BY FAY CHUNG
IT is good for us to remember Kenneth Kaunda (KK as he was fondly referred to) and how much he did for Zimbabwe. He never forgot that without Zimbabwe’s freedom Zambia could not be truly free. He did his best to promote Zimbabwe’s independence. He was truly disturbed by Zimbabwe having two liberation movements, Zapu and Zanu, and he did his best to unite them. Try as he did, he failed. His failure tells us a lot about what the meaning of “unity” is.
One of KK’s greatest achievements was to enable hundreds of Zimbabweans to study at the University of Zambia. He once said: “Zambia started with only 100 graduates but Zimbabwe will be different”.
In the 1970s, Zambia University had over 400 Zimbabwean students, and at Independence Zimbabwe had 4 000 graduates, many of them from the University of Zambia and other neighbouring universities. Zambia also had a dozen Zimbabwean lecturers, and included many Zimbabweans in its civil service. Many of the most experienced and efficient civil servants in the 1980s had very useful experience in the Zambian civil service. They were unfortunately removed under the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap). KK’s respect for graduates and professionalism typify his rule.
One of KK’s preferences was Zapu over Zanu, but after the Zapu debacle over Wankie he agreed to recognise and support Zanu, despite his initial choices. This fair mindedness was typical of KK. It meant that Zanu and Zanla (its armed forces) were able to lead the liberation struggle.
KK’s preference for Joshua Nkomo and Zapu can be explained in that KK was always prepared to discuss peaceful solutions rather than solutions through military warfare, but when these peaceful solutions failed he was prepared to support war.
His fair-mindedness came into play again when he resigned in 1991 after 27 years as President. He was removed and replaced through a multi-party election in 1992. This was a very corrupt replacement but nevertheless it can be said that multi–party system succeeded, and has continued to do so for 30 years. Zambia has succeeded during this long period to attain a per capita GDP of US$1 600, compared to Zimbabwe’s US$1 000. The peaceful co-existence under a multi-party situation has enabled it to do so.
KK’s resignation in 1991 reflected his deep humility. His successor deprived him of his house, and he had to move into a bedroom in his son’s house! This was an example of his humiliation, but he accepted it. This is in vast contrast to our own former president, the late Robert Mugabe, who stayed in power for close to 40 years, accumulated a lot of properties, some of which have now been taken away.
KK remains deeply loved and respected both in Zambia and in the African Union. His humility was deeply respected. His death should enable us in Zimbabwe to mull over what “Unity” means, and how it should be achieved. Multi-party elections continue to be one way of changing the government, but obviously it has not been enough.
Since Independence, we have had Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina, both of which were devastating and destructive. We have failed to get economic growth, unlike Zambia. KK’s death should make us work out how we can gain economic growth, and overcome the tribal and economic divisions which brought about chaos.
Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in polytechnics and university; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle, civil servant and UN civil servant. These weekly New Horizon articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ cell: +263 772 382 852