Simon Zukas, one of Zambia’s independence heroes and most admired figures, has died aged 96. He passed away at 21:05 pm. Zukas was one of the proponents of the reintroduction of multi-party politics and held several positions in the MMD government.
His family state that funeral arrangements will be announced later.
Mr Zukas and his family came from pre-war Lithuania to what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia because it did not employ quotas limiting Jewish settlers — unlike South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe.
He later joined the territory’s struggle for independence and today remains a standard-bearer for its small Jewish community as chairman of the Council for Zambian Jewry, an umbrella organisation.
Mr Zukas’s schooling took him to the University of Cape Town, where he studied civil engineering. His time there coincided with the inauguration of apartheid, which thrust him into radical student politics and inspired him to join the main nationalist movement, the African National Congress, when he returned to Northern Rhodesia.
An active participant in the country’s struggle for independence, he was eventually deported to Britain but, following statehood, was invited in 1965 to return by the new country’s president, Kenneth Kaunda.
By now a qualified engineer running a successful consultancy in England, Mr Zukas said he moved back to offer his professional expertise in major infrastructure projects.
A career in politics also followed: his efforts to persuade Mr Kaunda and his United National Independence Party to abandon a one-party state failed and, in 1990, he joined the drive towards multi-party politics, playing a leading role in its subsequent return.
Mr Zukas was most recently leader of the Forum for Democracy and Development, an opposition political party. He retired from politics in 2005.