Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer and Consultant


kenneth.kaunda and mandela.bk.c.cnn.640x480.jpgIf you don’t know DAVID KENNETH KAUNDA whose political philosophy was ‘Africa’s political freedom and black self-rule without conditions’, then you don’t know Zambia or you are a true foreigner, worse than Mike Mulongoti’s Jonathan Mutawari. As we cerebrate Kaunda’s 94th birthday, I decided to merely copy and paste the full section on Kaunda from my 2015 book, “The Fundamentals of Political Science and International Relations: A Student Hand Book” so that we all appreciate the first citizen of the Republic of Zambia in terms of his childhood and early life, political career and contributions as well as political philosophy and theory as follows:

  1. Childhood & Early Life

As the youngest of eight children from a Malawian missionary, Kenneth David Kaunda was born on April 28, 1924 at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali district, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). While his father was a teacher and a gospel minister, his mother was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia. After attending the Munali Training Centre from 1941-1943 where he did teaching in Lusaka, he went on to teach at the Upper Primary School in Lubwa in 1943 in Northern Province of Zambia. He was also the headmaster at the same school from 1944 to 1947.  After leaving Lubwa Mission School, he relocated to Copperbelt province where he continued his teaching career by serving as the headmaster at Mufulira Upper School from 1948 to 1949.  Besides being very interested and actively involved in civic life of African workers groups of the mining towns, Kaunda also became a mine welfare officer in 1948 which allowed him to engage with the masses.

  1. Political Career

Kaunda was actively involved and helped to establish the African National Congress (ANC) in the late 1940s, the first key and influential anti-colonial establishment organization in Northern Rhodesia. As a key founder member with a teaching background, Kaunda served under ANC first president, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, from 1953-1958 as the group’s secretary general. In October 1958, Kaunda became too disappointed and angered with compromising Nkumbula’s policies and politics in the African National Congress and consequently decided to leave it to establish the Zambia African National Union (ZANC). In March 1959, the vibrant ZANC was banned while in June the same year, Kaunda was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for being responsible for some traced political civil disobedience in the country. While he spent first prison sentence in Lusaka, the other half was spent in Salisbury, in now Zimbabwe.

While Kaunda was in prison, Mainza Chona and other nationalists broke away from the ANC and, in October 1959 with Chona becoming the first president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which was in reality the successor to Kaunda’s ZANC.  In this way, Chona did not see himself as the party’s main founder such that when Kaunda was released from prison in January 1960, he was unanimously elected by the party members as the President of UNIP. In 1960, he visited Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., he went on to establish a civil disobedience campaign, known as the ‘Cha-cha-cha campaign’ whose freedom protestors under UNIP engaged in vicious political campaigns and physical confrontation by using arson and blocking major roadways.

In 1962, he was elected to the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council under UNIP along other black Africans which 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 first black Prime Minister. On 24 October 1964, he became the first President of an independent Zambia, appointing Reuben Kamanga as his Vice-President. His charisma and intolerance for dissent views helped him to remain in power for 27years but slowly and gradually, it turned out to be his downfall. In 1991 after re-introducing multiparty politics under pressure, he terribly lost the presidential elections against Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). Kaunda retired from politics after being accused of being involved in a failed coup attempt in 1997.

  1. Contributions to Political Philosophy and Theory

The first black Republican President of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda can be said to be the Steve Biko, Thomas Sankala, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela of the former Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland. Being a firm believer and active advocate and supporter in the political freedom and black self-rule for all the countries of Southern Africa without conditions, Kenneth Kaunda is not just a Zambian statesman but indeed one of the best known and celebrated modern African political philosophers, anti-colonialist, independence advocate and liberator. He believed in firm political solidarity at national and sub-regional level as the main weapon and strength for political emancipation of Zambia, Southern Africa and Africa as a continent.

