KK and FTJ shaped Zambia’s destiny in ways that need to be remembered and respectfully reflected upon

First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda shares a light moment with former President Frederick Chiluba while Chief Government spokesperson Ronnie Shikapwasha looks on during this year’s independence interdenominational church service at The Cathedral of the Holy Cross

By Nkonkomalimba Kafunda

Last week the country lost its first president and internationally revered statesman Kenneth Kaunda and also commutated the 10 anniversary of his successor Frederick Chiluba’s death. The two men shaped Zambia’s destiny in ways that need to be remembered and respectfully reflected upon, for a nation that does not appreciate its history is bound to be haunted and ultimately doomed by it.

As the former’s political career was in its twilight the latter’s star was rising as he ascended on a trajectory that would see him at the helm of the nation and the focal point of Zambian political social and economic life for a decade and beyond.

Arguably, the end of Dr. Kaunda’s reign can be traced to the night of June 30 1990 when junior army officers among them, but not led by, Mwamba Luchembe attempted to overthrow the government in an ill-fated military coup. This was the catalyst that set off a series of events that effectively sent Kaunda into retirement.

What followed less than a month later was the convening of a conference at Lusaka’s Garden house Hotel where like-minded Zambians discussed the reintroduction of Multiparty politics delt the death knell 17 years earlier through the enactment of article 4 of the constitution which banned all parties with the exception of the ubiquitous omnipotent flame brandishing UNIP after a plebiscite on the issue held in 1972.

At the end of the July 25-26 Garden house meeting, a pressure group was constituted to champion the return to multi partyism under the apt banner Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) initially led by Arthur Wina, (Husband to current vice President Inonge ) with several prominent members of Zambian society in tow, among them Dr. Chiluba, Lawyer Levy Mwanawasa. Vernon J Mwaanga, Sikota Wina, Simon Vukas, Elias Chipimo Snr Guy Scott to mention but a few.

The pressure they mounted on Kaunda forced him to appoint a commission of Inquiry chaired by Air Commander General Enos Haimbe (father of UPND Lusaka central Candidate Mulambo) that went around the country and got the people’s preferences which were overwhelmingly a return to Multi partyism.

Reluctantly but displaying what ultimately turned out to be misplaced confidence in his popularity, Kaunda repealed article 4 on December 3, 1990 allowing the formation of other political parties. The MMD which had existed as a party in everything but name, quickly formalized its transformation and its convention in February 1991 elected Chiluba president and candidate to face Kaunda in elections slated for October 31, 1991. The MMD emerged triumphant after annihilating Kaunda and UNIP with an embarrassing 80% of the presidential vote and 75% of parliamentary seats. It was the end of the Era of Safari suits, young pioneers the women’s league as the UNIP Comrades graciously accepted defeat and made a retreat from which they have never returned.

It was the dawn of the new culture epitomized by the smart double-breasted suit bright tie and matching breast kerchief. It was also the beginning of a painful but critical economic reform program that saw the closure of industries the loss of jobs without severance packages and a massive privatization program inspired by the IMF and the World bank whose young inexperienced Harvard and Yale graduates used our economy as a Guinea Pig for largely untested theories.

Chiluba’s was a government cemented by the overwhelming desire to remove Kaunda and once that was done and the hard work of governing a country in distress became a reality. Cracks, not well concealed from inception began to show, the cement’s questionable durability could no longer hold the stress.

In 1993, Chiluba fired his most powerful and influential ministers. Humprey Mulemba, Emmanuel Kasonde, Arthur Wina and Guy Scott were fired by remote, as the announcement was made while Chiluba was attended heads of State meeting in Asia.

As he strengthened his grip on power Chiluba weakened the Unions, the same unions that had propelled him to national prominence and as a consequence the presidency. He, quite literary, used the ladder and took it with him never to be used as a stepping stone again.

In mid-1994 his Vice President Levy Mwanawasa resigned after Chiluba rescinded Mwanawasa’s decision to fire health Minister Michael Sata for corruption when he had acted as President in Chiluba’s absence, In other countries that might have caused a political crisis but the master dribbler, that Chiluba believed himself to be, quickly appointed general Godfrey Miyanda, then MMD national Secretary and minister without portfolio. to replace Mwanawasa and it was life as usual.

In 1996 Chiluba was again the MMD candidate having defeated Mwanawasa’s challenge at an MMD convention with in excess of 2,800 votes to Mwanawasa’s paltry 63. UNIP boycotted the election after the constitution had been changed to bar Kaunda from standing so Chiluba faced Dean Mungomba of MMD splinter Zambia Democratic Congress winning with over 60% of the vote.

Chiluba’s last five years are membered mostly for his futile attempt to ensure they were not the last. An attempted coup in 1997 has been largely forgotten though he used it to detain political enemies real and perceived. He also introduced a law that made motor vehicle theft non-bailable successfully incarcerating his rival for the first lady’s affections on trumped-up charges and incarceration that led to the death of the Don Juan, Archie Mactribouy. Another casualty of Chiluba’s jails was Zadeco leader Mungomba who contracted TB while in prison and later died of the dehumanizing ailment. After failing in his attempt to cling to power Chiluba ordained Mwanawasa as his successor and at elections, in December 2001 Mwanawasa narrowly edged UPND’s Anderson MMazoka by 1 percentage point (28% to Mazoka’s 27%) to become Zambia’s third President.

In the end, how do we as students of politics, governance, and history judge our two fallen leaders?

