The Kaunda lecture: Dr Kenneth David Kaunda-a living Icon

 The Kaunda lecture: Dr Kenneth David Kaunda-a living Icon

Picture released on 1975 of Kenneth Kaunda, president of Zambia.

By Emmanuel Mwamba
Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president fondly known simply as KK, is a living hero amongst us.

Foreigners identify our country as primarily, a land of Kenneth Kaunda our founding president, Kalusha Bwalya, our soccer icon, and Chipolopolo, our beloved national team, but mostly by your name, Kenneth Kaunda, KK.

You were born the youngest of eight children, yet you are the giant of the family that history remembers.

Your father, Reverend David Kaunda was a distinguished man of the cloth and ordained missionary and teacher of the Church of Scotland Mission a Presbyterian and Westminster Confession Church.

Born at the Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, you followed the path of your father and became a teacher.

Chinsali was remote from any major town, but important missions of the day; Livingstone Mission, United Free Church of Scotland and the Catholic White Fathers at Illondola, ensured that your journey will start with mission education.

But it was not long, that the suffering of a people called you for duty.

You joined the liberation movement of your people and your country at a very young age.

As if bearing on us, colonial overlords, we had the indignity of our country named after a British pioneer and industrialist, Cecil John Rhodes.

We were Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia as our Southern neighbour, was called Southern Rhodesia. We were Rhodesians.

You trekked to the Copperbelt with your childhood brother Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe.

In 1948, you helped found the Northern Rhodesia African Congress with Godwin Mbikusita Lewanika.

This was later to become the African National Congress with a new leader, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula.

You became the Secretary General of the African National Congress in 1953.

Colonial authorities threw you in prison often. You suffered imprisonment so often that it emboldened you instead of weakening you, strengthened you instead of scaring you, gave you hope instead of living you helpless.

You understood the journey you were on.

Our forefathers resisted slavery and early colonialism.

They resisted paying imposed taxes, they resisted forced wage labour.

Through the new awakening of Christianity, our forefathers found hope, and used it to resist colonialism, the very vehicle that brought Christianity to our land.

Welfare Societies were formed as far back as 1912 when Donald Siwale and your father, David Kaunda formed the first welfare association, known as Mwenzo Welfare Association to bring to the attention of the colonial government, views of the African in his own land.

Our mine workers organised themselves into Zambia’s first organised workers’ strike in 1935 on the Copperbelt and Broken Hill modern-day Kabwe. They protested against low, slave wages and inhuman working conditions.

In 1946 Dauti Yamba, formed the Federation of African Societies at Broken Hill (now Kabwe).

This was not only a direct response against colonialism, but a response to increasing European settlers drive; of local politics, local power and acquisition of land.

In 1948, the welfare societies formed one amalgamated union called the Northern Rhodesia Welfare Societies led by Godwin Mbikusita Lewanika.

Of important development during this period, was the formation of the African Mineworkers’ Association led by Lawrence Katilungu tools and vehicles that came to challenge colonial authority in later years.

In 1951, the Northern Rhodesia Welfare Societies was transformed to the African National Congress and was now led by Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and you as Secretary General.

During this period, a woman prophet, Alice Mulenga Lenshina, birthed the largest church grouping that Zambia has ever seen.

The monumental and profound role of this woman to the cause of African spiritual growth can be discussed later.

But it was impatience with the sense of change that progressive like you broke ranks with the ANC and formed the Zambia African National congress in 1958.

Colonial authority saw what was different about this new party, and immediately banned it and threw you in prison.

But other comrades sprang to nurture the new radical ideas you and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe had professed.

Mainza Chona, Paul Kalichini, Dixon Konkola, Solomon Kalulu and others went to work and founded your liberation movement, the United Nations Independence Party (UNIP).

It’s with UNIP that you led our country to national independence.

It is with UNIP that you founded a nation anchored in unity despite its diversity.

A nation with only 109 university graduates at birth, to now thousands of such graduates serving as medical doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, bankers, and leaders in some of the best institutions and firms across the world.

A country with one trunk road, you built infrastructure in roads, bridges, hospitals and clinics, universities, colleges and secondary schools.

You built a nation out of what seemingly was nothing.

But, it was your selfless role in the struggle for Southern Africa that sets you apart from all, that grew your stature to that of a saint that lifted the banner of Zambia that has won our people the distinguished and revered role of liberators.

And making Lusaka as a City of; Freedom, Accords, Peace, Liberation and Hope.

Because, Dr. Kaunda, you said; “If Africa is not free, we, Zambia is NOT free!”

Because you were guided by, your early Christian teachings and principles that have guided your walk;

“Love your neighbour as yourself” Mark 12;30-31.

For those that know you, they know that you precede this verse with; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”.

