The turn of my
calendar page has lead to this month's newsletter, in place of my
planned Great Epic Newsletter about Sir Harry Johnston. Sir Harry will
definitely be with us in June.
(1924) is the birthdate of another of Africa's great sons, Dr. Kenneth
David Kaunda, Founding Father and first Head of State of the Republic of
Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia).
As in the
previous newsletter about the
DR. H. KAMUZU BANDA (April, 1997) this epistle will try not to stray
into the political arena, although I would really like to very much,
given the treatment of these great men, both my friends, at the hands of
the new, so-called Democratic governments. But I digress and will
abstain from political commentary. I will, however, share with you a
little about this extraordinarily talented, caring man.
was the youngest of eight children. He was born at the Lubwa Mission
Station in Northern Rhodesia to a loving and caring family presided
over, until his untimely early death, by his honored father, the
Reverend David Kaunda, an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and
teacher. His mother was one of the first women teachers in the country.
In addition to great love and spirituality, young Kenneth's childhood
was greatly influenced by books. He read continually, encouraged by his
parents to search diligently for knowledge in the pages of all of the
books available to him.
years were marked by excellence, a standard that continues to this day.
He excelled at Munali Secondary School in Lusaka. After graduating, he
earned a teaching certificate and returned home to take up the post of
headmaster at Chinsali Mission.
In 1949, his
life changed forever. Political change was fermenting as Dr. H. Kamuzu
Banda, Harry Nkumbula and others intensified their fight against
Britain's imposition of Federation for Central Africa, what in 1953 was
to become the hated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Twenty-five
year old Kenneth Kaunda began a bicycle tour of Northern Rhodesia with
his ever-present guitar, singing original freedom songs. His unique
political efforts resulted in the establishment of 116 branches of the
African National Congress (ANC). In 1953, the ANC membership elected him
Secretary General of the party. His leadership challenge to the British
government resulted in his imprisonment in Lusaka.
Like Dr. Banda
who has always claimed that his thirteen month Gwelo imprisonment was
"the vacation" that allowed him to think and plan creatively, so too
Kenneth Kaunda used his time in Her Majesty's "Hotel" to formulate and
develop the revolutionary political concept that eventually was called
"Zambian Humanism", an expression of faith in the common men and women
and a belief in non-violent attainment of all goals. He left prison
determined to live an exemplary personal life, renouncing all forms of
indulgences including tobacco, rich, unhealthy food and drink and
alcohol in any form. He became a vegetarian. His personal life style to
this day is one of careful moderation and morality.
In 1958, Kenneth
Kaunda or, as he is affectionately called by his many friends worldwide,
"KK", broke away from the ANC and formed the Zambia African National
Congress (ZANC) which was quickly banned by the colonial authorities. KK
was first restricted then re-arrested and whilst in Salisbury prison,
suffered a recurrence of tuberculosis. Nine months of prison solitude,
controlled at all times by his strict personal discipline, resulted in
his full recovery and finally, release in 1960.
formed and became President of the United National Independence Party (UNIP),
the political party that ultimately, working with Dr. Banda's Malawi
Congress Party in Nyasaland, overthrew the Federation of Rhodesia and
Nyasaland. In 1962, KK was elected a member of the Legislative Council
of Northern Rhodesia and Minister of Local Government and Social Welfare
in the coalition government of the United National Independence Party
and the African National Congress. In 1963, with Zambian independence on
the horizon, KK became Prime Minister. Finally, on October 24, 1964, in
the full realization of all of the desires of Northern Rhodesia's
majority African population, H. E. Kenneth David Kaunda assumed the
elected office of President of the new Republic of Zambia.
His "new" office
did not result in a "new" man. He worked with his usual passion and
dedication, often 18 to 20 hours a day. When in need of a moment's
respite, he sat at his piano or strummed his ever-present guitar,
playing and singing hymns. Although raised by his father as a
Presbyterian, KK and his wife Betty were happy and spiritually
replenished worshipping regularly with fellow citizens of all
denominations represented in Zambia.
