By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
On 17 June 2021, Africa lost a giant, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, but his pan Africanist legacy and exploits remains intact in the book of revolutionaries.
Kaunda affectionately known as KK was the last of the remaining founding fathers that liberated Africa from colonial rule.
While Africa and the rest of the world mourn the passing of Kaunda there is need to probe further and understand how his life impacted African politics then and later.
It is now public knowledge that Kaunda was born on 28 April, 1924, in the Northern Province of the then Northern Rhodesia.
Since the country was under British Settler Colonialism, it was natural for African Nationalists activists to come from the early intelligentsia that attended the generality of Mission schools.
He attended formal school and became a Headmaster and was involved in mobilizing the farming communities of that country.
It was through such exposure that Kaunda was exposed to the wide territory of Northern Rhodesia which was emotively diverse in terms of ethnicity and became familiar with the political terrain of his nation.
In 1947, he became a Welfare Officer at Chingola Copper mine that was huge in terms of staff compliment that was largely black and disempowered.
Kaunda’s most sincere blessing was to attend the All Africa’s conference in Accra Ghana before the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
It was an opportunity to mingle with such characters as Haile Sellasie, Tom Mboya of Kenya, and the African Nationalists who later became heads of government, the likes of Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria.
It was probably the first cross- national expression of Africa’s united political focus with the objective of unseating European colonialism and Apartheid.
Kaunda’s activities saw the colonial authorities restricting him to Kahompo, in the Northwestern part of Zambia and became the president of Zambia African National Congress (ZANC) .
ZANC became an outfit that was symbolic to the efforts towards unseating colonialism in that country.
The Africa Who is who published by Africa Books limited, London, 1981, explained that Kaunda became a Social Welfare Minister of Northern Rhodesia, between 1962 and 1964.
In those days, the idea of Social Welfare was to deal with the survival issues that affected the mainly black population in Zambia.
The intensive job required a lot of meetings with various large state corporations such as the railways and copper mines, whose management was dominated by whites.
One should not negate the fact that the basic command of English was mainly associated with black intellectuals of that time.
In October of 1964, Kaunda led the United Independence Party (UNIP) to a massive election victory that saw his inauguration as the Prime Minister of Zambia.
Zambia’s major political challenge was the rigid ethnic variations that created some potential for the problems ahead.
Towards the 1964 elections, the rumors in Zambia were to the effect that UNIP deserved to be led by Simon Kapwepwe who was of Bemba extract. Kaunda seemed to have held UNIP intact and went further to appoint Kapwepwe as one of his ministers after being sworn into office.
Kaunda’s blessing was also because the All Africa Peoples’ conference instilled a sense of oneness among the Africans who were under colonial rule.
With that background, Kaunda was elected as Chairman of the Pan African Movement, East, Central and Southern Africa in 1964.
The organization was a forerunner to the regional Frontline States that became the Southern Africa Development Committee.
The Sunday Mail of January 19, 1964, ran a story to the effect that Harry Nkumbula, another nationalist would be a potential political threat to Kaunda.
Kaunda’s irony was that, Zambia after 1964 was not similar to Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Angola that had waged an armed struggle.
Thus Zambia’s security organizations, such as the Army, Police and Intelligence Services were heavily staffed by whites in the higher ranks of command.
Such a state of Affairs would obviously work against the UNIP government, a lesson that had been learnt from the Congo crisis of the early 60’s that saw the removal and subsequent assassination of Patrice Lumumba.
Kaunda began to rebuild the Zambian military as well as police and the move resulted in an exodus of whites most of whom left Zambia totally.
In 1970, Kaunda was elected as the Chairman of the OAU, a position that he held until 1972.
At the inception of his presidency, Kaunda found himself surrounded by hostile neighbours like South Africa under Apartheid and Rhodesia under the Rhodesia Front government of Ian Douglas Smith.
It was such a scenario that impressed upon Kaunda to host a plethora of African liberation movements, among then, ZAPU, ZAPU, FRELIMO, PAIGC of Guinea, MPLA of Angola, Swapo and others that splintered from the mainstream like the later defunct SWANO of Namibia.
Kaunda’s perception of things was that Africa had to be in a total revolutionary inferno.
This desire unfortunately bred confusion
as Kuanda introduced the death penalty in Zambia in 1974.
His Legal minister, A.M Silunga, gave the details at a press Conference that was covered fully in the African Daily News of April 1974.
