By Andrew Mulenga
Nixon Katungu, Managing Director of Mkwaka Motors, a Lusaka based commercial garage has pledged to restore the ramshackle Land Rover that first republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda used during Zambia’s liberation struggle.
Responding to an article headlined, “Please mend KK’s car” (Saturday Post August 12, 2012), Katungu, 41, says he is willing and able to restore the vehicle to its original condition in 90 days at his garage in the light industrial area and bare all the costs.
The Land Rover is at Dr. Kaunda’s former residence, Chilenje House 394, a national monument off Chilumbulu Road, one of Lusaka’s few and highly underpublicized tourist attractions.
“After reading an article in the paper about the Land Rover I sat down and thought as a young Zambian and concerned citizen something can be done, I can make a difference instead of pointing fingers at someone else,” says Katungu who declares the office of the Vice President, Head Office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security among his major clients “I thought its better I take it upon myself to help preserve my history instead of sit and think that someone else can do it. There are people who fought for us to be free; I too can do something for my country”.
Katungu asserts that his garage can restore the vehicle back to its original condition competing with overseas standards and that his workshop has not only the experience but the expertise to do so.
“There is what we call ‘cut and join’ in our field, we look at the damaged part, cut it off, then if we can’t get the materials to build it we look for an old vehicle and replace it… if you look at the Land Rover, it’s the old type, it has rivets, and you can simply untie them” he says “I’m looking at 90 days, because the roof needs a lot of work to be done, we are looking at new tyres, restoring the engine and servicing it so that it can be in running condition. If the engine is beyond redemption, we can just clean it up and give it a coat of paint and basically do the suspension as well”.
Nevertheless, as admirable as Katungu’s zeal and patriotism might be, they are simply not enough to mend the Land Rover. He first has to convince the authorities, who in this case are the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC). He has already met with the NHCC Director – Lusaka Region as well as the Public Relations officer with whom he visited the site to assess the vehicle.
On August 20, he even put it in writing and addressed the letter regarding the restoration of the Land Rover to the NHCC Executive Director and is still waiting for a response, he is however confident that he will get one.
A wise thing would be for the NHCC to just be honest and let Katungu know whether conducting such an undertaking is within his jurisdiction or it has to be handled by ‘authorised’ restoration experts, or indeed they can tell him whether at all they even think it is necessary to mend the Land Rover in the first place.
In July, retired museums director Sibanyama Mudenda proclaimed there is no need to keep the car in its current state.
“The car is a historical artefact they have to restore it. It’s like the Chilenje house itself, you cannot leave it to deteriorate in the name of keeping the house the way it was when KK and family used to occupy it” he said.
Similarly, in an interview with The Post’s Edwin Mbulo an NHCC employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity challenging the commission to restore the vehicle “Employee challenges NHCC to restore KK’s Land Rover” (Sunday Post, August 12, 2012) concurred that there was no need for the neglect.
“It is so sad that with Zambia’s Golden Jubilee drawing nearer, we have heritage sites of high significance being neglected especially that which bears KK’s image,” said the source.
The source also alluded that the commission made a lot of money from the Victoria Falls and could not fail to work on the vehicle.
“We know that the car was burnt during the riots against KK’s reign but that was an act of arson and conservation of heritage artefacts says there must be restoration of such after the damage. Even paintings that get damaged get restored and there is nothing like leave the damage to tell the story. The story of the Rover is over the liberation of Zambia and not UNIP reign and riots against KK”.
Mbulo’s source added that apart from the Land Rover, the Railway Museum in Livingstone had been neglected despite over K500 million being spent to rehabilitate it.
“The exhibition is nowhere and the wall fence is half done. With the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) assembly coming, it will be a disgrace to take tourists to the historic site which tells the story of the railways in Southern Africa and Mulobezi,” the source told Mbulo.
For his story, Mbulo contacted NHCC east, central director Kagosi Mwamulowe who claimed the current state of the Land Rover tells a story of the time the country was gripped with the riots of the 1990s and must be left that way.
“Its current state tells the story of political riots and the struggle for independence; it is an anti-climax. But let me read the story first and understand the arguments being advanced. I will get back to you,” said Mwamulowe.
From the look of things, Mwamulowe still has not read the said article because he has not yet gotten back to Mbulo, likewise his Executive Director in Lusaka still has not responded to Katungu’s proposal to mend the Land Rover, obviously matters of national heritage take much time, thought, consultation and deliberation to respond to.