all, the outright ban on all territory-wide political parties imposed by Belgium until 1957, meant that anti-colonial discontent was channeled primarily into ethnoregional cultural associations.30 Congolese nationalist parties, such as Patrice Lumumba’s Mouvement National Congolais, sought to reform the exploitative extraction of Congo’s mineral wealth by Union Miniére and, like their Zambian counterparts, such parties aimed to ensure greater “local” control of this wealth in the form of an independent nation-state.

From a southern Katangese perspective, however, the territory’s mineral wealth was in danger of being exploited by new outsiders.31 By 1956, more than 50 percent of workers at Union Miniére’s Lubumbashi mine in Elisabethville were of Kasaian origin.32 In a context of rapidly approaching decolonization, political control over Haut Katanga’s mineral wealth, as in the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, looked set to fall into the hands of migrant rather than indigenous societies. The 1957 election of immigrant Kasaian bourgmestres (“mayors”) in Elisabethville’s townships suggested that a new electoral dispensation carried with it the prospect of being governed by “strangers.”33

Unlike in the Copperbelt, these developments were resisted by indigenous societies, most notably the Lunda, who—notwithstanding the changes wrought by colonial intervention—mobilized a historical memory of precolonial prosperity and authority to resist marginalization. In January 1959 the Lunda king, the Mwaant Yav, wrote to the Belgian authorities, attacking the “‘unforgivable aberration’ … of …‘considering the opinions which emanate from the urban centers as representing the general feeling of this province.’”34 In this action, Western knowledge production played an important role: anthropological research, Bustin argues, “ supplied the Mwaant Yaav and his entourage with a good deal of the theoretical and scientific ammunition they needed,”35 enabling the deployment of the historically suspect notion of the “Lunda empire,” which had supposedly unified the now divided Lunda territories of the Congo, Northern Rhodesia, and Angola.

The perceived dangers arising from Katangese integration into a centralized Congolese state led in 1958 to the formation of the Confédération des Associations Tribales du Katanga (Conakat). Conakat initially proposed a federal system “in which the reins of command will have to be in the hands of authentic Katangese.”36 During the rapid transition to Congolese independence, Conakat, now a political party led by Moïse Tshombe, developed a close relationship with Union Miniére: concerned about appropriation or nationalization by Prime Minister Lumumba’s new government, the mining corporation directed tax revenue previously paid to the Belgian state to the unrecognized Katangese state declared by Conakat on July 11, 1960, eleven days after the independence of the Congo.

Meanwhile, a resurgence of Zambian nationalism took place, which now took a more radical form. Younger NRANC leaders broke away to form the Zambia African National Congress in 1958, which became the United National Independence Party (UNIP) the following year. UNIP derived its greatest strength from the Copperbelt as well as from those areas of northern Zambia linked to it by trade and migration. Macola has convincingly demonstrated that the ensuing competition between ANC and UNIP was both ethnoregional and ideological.37 UNIP’s policies, based on wealth redistribution and job creation via state intervention, reflected the priorities of its urban constituents and their rural northern kin. However, this particularity did not prevent UNIP presenting itself as a party for all the peoples of the emergent Zambian nation. Nevertheless, this assertion was continually challenged by the party’s opponents, which articulated alternative visions of the nation and the Copperbelt’s relationship to it.

Indeed, during the Katangese secession (1960–63), coinciding as it did with the breakup of the CAF and preparations for Zambian independence, soldiers, refugees, and military supplies flowed across the border, along with ideas about its future. As elsewhere in Africa, decolonization stimulated competing proposals regarding the redrawing of colonial borders, often rooted in historically minded assertions about precolonial polities.38 The viability of such plans foundered on the sheer poverty of such regions: the two Copperbelts, in contrast, provided the material basis for a more credible assertion of independent statehood.

Katangese settler representatives had met with senior CAF leaders in late 1959 and early 1960 to discuss the possible integration of the province into the federation.39 Following Congolese independence, Northern Rhodesia received white settler refugees fleeing the violence that broke out as a result of the mutiny of the Force Publique. Katangese mineral exports, unable to use the Port Francqui railway, were transported via CAF territory southward, with supplies, weaponry, and mercenaries traveling the other way.40 CAF prime minister Roy Welensky was prevented by Britain from directly backing Katanga, but nevertheless he advised Tshombe on his negotiations with the UN and the Congolese government.41 In September 1961, Tshombe was able to evade capture by UN troops by retreating to Northern Rhodesia, from where he briefly directed operations by Katangese troops, some of whom were themselves of “Zambian” origin.42

Neither were Zambian nationalist movements immune from developments to the north: its 1961 ChaCha Cha anti-colonial uprising took its inspirational name from Joseph Kabasele’s “Indépendance Cha Cha,” the theme song of Congolese decolonization. Katangese influence was particularly felt in Luapula Province, a stronghold of militant UNIP nationalism bordering the Congo. In May 1960, Governor Hone reported: “it is common knowledge in the Luapula Province that representatives of the Congo’s CONAKAT Party have approached U.N.I.P. leaders … with a proposition that the two organisations should combine in forming a Bemba speaking state in central Africa.”43 It was the ANC, however, that was the prime mover in such relationships. As Macola documents, the ANC received substantial financial and logistical support from Katanga.44 Lawrence Katilungu, an ANC leader following his ousting as AMWU president, apparently visited Tshombe in Elisabethville in May 1960: the two men agreed that, once Katanga broke away from the Congo following Belgian decolonization, Katanga would (following Zambian independence) join with its southern neighbor.45 As acting president of the ANC in 1961, Katilungu articulated an autochthonous discourse—redolent of Conakat’s rhetoric—that sought to de-legitimize Kaunda for his supposed Nyasa ancestry.46 The ANC’s partnership with Conakat was, however, curtailed by the party’s entry into government alongside UNIP in December 1962, and more decisively by the ending of the Katangese secession the following month.

