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Honouring KK

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ZAMBIA’S first president Dr Kenneth David Kaunda turned 96 yesterday with a low-key celebration because of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has rocked the world.
It was not the kind of celebration that Zambians would have wanted for their illustrious son.
Had it not been for Covid-19 and the health guidelines given by the Ministry of Health against social gathering, KK’s birthday would have been toasted in grandstyle.
Still, even though it was a low-key affair with only a few family members at his home in Lusaka’s State Lodge area, Zambians have a lot to celebrate.
KK not only spearheaded Zambia’s independence struggle, during which he, with other colleagues were locked up, but he emerged as the country’s first Prime Minister when self-rule came, and as republican President at independence on October 24, 1964.
With the copper mining industry at its peak, Dr Kaunda’s UNIP government embarked on a robust development programme, building schools, trades training institutes and teachers’ training colleges.
His crowning moment was the setting up of the University of Zambia, which to date remains the pride of the nation having churned out thousands of graduates some of whom are the movers and shakers of the country’s economy.
It is to Dr Kaunda’s investment in education that the country boasts of highly skilled Zambians serving not only at home but abroad in other countries and international organisations.
This was because education was free from Grade One to university level. A poor boy or girl from a remote village had access to university or college education as long as one had brains.
But even though Zambia was independent, Dr Kaunda was also a pan-Africanist who realised that the country’s independence was not complete when her neighbours – Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South West Africa (Namibia), Mozambique and Angola were not free.
Zambia, thus became the bastion for the liberation struggle with almost all the liberation groups having their headquarters in Lusaka.
Zambia paid a heavy price for this support, with Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime constantly raiding Zambian territory in pursuit of the liberation fighters. Many Zambians died as a result.
Zambia’s support remained unwavering though throughout the liberation wars. To cut the story short, Mozambique became independence in 1974, so did Angola, Zimbabwe followed suit in 1980.
Namibia became independent in 1990 while South Africa’s apartheid regime finally crumbled leading to the country’s first democratic elections in 1993 and saw Nelson Mandela become the first democratically elected President.
And it is to Zambia’s credit that Mandela’s first trip outside South Africa after his release from 27 years in prison was to Zambia.
Of course Dr Kaunda had his shortcomings, declaring Zambia a one-party state ostensibly to end tribalism.
He nationalised key sectors of the economy so that Zambians could be in control – the mining industry among others.
Dr Kaunda left State House, a victim of the new “wind of change” that swept through the Eastern block and much of Africa as a new crop of leaders emerged championing multi-party politics and a free-market economy.
And since paving way for a multi-party political system, Dr Kaunda has emerged from being a political pariah in the early days to a much-loved father-figure of the nation.
Happy belated birthday KK.