By Evarsto Mupeta
1969. With small and colourful papers depicting the Zambian flag proudly held in our hands,and clad in starch and perfectly ironed khaki grey uniforms and shiny black Bata shoes on our feet, our waiting reached the climax when the presidential motorcade arrived.
Then we saw him waving his white handkerchief,a broad smile on his face. Just to have had a glimpse of our president had evoked much inspiration among the young and old alike.Who would not love him when Dr Kenneth Kaunda the man and the leader had the charisma to inspire crowds? Who would not jostle for a better place to view Dr Kaunda-the president with a genuine passion and great vision to uplift the living standards of the Zambian people?
It was five years after Zambia’s independence from Britain on 24 th October 1964. Primary and secondary schools were built. Enrolment in primary education more than doubled from 3000,000 to over 700,000. Colleges were being built and a university had already been constructed. The energy sector received a relatively high boost with the building of the Kariba Hydro Electric Power Station.These and other milestone developments,all envisaged in the Transitional National Development Plan(1964-66) and the First National Development Plan(1966-70).Boy, this Dr Kaunda had the tenacity to build Zambia’s infrastructure-roads,clinics and health centres and hospitals were established over a short period of time.
While other African countries lapsed into civil wars and bloodshed,not in Dr Kaunda’s Zambia.It took the magnanimity and insight of Dr Kaunda to unite the seventy two plus tribal and ethnic groups into the strong single entity that Zambia is today.
Fortune was,Zambia was born with a copper spoon in her mouth. Misfortune was, the copper spoon could no longer hold. It was the best of times.It was an era of abundance.We applauded the government’s generosity at providing maize mealie meal, Zambia’s staple food, at such affordable prices.We then joined the rank and file to attend the United National Independence Party(UNIP) rallies and sloganeering with others”UNIP mulilo,uwaikatako apya!”(UNIP is fire, whoever touches it gets burnt!”)
Surely, Zambia’s economy had got in touch with the fire of the then ruling party and the various economic sectors were burnt to “ashes”! We woke up to discover that there was neither an egg nor butter for breakfast as promised.We woke up to start experiencing long queues for essential commodities at Zambia Consumer Buying Corporation(ZCBC) and other retail outlets. Your mother considered you a hero to have bought a 50kg bag of mealie meal at a shop characterised by long queues. Of course you must have waken up around 0500 hours to have secured an advantageous number on the line.
That was the policy of subsidising consumption rather than production. Zambia was a welfare state, call it that if you like. Dr Kaunda’s leftist leaning and nationalisation of the major means of production severely backfired by the latter part of the 1980’s. One case of the people’s frustration was in December 1986. The increase in the prices of meal mealie sparked some violet protests on the Copperbelt where copper is largely mined.
There were also other problems like the decline in copper prices and escalating oil prices on the world market over which Dr Kaunda or Zambia had no control.
Or saying it plainly, the economy is one area in which Dr Kaunda fared tragically, leaving Zambia with a huge external debt. Despite the economic difficulties we would eat whatever was there to eat and rushed to play football on patchy grounds, peacefully and unmindful of harm whatsoever, to emphasise again that Dr Kaunda’s Zambia was a haven of tranquility. There on the football field we would imitate the sensational and prolific scorer Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu (late) and other great footballers of that time. Just as today’s young people emulate the exceptionally gifted players to feature in the 2010 World Cup very soon to commence in South Africa.
While we were playing football, some of the girls, not far from our vicinity, would be playing iciyenga , a common pass time game whereby the player articulates to bring some stones into a circle. The peculiarity about those girls was that they were all wearing long dresses or long skirts reaching far beyond their knees. As if what they had worn were not enough, some of the girls would wrap a usually two metre cloth material(icitenge) around the their waist to fortify the non exposure of their legs. The godliness and conservative nature of Zambia, even in dressing was complete and admirable. Impregnable moral and cultural values are at the core of life in Zambia.