In the aftermath of the secession, the border area was destabilized by the influx of thousands of demobilized Katangese troops. In late 1963, bands of ex-Katangese gendarmes roamed the border areas of the Congo, Northern Rhodesia, and Angola. While federal authorities were concerned about the lawless activities of the ex-gendarmes, they simultaneously opposed any UN or ANC incursion into federal territory.47 Governor Hone explained that in this remote border area “many of the tribesmen are in sympathy with Tshombe due to strong tribal affiliations.”48 As Hone’s remarks suggest, cross-border ethnic identities created the risk of conflict in one territory spilling into the other.

Congo’s disastrous transition to independence provided a cautionary tale to Northern Rhodesians, encouraging all parties to approach decolonization by negotiated means. Following its successful participation in the elections of August 1962, and operating as the majority partner in a coalition government with the ANC, UNIP adopted a more “responsible” stance, restraining its more radical activists in the Copperbelt and northern areas from disruptive anti-colonial activity. In the January 1964 elections, in which UNIP secured 70 percent of the territory-wide vote and 51 of 65 seats, UNIP put itself on course to become independent Zambia’s first government.

Thus, a striking contrast can be drawn between the political influence of autochthon-migrant relations in the two regions: whereas Bemba-speaking migrants achieved a kind of political hegemony in the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, the indigenous communities of Haut Katanga resisted the ostensibly similar trajectory of Kasai Baluba migrants into the dominant political grouping in Haut Katanga by articulating a powerful autochthon discourse linked to their own precolonial exploitation of mineral wealth. This fact played a vital role in shaping the different nationalist dynamics that developed on either side of the Copperbelt border. Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt political activists successfully placed their materialist dynamic at the center of UNIP’s ostensibly redistributionist version of Zambian nationalism, and they were able to project their particular ethnoregional concerns as unproblematically “national.” Southern Katangese elites constructed their own vision of independent self-rule in opposition to a greater Congolese nationalism, with which it was incompatible.

Nation-Building and Nationalization

Notwithstanding these clear differences between the decolonization of the two Copperbelts, national independence presented similar challenges in integrating these wealth-producing regions into the new nation-states of Congo and Zambia: giving meaning to the border that separated them involved an ahistorical assertion of fixed national identities that was continually challenged by their mixed and mobile populations. In RST and Anglo American mines, “Africanization,” that is, the replacement of white mineworkers with African ones, was disrupted by a new insistence that whites must be replaced not simply by black Africans, but by Zambians. Government ministers were surprised to discover that around 25 percent of African mine employees, including many of those best placed for “advancement,” were not Zambian citizens.49 North of the border, Zambia’s new consul in Elisabethville/Lubumbashi was equally surprised to discover not only that about 250,000 residents of Katanga (most with pro-Tshombe sympathies) claimed to be “Zambian,” but also that 6,000 state employees were dismissed in 1967 because Congolese citizenship laws declared them to be “Zambian.”50 Zambian officials feared an influx of returnees who spoke Bemba or Lunda and French but not English, and they suggested that these Congolese-born Zambians “return” to the rural villages from where their parents or grandparents had once migrated to the Congo.51

In the nationalist imagination, mineral revenue provided the basis for post-independence growth, underwriting the transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy and society envisaged in national development programs. In both countries, the extraction of revenue to colonial metropoles was now replaced and/or complemented by the extraction of both economic and political power from the Copperbelts to the national capitals, Lusaka and Léopoldville/Kinshasa. Zambia’s new government sought to integrate mining companies into its nationalist project. President Kaunda had developed friendly relations with RST and its chairman Sir Ronald Prain; RST’s parent company American Metal Climax (AMAX) facilitated Kaunda’s visit to the United States in 1961 and generally cultivated him as a nationalist leader with whom they could do business.52 The transfer of mining royalties to the new Zambian state on the eve of independence in 1964 cemented an effective alliance with the mining companies, each taking their share of what was incorrectly assumed would be increasing mine revenue.53 UNIP policies stressed rural development and economic diversification, to be funded largely from mine revenue. In practice, it was unclear how exactly to achieve this—income was deployed on a series of agricultural improvement schemes that tended to reward UNIP supporters for their loyalty rather than stimulate development. Doing so, however, meant denying the demands of Copperbelt mineworkers for improved wages and conditions, demands that they defined as a reward for their prominent role in the anti-colonial struggle and in relation to high global mineral prices. This led to clashes between the state and the mine unions and to a series of attempts to bring labor unions under state control.54

In Congo/Zaire, once the central state had occupied Katanga following the defeat of the secession, it reached agreement with Union Miniére that it would be the recipient of funds previously paid to the Katangese state.55 Those revenues underwrote the more effective transmission of the Mobutu regime’s authority across Zaire, but the monies did not lead to sustainable development. The economies of both countries grew during this period, but their failure to overcome their dependency on mineral revenue was savagely exposed in the mid-1970s when the price of copper collapsed, ending a sustained period of profitability that did not return until the mid-2000s.

