- By Wonder Guchi
Wednesday, 14 November, 2012


He is now known as the weeping president and the last time he addressed the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Windhoek last year, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, former Zambian president wept as he sang his signature tune, Tiyende Pamodzi Ndi Mutima Umo (Let us Walk Together with One Heart).

Seeing Dr Kaunda shed tears, it’s unimaginable that this is the man who liberated southern Africa and was instrumental in pushing for the release of former South African President Nelson Mandela. 

It’s so distant to think that the role Dr Kenneth Kaunda played can be likened to that played by Che Guevara.

But today, he has been relegated to the fringes of history such that he does not make much news as Nelson Mandela does. 

Last month, Dr Kaunda was admitted in a Windhoek hospital for what was termed a ‘routine check’ and that event did not send headlines across the world screaming as did Mandela’s hospitalisation for another ‘routine check’ a few months ago.
There are 99% chances that if one asks the youth who Dr Kenneth Kaunda is, they would not know but just mention the name Nelson Mandela and they will tell you.

This is so because Dr Kaunda fought to liberate the region by accommodating revolutionary movements in his country when Zambia attained independence in 1964. 

While democracy is key word today, Dr Kaunda’s role as a liberator and proponent of democracy has never and will never be recognised because he helped in taking over power from those favoured by the west.

If the Kaunda-Mandela parallel is to be drawn further, one would conclude that the West loves Mandela today not so much because he has done anything for Africa in general or South Africa in particular but because he turned the other cheek and shook the bloodied hands of the people who murdered his own children.

One would also conclude that the west packaged Mandela for the world in exactly the same way they package products such as cigarettes, coke cola, and alcohol as well as clothing brands for consumption.

It is for this reason that no other African statesmen who reached out their hand to help others survive the onslaught of the west will ever be accorded the same respect and marketing Mandela receives.

All what we have seen and got are street names after Dr Kaunda with a municipality in South Africa in the North West Province changing its name form Southern District Municipality to Dr Kenneth Kaunda Municipality for the man’s ‘invaluable contribution to the freedom struggle in Africa; outstanding leadership; peace and progress initiatives in Africa’.

So today Dr Kaunda who sacrificed everything – his political career, his country’s economy, his life as a father and husband – for the betterment of the region lives the life of an ordinary man.

Unlike other African leaders – his successor the late Frederick Chiluba for example – who leave the State House burdened with accusations of corruption and looting of the economy, Dr Kaunda was removed with his hands clean. Most of the ministers who served in his government do not have much to show for the time they spent in government.
He is, most probably, one of very few African leaders who stayed on in their countries when they were removed from power and continue to live like normal citizens without anyone booing them.

Likewise, Dr Kaunda’s contribution to the independence of Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia has been forgotten. Nobody cares that Dr Kaunda’s benevolence towards his neighbours scarred the country’s economy badly and deeply.

Decades of wars in the region meant that the Rhodesians and the apartheid regime in South Africa and the then South West Africa (Namibia) would from time to time bomb Zambian infrastructure causing damage that needed Dr Kaunda’s government to repair. And this cost a lot for a country that survived on copper.

In an interview with Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley's Institute of International Studies and Executive Producer of Conversations with History, Dr Kaunda admits this fact: “We opened our doors and all liberation movements moved from Tanzania to Zambia. That meant being bombed from time to time by South African war planes. Zimbabwe, Southern Rhodesia in those days, the Portuguese in Angola, the Portuguese in Mozambique, the settlers in Namibia, all these were now attacking Zambia because they wanted us to fear that accommodating liberation movements meant being bombed, bridges being destroyed; you build, they will bomb them again, and so on.
“Oil places, where you hide your oil, they come and bomb and destroy those. This is what life then was, but it was something we had to do. When God says, ‘Love they neighbor as thyself’ and ‘Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you’ there's no choice there, if you understood that. We understood that, we accepted it, we worked together.”
Dr Kaunda further says his desire and that of the people of Zambia was to see other countries free from ‘people who did not believe that people of all races were God’s children’.

“We were not fighting for independence of Zambia; we were also very much concerned with seeing to it that our neighbours in that region were becoming independent. 

Angola, west of us; Mozambique, west of us; Zimbabwe, south of us; South West Africa (Namibia) and of course, South Africa itself . . .” he said.

This was a good fight for Africa but not for the west and Dr Kaunda became target number one.

When Dr Kaunda took in liberation movements, Dr Kamuzu Banda of Malawi declined to have anything to do with the plight of others.

This was noted by the late Julius Nyerere in his introduction to a book titled Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia: The times and the Man written by the Irish missionary Fergus Macpherson:
"If Kenneth Kaunda and the people of Zambia had decided that it was too difficult, like Dr. Banda in Malawi had done, we would not participate in the struggle." President Nyerere wrote, "We all would have understood that this was really the right thing for him and the people of Zambia to do. They went ahead because they believed in what they were doing." 

But to understand Dr Kaunda better – to know the depth and width of heart – has to go back into his childhood where he used music as a weapon to get through to the people.

PART 2 to follow

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