Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kenneth Kaunda celebrates 87th birthday

Kenneth Kaunda celebrates 87th birthday
By Bright Mukwasa
Tue 17 May 2011, 04:00 CAT

BIRTHDAY parties in most parts of the world come with grandeur and glamour. It is a time when people get together to celebrate life with food, drink and music.

For other sections of society, it gets worse. Everything, including minute details, is an ostentatious display of wealth. Such lavish events are talked about long after they have passed.

Zambia’s Dr Kenneth Kaunda celebrated his 87th birthday on April 28. Unlike the pomp that should surround such a day, Dr Kaunda’s low-key event was organised at his pre-independence house number 394 in Lusaka’s Chilenje area. It is at this event that his statue was unveiled.

Dr Kaunda was born in 1924. He was Zambia’s first president and he played a big role in its liberation as well as that of southern Africa. Until he left office in 1991, he maintained his position as the leader of a ‘buffer’ country between white-ruled states in southern Africa and hostile, independent black-ruled states to the north.

His birthday party could have been bigger but for some reason, this was just a usual case of letting the country’s history follow the same path that other treasured chapters have traversed en route to oblivion.
One needs to be magnanimous to take time and explain the history behind house number 394.

The house that is fondly referred to as old State House strikes different chords and means a lot to the people who surround it and those who slept in it.
The house is located about six kilometres from Lusaka city centre.

A stroll into the yard lands you into Dr Kaunda’s copper-plated statue perched just at the entrance, with a trademark white handkerchief gripped in its right hand.

A walk closer to the house gives you a feeling of how well the people responsible for it have tried to keep it tidy and unblemished.

To your right there is parked the partially burnt old green Land Rover which was used by Dr Kaunda during the struggle for Zambia’s independence. According to literature:

“The vehicle was a common spectacle to many and the sound of its engine a melodious tune to thousands of supporters who fondly nicknamed it ‘Mama UNIP”.

Inside the house there is an array of collections of utensils used by the Kaundas. The kitchenware and stove which Mama Betty Kaunda used to prepare meals for her family and the people who visited them are properly kept in the house.

The house also has literature on the independence struggle, including party constitutions and Dr Kaunda’s letters.

In what used to be the main bedroom, one sees a bed neatly spread with a white and maroon striped blanket and a wooden wardrobe with a classic leather coat hanging inside.

There are pictures of prominent pre-independence events hanging on the wall.
During the birthday celebrations, people had gathered in the morning to witness the Octogenarian sing songs of glory for his long days. The yard was filled with people from the neighbourhood, the Church, the diplomatic corps, Prliamentarians and members of his party UNIP. There was no representation from the government and there was a hoax earlier that the unveiling of the statue had been cancelled.

Dr Kaunda did not hide his displeasure as this was supposed to be a non-partisan celebration.

"Let me apologise for the absence of my girl Betty, sorry for amai minister Catherine Namugala, president Sata. I think we have been told the reasons why they are not here. Let’s learn from that," Dr Kaunda said.

Kabwata PF parliamentarian Given Lubinda initially told the gathering that the government could not turn up because Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata was going to attend the same event.

“Namugala said she will not be here if president Sata will be here. I am extremely sad, Mr President,” Lubinda said amid shouts of “shame” from the audience.

However, Lubinda said Sata opted to stay away from the event for fear of spoiling the party following tourism minister Namugala’s reservations.

Aside from the politics, the event was well attended. The celebration was characterised by music and dance.

The singing was complemented by Dr Kaunda who asked for a guitar and sang one of his favourite songs for his “girl”, Betty.

Two of his children - Chaswe and Tilyenji - attended the celebrations.
In an interview later, Tilyenji said visiting his former home evoked pleasant memories.

“This place has fond meaning to me. I attach great relevance to it,” said Tilyenji the UNIP president.

Chaswe, who was overwhelmed with excitement, thanked the organisers of the event.

“Thank you for the respect you have shown my father. It’s good to honour someone while they are alive to see it. On behalf of ba tata, thank you very much,” Chaswe said.

Chaswe said she treasured the place that her family lived in before she was born.

Lubinda said his constituency decided to honour Dr Kaunda based on his humility, sacrifice and contribution to the struggle for independence.

Lubinda said the team also promised to erect monuments at Lubwa mission in his honour.

Dr Kaunda lived and directed the independence struggle from the Chilenje House between January 1960 and December 1962.

Some of the major events he directed whilst at 394 were the Constitutional Conference of 1960, Cha Cha Cha Campaign and the election of 1962

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At 5:07 AM , Blogger benilhalk said...

It is so good to know that Kenneth Kaunda celebrated 87th birthday. This post was quite nice. Our grandfather turned 90 and it was really a big event for us so we couldn’t skip celebrating it. Had booked one of the best event halls for rent in Chicago and invited all his friends to this party.


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