Governments in both countries responded to popular frustration with limited postcolonial development by partially nationalizing the mining sector. Lengthy negotiations over the Congolese state’s future relationship with the Katanga-based mining industry, which had appeared close to agreement, were suddenly thrown into turmoil by the unexpected nationalization of Union Miniére in December 1966, presented by President Mobutu as a radical blow against foreign control of Congo’s strategic resources. A new company that came to be known as Gécamines, was established in its place.56 Jean-Baptiste Kibwe, a key figure in the Katangese secession, was appointed president of the Gécamines council. Kibwe’s appointment created an (entirely unjustified) sense that the nationalization reflected Katangese interests. The company’s operations remained dependent on skilled expatriates previously employed by Union Miniére, and the new company was unable to replicate the international marketing operations of Belgian companies. Although Union Minière’s name disappeared, it continued to effectively oversee the production, processing, and selling of copper via the Belgian company, Société Générale des Minerais.57

The 51 percent nationalization of Zambia’s copper mining companies in 1969 followed a similar pattern: mine companies received a private “Categorical statement that takeover of mines was between Government and shareholders only, and would not affect employees, management and running of mines at all.”58 Further steps toward state ownership of Zambia’s mines followed in the 1970s. Despite the unprofitability of copper mining, UNIP was able to use the foreign exchange generated by mining to buy off dissent and reward at least some of its supporters.59 This action, however, never reached the extent of looting of state resources as happened in Zaire: in the context of the Cold War, President Mobutu’s successful positioning of his regime as a bastion of anti-communism ensured that private Western criticism of gross corruption was never matched by meaningful sanctions that might have prevented it. Haut Katanga was, from the late 1960s, a region under effective occupation by a Congolese/Zairian state that treated societies such as the Lunda as an enemy within, subject to periodic bouts of military repression and continuous marginalization of its political elites. This development was partly the legacy of the secession, but it also reflected Katanga’s strategic mineral wealth, which was too important to be left in the hands of local interests.60 The renaming of Katanga as Shaba in 1971 symbolized the official extinguishment of the last vestiges of the province’s autonomous identity.

By that time, the Zambian Copperbelt had lost its position at the heart of Zambian political life. Having once been in the UNIP vanguard, the subsequent marginalization of Bemba and/or Copperbelt interests in the runup to and during the declaration of Zambia’s one-party state in 1972—sparked by the breakaway of UNIP’s senior Bemba leadership to found the short-lived opposition United Progressive Party (UPP)—was understood as being linked to the unjust exploitation of the Copperbelt by the UNIP-dominated state, whose Lusaka-based leaders “ate” the wealth generated by the region.61 The indigenous Lamba had meanwhile taken on an identity (grounded in reality) as the victims of Copperbelt mineral exploitation. In the late 1960s, Lamba chief Mushili IV was officially removed from his position following his repeated protests regarding the economic neglect of his people.62

With the economic decline linked to the fall in copper prices in the mid-1970s, the border region became an increasingly unstable site in which fears of political and military conflict intersected with criminality. As Zambia’s attempts to control agricultural producer prices were undermined by cross-border smuggling of basic goods, Zairians were increasingly scapegoated and arrested for activities often carried out and controlled with the connivance of Zambian state officials.63 Although a cross-border Permanent Commission was established to manage tensions between the two countries, the still porous border remained a liminal space in which the uncontrolled movements of people and goods challenged the sovereignty of both nation-states and fueled governmental anxiety and interstate tension.64 The tension worsened considerably when in 1978, Katangese forces exiled in Angola mounted an invasion of Zaire via northwestern Zambia, enabling them to briefly seize control of Kolwezi, now Shaba’s leading center of mining activity, and to capture hundreds of senior European mineworkers. Mobutu, constructing the invasion in Cold War terms, accused Zambia of complicity in it, and he received Western backing—in the form of French Foreign Legion forces and Belgian paratroopers—to successfully repel the attack.65 Two years later, dissident Katangese forces who had remained resident in northwestern Zambia were involved in the unsuccessful 1980 coup attempt against President Kaunda.66

Dual Liberalization, 1980s–1990s

By the 1980s both Copperbelts, once the engine of Central Africa’s economic and social development, were characterized as stagnant state-dominated places in urgent need of market reform. The lack of job opportunities was already leading to a stagnation in the population of the Zambian Copperbelt by the 1970s, and the absolute population of the Copperbelt (despite a still growing national population) fell in the 1990s, although many Copperbelt residents sought to keep both urban and rural options open, as their mothers and grandmothers had done.67 Western donors struggled to persuade Mobutu to reform Gécamines, while Zambian indebtedness led not only to structural adjustment, but also to the merger in 1982 of the entire nationalized industry into Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which international financial institutions hoped would better enable economic reform.68 Measures designed to bring mine townships under direct UNIP control led to a major confrontation with the unions in 1980–81, while the removal of food subsidies, a condition of structural adjustment programming, sparked food riots in 1986, which successfully if temporarily reversed government policy.69 Such initiatives provided an impetus to a growing underground political movement that, in 1990–91, emerged to successfully challenge UNIP and achieve the return of multiparty democracy.70 The election of Copperbelt-based Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leader Frederick Chiluba as the country’s second president reflected the centrality of the province to Zambia’s political life. As president, Chiluba presided over a sweeping program of market reform that only further damaged the country’s economy. Chiluba assiduously developed relationships with Zairian “big men” and he was himself accused of being ineligible for the Zambian presidency because he was allegedly born—like tens of thousands of his countrymen—in Congo/Zaire.

