THE OTHER SIDE: KK’s 27 year brutal reign also critical to his greatness

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While his passing has broken people’s hearts across the globe, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, aka KK, was first and foremost the president of Zambia, writes Kapya Kaoma.

If one is to paint an honest portrait of KK’s life, it wouldn’t be full of roses as bishops, politicians, academics and even columnists want us to paint–but a mirage of light swallowed by 27 years of progressive darkness slowly emerging into three decades of an inviting glow of torch of life-giving light.

I endured the last part of 27 years of the KK regime. Unlike many Zambians, I don’t want to lie–the Kaunda days were hell; he ruled Zambia with an iron fist. Like all dictators, intimidation was his biggest weapon. They first went for Alice Lenshina and the Lumpa Church. My parents cared less. Then UNIP came for the ANC. The UPP followed. Finally, they came for all of us.

I was in Grade 10 when I was first detained and had an AK 47 pointed at me simply for questioning military presence on Zambian roads. Young people don’t even know what “Military roadblocks” mean; we were searched daily like criminals in our own nation. Guns were pointed at us and we were detained at will–it was the State of Emergency. We shouted “kumulu niLesa, panshi ni Kaunda. ” That slogan says it all! Then came the vigilantees–we called them, “ba ByAir.” Under KK’s watch, they terrorized us and beat the hell out of us. His OPs were equally brutal. Praise God. Afro-amnesia is real after all–it is now water under the bridge.

We were taught about freedom fighters. But not the fact that after rotting in colonial jails, KK also locked them up for publicly expressing opposition to his rule. To the Regime, anyone who aspired to become president of Zambia became a public enemy regardless of how close one was to KK. He disgraced Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Harry Mwanga Nkumbula simply to secure his right to rule unchallenged. His hunger for power blinded him from seeing the humanity of his political opponents. The military, the police and every aspect of the government served to secure his hold on power.

Sadly, this is not the KK Africa knew. Kaunda was one of its greatest political philosophers, but like Nkurumah, his leadership style betrayed his own philosophy. A Pan Africanist to the bone KK was; a great father to fellow Africans. He fought Americans and the British for supporting the Boers in South Africa. He battled Botha for locking up Nelson Mandela and outlawing the ANC in South Africa. Alas.

He saw nothing wrong with outlawing the Nkumbula-led ANC and the Kapwepwe-led UPP and locking up their leaders in his own nation. He opposed laws that limited freedom of expression in South Africa and Rhodesia, but Zambians who spoke up against him were locked up or ended up dead. In short, Zimbabweans, South Africans, Namibians and other African nations had a very different picture of Dr. Kaunda from those who endured his brutal reign.

I disagree with those who want to ignore this historical truth. Doing so is not only dishonestly immoral, but also dishonorable to this son of the Soil. I believe KK discovered himself in those 27 years and realized that Zambia belonged to all of us. (The passing of his friends could have been a factor) He became dignified and humane enough to put Zambia above his own interests by facing the riots and tension of the late 1980s.

Unlike other African Nationalist leaders and POST-KK Zambian Presidents, he cut his term by 3 years and called for early elections in 1991. Even before all the votes were counted, he conceded to F. T. J. Chiluba and allowed the peaceful transition of power–becoming the first Nationalist leader in Africa to give up power in a democratic election.

Despite being miserably mistreated and being denied a chance to contest the 1996 election by the Chiluba administration–the election he would have likely won, the mature KK put Zambia first–he remained a common citizen or “a peasant farmer,” as he introduced himself in that fake coup trial manufactured by then desperate President Chiluba.

Dr. Kaunda became even bigger by dedicating the rest of his life to fighting HIV–the subject most of us were ashamed to talk about. To me this is the quality of ubuntu I mourn in KK.

I don’t want to bury his political leadership, it was brutal. I admire his Pan Africanist Philosophy, it is mere words. Nonetheless his reading of the times and willingness to put Zambia first in 1991, and more still his post-Presidential actions were humane and inspirational–he used his name and personality to help us talk and do things to address HIV across the world.

He employed his wisdom and grand humility to show us that power is not in Plot 1; rather in the person we become for the rest of our lives. We all have much to learn from KK. It is not how we begin that matters, but how we end. May we grow to make a difference with what has remained of our time on earth. Farewell Son of the Soil! Welcome us when we follow.- Lusaka Times


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31