At regional level, Kaunda believed in strong political solidarity and full support of other African states to become decolonized without conditions or claims for any payments in return thereafter. Kenneth Kaunda and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere spearheaded the formation of what came to be known as ‘The Front line States’, an interstate organization established to champion and achieved majority black rule in South Africa,  Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Kaunda’s political philosophy of providing financial, technical, diplomatic and material support for the liberation of all the named southern African countries without any condition was summarized in a Nyanja liberation song he is known for to date. His famous liberation Nyanja song for southern Africa is still known and remains popular in most SADC states such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi or South Africa as follows:


Teyende pamodzi ndimutima umodzi (English version) x 4 i.e. We must walk or move together with one heart or unity.

Kaunda tiye, Mozambique Tiye, Zimbabwe tiye, South Africa tiye, Malawi tiye, etc. i.e. Let’s go Kaunda, let’s go Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, etc

Tiwoloke Zambezi ndimutima umodzi (English version) x 4 i.e. We must cross Zambezi river with one heart or in unity.

Kaunda tiye, Mozambique Tiye, Zimbabwe tiye, South Africa tiye, Malawi tiye, etc.

Tiwoloke Limpopo ndimutima umodzi (English version) x 4 i.e. We must cross Limpopo river with one heart or in unity.

Kaunda tiye, Mozambique Tiye, Zimbabwe tiye, South Africa tiye, Malawi tiye, etc. i.e. Let’s go Kaunda, let’s go Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, etc


Hence, all the gone and sitting Presidents of the SADC states that latter attained decolonization under the auspices of the Front Line States remain indebted to Kaunda’s political philosophy and actions. Thus, Kaunda just like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania can be praised to be one of the few the founding father of the Zambezi and Limpopo nations’ i.e.  Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, DR Congo, Mozambique and South Africa. For example, The ANC, the primary guerrilla group fighting the then apartheid Pretoria government was officially banned in South Africa two years before Mandela was jailed in 1962. However, Kaunda decided to host the ANC leaders in Lusaka in order to operate from Zambia for over a decade while risking foreign relations between Zambia and the government of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia then. All the key decisions, technical positioning and financial mobilization for ANC were executed in Lusaka while Kaunda himself was the main official negotiator and diplomat between the ANC and the South African apartheid government including the release of Nelson Mandela.

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he made his firm resolve to visit Zambia’s Dr. Kenneth Kaunda as his first foreign visit accompanied with all the top ANC leaders to come and thank the Zambian people through its first president for helping to ‘liberate South Africa’. In 1990, Zambian President Kenneth D. Kaunda and six other African heads of state greeted Mandela, his wife, Winnie, and their delegation at the airport in what was Mandela’s first foreign visit after 27years in prison. Hence, on the official burial ceremony of Nelson Mandela in 2013 which attracted leaders and icons from across the world in his home village of Qunu, the South African government and ANC leadership still took the occasion to respect and thank the advocate of political freedom and black self-rule, Kaunda by appointing him as the most appropriate political figure to give a vote of thanks at the funeral that was televised live on all global news networks. When Kaunda spoke to respect Mandela, his words were very distinct- he was the only one who used the term ‘Boer party or government’ repeatedly referring to the apartheid regime; a clear political signature that he was behind the liberation of many SADC states.

  1. Conclusion

Kaunda believed in strong socialist ideologies (humanism) and left government after serving as President without much wealth and material fortunes to show the world that he was the most powerful and respected figure in Zambia for over two decades. His life, beliefs and character project him as one of the few true socialist philosophers, patriotic statesmen and successful Presidents who upheld his political theories so strong that he lived by them as well as remain religious to die by them. Today, Zambia does and has not yet produced a vehement and resolute political ideologist as well as statesman with the same philosophical face, nationalistic passion, regional heart and human tone like Kenneth Kaunda-the liberation political philosopher.  However, others have criticized him as a political betrayer for using Zambia’s resources to finance and support the political liberation of other African countries that have now overtaken Zambia’s economic performance like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia or Angola. However, at national level and across Africa, Kaunda is highly respected and pronounced as the founding father of the country while many political leaders across Africa salute him the true African statesman.


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