So even after we had expended all our energy on soccer until almost sunset and still found the girls fidgeting with those stones, we did not need to be reminded, if the motive was mischievous, to keep away from members of the opposite sex. Greetings and pleasantries were sufficient; we strictly knew our boundaries. In any case you had to give a convincing reason to your parents why and where you had been lingering during the evening beyond the time set for you to be indoors. We were religiously obedient to our parents and were just glad to be home early. Those gleeful, wonderful and formative years of our adolescence, in Dr Kaunda’s Zambia, come with irresistible nostalgia. Nostalgia and deep appreciation that our parents and guardians (including Dr Kaunda- himself a strong and exemplary believer in intact family norms) for having fostered in us virtues that have made us extraordinary achievers (in our own right) in the exciting and complex realities of life.
Yet Dr Kaunda did it before Dr Dambisa Moyo wrote it in her book Dead Aid. .(Congratulation to Dr Moyo for emerging as an outstanding advisor in international economics and finance and for her book in which among other pertinent issues she counsels Third World countries to reduce their dependence on donor aid or altogether abandon foreign aid) . In May 1987 in what was a far reaching decision, Dr Kaunda announced that Zambia was terminating her contract with the International Monetary Fund(IMF). It was news of astonishing proportions. What country, financially stressed as Zambia was ,did not need the help of the IMF and the World Bank? He could not bear any more currency devaluation, wage freeze, public expenditure control, and other conditionalities of the world’s lending institutions. The consequences regardless Dr Kaunda was courageous and swerved the nation along that line. Courage, as you know is a virtue of a great leader, and Dr Kaunda’s life in many ways epitomizes courage.
So, however, we were back to the bad and the discomfort. No Coca Cola. No Fanta, no soft drinks manufactured by multinational corporations.The replacement came in form of locally made soft drinks names too far fetched to remember. No competition.No innovation. The absurd things socialism can do to a nation!
Birth And Political Background
Son of the missionary Rev David Kaunda of the Church of Scotland Kaunda was born of deeply religious parents on 28 April,1924 in Lubwa mission, Chinsali,a district in Northern province, one of Zambia’s nine provinces.Kaunda’s father died when Kaunda was eight years old.Kaunda was selected for secondary school at Munali,in Lusaka when he was seventeen years old.He excelled at Literature in English, this explains why composition of poems and songs to him flow easily. After completing a one year(1943-44) course in teaching he became a teacher. He served as boarding master of Mufulira Upper School from 1948-49. For a man certainly born a natural leader,Kaunda rose to the various levels of leadership effortlessly-people and events are always attracted to him.
As the political struggle against colonialism gained ground, Kaunda joined politics and brilliantly and effectively organised, as district secretary the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress(NRANC). His dedication and hard work saw him rise to the post of provincial secretary, a position he held for only one year(1952-53). Then Kaunda became the secretary General of ANC in 1953 until 1958 when he founded the more radical Zambia African National Congress(ZANC). Although Kaunda’ s strong nationalist views were clipped by the colonial government by sending him and other militant freedom fighters to prison and banning ZANC, he became, after being released, president of the United National Independence Party(UNIP) formed in 1959 to replace ZANC. UNIP led Zambia to self rule. Kaunda became the president of the Republic of Zambia at forty years, one of the youngest and most radiant presidents of his generation.
UDI And The Liberation Struggle:The Dilemma,His Unwavering Commitment And
One year after Zambia’s Independence, came unsavoury news from her southern colonised neighbour, Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe).
I an Douglas Smith unleashed his Unilateral Declaration of Independence(UDI). The serious implication of Smith’s action was that it placed on Dr Kaunda, for fifteen years running a complex and burdensome situation. Similar to a man who has had an extremely important outlet for his children and goods through the neighbour’s yard but that neighbour suddenly closes the way. Remember, Zambia is a landlocked country. How would the bulk of Zambia’s copper exports be safely exported? The intransigence and severity of UDI on the oppressed people of Rhodesia was agonising and was widely condemned.Even Zambia, by her proximity to Rhodesia felt the harshest impact. How would Zambia’s goods pass through a country against which economic sanctions had now been declared by the international community?
