Members’ tributes on the passing away of the Architect and Father of African Unity and Independence by Honourable SJ Mohai, ANC MP and Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces

23 June 2021

Honourable Chairperson,
Honourable Members;
Distinguished Special Delegates;
Minister of International Relations and Co-operations, Dr Naledi Pandor in absentia;
Fellow South Africans, friends and comrades;

Over the last few days, both the print and electronic newsrooms across the length and breadth of the world were abuzz with the news of the passing away of one of the finest sons of Africa, the architect of African unity and independence, a great visionary and
a unifier of unparalleled stature among his peers, a Pan Africanist till the end, and the founding President of the Republic of Zambia, the late Kenneth Kaunda.

Chairperson, I am sure this house would agree that, there is no encyclopaedia written yet to describe the revolutionary selflessness, fearlessness, courageousness, and the peace and freedom loving persona in the late Kenneth Kaunda.

This is a man who, at a great cost to his people and the country, believed that his own freedom and that of his people are inseparably linked to the freedom of the people of South Africa, the SADC region and the entire African continent. An internationalist of
unparalleled stature who dedicated his entire life for world peace and justice.

As a visionary, a great African revolutionary strategist and elder state man, Kenneth Kaunda played a critical role in brokering a cease fire between the South African liberation movement led by the African National Congress and the apartheid white minority domination. We owe the peaceful coexistence we are enjoying today to his courage of conviction and outstanding leadership qualities.

This he did, not out of cowardice or revolutionary fatique, but because of his deep conviction that a negotiated settlement of the South African and Namibian political conflict are the basis for the lasting peace and prosperity of all the people of South Africa, the SADC region and the entire African Continent.

Kenneth Kaunda together with his compatriots in arms, the late Mualimo Julius Nyerere, Augostinho Neto, Samora Maschelle and Robert Mugabe were father figures of the frontline states that pushed colonialism in the Southern tip of Africa to its absolute demise.

He believed like his counter parts in South Africa, the late Oliver Reginald Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela that South Africa can only chart a new trajectory of defining its collective prosperity and future destiny, united in diversity, through peaceful negotiations.

This was demonstrated by the African National Congress resolution at its special national consultative conference in Kabwe, Zambia in 1985. This conference mandated Oliver Reginald Tambo and his leadership collective to focus on two strategic priorities, namely; the intensification of the struggle in all fronts and the preparation of the ANC for any eventual prospects of negotiated settlement in South Africa.

His facilitation of the peaceful settlement of South Africa’s political conflict between the ANC and the apartheid white minority regime culminated into the ANC adoption of the 1988 Constitutional Guidelines which was later adopted by the Organisation of African
Unity as the Harare Declaration of 1989.

The Harare Declaration outlined the conditions under which the African National Congress as a leading mass party of revolution would enter into negotiated settlement with the South African regime. This Declaration, as adopted by the Organisation of African Unity was accomplished in the aftermath of the bruising and heroic military battle between the erstwhile apartheid South African Defence Force and the combined forces of Cubans and Angolans at Quito Cuanavale.

There is no doubt that, the Battle of Quito Cuanavale will go down the memory lanes of history as among the decisive factors that led to the liberation of Namibia. For this, many generations of South Africa and the entire SADC region will forever be indebted to the Cubans for their internationalists solidarity by challenging the myth of the apartheid military invincibility.

Honourable Chairperson, we in the African National Congress stand here today to proclaim without any fear of contradiction that, the life and times of Kenneth Kaunda and his generation of African leaders and compatriots will go down in the annals of history as the story of African and international solidarity, the story of African renewal and development, and indeed a shining example of democracy and peace.

This is a leader who without any reservations accepted the democratic outcomes of the voices of Zambian people by stepping down peacefully and respecting the democratically elected government after he lost the elections. This did neither embittered nor depoliticised Kenneth Kaunda as he continued to play active role in the peace making, reconstruction and development of Zambia and other parts of Africa.

To demonstrate his unflinching commitment to the peaceful resolution of the South African political conflict, comrade Kaunda defied the temptations of triumphalism and stood true to his humility. There is no better way to express this humility than what he said after the adoption of the Harare Declaration and the signals by the apartheid regime to enter into peaceful negotiations when he said “The Ball is Now in Pretoria’s Court.”

To celebrate the life and times of Kenneth Kaunda without his peers, contemporaries, fellow comrades in arms for Africa’s peace, renewal and development will be the writing of history with blank pages which the generations to come will not forgive us.

According to history archives, Julius Nyerere adopted more of a state man approach in his interaction with the African National Congress during the talks about talks. This was demonstrated by deep commitment towards the resolution of the South African conflict in the true spirit of co-operation and compromise.

There is no better way to describe this than through his own words when he said to Oliver Tambo and the ANC delegation:

“You have not defeated these people. That is why you are negotiating with them. And therefore, you have to create necessary space that recognise that this is not a defeated force.”

Honourable Chairperson, there is no doubt, as documented by historians, the heroic upsurge of anti-colonial movement in many parts of Africa, and the SADC in particular, was a catalyst in inspiring the death defying militancy of the successive generations of the oppressed youth of South Africa.

These are heroics battle that inspired the heroism of the 1976 detachment of Umkonto We Sizwe and the Young Lions under the leadership of the late Peter Mokaba and Rapu Molekane who shook the apartheid regime through militant mass actions.

Kenneth Kaunda, welcome the ANC and its young revolutionary democrats without any hesitation and provided all he could, sometimes at the expense of his own people. As one of our stalwart, comrade Mac Maharaj recounts; Kaunda never confined them to the camps but integrated them with the Zambian people.

Chairperson, as we celebrate the life times of this giant of Africa, we as an apex institution of democracy, must have our palms on the blood nerve of the African Continental Free Trade Areas Agreement that has been ratified by our country recently. This Free Trade Area Agreement is among the critical continental policy instruments for Africa’s renewal, reconstruction and development which Kenneth Kaunda struggled and died for.

In conclusion, allow me to join many others who have expressed their heartfelt condolences to the family of the late Kenneth Kaunda, his comrades and the people of Zambia. We share their pain, belong to the same past, and must dare not fail to construct a common destiny and future in a free and prosperous Africa.

Chairperson, in conclusion, allow me to quote the verses from one of the revolutionary songs sang during the 1980s in celebration of the heroism of Kenneth Kaunda and his people for their unwavering support to our struggle.

Zambian people, loving people,
Although you are far from home;
We shall miss you;
And we shall need you for the things you have done for us;

I thank you