Africa’s democratic wave of the early 1990s was experienced in Shaba/Katanga in ways that reflected the province’s historically problematic relationship to the nation-state. Mobutu, faced with a nationwide pro-democracy movement, which, in Katanga, found particular support amongst Kasaian politicians, stoked quiescent ethnic tensions by the opportunistic appointment of a new Lunda governor of Shaba, Kyungu wa Kumwaza. Kyungu, who consciously deployed symbols of the secession, unleashed a wave of anti-Kasian violence (dwarfing that of the secession itself) by self-declared indigenous youth organizations: tens of thousands fled the province.71 Mobutu’s successful manipulation of internal political divisions meant he was overthrown only by his external opponents in 1997 with the aid of his ultimate successor, Laurent Kabila. In the second Congo war of 1998–2003, Katanga’s mineral wealth was important to Kabila’s defense of his regime—some of the renamed province’s mines were effectively mortgaged to Zimbabwean military and economic interests, symbolized by the appointment of Billy Rautenbach as managing director of Gécamines in 1998.72

Under pressure from international donors, both countries reluctantly privatized their copper-mining industries. Though very different processes, each was characterized by significant corruption and political manipulation. Following Kabila’s assassination in 2001, the Haut Katanga mining complex was broken into smaller private units, over which the state had little control but which continued to contribute informally to the expenses of the state and—more often—individual state actors. In Zambia, a highly secretive and partly corrupt privatization process led to the sale of some mines to dubious investors and the divestment by new owners of the social and environmental legacy of their historical activities.73 In 1997, ZCCM officials were evicting “peasants” farming illegally on mine-owned land, as generations before them had struggled to do, in order to secure the “rights” of new foreign owners of the country’s mines.74 The Copperbelt was increasingly recognized as a space where the informal economy and agricultural production were central to livelihoods, but this recognition was less an attempt to understand reality than a reflection of a desire among policymakers to promote neo-liberal alternatives to formal sector employment.75

The New Mining Boom of the Twenty-First Century: Continuities and Breaks

The resource boom fueled by China has over the last decade brought new investors to the Copperbelts, with different ideas about their relationship with the state, the region, and its people. Renewed profitability has accentuated tension between mineral-producing regions and their respective nation-states. By bringing a degree of order to the province’s hitherto chaotic mining industry, the governor of Katanga, Moïse Katumbi, has effectively positioned himself as an advocate of Katangese provincial interests, earning the wrath of many Kinshasa-based leaders in so doing. Katumbi has promoted cross-border Lunda identification by, among other initiatives, funding the traditional ceremony of the Lunda in Zambia’s Luapula Province.76 He has also deployed the symbolism of the secession, for example by erecting a prominent statue of Möise Tshombe in Lubumbashi. More radical regionalist feelings have recently found military expression: a series of attacks by Mai militias calling for the breakaway of Katanga culminated in March 2013 when the Kata Katanga group raised the flag of the secessionist Katangese state in the center of Lubumbashi.77 Katumbi hopes to challenge for the Congolese presidency in 2016.

In Zambia widespread discontent arose from the fact that the high value of Copperbelt minerals resulted in little material benefit for Copperbelt residents. This discontent was articulated by Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front Party, which—like UNIP before it—built on the historical link between Copperbelt residents and Bemba-speaking areas of northern Zambia to win national elections in 2011. Thus, in line with Zambia’s recent history, discontent with the mining sector found ethnoregional expression, but unlike in Katanga, this was successfully channeled into electoral change at the national level. It is, however, apparent that, at the time of President Sata’s death in office in 2014, discontent remained largely unaddressed, and the expectations of the Bemba-Copperbelt constituency would remain a central challenge to the next Zambian president.

The long downturn in the price of copper exposed the fragility of the modernization narratives on which the political culture of the Copperbelts had been constructed.78 It is also evident that such narratives retain significant purchase in the political culture of these regions, even if the political economy that enabled them to gain their original purchase is no longer in existence. Zambian mineworkers and the wider Copperbelt, notwithstanding declining living standards and their consequent inability to reproduce themselves as a stable skilled urban population, continue to express expectations of a better life and to assert their political identity in relation to mine profitability. However, the ways in which they do so has been radically altered by, among other things, the profound changes to gender relations wrought by liberalization and fluctuations in the mining economy.79 In contrast, the urban culture of Haut Katanga appears to divide former mineworkers from the urban crowd. Katanga’s mineworkers cling to their identity as respectable workers and protest their redundancy not through party political and mass action but via clientelistic entreaties to Belgian and international authorities.80

New mining regions have sought to avoid what they see as the problems of the old Copperbelt, but they face the same challenges as their predecessors: who will pay for urban infrastructure and social services necessary in new mining spaces? How will revenue be distributed among companies, the state, workers, and communities? Will jobs go to indigenes or “strangers”? Kaonde chiefs in Zambia’s North-Western Province—the so-called new Copperbelt—have apparently learned the lesson of Lamba marginalization and have sought to ensure that both mining revenue and jobs are partly reserved for their subjects.81 All new companies are less willing than their predecessors to pay the reproduction costs of the communities on which their activities depend, but they struggle to resist political demands and discontent. While this suggests that history is repeating itself, one key difference is that fewer permanent jobs are being created by the new mines—wage labor, once thought of as a primary vehicle for redistributing mining wealth, is today less important than debates that focus on corporate social responsibility, the payment of mine tax revenue, and how it will be used and distributed by central governments.