Dr Kaunda,or KK as he is popularly known, had the wisdom and decisiveness to handle the intricacies of UDI,even when some of the Western countries would not help him find reliable alternative routes.In partnership with Tanzania, Zambia’s northern neighbour,he turned to China.That was how the 1860 kilometres Tanzania Zambia Railway(Tazara) was established.The Chinese built the railway line from Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia) to Dar es Saa am(Tanzania)
Yes,wars of liberation were raging in Angola,Namibia,Mozambique,(these three countries share borders with Zambia) and South Africa.Dr Kaunda had a well placed conviction that Zambia’s independence was not complete without the liberation of those in Southern Africa and those oppressed in other parts of the world.His desire to free Southern Africa reverberate in almost every speech he gave.He unequivocally supported the quest for freedom at an enormous cost;channelling the resources towards the struggle exacted a heavy toll on the Zambian economy.And those incursions by I an Smith’s Selous Scouts made the situation worse,apart from killing they often left Zambia’s economic installations like bridges destroyed. Supporting the liberation struggle in Southern Africa was the best course of action he took in his foreign policy.
Pass through the short “tunnel” or passage below Findeco House, Lusaka’s twenty two storey and tallest building.Beneath the fly over bridge joining the Kafue roundabout.On your way to Kamwala shopping centre.As you and others hurriedly walk through the tunnel visibility of light is evident even before you reach the exit.In the various fields of “human endeavour”as Dr Kaunda would say, Zambia in his era was going through tunnels darker and longer than the one just mentioned.But Dr Kaunda true of a leader of unshakable faith was always encouraging Zambians that there was “light at the end of the tunnel.”
It was just after Dr Kaunda had lost in the landmark elections that brought Dr Chiluba and the Movement For Multi Party Democracy (MMD) to power in 1991.You should have been there to see the crowd that had gathered at Freedom House,the UNIP national headquarters in Cairo road -the main road in Lusaka-Zambia’s capital city.Reason?Just to have a glimpse of the man now vilified-the former president who in their opinion had led them into poverty, instead of prosperity.Dr Kaunda braved the snares and boos of the crowd;he is a true leader refined for triumph or defeat,sunshine or rain,joy or sorrow.But wait.He was only momentarily vanquished this manner of a great man.In due course he would recapture his popularity or fame.
Dr Kaunda is a leader endowed with a strong personality.He was in charge-his presence could be felt. If you do not believe that he is a man of a compelling personality let this one be graciously pulled out.Just an announcement on television or clipping in national newspapers that president Kaunda would address a press conference the following day the whole nation would be as expectant and jittery as looking forward to the outcome of a crucial qualifying football match, say, between Zambia and Egypt. By the time he took his seat at the scheduled news conference,some of his ministers would have been gripped with much uneasiness-had they been fired?
Would they be showered with glowing praise?Would he unfairly call some people “stupid idiots?”They were apprehensive that Dr Kaunda would speak that day,even in the capital cities of the Western nations.After he had finished speaking,some would hate him to love him greatly while others would love him to hate him more.He had spoken.He had spoken.Spoken about the evils of colonialism and apartheid with frankness,brutality and repetition that irked them.If as a journalist your surname is Hall you had to be careful for asking the right but probing questions.My dear KK would sarcastically tell you “hollow-minded”or something like that. Was this the press freedom we were often lectured about?Was this the freedom of expression we were encouraged to pursue?
He schooled leaders who are loyal and selfless-the kind that is in public life for the sole purpose of serving the people and the nation.Those, not primarily there to deep their fingers into the bowl of national funds and end up as plunderers.That is why after the UNIP era in 1991,some,if not most of those who had served in Dr Kaunda’s government had little to boast about financially and materially.
Some of them had neither much technocracy nor education but humble and an assuming men and women who became some of the finest leaders Zambia has ever had.
During his presidency, he successfully hosted in Lusaka international conferences in which he played a pivotal role.There was the Organisation Of African Unity (OAU) the fore runner to the African Union(AU).Dr Kaunda was the chairman of the OAU in 1970 and 1987.The Non Alignment Summit was held on the Zambian soil in 1970, just like the Commonwealth Heads Of States Summit in August 1979.In all these and other global fora Dr Kaunda’s voice to free Southern Africa resonated with great assertiveness and urgency-and he wept-as he often does when dealing with emotive issues.
