Nelson Mandela Foundation

Kenneth Kaunda In Qunu celebrating Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday © Brylyne K Chitsunge

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is saddened by the news that former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades.

It is no accident that former President Kaunda was one of the speakers at the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Madiba first met Kaunda in 1962 during his travels through Africa to secure support for a nascent armed struggle in South Africa. He next saw him soon after his release from prison in February 1990, when he visited Lusaka at the start of another tour of the African continent. The two leaders then maintained a friendship which would endure until Madiba’s passing in 2013.

That 1990 visit to Lusaka was emblematic of the role Zambia played in South Africa’s liberation struggle under Kaunda’s leadership. African National Congress (ANC) headquarters were located in Lusaka for many years. Zambia paid a heavy price for its support, with the country suffering systematic destabilisation by the apartheid state. In the 1980s Kaunda began to give his support to initiatives designed to find a negotiated transfer of power in South Africa. Many of the earliest engagements between the ANC and structures of the South African state and civil society took place in Zambia.

In 1991 Kaunda stepped down from power after losing a democratic election. Soon thereafter Madiba was asked what lessons this offered the leadership of the ANC. Madiba responded: “No, there were really no new … lessons. We have seen established politicians … being defeated by other political parties which were in opposition and there was nothing new in that. Kaunda had … played his role, had served Zambia, the Southern African region of this continent and the rest of the continent, and the people wanted change, that is all. That would have happened anywhere in the world.”

We will not forget Kaunda’s contributions to the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, nor the lessons his life holds for reflection on how democracy should be measured and how it can be deepened.


Media Enquiries

Kneo Mokgopa

Manager: Communications & Advocacy

(+27) 76 420 1910