Discussions regarding the impact of mining tend to assume a shared notion of the benefits that mining can and should bring. Yet these notions are always historically constructed and culturally determined: particular values are attributed to the process of turning minerals into forms of wealth, involving as it does morally constituted and contested notions involving the transformation of land use, the value of labor, and changes to the composition of and relations within societies. This brief analysis of the Copperbelts of Central Africa has identified both striking similarities and powerful differences in the ways in which these values reflect the interaction between the minerals, peoples, and politics of the regions. In both regions, minerals provided the basis for powerful but contested imaginings of modernity, development, and advancement—by white settlers, African nationalists, and the residents of both Copperbelts. Turning mine revenue into political authority, improved living standards, and economic development was never straightforward. High mineral prices did not inevitably result in increased tax revenues or higher wages; political action was always necessary to make any such gains, which were always conditional and never permanent. The industrial nature of copper mining has meant that even those companies seeking to operate as enclaves often experience the unintended consequences of their investments; despite the best efforts of today’s mining giants to refute any social or political role, mine-working communities and their political representatives stilll insist that such investment continues to come with social responsibilities.

The current trajectory of such developments is influenced by both the different histories of these regions and the collective memory of those histories. The two Copperbelts have developed in distinctive ways influenced by their geology, relationships between rulers and ruled, autochthons and incomers, and global markets and local identities. Yet they have also developed in relationship to each other, reflecting the flows of minerals, people, and knowledge across a border that presented both a decidedly imperfect barrier and an opportunity for improving the circumstances of an individual, company, armed force, or nation.82 Crucially, historians and other observers should be aware that what we think we know about both these regions has been shaped by the linked and interactive knowledge production processes involving colonial officials, academics, post-independence politicians, and the variegated populations of these regions themselves, in ways that we are only now coming to understand.

These variations should at the very least demonstrate that sweeping claims of mining as a generator of boundless opportunity or inevitable resource curse should be dismissed. The potential for economic development, in circumstances in which a level of democratic governance and local political accountability has been established, should not be denied, but nor should the challenges in achieving it. While no straightforward method for converting mineral wealth into improved lives and living standards exists, learning from the history of both regions may provide some guidance concerning both what is possible and what can be imagined.


Brion, R., and J.-L. Moreau. De la mine à Mars: La génèse d’Umicore. Tielt, Belgium: Lanoo, 2006.Find this resource:

Bustin, E. Lunda under Belgian Rule: The Politics of Ethnicity. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973.Find this resource:

Butler, L. J. Copper Empire: Mining and the Colonial State in Northern Rhodesia, c. 1930–64. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.Find this resource:

Cohen, A. “Business and Decolonisation in Central Africa Reconsidered.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36(4) (2008): 641–658.Find this resource:

Cruise O’Brien, C. To Katanga and Back. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962.Find this resource:

Dibwe Dia Mwembu, D. Bana Shaba abandonnés par leur père: Structures de l’autorité et histoire sociale de la famille ouvrière au Katanga, 1910–1997. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.Find this resource:

Epstein, A. L. Politics in an Urban African Community. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1973.Find this resource:

Evans, A. “‘Women Can Do What Men Can Do’: The Causes and Consequences of Growing Flexibility in Gender Divisions of Labour in Kitwe, Zambia.” Journal of Southern African Studies 40(4) (2014): 981–998.Find this resource:

Doucy, A., and P. Feldheim. Problèmes du travail et politique sociale au Congo Belge. Brussels: Éditions de la Libraire Encyclopédique, 1952.Find this resource:

Ferguson, J. Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Modern Life on the Zambian Copperbelt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Fetter, B. “The Union Minière and Its Hinterland: A Demographic Reconstruction.” African Economic History 12 (1983): 67–81.Find this resource:

Fraser A., and M. Larmer, eds. Zambia, Mining and Neoliberalism: Boom and Bust on the Globalized Copperbelt. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.Find this resource:

Fraser A., and J. Lungu. For Whom the Windfalls: Winners & Losers in the Privatisation of Zambia’s Copper Mines. Lusaka: Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia and Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace, 2007.Find this resource:

Frederiksen, T. “Seeing the Copperbelt: Science, Mining and Colonial Power in Northern Rhodesia.” Geoforum 44 (2013): 271–281.Find this resource:

Gerard-Libois, J. Katanga Secession. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Henderson, I. “Labour and Politics in Northern Rhodesia, 1900–1953: A Study in the Limits of Colonial Power.” PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1972.Find this resource:

Higginson, J. A Working-Class in the Making: Belgian Colonial Labor Policy, Private Enterprise, and the African Mineworker, 1907–1951. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Hönke, J. “Extractive Orders: Transnational Mining Companies in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries in the Central African Copperbelt.” In A New Scramble for Africa? Imperialism, Investment and Development. Edited by R. Southall and H. Melber, 274–298. Durban, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Hughes, M. “Fighting for White Rule in Africa: The Central African Federation, Katanga, and the Congo Crisis, 1958–1965.” International History Review 25(3) (2003): 596–615.Find this resource:

Kennes, E. “The Mining Sector in Congo: The Victim or the Orphan of Globalisation?” In The Political Economy of the Great Lakes Region of Africa: The Pitfalls of Enforced Democracy and Globalization. Edited by S. Marysse and F. Reyntjens, 152–189. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.Find this resource:

Kennes E., and M. Larmer. The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa: Fighting Their Way Home. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Larmer, M. Mineworkers in Zambia. London: I. B. Tauris, 2007.Find this resource:

Larmer M., and E. Kennes. “Rethinking the Katangese Secession.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 42(4) (2014): 741–761.Find this resource:

Lemarchand, R. “The Limits of Self-Determination: The Case of the Katanga Secession.” American Political Science Review 56(2) (1962): 404–416.Find this resource:

Lemarchand, R. Political Awakening in the Belgian Congo. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.Find this resource:

Macola, G. Liberal Nationalism in Central Africa: A Biography of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.Find this resource:

Mitchell, J. Clyde. The Kalela Dance: Aspects of Social Relationships among Urban Africans in Northern Rhodesia. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1956.Find this resource:

Mususa, P. “Mining, Welfare and Urbanisation: The Wavering Urban Character of Zambia’s Copperbelt.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30(4) (2012): 571–587.Find this resource:

Perrings, C. Black Mineworkers in Central Africa. London: Heinemann, 1979.Find this resource:

Phimister, I. “Workers in Wonderland? White Miners and the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, 1946–1962.” In Living the End of Empire: Politics and Society in Late Colonial Zambia. Edited by J.-B. Gewald, M. Hinfelaar, and G. Macola, 129–146. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.Find this resource:

Poncelet, M. L’invention des sciences coloniales belges. Paris: Karthala, 2008.Find this resource:

Potts, D. “Counter-urbanisation on the Zambian Copperbelt? Interpretations and Implications.” Urban Studies 42(4) (2005): 583–609.Find this resource:

Powdermaker, H. Copper Town: Changing Africa. New York: Harper, 1962.Find this resource:

Rubbers, B. Le paternalisme en question: Les anciens ouvriers de la Gécamines face à la libéralisation du secteur minier katangais (RD Congo). Cahiers africains 81. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013.Find this resource:

Rubbers B., and M. Poncelet. “Sociologie coloniale au Congo Belge: Les études sur le Katanga industriel et urbain veille de l’indépendance.” Geneses 2(99) (2015): 93–112.Find this resource:

Saquet, J.-J. De l’Union Minière du Haut-Katanga à la Gecamines. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.Find this resource:

Schumaker, L. Africanizing Anthropology: Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge in Central Africa. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Siegel, B. “The ‘Wild’ and ‘Lazy’ Lamba: Ethnic Stereotypes on the Central African Copperbelt.” In The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa. Edited by L. Vail, 350–371. Oxford: James Currey, 1989.Find this resource:

Young, C. Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965.Find this resource:

Young C., and T. Turner. The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.Find this resource:


(1) R. M. Auty, Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis (London: Routledge, 2002). The notion of “Dutch disease” is based on the belief that export revenue earned from natural resources increases the strength of national currencies, making the wider economy uncompetitive and encouraging imports.

(2) Helen Tilley, Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

(3) Lyn Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology: Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge in Central Africa (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001).

(4) Edouard Bustin, Lunda under Belgian Rule (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), 20–22.

(5) I am indebted to Tomas Frederiksen for correcting my understanding of this issue. See T. Frederiksen, “Seeing the Copperbelt: Science, Mining and Colonial Power in Northern Rhodesia,” Geoforum 44 (2013): 271–281.

(6) B. Siegel, “The “Wild” and “Lazy” Lamba: Ethnic Stereotypes on the Central African Copperbelt,” in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by L. Vail, 350–371 (Oxford: James Currey, 1989).

(7) Audrey Richards, Land, Labour and Diet in Northern Rhodesia: An Economic Study of the Bemba (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939).

(9) Ian Phimister, “Workers in Wonderland? White Miners and the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, 1946–1962,” in Living the End of Empire: Politics and Society in Late Colonial Zambia, edited by Jan-Bart Gewald, Marja Hinfelaar, and Giacomo Macola, 129–146 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011); Duncan Money, “No Matter How Much or How Little They’ve Got, They Can’t Settle Down”: A Social History of Europeans on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926–1974,” DPhil thesis [ML: it is factually inaccurate to call a DPhil thesis from Oxford a PhD diss - this is not a descriptive term but an official one. It is like referring to the UK Prime Minister as the ‘President’!! University of Oxford, 2016.

(11) J. Higginson, A Working-Class in the Making: Belgian Colonial Labor Policy, Private Enterprise, and the African Mineworker, 1907–1951 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), 13. For a useful introduction to the labor theory of value concept, see S. Mohun, “A Re(in)statement of the Labour Theory of Value,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 18 (1994): 291–412.