L. to R. - Mama C. Tamanda Kadzamira, H. E. Dr. Kenneth
H. E. Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, Madam Betty Kaunda
As Head of
State, he delivered passionate speeches on subjects ranging from poverty
alleviation and drunk driving to AIDS and apartheid. As the Chairman of
the Frontline States, it was KK's leadership that resulted in the
release of Nelson Mandela and the incredible changes that have taken
place in South Africa.
intense, never-ending work schedule, KK had time to write a number of
powerful books. Foremost among these are BLACK GOVERNMENT?, Lusaka:
United Society for Christian Literature (with Colin Morris); ZAMBIA
SHALL BE FREE, London: Heinemann 1962; LETTER TO MY CHILDREN, London:
Longman 1973; and KAUNDA ON VIOLENCE, London: Collins 1980.
LETTER TO MY
CHILDREN is an extraordinary book, bearing the noble soul and spirit of
this great man as he leaves to his progeny this choice legacy dealing
with faith, values, humanism, music, courage, freedom and other
important and life-guiding issues. A truly marvelous volume of great
value to all who read it.
importance were the thought provoking books that were written to expand
and fully develop the concept of Zambian Humanism. Noteworthy examples
are Timothy K. Kandeke's FUNDAMENTALS OF ZAMBIAN HUMANISM, Lusaka:
National Education Company of Zambia, 1977; Bastiaen de Gaay Fortman's
AFTER MULUNGUSHI (for which KK wrote the foreword), Nairobi: East
African Publishing 1969; and Henry Meebelo's MAIN CURRENTS OF ZAMBIAN
HUMANIST THOUGHT, Lusaka: Oxford University Press 1973. All three of
these (and others) do justice to this important concept of Governance,
use of power and the elevation of the human life and spirit.
Kaunda left office in October, 1991, defeated in a "free and fair
election". He was very much a political victim of the times; the end of
the cold war with former friends, big powers, including the United
States, turning against him and supporting his opponent; the worst
drought in recorded Central African history, resulting in a hungry
populace; an overwhelming AIDS epidemic which, very sadly, claimed his
own son, and a very young discontented population with no sense of KK's
historical accomplishments, and little or no desire to work hard to
overcome obstacles and continue the development of Zambia.
Dr. Kaunda and
his wife Betty live in retirement in Lusaka. He travels occasionally. In
mid-1996, I spent the day with him in Vancouver, BC, where he attended
the International AIDS Conference.
We talked about
many things. . . memories of yesterday and dreams of tomorrow. KK
lamented the loss of so-called friends when one is out of power and,
indeed, went so far as to say that he has few friends now outside of
Zambia. I responded by saying that his friends are numerous and give him
credit for his many years of dedication and achievement. With those
words, there was a knock at the hotel room door. I rose and answered it,
admitting a room service waiter with coffee for me. He stepped into the
room and stopped short with his mouth agape. "Are you Dr. Kenneth Kaunda?"
"Yes I am". "My God. My God. You have been my political idol for years",
said the waiter, a Fijian Indian immigrant to Canada. He was truly in
shock. I took the tray.
Dr. Kaunda rose
and shook his hand and embraced him. They spoke for a few minutes and
Dr. Kaunda walked with him to the door. When he returned, I said "Your
Excellency, on my honour Sir, I did not orchestrate that. It is just a
small example of the many, many friends who care for you very much and
pay you respect for all that you have done and continue to do in
He is still the
dear gentleman of yesteryear who evoked a fond memory of a 1967 visit to
the red-brick, Georgian-style, State House in Lusaka, when His
Excellency, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, President of the Republic of
Zambia, offered to serve me tea. When I protested he smiled his charming
smile and said "Please, Dr. Brody, I want to show you what a fine
houseboy I was". And the tea, indeed, was beautifully served.
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Johnston, G.C.M.B, K.C.B. - The Tiny Giant