As the remains of Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda are prepared for the solemn journey of visiting all the provincial centres, to be followed by a State funeral at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka before burial at the Presidential burial site on July 7, countries in Southern Africa are observing days of national mourning in honour of Dr Kaunda.
African leaders across the continent have been paying tribute to Dr Kaunda who died last Thursday at the age of 97.
Various countries have declared several days of mourning in honour of Dr Kaunda who, while in power, hosted many of the movements fighting for independence in other countries around the continent.
Dr Kaunda is credited for standing up to white minority rule in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
During the varying periods of days of national mourning which have been declared in some African countries, national flags would be lowered to half-mast.
South Africa will mourn for 10 days, while Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania will pay their respects to Dr Kaunda for seven days, their presidents announced.
Zimbabwe will mourn for 14 days.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Dr Kaunda as a “rightfully revered father of African independence and unity”.
“Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
He said Dr Kaunda stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of their greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of that country’s freedom.
“We will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa said all flags in his country will fly at half-mast to pay tribute to the fallen leader.
President Ramaposa said South Africa was united with the Zambian people and the Kaunda family during this time of sadness and mourning.
He noted that not only did Dr Kaunda dedicate his 97 long years to the liberation and service of the people of Zambia, but that he had an unwavering desire for the achievement of South Africa’s freedom.
“He devoted himself and the Zambian people to supporting liberation movements around our region in their quest for independence and freedom. Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and
support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said it was in honour of this remarkable contribution that the South African government bestowed on the late president Kaunda the ‘Order of the Companions of OR Tambo’ in 2002.
President Ramaphosa further commended the late Dr Kaunda for being a pioneering champion of a decolonised, united and prosperous Africa who represented his country and continent with distinction on global platforms.
“Today, we recommit ourselves to building the Africa of KK’s vision-an Africa of peace, justice, prosperity and innovation. Today, we place ourselves alongside Kenneth Kaunda’s family and the Zambian nation as they mourn this deep loss,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said South Africa will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude that it owes to President Kaunda.
Dr Kaunda provided logistical help to a number of African liberation movements, including the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the breakaway Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) of Southern Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.
The ANC’s Radio Freedom was allowed to broadcast from Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, and it was under Kaunda’s protection that the ANC waged an armed struggle, then a diplomatic one against apartheid.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in a tweet that Dr Kaunda’s “commitment to Africa’s liberation will never be forgotten”.
“His leadership on the continent and legacy of Pan-Africanism will live on for generations to come,” President Kagame said.
Namibian President Hage Geingob declared seven days of national mourning in honour of Dr Kaunda.
In a statement, Dr Geingob said all flags would be flown at half mast between June 19 and 25 in honour of the revered statesman who is credited for playing a pivotal role in liberating most Southern African countries.
He said in a statement that Africa had lost “a giant of a man”.
“Kenneth Kaunda was a generous, affable, and a resolute leader who freed our region from colonialism,” Dr Geingob said.
He said Namibians would join the region and Zambians in honouring the late former President Kaunda whom he described as a selfless and gallant son of the soil for his selfless contribution to Namibia’s Independence.
President Geingob said Dr Kaunda would be remembered as a selfless leader who put the aspirations of others ahead of his and his country in his quest to liberate the continent.
The Council of Ministers of Mozambique on Friday decreed a six-day national mourning observance to honour Dr Kaunda.
Addressing journalists after a session of the council in Maputo, Deputy Minister of State Administration and Public Service and the session’s spokesman Inocencio Impissa said the high prestige that Dr Kaunda had earned at the continental and world level was obtained in the struggle for racial equality and the progress of Africa, in the promotion of dialogue and peace between the peoples, and will leave an important legacy for future generations.
Earlier Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi lamented the death of Dr Kaunda.
President Nyusi said Dr Kaunda would be remembered as a great leader for his crucial role in Zambia’s independence movement and for contribution to the common efforts in defence of the independence, peace, and security in Africa.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni hailed Zambia’s founding leader for his contribution to the liberation of several Southern African countries.
“He fought for Zambia’s independence and he made a big contribution to the freedom struggle of the liberation of the subcontinent of Southern Africa,” President Museveni said in a Twitter message.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan also announced seven days of national mourning following the death of Dr Kaunda.
President Hassan said that the national flag would fly at half-mast during the seven-day mourning period.
This is according to a statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communications.
President Hassan sent a condolence message to Zambian President Edgar Lungu, the family of Dr Kaunda and the people of Zambia.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said it was during Dr Kaunda’s tenure that relations between the two countries blossomed.
He described Dr Kaunda as an iconic statesman of the highest credentials and lauded his selfless dedication to the interest of his own people as well as the wellbeing of neighbours.
Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera declared seven days of national mourning in Malawi in honour of the late Dr Kaunda, whil in Zimbabwe, President Emmersen Mnangagwa has declared 14 days of national mourning.
Dr Kaunda ruled Zambia for 27 years, taking the helm after the country gained independence from Britain on October 24, 1964.
“For our founding father, it was not enough for his country Zambia to be liberated when the region and the African continent remained bonded in the shackles of colonialism and apartheid. He soldiered on to seek freedom for humanity,” President Edgar Lungu told mourners at Dr Kaunda’s house in Lusaka last Friday.
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Zambia is observing 21 days of national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast and all entertainment banned.
In retirement, Dr Kaunda became a respected voice of experience on the continent, from mediating in conflicts to his anti-AIDS campaign.
Dr Kaunda was among those who fought stigma associated to HIV/AIDS after he announced that the disease had killed one of his own sons.
“He was brave, compassionate and tireless in confronting HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said.
The late Dr Kaunda, who died last Thursday, would be put to rest on July 7, 2021, at the Presidential burial site in Lusaka at a private ceremony restricted to family and invited mourners.
This is according to Vice President Inonge Wina.
Ms Wina told journalists at a media briefing that Government had also designated July 2, 2021 as the date for a State funeral for Dr Kaunda to allow the participation of international dignitaries at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Ms Wina said it was the wish of Dr Kaunda’s family that his remains be taken to all the provinces and that Government had agreed to respect the family’s wish.
The Vice President said the programme for the provincial visits would commence in Choma today and end in Lusaka on July 5, 2021.
“To accord our founding Father respect and dignity, while showing love and support to the family and in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, I would like to state that there shall be no physical body viewing.
However, the entire procession, including the church service, will be carried live on television,” Ms Wina said.