(12) C. Perrings, Black Mineworkers in Central Africa (London: Heinemann, 1979), 117; I. Henderson, “Labour and Politics in Northern Rhodesia, 1900–1953: A Study in the Limits of Colonial Power,” PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1972, 130; Higginson, Working-Class in the Making, 177–178.

(14) B. Rubbers and M. Poncelet, “Sociologie coloniale au Congo Belge: Les études sur le Katanga industriel et urbain veille de l’indépendance,” Geneses 2(99) (2015): 93–112.

(15) Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (hereafter ZCCM) archives, Ndola, 10.1.8F, “African Labour: Wages,” October 1950–December 1955.

(16) ZCCM, Mufulira, 10.1.8F “African Labour Welfare,” June 1946–December 1955.

(17) National Archives of Zambia (hereafter NAZ), WP 1/2/30, Annual Report on African Affairs, 1955–58, “1958 Western Province Annual Report for Native Affairs.”

(18) A. L. Epstein, Politics in an Urban African Community (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1973); J. Clyde Mitchell, Cities, Society & Social Perception: A Central African Perspective (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987). The RLI school has been criticized by Ferguson, who emphasized the constructed nature of Copperbelt modernity and the continued rural linkages of mineworkers. See J. Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Modern Life on the Zambian Copperbelt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

(19) The most important work on this subject is by Marc Poncelet, particularly his L’invention des sciences coloniales belges (Paris: Karthala, 2008).

(21) A. Doucy and P. Feldheim, Problèmes du travail et politique sociale au Congo Belge (Brussels: Éditions de la Libraire Encyclopédique, 1952).

(23) National Archives of Zambia (hereafter NAZ), WP 1/2/21, Annual Report on Native Affairs, Ndola, 1952–57, “Annual Report on African Affairs–1955, Mufulira.”

(24) For a stimulating discussion on the history of African urbanism and its place in the global historiography of cities, see J. Parker, “Urbanization and Urban Cultures,” in The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History, edited by J. Parker and R. Reid, 359–377 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(25) NAZ WP 1/2/30, Provincial Annual Report on African Affairs, “1958 Annual Report.”

(26) L. J. Butler, Copper Empire: Mining and the Colonial State in Northern Rhodesia, c. 1930–64 (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 33.

(27) F. Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 113–121.

(28) A. Roberts, A History of Zambia (Harlow, UK: Longman, 1979), 211.

(29) H. S. Meebelo, African Proletarians and Colonial Capitalism (Lusaka, Zambia: Kenneth Kaunda Foundation, 1986), 327.

(30) C. Young, Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965), 305–306.

(31) R. Lemarchand, Political Awakening in the Belgian Congo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), 108.

(32) Ibid.

(34) Communication by the Mwaant Yav, January 31, 1959, cited in Bustin, Lunda under Belgian Rule, 189.

(35) Bustin, Lunda under Belgian Rule, 193; this work was subsequently published as B. Crine-Mavar, “Histoire traditionnelle du Shaba,” Cultures au Zaïre et en Afrique 1 (1973): 17–26.

(37) G. Macola, Liberal Nationalism in Central Africa: A Biography of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 54–72.

(38) F. Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014); B. Lecocq, Disputed Desert: Decolonisation, Competing Nationalisms and Tuareg Rebellions in Northern Mali (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010).

(39) M. Hughes, “Fighting for White Rule in Africa: The Central African Federation, Katanga, and the Congo Crisis, 1958–1965,” International History Review 25(3) (2003): 596–615, esp. 598.

(41) Roy Welensky, Welensky’s 4000 Days: The Life and Death of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (London: Collins, 1964), 211–252.

(42) NAZ, MFA 1/1/24, Zambian Missions Congo, 1964–1968, Dr. A. Haworth to Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Lusaka, January 5, 1968.

(43) National Archives of the United Kingdom (hereafter NAUK), CO 1015/2525, “Disturbances in Northern Rhodesia, May 1960,” Governor Hone to SoS Colonies, May 15, 1960.

(45) Interview with G. Y. Mumba, Lusaka, 10 August 2005; see also Goodwin Yoram Mumba, The 1980 Coup: Tribulations of the One-Party State in Zambia (Lusaka: UNZA Press, 2012), p. 24.

(46) Kaunda’s parents were of Nyasa (Malawian) ancestry. In the post-independence period, attacks on Kaunda’s “foreign” status among opposition movements were common. In 1996, then President Frederick Chiluba attempted to prevent Kaunda from standing for the presidency on the basis that he was not a Zambian citizen.

(47) See for instance NAUK FO FO/371/167299, “Activities of Mercenaries and Ex-gendarmes, 1963,” Telegram, Lusaka to FO, August 9, 1963.

(48) NAUK FO 371/167303, “Congo: Activities of Mercenaries and Ex-gendarmes”; Evelyn Hone to S. P. Whitley, Central African Office, November 21, 1963, “Katanga.”

(49) ZCCM archives, 10.5.8D, “Zambianisation Committee,” January–July 1967, various documents.

(50) NAZ, MFA 1/1/24, “Zambian Missions Congo, 1964–68”, various documents. Those with Congolese mothers but Zambian fathers were deemed to be of Zambian nationality.