Your cause was helped by many factors;

In 1960, after a visit for a month of British colonies in Africa, Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan delivered his most profound speech in the Parliament of South Africa- ‘The Wind of Change.”

Remember this was significant especially that the National Party shortly after winning power, declared Apartheid as law in 1948!

Harold Macmillan pronounced that Britain would not stand in the way of calls for African self-rule or independence in the colonies, overseas territories or lands that it held.

We became independent in 1964.

But not South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South West Africa(Namibia) as

the huge white settler and minority communities could not voluntarily cede power to blacks because of a noble speech, could not give up these territories to their rightful owner.

Lusophone countries; Angola and Mozambique were under the rule of Lisbon-Portugal.

You didn’t ask what was required to do, you immediately embarked on a journey to help free the region.

When the white minority government led by Ian Douglas Smith in Southern Rhodesia declared the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11th November 1965, both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth imposed economic sanctions on the country.

You immediately declared the UDI as an affront to Africa’s quest for freedom and independence.

We bore the brunt of these sanctions! Zambia’s access and supply route to the seaport for its imports and exports were through Salisbury(Harare) to Durban, Lobito Bay through Benguela line, and to Beira.

Because these were satellite states under the influence of the apartheid regime, our access to the sea was immediately shut.

You immediately embarked on a fresh sea route through Dar-es-Salaam.

But this took a long; about ten years.


You built the Tanzania-Zambia Railways (TAZARA), Tanzania Zambia Mafuta pipeline (TAZAMA), and the Great North Road but at a great cost to the economy and its savings.

Further, with regular military raids into Zambia by both Ian Smith and Apartheid South Africa forces, you had to direct resources to military capability.

But this was not the only sacrifice you made.

Together with Tanzania’s founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, you adopted liberation movements from the region as your own and made Zambia a host country for their stay.

You facilitated their stay in Lusaka for its leaders, created military camps for its military wings and provided education and jobs for their youths, provided diplomatic passports for the leaders, and gave huge financial subventions to the cause!

These are;

-The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola(MPLA) and the National Union of total Independence of Angola (UNITA) when they fought alongside each other before they separated fundamentally and were engaged in a proxy cold war and the two went on to fight Africa’s longest civil war.

  • The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) founded in Dar-es-Salaam Tanzania in 1962

After the Carnation Revolution that overthrew Estado Novo, both Angola and Mozambique became independent and the burden was lifted a bit.

But being borders to Zambia, rebel movements supported by apartheid South Africa; in UNITA in Angola, and Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), caused terror on our borders and displaced huge populations in their countries who became refugees that sought and settled in Zambian.

Other included:

-Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo, Zimbabwe African National Union led by Ndabaningi Sithole, and later by Robert Mugabe.

ZANU formed the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army led by Herbert Chitepo and its camps held just outside Lusaka, while ZAPU’s military wing Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army(ZIPRA) also had camps in Lusaka too. Although after the independence of Mozambique, ZANLA forces were moved to Mozambique and were based in Tete province.

-The South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and its leader, Sam Nujoma were based in Lusaka. An institute, the United Nations Institute of Namibia, a professional college to train future civil servants and administrators for Namibia was also based in Lusaka.

Swapo’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan) was also based in Lusaka after moving its headquarters from Tanzania. It later moved its headquarters to the frontline in Angola.

  • The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the African National Congress (ANC) with Headquarters in Lusaka and took up office at the Liberation Centre. ANC’s Radio Freedom broadcast through shortwave radio into South Africa from ZBS studios and Sechaba Magazine produced using Zambia’s local facilities.

The ANC made Lusaka their second home, and Zambia provided school, colleges and the University for ANC and other exiles.

It was long arduous decades of anxiety, wars, destruction.

But by 1990, All countries in Southern Africa had become independent and Nelson Mandela of ANC and Andimba Toivo ya Toivo of SWAPO had been released from Prison.

And South Africa was finally on the last mile for its freedom.

But all this had taken a toll on you, on the economy of Zambia and on the politics of Zambia.

The fall of communism and the Soviet Union, one of the principal ally and financier to the cause of Africa’s liberation worsened matters.

Zambians demanded that you revert the country to multi-partism.

You granted their wishes.

Zambians demanded that you call for early elections, two years ahead of schedule,

You granted that.

Elections were held on 31st October 1991

You lost that election.

To a young and trade unionist leader, Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba.

You handed over power with grace and dignity.

Instead of your stature diminishing, your stature has grown.

The world remembers your sacrifices,

The world is amazed at your humility,

The world is inspired by your commitment to the cause of a suffering neighbour, the cause of Africa, and your loyalty to humanity.

The world is hopeful of a better world where Peace, Unity, Freedom, Justice, Equality, Equity, Prosperity.

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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