Barely a Year after Zambia got her independence and being a Young nation, the last thing the country needed was an economic downturn. However, Kenneth Kaunda’s ascension to the Presidency was not all rosy. The Neighbouring Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe) under the Government of Ian Smith in 1965 declared independence against the recognition of the colonial master Britain. The declaration was called the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Zambia was harbouring a lot of Zimbabweans who were leading the fight for Liberation in Rhodesia among them was Joshua Nkomo and Emerson Munangagwa the current President of Zimbabwe. The government of Ian Smith closed its borders with Zambia as a way of punishing the Zambian regime for supporting fellow Africans attain majority rule.
This declaration was an economic assault on the Government of Kenneth Kaunda and the government had to figure out a puzzle so that Zambia doesn’t fall into economic oblivion. Kaunda together with his fellow Pan-Africanist Mwalimu Julius Kambarange Nyerere sort the help of Chinese Premier Chairman Mao. This move by Kaunda and Nyerere was of mutual benefits to the two countries. This resulted in the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway line (TAZARA) in the 1970s. Kaunda went further to provide meaningful leadership and meaningful investment for the country to remain economically aloof despite the border blockade by the Government of Ian Smith. He partnered with China for the construction of the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textiles in Kabwe to provide textiles needed by the Zambian and Southern African community. The Unilateral Declaration of Independence also pushed the Government of Kenneth Kaunda to look for alternative source of Petroleum products other the South African ports. This resulted in the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Mafuta pipeline from Dar es Salaam to Ndola and today the Indeni Oil Refinery and TAZAMA pipeline still providing good economic service to the nation.
The Government of Kenneth Kaunda also tried to open the country to more economic activities by plant different industries in different parts of the country. Notable industries include the Mansa Batteries in Mansa, Bicycle Assembly Plants in both Livingstone and Chipata, Kariba Textiles in Livingstone, the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia in Kafue, Kapiri Glass Factory in Kapiri Mposhi, Kawambwa Tea Factory in Kawambwa and also the KOHIMA Barracks in Kabwe to provide training to both Military and Civilian Government personnel. All these happened between 1966 and 1975. Many other projects in other sectors of the economy were undertaken during the same period.
And in 1968, Kaunda had resigned for a night citing that he couldn’t preside over country that was being torn apart by acts of tribalism but he quickly rescinded his decision after cabinet agreed to remain united under the motto on the National Coat of Arms “One Zambia One Nation”. Kaunda led the country for 27 years and set the tone for the economic growth the country is experiencing today and beyond. His government had prioritized the development of Zambia. His close association with the Chinese Premier Chairman Mao saw him adopt the philosophy similar to the Chinese Socialism though with the call that the philosophy adopted needed to be applicable to the Zambian situation and environment. In the second republic which started in 1972, Zambia adopted the Humanism Philosophy which was based on the premise that human resource was the key cog in the development of Zambia.
Despite the challenges the country went through as a result of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Government of Ian Smith, Kaunda remained resolute to the cause of serving Zambians and helping fellow African country achieve independence. When he assumed presidency in 1964, only Malawi and Botswana were independent nations in Southern Africa. He helped the Africans in other Southern African countries fight for Independence because He believe Africa would only be economically free when all African States are Politically free. He showed a lot of wisdom and innovation in approaching the challenges that had beseeched a young Nation.
Kenneth Kaunda was a selfless leader even when Former Head of State Fredrick Titus Jacob Chiluba declared him a stateless man in 1999, He remained loyal to his ideals of service to the people.
Sadly on 17 June, 2021 aged 97 Super Ken as he was fondly called joined his ancestors.