(51) NAZ, MFA 1/1/24, “Zambian Missions Congo, 1964–68”, Ministry of Labour Permanent Secretary J. B. Nyirongo to Assistant Labour Commissioner Ndola, July 11, 1967.

(52) Andrew Cohen, “Business and Decolonisation in Central Africa Reconsidered,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36(4) (2008): 641–658, esp. 649–650. See also Butler, Copper Empire, 255–280; and Andrew Cohen, The Politics and Economics of Decolonization: The Failed Experiment of the Central African Federation (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015).

(53) Miles Larmer, Mineworkers in Zambia (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), 43–44.

(55) “Union Minière Tax Move,” The Times (London), January 14, 1963.

(56) “Congo Bans Union Minière Ore Exports,” The Times, December 24, 1966.

(57) J.-J. Saquet, De l’Union Minière du Haut-Katanga à la Gecamines (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001), 155–208; “Union Minière Wins Case—in All but Name,” The Times, February 18, 1967.

(58) ZCCM, 15.2.1C, “Government Takeover, 1969–1971,” McCourt, Mufulira to CISB Kitwe, September 4, 1969.

(59) J. Aron, “Economic Policy in a Mineral-Dependent Economy: The Case of Zambia,” PhD diss., University of Oxford, 1992.

(60) E. Kennes and M. Larmer, The Katangese Gendarmes and War in Central Africa: Fighting Their Way Home (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016).

(61) M. Larmer, Rethinking African Politics: A History of Opposition in Zambia (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2011), 62–89.

(63) For press reports of such activity, see for example, Times of Zambia, March 1, 1976; Sunday Times of Zambia, March 6, 1977.

(64) United National Independence Party Archives, 7/23/54, “Lubumbashi Zaire, 1975–1980,” various documents.

(65) M. Larmer, “Local Conflicts in a Transnational War: The Katangese Gendarmes and the Shaba Wars of 1977–78,” Cold War History 13(2) (2013): 89–108.

(67) D. Potts, “Counter-urbanisation on the Zambian Copperbelt? Interpretations and Implications,” Urban Studies 42(4) (2005): 583–609.

(68) See, for example, World Bank, “Staff Appraisal Report, Zambia, Export Rehabilitation and Diversification Project, February 22, 1984,” online at: (accessed September 21, 2014).

(69) E. West, “The Politics of Hope: Zambia’s Structural Adjustment Programme, 1985–1987,” PhD diss., Yale University, 1989.

(70) M. Larmer, “The Hour Has Come at the Pit’: The Mineworkers Union of Zambia and the Movement for Multi-party Democracy, 1982–1991,” Journal of Southern African Studies 32(2) (2006): 293–312.

(71) T. Bakajika Bankajikila, Épuration ethnique en Afrique: Les “Kasaiens,” Katanga 1961–Shaba 1992 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997).

(72) E. Kennes, “The Mining Sector in Congo: The Victim or the Orphan of Globalisation?” in The Political Economy of the Great Lakes Region of Africa: The Pitfalls of Enforced Democracy and Globalization, edited by S. Marysse and F. Reyntjens, 152–189 (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); J. Hönke, “Extractive Orders: Transnational Mining Companies in the Nineteeth and Twenty-First Centuries in the Central African Copperbelt,” in A New Scramble for Africa? Imperialism, Investment and Development, edited by R. Southall and H. Melber, 281 (Durban, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2009).

(73) Alastair Fraser and John Lungu, For Whom the Windfalls: Winners & Losers in the Privatisation of Zambia’s Copper Mines (Lusaka: Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia and Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace, 2007).

(74) ZCCM archives, 7.8.1D, “Report on Illegal Settlement in Mine Areas,” June 1997.

(75) P. Mususa, “Mining, Welfare and Urbanisation: The Wavering Urban Character of Zambia’s Copperbelt,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30(4) (2012): 571–587.

(76) “Katumbi Shuns Umutomboko over Kabimba’s Thief Remark,” Zambian Watchdog, July 30, 2012. Available at (accessed November 6, 2012).

(77) Maud Julien, “Katanga: Fighting for DR Congo’s Cash Cow to Secede,” BBC News, 12 August 2013. Available at (accessed September 27, 2014).

(79) For two different approaches to this issue, see P. Mususa, “Topping Up: Life Amidst Hardship and Death on the Copperbelt,” African Studies 71(2) (2012): 304–322; A. Evans, “‘Women Can Do What Men Can Do’: The Causes and Consequences of Growing Flexibility in Gender Divisions of Labour in Kitwe, Zambia,” Journal of Southern African Studies 40(4) (2014): 981–998.

(80) Benjamin Rubbers, Le paternalisme en question: Les anciens ouvriers de la Gécamines face à la libéralisation du secteur minier katangais (RD Congo), Cahiers africains 81 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2013).

(81) R. Negi, “The Mining Boom, Capital and Chiefs in the ‘New Copperbelt,” in Zambia, Mining and Neoliberalism: Boom and Bust on the Globalized Copperbelt, edited by A. Fraser and M. Larmer, 209–236 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

(82) “Introduction: The Paradox of African Boundaries,” 1–14, in African Boundaries: Barriers, Conduits and Opportunities, edited by Paul Nugent and A. I. Asiwaju, (London: Cassell/Pinter, 1996).