At age forty (40) years, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda became president of Zambia after wrestling power from the British. He and other young people at the time worked so hard in ensuring that Zambia attain independence, but that was only political independence.
It’s now our duty to attain economic independence and it’s starts with accepting that a Western prescribed governance system cannot be meant to offer us economic independence. Let’s look at some of the things from him that have inspired us to rethink the current governance system if we are to attain economic independence.
From this excerpt, you will realise that Western multiparty democracy cannot achieve what it is supposed to in Africa. It has, instead, lead to inefficient governments, endless power transitions and social chaos. President Kenneth Kaunda said:
“It was a Friday when they announced that Movement for Multi Party Democracy led by Frederick Chiluba had won the elections. I had my doubts but it didn’t matter. I telephoned Mr Chiluba the president elect and said, ‘Congratulations. I am told you have won. I am waiting for you tomorrow to come and take over.’ He said thank you.
The following day, Chiluba came with his whole cabinet, and the Vice President Levy Mwanawasa. They were three hours late. I said, ‘Young people, I am taking president elect Chiluba to my office to brief him on how I run the state machinery. Please wait here.’
I took him to my office. I briefed him verbally and in writing. After that, I showed him a secret entrance to tunnels, security tunnels leading to an underground bunker. I told him that if he should ever get into trouble, there was a young man who would come and declare avcadabra and the tunnels would open.
I told him, ‘You can get 29 people you trust and yourself make the thirtieth. There are 30 mattresses, blankets and everything ready. There is a powerful broadcasting machine, more powerful than the state radio, so you can broadcast to the people of Zambia. You can also call for support from somewhere outside. They will come and help you.’
I took him around and finally told him ‘I am a patriot, I am a Pan-Africanist. If at anytime you should need my assistance don’t hesitate to call, I will come and assist.’ Chiluba’s response was a lesson to me about the role of individuals in the destiny of nations, especially so in Africa. Because later on, he called journalists and claimed that I had an underground station where I was locking up opposition leaders, torturing and killing people.
The Post Newspaper bought his lie. But some of the press said it looked like a palace and not a dungeon where they were killing people. Tragedies like this cannot happen when you have got correct leadership. In Africa there must be clean thinking. We should not make politics a source of enmity.
Politics must be a service to the people of God, God’s children. Leaders must look at politics as a service to the nations. If you look at politics as something you must benefit from and power as something you must hold at all costs, then the nation is dead.
Later Chiluba would raid my house claiming I had stolen books from State House. And how many books did he recover? Only four. Kaunda, the father of the Zambian nation stealing four textbooks! My God!
I was never corrupt as a leader. Up to the day I left office, I did not even have a house in which to live in Lusaka. I had a house in my home village, which is far away from here. So when I left office, I had no house, or where to go.
We had built rest houses here for the mines. I occupied the smallest house belonging to Luanshya mine with my wife. But within 10 days, President Chiluba asked me to vacate the house. The constitution provided that a retired president should have a house, a pension and some support staff. But they abolished all those.
Fortunately, a young man who was working with me had a spare house in Lusaka and he heard that I was being chased from the government house, because these mines were under government control. He said ‘Old man please, I have got a house here, you can stay there for two years without paying anything, you have done so much.’ So he lent it to us for two years, my wife, and me and that’s how we survived otherwise we would have been completely destroyed.
When I look back at my administration I see that our biggest achievement was to unite Zambia: one Zambia and one nation. Secondly we had policies which if we had been allowed to continue, would have made Zambia a much better place than it is today.
The fight I was privileged by Zambians to lead was not only fighting for independence and helping our brothers and sisters to fight for independence in other states in Southern Africa, but also the fight for economic independence. And we did not borrow anything from anyone from the beginning of time until 1973.
1973 when the oil prices went up, the copper prices went down and I wrote to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, of course, saying we had not borrowed from them up until then.
Now that the oil prices were up, and copper prices down, we were facing serious foreign exchange shortages. I asked these two institutions for their advice. They wrote back saying: Borrow, because we think copper prices will soon be going up and we think that oil prices will be controlled. That is when Zambia begun to borrow from abroad.
By 1985-87, I found that the World Bank assistance was not helping to improve the situation. We were instead growing poorer, and more indebted; and the debt levels were unsustainable. The IMF and World Bank policies and programmes were not improving the situation.
Africa needs to learn and to understand what IMF and World Bank stand for. I am not blaming the people themselves. But these institutions are victims of the machinations of the powerful nations of this world.
When you borrow money, you also have expenses – they call them overheads. A lot of the loans go to pay for overhead costs like costs of administrative staff sent to manage the loans, costs of consultants who come to tell you what you already know, costs of computers and four wheel drive vehicles that do not reduce poverty and so on and so forth.
Before you know it, more than 70 or 80 percent of the loan money has gone back to the rich countries whose people are employed to do feasibility studies or work on the projects and the poor country has a high debt burden.
For Africa to overcome its current challenges, especially the squeeze from the powerful nations of the western world, we need to come together and work together. That is why the African Union, Nepad and other regional groupings are important.”
Happy Birthday President Kenneth Kaunda! We shall take it from here by first implementing a new governance system that must prioritize development.
Credits: Kasozi Nasser, The African News Journal.
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