Dr. Kaunda’s enduring legacy would be his free education which allowed generations to rise from abject poverty to the educated elite that was to run the country in the future.

He also came up with massive infrastructure projects, nationalized the economy Zambianised key jobs and helped liberate Southern Africa. But Kaunda’s regime was also repressive and saw many detentions and sudden unexplained deaths. Our society was a semi police state and for every four adults, it was believed one would be an operative of the powerful Office of the President security apparatus. The economy was run aground and shortages of almost everything from toilet paper to cooking oil were prevalent. He also left an unhealthy treasury with astronomical debt, crumbling infrastructure, and declining social services in health education and social protection.

Chiluba inherited this and set about the Herculean task of restructuring the economy on other people’s terms bringing about much suffering and misery. By and large, he tolerated the free press, and fun dental freedoms of assembly, speech, movement were largely guaranteed. He also set up the environment that allowed for debt forgiveness and cancellation that was achieved in the Mwanawa era.

All in the two played their parts in two very different ways at two very different eras. As to whether they were equal to the tasks they had chosen to take up by seeking election to the presidency remains subject of debate in many a drinking place, particularly this sad but momentous weekend.


  1. Who cares !

    The best president zambian ever had and the best opposition was Michael Sata

    The rest is nonsense. Kaunda killed a lot of Zambians in 1962-72.

    Chiluba started the mess we are in now abs sold everything he could.

    I hold. Phd and I’m only 27.




  3. F00Iish mush0ta you forget that the reason you and many others are sIaving away abr0ad is because the tribal f00I you support sold all the parastataIs for peanuts during prlvatisation. Your cr00ked tribaI leader hh is reason your are where you are cleaning toilets and old people’s s.h.l.t. Anyway I will forgive you because you are probably suffering from a s.h.l.t.y way of thinking. Continue selling your body to old whlte men there.

  4. Chiluba was too much a Western guy. He was blindfolded about privatisation that he couldn’t put a fail-safe mechanism on the system. It must have been a gradual process when surrendering our investments sold for a song

  5. Kaunda was an international figure who thought the domestic policy can wait before liberating others in all of Africa. It was a price he was willing to pay. But he never paid back.
    Meant to crush him, Chiluba tormented KK, broke his spirit and declared him stateless. Kaunda never recovered until Mwanawasa intervened. Instead of a blame game from me, let this be a valuable lesson game to us.

  6. As flamboyant as Kaunda, Sata aimed at starting where KK stopped. He singlehandedly overtook other old political parties, revitalised rural roads, built universities, introduced ring/feeder roads, moved SP main town from L/stone to Choma, gave us the 10th province, et cetera.
    Imagine you live in Chilenje and want to go to Chilanga: just cross Tokyo Way, from Kasama Road, get to Lilayi Road; soon, you are in Kafue Road avoiding clogged town!
    Sata was dynamic and, revolutionary. With humble education, he changed Zambia’s landscape.

  7. During the period of national mourning, it would be advisable to focus on achievements of the late founding president of the country. Making a quack comparison is likely to divert attention from bereavement. In the meantime, further research would continue. The achievement of independence was a milestone in the history of the country. Attempts to justify the election defeat of UNIP by MMD need not reduce the survival of a united country against dark forces. Before independence, the national leaders did not have the experience of governing the country. The first post-indendence government was made up of new leadership. Lack of experience led to critical mistakes but the nation survived intact. National unity is the most critical ingredient of national development.

  8. That picture shows us hypocrisy as exhibited by politicians. Ka Chiluba kalesekanokuseka but plotting to kill KK

  9. Chiluba did his bit , he was a good leader who helped to bring democracy, Chiluba left his good mark by opening up minds of Zambians to start their own businesses when businesses were only in the hands of Indians and Zambians were only workers and taking money into the pockets of Indians, no wonder Indians were boasting that ” the country is yours but money belonged us ” .
    That kind of language disappeared when Chiluba came into power.
    Chiluba empowered all Zambians with houses something no one shouldn’t forget about, because we all have one or two of those houses, Kaunda preached that go to the village but Chiluba said you can live where ever you want.
    I would conclude that non of the leaders was perfect neither will there one in future.

  10. @nhilimubemba
    No forex knowledge, but we had duty free shops. We used to spend many days at KMB station before a UBZ carrier (Neoplan) or a Mulungushi Travellers (Leyland) bus would take as far to either Kabompo or Mununga.
    Most ZCBC stores became Shorite (first one is Cairo Road , in 1995) UBZ and Zambia Airways sank.
    1994, Chilanga Cement became first major firm to be privatised and the success story lives to date. Nothing wrong with privatisation, but it was rushed and ill-managed leaving untold casualties owing to lack of progressive planning.

  11. My favourate president was Levy Mwanawasa “the cababage”. Toke off from where FTJ failed by completing HIPC, Investments flowed in, corruption stamped out, free education was working, hospitals had medicine and we had money in the bank (reserves). The country and its people where feeling rich. ALL THIS DESTROYED BY THOSE THAT FOLLOWED. Almost back to Zero. S.H.I.T.

  12. FTJ loathed kk with a passion..he achieved his ultimate goal to ensure he had kk locked up…so with the assistance of ill advisors he arrested the oldman on christmas eve….we watching a sequel to this movie

  13. They are both trendsetters in their own right.
    Sadly these people played ‘Haunting and Haunted’ movie and locked each other up in moments when they should have been consuting each other and building on pending progresssive projects.
    Hopefully the ‘Haunting and Haunted’ syndome has finally ended.

Comments are closed.