Myths and legends are part of every society. These stories form an important part of the cultural heritage of African societies. These myths and legends are passed on from generation to generation to try and offer an explanation for phenomenon which seems supernatural or whose cause cannot be fully comprehended. An example of such is the Legend of the Luanshya River Snake which was referred to as “Sanguni” or “Funkwe” by the Lamba people of the Copperbelt.

In around 1927, when work began at the Roan Antelope Mine in Luanshya, stories began to spread about a legendary underground creature that lived in the Luanshya River. It was said that this giant creature had a humanlike head with a body that looked like a combination of a snake and a fish. The Lamba people who were the inhabitants of the area in which the mine was located told tales of how this mythical snake would swim along the Luanshya River into mine shafts causing flooding, cave-ins, diseases and spewing toxic gases which killed people. Every time a miner got sick or had an accident, it was believed that this mythical snake had claimed another victim.

Stories about “Sanguni” began to circulate widely in the Lamba community and caused fear among the people. Many mine workers began to desert the mine and any potential recruits refused to work in the mine because of the fear that they would be the next victims of the Luanshya river snake. Because of these stories, the mine management had difficulties in persuading Africans to go and work in the mines and so a serious problem of labour shortage emerged.

Faced with this serious problem of a lack of workers, the mine management looked for a way to calm the fears of their workers. In 1928, the mine organized an exorcism of the mythical snake in order to reassure African workers who had refused to enter the mine.

CREDIT: Truly Zambian S

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