By Kapya Kaoma.
After 21 days of mourning, KK finally took his rest alone at Embassy Park. Whereas the government’s will prevailed, the solemn ceremony left KK’s family heartbroken and aggrieved. He wished to be buried next to his beloved and lifelong wife, Mama Betty Kaunda. Is he going to roam in loneliness forever?
It is so saddening to watch the fight between the government and KK’s family over his body. This is yet another indication of political ineptitude–we don’t have protocols in place. We are reactive; we act as situations avail themselves. There is no standing protocol as to what is involved in high profile funerals at all– everything depends on the President. It shouldn’t be; we should do better.
President Lungu was surely aware of the state of KK’s health long before his demise, and had enough time to speak to him about his wishes and the government’s policy. Similarly, his children had many opportunities to share their father’s wishes with President Lungu. Moreover, one wonders how they could fail to settle their differences in three weeks to an extent that the family and the government have to face-off in public.
The major issue of contestation was whether KK’s body naturally appertained to his family or to the Republic of Zambia, and whose will should be upheld. As President, the government claimed KK as a national trophy–thus his body belonged to the State. As the State trophy, the family didn’t bear any costs related to his upkeep, medicals, and burial. Whereas the State could consult with the family, the family could not necessarily determine where KK should be buried. Since Embassy Park was established as a burial place for heads of State, KK was to be buried there. (This is in line with the burials of chiefs, bishops etc. personal wills are superseded by the office one holds.) The question is, could one opt out? The case of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe may be informative. It is not by law, but by declaration that one is buried at the National Heroes Acre. In that case, Mugabe was declared a National hero. Long before his death, however, Mugabe made it clear he didn’t want to be buried there. Upon his demise, he was buried at his village. Is Embassy Park set in stone for Zambian Presidents?
But there is a KK, the family man–the family trophy. He is a father, grandfather, great grandfather and an ancestor whose personal wishes should be honored. How could he rest aside from his wife and how could his family visit with him in loneliness? From a family perspective, this feeling is surely nobel. After all, the big man wanted to be buried next to his wife for this very reason–the two were always together in life and should be in death. It is on this basis that his family sought an injunction to stop his burial at Embassy Park–which unfortunately was denied. Mr. Tilyenji Kaunda reportedly said his father will be buried twice–first at Embassy Park, and then at State Lodge. This is highly unlikely.
But I think there is a middle way which we should consider. Why not bring Mama Betty Kaunda to Embassy Park out of respect to Dr. Kaunda? Mama Betty Kaunda is the unsung angel of the KK story. She deserves a special place in the history of Zambia. She was with KK in good and hard times. I believe Betty is the mother who made KK give up power in 1991, retire from politics and dedicate the rest of his life to serve humanity. And when KK went on hunger strike in prison during the Chiluba regime, Mama Betty forced him to eat when she told him she would stop taking her diabetes medication. Betty was KK’s life. At her funeral, KK collapsed and he was never the same again. With due respect to all First Ladies, Betty Kaunda is the most irreproachable, traditional, humble, compassionate and apolitical mother of the nation Zambia has ever seen, whose honor nobody could hardly dispute.
President Lungu, please bring Mama BETTY KAUNDA to Embassy Park. KK is missing his Betty. He won’t rest in loneliness. Embassy Park needs a mother too!