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The shape of Zambia on the map is somewhat of a foetal nature; this is due to Zaire intruding both physically and lawfully, we must presume! Looking at the map, one can see that Zambia lacks access to the coast except on other country’s roads, which can cause increased overheads when exporting its wares. Fortunately, the Chinese came to their rescue, completing the Tanzam Railway in 1975. Womankind’s ancestor – and probably man’s too, I suppose- is thought to come from the Zambian area and there is archaeological evidence that this area has always been inhabited for millions of years. Professor Leakie and his family were heavily involved in the work of finding the evidence.

However, the present day inhabitants seem to have turned up from the late seventeenth to the early eighteenth centuries so not long before the first white explorers. It is known that the Ngoni and Kololo tribes were forced to flee to the area in 1835, as the Zulus, who were expanding rapidly in numbers at that time, persuaded them that it was in their best interests to take a holiday ‘of a permanent nature for health reasons’.

Later the Arab slave traders moved in on what is now east Zambia, which was quite late in the history of the slave trade but obviously they still found buyers. Even today slavery exists; the person being paid only a subsistence wage after housing costs, et cetera have been deducted.

The indigenous people of Zambia are Bantu-speaking people as I am sure you are all aware. Zambia boasts of three other major rivers, the Kafue, the Luangwa, and the Luapula as well as the above-mentioned Zambezi.

At the time that Great Britain kindly decided to claim the area, it was inhabited by many tribes. Livingstone’s explorations had alerted many and Cecil Rhodes was granted mining rights over a vast area which was subsequently named Northern Rhodesia, obtaining the status of a British protectorate in 1924. It was not until 1953, our present Queen’s Coronation year that Britain created the Federation of North and South Rhodesia and Nyasaland; the colonists instituted the Apartheid System to preserve white rule and profits. There can be no doubt that the black people were the losers in such an arrangement; there were no thoughts of transfer of power but it was surprisingly peaceful when it did happen

The Federation ended in 1963 and in 1964, Kenneth David Kaunda became President. He was born on 25th April 1924, the son of a man, born in the area we now call Malawi, who himself, been trained as a Church of Scotland Missionary. This, in turn led young Kenneth into the world of education, rising to headmastership. His sharp brain led him through a succession of posts and experiences, including prison, which from our current perspective, was due his political opinions and the damage they might cause to profits rather any genuine criminal activity. There are many, many sites mentioning him in some detail on the Internet should you wish read his travails in greater detail but it is beyond my remit here. We certainly know that he has been far from the worst political leader in Africa in the last fifty years. He always has a cheerful smile on the banknotes rather than assuming “importance”, which is also endearing. Less endearing was his decision to ‘beef up’ the constitution to create a one-party state under a man called, umm, Kenneth Kuanda. This was with best of motives, we can be sure; Kenneth Kuanda was not malicious and nor did he have contempt of his brother Zambians. He truly saw it for the best; it was obvious to him that HE was the best man for the job.

Unluckily for him, in this later period, major problems arose. A terrible and long,drawn-on drought, anger over disclosures of government corruption, and the final straw - something beyond Kuanda - copper prices relentlessly slipped in the late eighties. The whole economy was dependent on this one commodity. No leader in Zambia would be safe from such a calamity, then or today.
Kaunda was out of a job and his glorious one-party state liquidated. Kenneth Kaunda saw his reins passed onto Frederick Chiluba succeeded by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy's (MMD). Frederick Chiluba (b. 1943) was relieved to displace Kaunda as, in Chiluba’ estimation, he had lost the plot and was hanging on to power. Chiluba's administration bravely abolished exchange controls, creating new investment laws and setting-up a stock.
One might have supposed Frederick Chiluba might slow down a little but he next embarked on a major privatisation program, which, at one point at least, was considered by the World Bank as the best on the continent.
However, a constitution adopted in 1996 solidified the ruling party's power and led to Chiluba's very highly contested re-election. However he could not enforce a change in the Constitution to allow his third term so he was shot by his own petard.
The next ‘new kid on the block’ was Levy Mwanawasa (b. 1948) in 2002, in another contested election. Mwanawasa launched an extensive anticorruption campaign, which led to the prosecution of former President Chiluba. As you see, the politics is lively but by no means as frantic as in some other African countries.
Zambia is part of a massive plateau, the height of which varies from two thousand to 5,000 feet above sea level. For variety’s sake it also has a few scattered mountains and some deep valleys.
The well-known River Zambezi rises in Zambia, saucily runs through a chunk of Angola, but quickly dives back, keeping a straight face. (I like a river with a sense of humour!) Further up, it defines the southern boundary with Namibia with perfect and serious aplomb, to demonstrate its versatility. It has been dammed at Kariba, forming the Great Lake Kariba. There are other important rivers, three of which are the Kafue, the Luapala and the Luangwa; for others, I refer you to your own atlas. Anyone collecting banknotes, coins and stamps must have at least one atlas and they are often available in charity shops at bargain prices. A globe is fun but the atlas is much more help. Zambia is home to a number of waterfalls, including some that are claimed to be inhabited by spirits who are strong on ethics, aiding the good and sick and reproving the bad for their misdeed, for example the Ntumbachushi and Chishimba rivers.
From mid-April to mid-August, the climate is fairly cool and comfortable but rather dry; from then on it becomes hot and arid until near the end of November. After that, Zambians enjoy a warm, wet period running up to early April.
They have several awesome waterfalls but the most famous must be the Victoria Falls, which, naturally, have a statue of David Livingstone (1813 to 1873), one arm akimbo, the other holding his trusty walking stick. He is believed to be the first white man to have seen these falls, (it was in 1854-5ish), naming them after his monarch, who always appreciated such touches of respect.
Ongoing efforts with privatization and budget reform have not sufficiently spurred economic growth. Zambia continues to work with the International Monetary Fund on programs to reduce its staggering poverty rate.
Citizens' rights and liberties in Zambia have long been subject to challenges and limitations, largely resulting from the dominance of its political system by strong presidents and their supporting political parties.

