Zambia mourns, as Kenneth Kaunda dies age 97

By The Africa Report
Posted on Thursday, 17 June 2021 16:32

Kaunda, a liberation hero who ruled for decades, is supposed to be living in quiet retirement -- offering a good, if somewhat rare, example of an African president fading gently into the twilight. Seen here in 2004. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA) - GM1DTOOMANAA

Zambian Independence leader Kenneth Kaunda has died in a military hospital in Lusaka. A much-beloved leader for his willingness to step down after losing an election, nationalising the assets of DeBeers and Oppenheimer, and facing down apartheid South Africa.

Kaunda was admitted two days earlier suffereing from pneumonia, at a time when Covid-19 rates have been accelerating in Zambia in recent weeks.

“I am sad to inform (members) we have lost Mzee. Let’s pray for him,” Kaunda’s son Kambarage said on the Facebook page of late president.


Kaunda ruled Zambia from its independence from Britain in 1964 to 1991, and was one of the last of his generation who fought against colonialism after the end of the Second World War.

While he is remembered fondly by a majority of the population, much of this longstanding admiration comes from his decision to concede after having lost a multi-party election.

Zambia, and Kaunda in particular, never won the kudos they deserved for backing the liberation movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Kaunda also had unique diplomatic gifts. While a fierce opponent of Margaret Thatcher over her sanctions on apartheid South Africa, he still managed to invite her husband Denis Thatcher to play a round of golf.

Also in contrast to Thatcher was his nationalisation of the mining industry, englobing the assets of Oppenheimer and De Beers. Copper assets were gathered under the Zambia Industrial and Mining Corporation. It had been the largest privately-owned industrial operation in Sub Saharan Africa at the time.

More on this story soon.

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