I was taking a walk in the main road of Mbala town on my second afternoon there when I came across a Victorian red-bricked building. Mbala is littered with so many such buildings and so many of them were built a long time ago. But this one caught my attention because it literally had a sign that read “Historic Building”.

Mbala Old Prison - Sign

I immediately started feeling my usual mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement because this was obviously a building with historical value hence something worth touring. But anxiety because Zambians are so complex, I never know whether I’m allowed to get pictures or not. But I pushed the anxiety to somewhere in the corner of my abdomen and I walked closer to the building.

It is a building with a broken fence around the yard. I stepped into the yard and I immediately figured out that this was once a prison. I could see 4 doors that were locked but 3 of them had bars so I could look through into the rooms.

Mbala Old prison- Front view


There was a blackboard that had some writings. It was a Daily State Board. It was where the daily statistics would be recorded. Things like number of males/females convicted or not convicted were written on the board.

Mbala Old Prison - Daily Stat Board

I peeked into the rooms and they looked quite small.

Mbala Old Prison - Room

There are no guides or anything of that sort around the building. People seem uninterested in the building. I didn’t see anyone even glance at me while I was standing the courtyard. I looked around and discovered that the building is 500m away from the Mbala Police station and 500m away from the current prison.

It turns out the Mbala Old Prison is actually a big deal because it is one of the oldest Prisons in Zambia. A lot of freedom fighters did time in it. Apparently even prominent people like Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe – who I have a minor crush on. I mean, the way the man wore that chitenge wrap. He just looks like he was a very elegant man. I intend to find out more about Mbala Old Prison. I had no idea it existed before that afternoon but it has stayed on my mind since then. And as I took pictures of it I wondered if a place that held so many people against their will could ever be considered beautiful when captured.

Here are some of the pictures:

Mbala Old Prison - Door

Mbala Old prison - Courtyard

Mbala Old prison - Door 2

Mbala Old Prison - Building

Mbala Old Prison - full view


Have you ever been to Mbala? Do you know of any other freedom fighters that served time in Mbala Old Prison? Do you know any other really old buildings in Zambia that you think I should visit? Let me know.

To see more of my travels in real time: Follow me on instagram : @chipoautumn


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