Kuanda’s headache with liberation movements hosted in Zambia led to many misconceptions about him, more so among the Zimbabwean nationalists.
The incidence of armed robberies in Zambia during the mid 70’s was largely due to the huge numbers of foreign Africans who carried firearms under the banner of some organization.
Inevitably the movements got involved in factional fights that led to the death of many on Zambian soil.
For instance, the Pan Africa Congress (PAC) and the ANC were never good friends in Zambia.
The MPLA nearly experienced a split in Zambia around 1973, when one of its Commanders, Daniel Chipenda led a separate faction in Zambia.
Kaunda’s worst headache was the internal fights particularly in ZANU. In 1975, ZANU killed about 150 of its own combatants at Chifombu in what became the worst massacre among foreigners at that time.
When ZANU’s National Chairman in exile, Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo was assassinated in 1975 , Kaunda instructed upon the mass arrest of ZANU’s High Command in Zambia , among them Josiah Magama Tongogara.
He commissioned a panel of Lawyers from African Independent states to probe the truth behind Chitepo’s death. However, it was felt that Kaunda was in favour of ZAPU, not ZANU, yet they were not the only organizations in Zambia.
The OAU had openly condemned the unorthodox disciplinary methods in ZANU and Kaunda felt the same. ZANU had another fracas at Mboroma and ZANU finally left Zambia when FRELIMO took over in Mozambique in 1975.
Kaunda had as early as 1964 , invited Joshua Nkomo of ZAPU and Ndabaningi Sithole of ZANU to come and discuss their problems with him in Zambia but the efforts remained fruitless right through the struggle for Zimbabwe.
Kaunda’s balance towards international politics was displayed when in December 1984, he stood firm at the OAU summit and instigated against the US, South Africa proposals on the independence of Namibia.
The Sunday News of December 9, 1984, reported that Kaunda openly dismissed the proposals put forward by the then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr Chester Croker.
The plan insisted upon the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and cessation of hostilities so as to pave the way for the independence of Namibia.
The UN Resolution 435 on Namibia became Kaunda’s line of argument, thus the Angolan crisis continued until the death of UNITA’s Dr Jonas Savimbi.
Kuanda’s relevance to Africa in general might have overplayed his grip in Zambia. In the late 70’s Zambia became the victim of cross border bombings as well as eliminations by both Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia.
Kaunda remained firm and openly warned Ian Smith that he had asked for war and would get it.
It was a fact that Zambia’s military capacity was not as resilient as Kaunda would have preferred.
At Lancaster House Conference of 1979, the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe, of which ZANU and ZAPU were part, saw the two parties consulting with either Kaunda or Nyerere.
Towards the election of 1980, in Zimbabwe, PF ZAPU seemed to have preferred the input of Kaunda and ZANU loved to have some private consultations with Nyerere.
Kaunda tried as much to implement some economic blueprint for Zambia with the aim of developing the country.
A.J Mills, in the History of Central Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, wrote, “In seeking for a new economic pattern, Kaunda was Chiefly influenced by the example of Tanzania, with the Philosophy of Ujamaa, a form of cooperative Socialism and national self reliance , inaugurated by Julius Nyerere in the Arusha Declaration of January 1967, and of Chile whose president, Dr Allende was experimenting with a new form of non-Marxist socialism”.
Time went ahead in the 90’s and rendered Kaunda and UNIP irrelevant to the contemporary political realities of Zambia.
Kaunda conceded defeat; inn the early 90’s to a Trade Unionist, Chiluba but remained a relevant figure in the peer group of African leaders even though he was no longer Head of state.
At the climax of his rule, Kaunda considered himself a Humanist and that saw him being elected to the Chairmanship of the Non–Aligned movement (NAM) from 1970 to 1973.
Patson Sigogo, a former member of ZAPU in Zambia, commented, “Kaunda was too level headed to deal with ZANU. It was unfortunate that after independence, Zimbabwe and Mugabe in particular never seemed to like much of KK.
In any case, Kaunda had closed all ZAPU camps in respect of the Lancaster House agreement but ZANU still felt that Zambia would at some stage; host some rebellious organization to wage an insurgency against the government of Zimbabwe. May his soul rest in peace.
Mlondolozi Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean media researcher and a leader of a budding group of young journalists, the Young Journalists Association (YOJA).
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