The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of the founding father of Zambia and liberation hero, Dr Kenneth Kaunde (97), on the 17th of June 2021, at the Maina Soko military hospital in Lusaka where he was being treated for pneumonia.
Kaunda, popularly known as KK, was head of the main nationalist party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which led the country to freedom from British colonial rule. Dr Kaunda began working for the independence movement as a young man at the age of 25. He travelled throughout the country on a bicycle and a guitar slung over his shoulder. Singing “Freedom Songs” of his composition, as he helped organize the liberation movement.
During his early presidency, Dr Kaunda was an outspoken supporter of the anti-apartheid movement and opposed white minority rule in South Africa. He permitted most prominent organizations, such as the African National Congress (ANC), to use Zambia as a base for their struggle for independence. Former ANC President Oliver Tambo spent a significant proportion of his 30-year exile living and working in Zambia.
The price for this struggle for freedom was high. In retaliation, the white ruling elites closed their nations’ borders, not allowing rail traffic out of Zambia. The resulting rise in the cost of exporting goods was a life-or-death issue for the landlocked nation. The same governments encouraged plots to “topple Dr Kaunda” and waged a campaign to discourage foreign investment. But the people of Zambia endured all these and continued to accept refugees from their neighbours until asylum seekers accounted for two per cent of the nation’s population. Peace is humanity’s most pressing priority. Even after he retired from the political scene, Dr. Kaunda continued to speak out against the domination of the weak by the strong throughout the world. He urged that we look at the world through the eyes of the poorest nations and the people with the fewest advantages. Dr Kaunda continued to fight on the front lines of the non-violent struggle for peace.
Apart from South Africa, Zambia helped fight for the independence of many other neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. In 1998, Zambia took the lead to establish a cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After signing a cease-fire agreement in Lusaka in July and August 1999, Zambia was active in supporting the Congolese peace effort.
Zambia also contributed troops to support UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Zambia’s history of stability and its commitment to regional peace has made it a haven for many refugees from many countries such as Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.
We are grateful to have lived during the times of such a gallant leader, also known as “the man with a big heart“.Dr KK truly lived to embody love, wisdom, selflessness, unity, fortitude and a progressive vision.
COSATU expresses its deepest condolences to the Kaunda family during their time of grief and prays for strength as they come to terms with this sad loss. Bashikulu KK will be sorely missed by all Zambians and the rest of the people on the African continent. Rest in peace, gallant son of Africa.
Issued by COSATU
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