Endangered Archives

EAP121: Preserving the archives of the United National Independence Party of Zambia

Dr Giacomo Macola, University of Kent
2007 award - Major project
£25,992 for 10 months

Archival partner: National Archives of Zambia, Lusaka

Project Overview

The objective of this project is the electronic reproduction of the bulk of the documentary collection housed in the archives of Zambia's former ruling party, the United National Independence Party. Kenneth Kaunda's United National Independence Party (UNIP) was formed in 1959. It was the driving force behind the attainment of Zambia's independence in 1964, the country's ruling party between 1964 and 1973 and the only officially recognized party during the Second Republic (1973-1991). The importance of the party records to be preserved extends well beyond the realm of political history. The comparative shallowness of the post-colonial collections of the National Archives of Zambia - itself partly a result of UNIP having taken over most executive functions during the country's one-party era - makes the archives of the party a prime resource for virtually all historians of modern Zambia.

Following UNIP's removal from power in 1991, the archives of the party suffered from almost complete neglect and rapid decay. The building where the party records are presently kept, a disused warehouse in Lusaka's light industrial area, is thoroughly inadequate, vulnerable to both rain and fire. As a result of the National Archives of Zambia's intervention in 2003, the bulk of the material is now stored in cardboard boxes, but these offer only partial protection against dampness and the rats and silverfish by which the warehouse is infested. Fortunately, with the exception of the few unboxed files that are already in too advanced a state of decomposition, most records are still in a suitable state for electronic reproduction.

There are also more deep-rooted factors militating against the archival material's long-term survival. UNIP is presently a shadow of its former self, plagued by debt, factionalism and poor electoral performances. In the event of its future disappearance from the Zambian political scene, the party's archives would be one of the first casualties. In light of all of this, the urgency of the proposed digitization exercise cannot be overemphasised.

All the digitised documents will be recorded on DVDs. The master copy will be sent to the National Archives of Zambia, while additional copies will be deposited at the UNIP headquarters and the British Library.

Project Outcome

The aims of the project have been achieved in their entirety. With the exception of a few widely available documents, all of the ANC papers have been digitised and recorded on DVDs. In the process the old, inadequate catalogue has been thoroughly revised and new listings produced.

In keeping with the project’s terms of reference, the principal applicant was responsible for adjudicating on the historical relevance of the UNIP papers. In the event, and having taken into consideration the EAP’s desire to acquire as intact a collection as possible, as many as 12 of the 16 sections into which the UNIP papers are subdivided have been listed, digitised and burnt on DVD. The four series left out of the project’s purview (UNIP 4, 7, 14 and 15) consist solely of personal administrative applications (UNIP 4) and of government and published materials(UNIP 7, 14 and 15), duplicates of which are generally available at the National Archives of Zambia (and elsewhere).

The digital collection comprises more than 1,000 DVDs.

The original records are still housed at the archives of UNIP. Copies of the digitised material have been deposited at the National Archives of Zambia, Lusaka, and the British Library, London, where they are freely accessible to the public.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP121/1 Records of the African National Congress (ANC) party of Zambia [1948-1973]
  • EAP121/2 United National Independence Party of Zambia (UNIP) [1949-1988]