Visit or mention South Africa,North West Province for that matter you find that there is Dr Kenneth Kaunda Municipality.Formerly known as the Southern District Municipality,the area was renamed to bear Dr Kaunda’s name on 25 April 2008. The adoption of Dr Kaunda’s name was overwhelming.The name is synonymous with invaluable contribution to the freedom struggle in Africa;outstanding leadership;peace and progress initiatives in Africa..For such a large Municipality with abundant and beautiful natural resources and all its clusters of wealth to be named after Dr Kaunda tells volumes about Zambia’s former president. Or let us say the choice of Dr Kaunda’s name by the Municipality is a honour not just to the former head of state but also to Zambia.
Crusader Against HIV/AIDS
Hear his rich voice with that of Rikki Illilonga in “We Shall Fight AIDS” an eleven tract cd.Through the Kenneth Kaunda Children Of Africa Foundation (KKCAF) which he founded he has become an important and active crusader of a noble cause-sensitizing those in Zambia and abroad about the dangers of the killer disease.
It is a cause about which he empathizes with those who have been infected.His fatherly figure and spirit truly identifies with them.It takes a man who felt what it feels to lose a precious family member to the scourge of AIDS.The Kaunda’s lost their son to AIDS,an incident which,in rare integrity, prompted them to go public about the deadliness of the disease.
Read his articles in some of the national tabloids.You become hooked and inspired by his insight over many national and world issues.
Dr Kaunda has authored,among others Zambia Shall Be Free (his biography), Letter To My Children (written while he was president) in which he apologised to his children for not giving them as much time as he should because of tight work schedules.LTC is addressed to the youth in general.In Kaunda On Violence he painstakingly explains why after many years of pacifism which he had learnt from Mahatma Gandhi he had to support the armed struggle option-in the politics to free Southern Africa from colonial rule. And do not forget that Dr Kaunda is a man of humour.He leaves you laughing with with many of his jokes and anecdotes.
Time For Everything:A Contest Uncontested
By 1996 it seemed Dr Kaunda had not been giving significant attention to the words”There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under heaven.”(Ecclesiastes 3:1) It was unsettling to hear him announce that he still wanted to go back to State House,as Republican president.That decision was not short of political drama.The unsightly and embarrassing happened;an incident we wish must not have occurred.Oh, no,not to a man as dignified as our dear KK.While attempting to hold a rally Dr Kaunda was grazed by a bullet fired by a policeman because the government of the day had declared that meeting illegal.If only.If only Dr Kaunda had not re-entered the fray of competitive politics!
Whether it was done to have continued grip on power or out of mere religious curiosity it was mind boggling,nay,abominable for Dr Kaunda,during the last term of his rule to have involved himself with the David Universal Temple which was built near State House.God was certainly angry that in a nation that is strongly Christian its president started consulting religions other than Christianity.
The Christians,a determinant force on who wins the elections began to pray in a fervency unknown before.Christians in Zambia can unceasingly pray(all night or chain- prayer meetings are usually held) and really influence the outcome of elections! That religious stance by Dr Kaunda partly contributed to the whole in his loss of power in October 1991.
Oh, another thing can maul into Dr Kaunda’s legacy.UNIP,typical of a one party rule, was hyper sensitive to the views of the opposition.Those who were critical of its policies suffered systematic marginalisation.
Zambia:To Walk Together Confidently
Many months after we had paraded that road to receive our president my five friends and fellow pupils and I, were excitedly knocking off from school as we sang a newly learnt song:
Twaisa pamo, tuli baqanda imo
We have come together,we are one
We belong to one household
We shall always be together even in future.
As we sang the song we could now hear sweetly blaring from a radio in a nearby house a song of almost unmistakable similarity and flavour to our own.For a short time we became motionless like cars waiting for the green road traffic light-we listened more as the song rose to a new crescendo.It was Dr Kaunda,probably before addressing a meeting somewhere singing his favourite song Tiyende Pamodzi Ndi Mutima Umo (Let us Walk Together with One heart)
Yes, we had instinctively and tacitly made a resolution to cherish unity.That, regardless of tribal,ethnic, racial backgrounds or any differences, in Dr Kaunda’s nation and successive leaderships in Zambia we would always clasp our hands into one another ‘s -as one wonderful,vibrant,progressive and victorious people.
We are exceedingly proud that in Dr Kaunda we have a patriarch and architect of the Zambian nation.
We are grateful that our own Dr Kaunda has truly lived to be an embodiment of love,wisdom,selflessness,unity, fortitude and a progressive vision.