The Notes of Zambia

The notes to date were printed by Thomas de la Rue.

The first note designed but not issued was in 1963. It was a £1 and featured Queen Elizabeth II at the right. On the reverse a bird called a Ross’s Turaco is depicted. This note is reportedly has a number of colour varieties and is rarely seen. I think Ross’s Turaco is fairly rare too.

The catalogue value is $4500 which is probably a bit low now; it does not come to the market often.

In 1964 there were three issued notes as follows:
10 shillings; this featured a Chaplins Barbet bird on the face along with the Arms of Zambia. On the reverse there are farmers ploughing with a tractor and oxen.

The 1 pound features a Black-cheeked Lovebird on the face with the Arms again at the centre of the note again. On the reverse there is a copper mining tower.

The 5 pounds features a Wildebeest at the right of the Arms in the centre again. On the reverse are Victoria Falls of Zambezi.

The watermark on these three notes is of a Wildebeest’s head. All three notes are rare and carry a higher price tag.

In 1968, the kwacha was introduced and a new series of notes was issued: 50 ngwee, 1 kwacha, 2 kwacha, 10 kwacha & 20 kwacha. The watermark was Kaunda on the kwacha’s. Smiling on the face of the notes was President Kenneth Kaunda which is unusual as I mentioned above. On the reverse of the notes there are antelopes, farmers, Oxen, National Assembly, Mining Tower and Waterfalls. All the notes had a dot between the letter and the value. For example, N.50 was 50 ngwee and K.1 was 1 kwacha.

In 1969 a new series of notes with the same denominations was issued without the dot between the letter and the number. The designs were very similar to the previous series but there were various issues and signatures of the notes.

1973 brought just two notes, the 50 ngwee and the 5 kwacha. The reverse depicted Miners at work and school children respectively. Unsuprisingly, the 5 kwacha is considered a lot scarcer than the 50 ngwee.

In 1973 there was a commemorative issue of the 1 kwacha. This was to commemorate the Birth of the Second Republic.

The 1974-76 issues were 10 kwacha, 20 kwacha, 1 kwacha, 2 kwacha, 5 kwacha, 10 kwacha & 20 kwacha. For once the printer for the 10 & 20 kwacha was BWC (so I misled you a little) but then TDLR continued for the remainder. An older looking President Kaunda is featured on the face of the notes (yes, he is still smiling).

The designs of the notes are similar to previous issues although on the reverse of the 5 kwacha is commemorative text with a crowd and a document signing illustration.
From 1980-1989 a new design was issued and printed by TDLR. The denominations were 1,2,5,10,20 & 50 kwacha. All of the notes featured Kaunda at the right and the American Fish Eagle at the left of centre.

There were various issues of each note featuring different signatures. The reverse of the notes have new illustrations such as workers picking cotton, a teacher with a student and a school building. We also discover a Hydroelectric Dam, The Bank of Zambia, a native woman carrying a basket on her head & the “Chainbreaker” statue next to a modern building on the 50 kwacha.

The notes issued in 1989 were denominated 2, 5, 10, 20 & 50 kwacha, respectively. The face of the notes depict Kaunda, the American Fish Eagle at the lower left and a butterfly over the arms at the centre. On the reverse the “Chainbreaker” statue is featured on every note. There are various other engravings like a cub lion, building, giraffe head, Dama Gazelle head, a zebra head, buildings and carvings.

In 1991 a 100 & 500 kwacha were issued, a water buffalo & elephant & Victoria Falls on the reverses.

1992 & 1996 issues were 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000,5000, 10,000 kwacha. Kaunda has been replaced (!) with a larger picture of the Fish Eagle, the seal of Arms with the date is at the lower left. On the reverse the “Chainbreaker” statue is on each note at the lower centre right. The watermark for the series is the Fish Eagle’s head. The serial numbers are now ascending rather than horizontal.

More illustrations are featured such as copper refining at Nkana Mine, a ‘sausage’ tree (please don’t ask!), palm tree, Baobab tree, Jacaranda tree, an aardvark, Mureratree , Musuku tree, a lion and a porcupine. Various signatures and dates are issued for this series.

The 2001 to date issues are 10,000, 500,1000,20,000, 50,000 kwacha. The 500 & the 1,000 kwacha are both polymer plastic, Zambia being the first African country to issue polymer notes. The high denominations tell the story.

With the first issue of these polymer notes in 2003 a problem was encountered as the serial number was rubbing off. These were replaced in the same year with the second printing issue. The security of the notes is now of a much higher standard.

NB Notes from 1968 had replacement issues and every note (except for the £1 in 1963) had specimen versions.

Kate Gibson

Last updated 06/09/2023