By Chris Zumani Zimba (UNILUS-PHD Scholar; OSNA-MA; UNZA-BA; and ZIDIS-CERT)
When he arrived at the 60,000 Harare Stadium for the inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the Third President of Zimbabwe, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s First Republican President alongside Zambia’s Fourth President, Dr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda as well as Zambia’s Sixth and incumbent President, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, Zambia’s political founding father was thunderously saluted by thousands of Zimbabweans who gathered to witness an important political ceremony. And when President Mnangagwa was called upon to make his maiden public address to the nation and the global media, he did not miss his words but to pose, recognize and thank Dr. Kenneth Kaunda and Zambia in particular for standing up with Zimbabwe before and after political emancipation to date. But there are few people today who understand why Zambia’s Kaunda and Lungu were crucial and important guests at this historical political event.
Following the fragile political standoff that rocked Zimbabwe this November, 2017 between President Robert Mugabe, the Army Generals and ZNU-PF war veterans with no political solution after many attempts by different national and regional players, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia made a hallmark policy choice and intelligent political decision to appoint and send his trusted political elder and statesman, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda as his miracle diplomat and special envoy to help resolve the Harare political crisis. President Lungu sent Dr. Kaunda only to persuade and convince President Mugabe to resign voluntarily and retain his hard earned political dignity. To emphasize his political will and diplomatic solidarity to ‘redeem’ Zimbabwe, President Lungu sent Dr. Kaunda using his personal presidential jet which landed in Harare on 19th November, 2017 in diplomatic style to the jubilation of both President Mugabe, the Army Generals, ZNU-PF ranks and Citizens of the country as the old Zambian statesman is profoundly known as well as politically loved and respected across the former Southern Rhodesia.
While many players and efforts failed to convince Mugabe to resign such as the army generals themselves, ZNU-PF officials and war veterans, Catholic Priests of Zimbabwe, President Jacob Zuma’s special envoy from South Africa, the SADC and AU Ministerial Delegation or President Khamah of Botswana, President Lungu’s Dr. Kaunda scored big and achieved his objective within 24hours after arrival. As the wind of political change baptized everyone across Zimbabwe and all the 330 ruling party MPs, Senators and Cabinet Minister voted in favour of the impeachment on the afternoon of Tuesday 20th, November, 2017, Dr. Kaunda had already convinced his peer, President Robert Mugabe to peacefully resign and leave the political stage to the amazement of everyone in Zimbabwe, Africa and around the globe.
From a distance, we can only imagine and speculate what he said to convince Mugabe to resign and leave power peacefully. Most likely, Kaunda among many things could have noted that, ‘voluntary resignation now before impeachment is in your best interest my friend and comrade because, you will allow a peaceful transition of power from yourself to other energetic and younger ZNU-PF comrade who will ensure that you retire in honour and dignity while the state and the people of Zimbabwe will both respect and protect you and your family until death, trust me, trust me Robert. I have listened and talked to these young men and women in uniform and ZNU-PF, they mean well to you my dear brother and they won’t harm you any day and anywhere, trust me Robert……’, mere imaginations of what Kaunda shared with Mugabe. And the strong willed Mugabe listened to his age-mate and close friend and consequently resigned. Amazing!
Thus, President Lungu’s choice of sending Dr. Kenneth Kaunda as his envoy to help resolve the political deadlock in Zimbabwe was not only the best policy decisions, but also remain the main diplomatic solution and political game changer in the heart of President Mugabe to reign due to the following reasons:
- Kaunda’s presence in Harare and consequently views on the political deadlock in Zimbabwe made Mugabe to drastically consider official resignation as he felt more safe and assured as his longtime regional peer, age-mate and political brother provided full empathy and true solidarity he much needed from the time the army blocked his normal political functions as President;
- Before Mugabe, Dr. Kaunda was one of the few pragmatic and genius political advisors as this is the SADC statesman who housed, supported, trained and guided ZNU-PF during the liberation wars until Mugabe became President of Zimbabwe in 1980. Hence, Lungu’s envoy in the name of Kaunda was the only miracle man Mugabe could both respect and trust without questions to voluntarily resign;
- Mugabe has unconditional and unquestionable respect for Dr. Kaunda of Zambia and he was the only foreign statesman and regional public figure he could listen to and trust during the negotiation. Thus, Kaunda’s assignment and position of convincing his peer and comrade to peacefully and voluntarily resign was well received without much doubt by Mugabe as the former Zimbabwean President highly respects and trusts the First Zambian President;
- To Mugabe, Dr. Kaunda is a man of high integrity and principles who does not betray his comrades. His advice to Mugabe was received with full trust and allegiance to be acted on because, the Zambian First President never betrayed Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia or anyone during the liberation wars under the Front Line States;
- Mugabe takes Kaunda as his most trusted political peer and confidant in Africa if not in the world because, the two are inseparable anti-colonialists and remaining presidential liberation veterans of SADC. Apart from Abduh Nasser of Egypt, Haille Selase of Ethiopia, Nelson Mandela, O. R. Tambo or Steve Biko of South Africa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Patrice Lumumba of DR Congo, Uhuru Senior of Kenya or Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who are all gone, Mugabe does have many regional statesmen he can call his trusted political peers apart from Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. His calls him ‘Baba’ i.e. father Kaunda; and
- Mugabe takes Dr. Kaunda as the living prominent Pan Africanist, regional liberation fighter and distinguished statesman as well as renowned politician who served as First President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991. To Mugabe, Dr. Kaunda can be said to be the Steve Biko, Thomas Sankala, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela of Zambia who believed in political freedom and black self-rule for all African countries without conditions. Therefore, President Lungu’s special envoy in Harare, Dr. Kaunda became crucially important in the settlement of the political deadlock in Zimbabwe as Mugabe now had someone he could relate and listen to as well as respect;
In other words, President Lungu played a key role in ‘redeeming’ Zimbabwe by his soft diplomacy of sending Dr. Kaunda to meet and convince Mugabe to resign. It was practical and genius diplomacy at work. By broad definition, diplomacy is ‘the instrument by which a state (or, by extension, an organization or individual) attempts to achieve its aims, in relation to those of others, through dialogue and negotiation. Going by the traditional and antiquity definition, diplomacy had a general and open meaning which involved taking actions and conducts that effectively prevent and resolve conflicts, actual dispute, mediation and the entire management of entities or individual relationships whether “enemies” or “allies” in a way that mitigate misunderstandings, hostility, tensions and fosters peaceful relations. This is exactly what the Zambian government achieved in Zimbabwe on 20th November, 2017 through Dr. Kaunda.
Therefore, when PF members call President Lungu “Mr Sela Tubombeko”, meaning “move out because we want to work now”, they seem to mean just that. It seems it is political nickname that defines President Lungu in everything he does both locally and regionally. And through his political and diplomatic envoy, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, it is not wrong to say and conclude that President Lungu is a true and genius “Mr. Sela Tubombeka” indeed as the citizens of Zimbabwe, SADC, AU and the global community continue to salute and thank him for making the right political decision to appoint and send Dr. Kenneth Kaunda to talk and convince his comrade and peer, President Robert Mugabe to voluntarily resign and pave way for a smooth change of government. In other words, President Lungu could be said to have ‘redeemed’ Zimbabwe as his chosen and sponsored special envoy, ‘Baba’ Kaunda became the lead political figure and diplomatic miracle behind Mugabe’s resignation.