This article offers a case-study in the use of precolonial history to safeguard political outcomes during decolonization and its immediate aftermath. It explores the reign of Chief Mukuni (Siloka II) who lived near the Victoria Falls, in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia); and whose contribution to the chieftaincy’s spectacular rise to power in the present-day has been hitherto neglected. A dynamic, resourceful and nimble political actor, the Chief’s “history wars” were crucial to his evolving repertoire. After a teething period, his reticence in office was increasingly replaced by belligerence. Micro-aggression became a feature on all sides, culminating in a number of attempts at secession by the chief who narrowly evaded imprisonment. Nevertheless, factors independent of the turbulence peculiar to this period were also significant, particularly geography and the personality of the chief. Moreover, a key strategy he deployed was pre-colonial in origin, namely the continuing diminution of the role and powers of the Chieftainess (Bedyango).
keywords: chiefs, zambia, decolonization, victoria falls, livingstone.