Sunday, July 30, 2006



At the time that F. H. Melland - a nephew of Prime Minister Asquith, arrived in 1901 on foot at Mpika in order to take up his post with the British South Africa Company as Assistant Native Collector, Chumamaboko (arms of iron) had for some time been a leading member of the elite elephant hunting, achiwinda clan. Famous in that part of the world for his hunting prowess, he soon attracted the attention of Melland who wanted to spend as much time as possible on his favourite pastime, hunting. They were to stay together until Chuma’s death shortly before Melland’s departure for England in 1924 when North-Eastern and North-Western Rhodesia were removed from BSA Company control and became Northern Rhodesia, administered by the Imperial Government.

Chuma became Melland’s professional hunter at the same time that the pioneer professional white hunters, the Hill brothers, Clifford and Harold, began conducting lion hunting parties on their ranch in the Machakos area of Kenya. Arguably therefore, Chuma was the first professional hunter in what now constitutes Zambia.

While at Mpika until about 1912, he guided Melland all around the district, venturing far into the Bangweulu swamps and the nearby Luangwa Valley. On the Luitikila river, which has its headwaters near Mpika, they shot a 116 pounder which today can be seen in the Thring Museum in England, one of the biggest elephant ever taken in Zambia, the record being a 136 pounder with one tusk.

Chuma followed Melland from Mpika to Solwezi, thence to Kasempa, Kafue and finally, to Mazabuka. And all the time they hunted together.

Melland wrote three books, one on elephant hunting, one on the anthropology of the Kaonde in Kasempa district, and one recounting his journey with Chuma and a friend from Bangweulu to Cairo, hunting elephant on the way. There are a number of fish named after Melland as a result of his Bangweulu fish collections, and he made valuable contributions in anthropology and on African development. His friends were people like Mickey Norton, perhaps the greatest of all elephant hunters, and J.E. Hughes who operated the first professionally conducted safaris in the Bangweulu and whose classic book, ‘Eighteen Years in the Bangweulu’ is still much in demand.

Chuma was remarkable in every way: Melland recounts the tale of how Chuma, a man revered by his fellow Zambians, once personally cleaned up the latrines in the labour lines at Kasempa during an outbreak of dysentery, hubris being absent from his character.

The picture of Chuma was given to me by Melland’s eldest daughter, Amicia, in 1998, a remarkable woman who worked for many years in Chile. F.H. was killed at the outbreak of war in 1939 when he fell between the train and the platform. He had just been appointed Secretary to the Royal Africa Society.

No comments: