Pioneer President of Zambia and liberation hero, who was at the forefront of the struggle for independence from British rule, Kenneth Kaunda, has died at the age of 97 on Thursday.
The founder of Zambian African National Congress, famously known as “KK” was being treated for pneumonia at the Maina Soko Medical Centre, a military hospital in Lusaka, TOS News has learnt.
President Edgar Lungu had said in a statement on his Facebook page, “On behalf of the entire nation and on my own behalf, I pray that the entire Kaunda family is comforted as we mourn our first president and true African icon” and had declared 21 days of mourning for the liberation hero.
Struggle for Independence
Kaunda was a teacher at the Upper Primary School and Boarding Master at Lubwa and then Headmaster at Lubwa from 1943 to 1945. He worked at the Salisbury and Bindura Mine for sometime. In early 1948, he became a teacher in Mufulira for the United Missions to the Copperbelt (UMCB).
In April 1949, he returned to Lubwa to become a part-time teacher, but resigned in 1951. In that year he became the Organising Secretary of Northern Province’s Northern Rhodesian African National Congress. On 11 November 1953, Kaunda moved to Lusaka to take up the post of Secretary General of the Africa National Congress (ANC), under the leadership of Harry Nkumbula. However, the combined efforts of Kaunda and Nkumbula proved abortive to mobilise native African people against the European-dominated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
In 1955, Kaunda and Nkumbula were imprisoned for two months with hard labour for distributing subversive literature; a form of harassment considered as a norm for African nationalists. The experience of imprisonment had a radicalising impact on Kaunda and the two leaders subsequently drifted apart as Nkumbula became increasingly influenced by white liberals and was seen as being willing to compromise on the issue of black majority rule, waiting until most of the indigenous population was responsibly educated before extending the franchise.
Nkumbula’s alleged autocratic leadership of the ANC eventually ended in a split. Kaunda broke from the ANC and formed the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. ZANC was banned in March 1959. In June, Kaunda was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, which he spent first in Lusaka, then in Salisbury.
While Kaunda was in prison, Mainza Chona and other nationalists broke away from the ANC and, in October 1959, Chona became the first president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the successor to ZANC. However, Chona did not see himself as the party’s main founder. When Kaunda was released from prison in January 1960, he was elected President of UNIP. In 1960, he visited Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta and afterwards, in July 1961, Kaunda organised a civil disobedience campaign in Northern Province, the so-called Cha-cha-cha campaign, which consisted largely of arson and obstructing significant roads. He subsequently ran as a UNIP candidate during the 1962 elections. This resulted in a UNIP–ANC Coalition Government, with Kaunda as Minister of Local Government and Social Welfare. In January, 1964, UNIP won the next major elections, defeating their ANC rivals and securing Kaunda’s position as prime minister. On 24 October 1964 he became the first President of an independent Zambia, appointing Reuben Kamanga as his vice-president.