Kabwe is the capital of the Zambian Central. Formerly named Broken Hill, it was founded when lead and zinc deposits were discovered in 1902. Kabwe also has a claim to being the birthplace of Zambian politics as it was an important political centre during the colonial period. It is now an important transportation and mining centre.
European/Australian prospectors named it Broken Hill after a similar mine in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. The mine was the largest in the country for around thirty years until it was overtaken in the early 1930s by larger copper mining complexes on the Copperbelt.
In 1921 a human fossil, a skull, called Broken Hill Man or Rhodesian Man was found in the mine. (classified as Homo rhodesiensis or Homo heidelbergensis)
A study by the Blacksmith Institute found Kabwe to be one of the ten most polluted places in the world due mostly to heavy metal (mostly zinc and lead) tailings making their way into the local water supply.
To the east and west of Kabwe are a number of areas with good but so-far undeveloped tourist potential:
50 km west, with a wildlife area (currently a Game Management Area) on the other side of the Kafue River, 120 km from Kabwe, but road access is very poor.
Mulungushi River & Lunsemfwa River valleys, including Lunsemfwa Wonder Gorge:
These two rivers flow into the western end of the Luangwa Rift Valley just over 50 km south-east of Kabwe, and just south of the Mulungushi Dam and lake which offers good boating and game fishing activities. The valleys are scenic wilderness with good wildlife potential. However, there is no proper road access to the area.
In its heyday many of Kabwe’s streets were paved and lighted. Today the light posts are still there but except for right in town the lights are all gone, and all but the main streets have deteriorated back into dirt roads with serious bumps and holes, so go slowly and carefully if you drive a car. The blue-and-white minibuses are to be found all over town and are a good value, and the driver will stop to pick you up wherever you stand.
One of the best things to do in Kabwe is to go hiking at the actual Broken Hill, just east of the railway tracks at the far south end of town. Hike up the hills to the lakes: these were the mine shafts, and are now very deep lakes which provide solitude in a beautiful setting.
As Kabwe is not really a tourist destination, there’s nothing particular to be bought here. But of course there is a typical African market, south of Independence Avenue just west of the railway tracks, and you can get great fresh food at good prices.
Several companies, notably Mazhandu, run luxury buses south to Lusaka and north to the Copperbelt. The “bus station” is on the street in front of Big Bite on the south side of Independence Avenue.
If you are driving, Independence Avenue becomes Great North Road outside of Kabwe, leading north to the Copperbelt cities and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and leading south to Lusaka, Livingstone, and Zimbabwe.