Lessons from KK’s life

[By Remmy Mwamba]

Setting the scene

His once sonorous voice became weak; almost inaudible, while the eyes that would once light up the world began to flicker.

The fact that his life was ebbing away, was well known to all of us. In June, 2021 he was hospitalised at Maina Soko Military Hospital where the final biological winding up process of his mortal body was completed. A somber quietness fell upon the country on 17TH June, when his death was announced by Dr Simon Miti. The nation that he led for 27 years fell full on its knees to express eternal gratitude to its leader and founding father. Somehow somewhat, an inner voice told us that he was not of common clay that most of us were made of. The fire and warmth that we had enjoyed for tears was now shimmering and giving way to coldness and loneliness.

The images of his casket and immobile body caused torrents of tears to rain down the eyes of those that were nearest and dearest to him. Death creates a sense of finality that strikes the tenderest chords of the human soul and spirit because of all creation, human beings are the only species that carry the burden of knowing that one day they will die. “Thou art dust, and to dust you shall return,” Genesis 2:19b. It is this intrinsic awareness of our mortality that makes life precious and worthy of our highest pursuits to leave the world better than we found it.

Much has been written about Zambia’s founding president, the late Dr Kenneth Kaunda (KK), but being a larger-than-life figure, his life became like a sphere, which you can only see from a particular angle at any point in time. I want to use his life to inspire the youths and the general citizenry to live our lives by beginning with the end in mind. While we are living, we are writing our own scripts, “We are already naked,” (Steve Jobs).

The objective of this article is to use his life as a mirror. The lives of great men are worthy of contemplation in order to understand what made them unique to inspire millions of people across the world.

Lessons to the youths

KK was born at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali and rose to the zenith of leadership not only in Zambia but as a global statesman as well. It does not matter where you are coming from, but where you are going.

The current crop of youths suffers from the twin maladies of “victim mentality” and “destination disease.” To escape the shackles of poverty entails taking 100 per cent responsibility of your life. Blaming your past, relatives, teachers and government is a waste of your time. When you blame forces outside of your control, you succumb to the victim mentality that will cripple you to a life of deprivation and squalor.

Equally debilitating is the dreaded “destination disease” that has reached epidemic proportions in Zambia. It is not uncommon to hear many youths say, “If only I can acquire a degree or when I get a good paying job, then I will start living a full life.” The majority of our youths need urgent inoculation from this disease that has confined them into thinking that without a title, their life is worthless.

Today, there are countless youths with degrees in Economics and Business studies waiting and lamenting that there are no jobs. Take a moment to think back to what KK and his colleagues achieved with mere Diplomas and in certain cases with Form Two certificates. The lack of self-efficacy is responsible for the despondency that is prevalent among the youths, “time lost can never be regained, but we can prevent future time from loss.”

Dear youth, if there is any fear you must harbour in your heart going forward, “let it be the fear to die before you realise your dreams.” Be afraid to die before you make a contribution to this world and worse still, to pass through this world unnoticed. Find something to do today that will begin to advance your life goals.

Civil society organisations

The pulse of any society is measured by how active its citizenry is in taking its future forward. In his book “The Open Society and its Enemies” Karl R Popper laments that for millennia, societies seem to be under the illusion that those in leadership are infallible and must think for and on their behalf to confront the challenges while they remain passive spectators on the sidelines.

To this point, Barack Obama once said, “Unless society is awakened, there can be no democracy and economic progress.” It is at this level of unconsciousness that most of our families and friends are operating, devoid of the burden and responsibility that all citizens must be on deck for the ship to pull away.

Gearge Clason in his classic book “The Richest Man in Babylon” posited, “Our prosperity as a nation depends on the personal financial prosperity of each of us as individuals. Proper preparation is the key to our success. Our acts can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.”

It is ironic that we have continued blaming the Western world for raping Africa of its natural resources for centuries while we do nothing to change the status quo. The simple answer is that a few among us have been the beneficiaries. For 57 years of self-rule, power has concentrated at the centre without any serious attempt to devolve.

It is a shame for people in parliament to continue debating whether a council has the capacity to account for a paltry 25.7 million kwacha when these constituencies have challenges far bigger than 800 million for their populations to have a semblance of the 21ST Century life.

As long as we do not solve the structural challenges in our economy, we shall keep throwing money at problems! How is it possible that in almost all provincial centres apart from Lusaka and Copperbelt there are no wholesalers from which local entrepreneurs can buy simple groceries. Buses and trucks have to converge in Lusaka every day to buy groceries! Shame indeed. When you shift the hard earned cash to Lusaka on a daily basis while starving those provinces and districts of much needed liquidity, the net effect is that Lusaka will keep developing at the expense of other provinces!

Truth be told, investments operate on the same principle as gravity; where there are mass economic activities and people, investments will naturally flow. Therefore, CDF amount should be boosted to a factor of 10 so that it creates sufficient economic activities to magnetise investments and stem the tide of rural-urban migration. Surely, what can be so complicated about accounting for 25.7 million?

KK tried to introduce industrial activities in every province using the idea of economic clusters which has died a natural death. Provinces must be given targets to increase their contribution to GDP so that they can graduate from dependency on central government coffers and become self-sustaining. There are provinces that are parasitic on those that are doing well without any attempts to change their economic fortunes year in year out.

Political leaders

The new dawn government has a glorious opportunity which they must not squander. The populist spirit that has held our country to a status of an economic infant despite the unimaginable natural resources that other countries cannot even begin to imagine, must be exorcised.

Years ago, a group of Zambians formed the Zambezi Consortium as a way of pooling resources together rather than wait for foreign investors in the mining sector. Such efforts must be encouraged because the short term FDI’s only contribute to foreign exchange fluctuations and weak balance of payments that end up making us economically unstable. In a year when we have inflows, the local currency will strengthen and when the same investors begin profit externalisation, we are back to square one!

Going forward, needs must be prioritised, phased and implemented according to the capacity of our economy. The Western world has used debt to ensure that they keep taking our resources. Every country that has been on an IMF programme has almost the same prescription, “stabilisation of exchange rates and pursuit of Export-led economic policies’’. The logic is simple, the more you export, the more capacity you develop to repay the loans.

Our leaders must know that it is easy to talk about humility before you taste the trappings of political power. To insulate one-self from praise-singers and those who have mastered the art of inflating egos of leaders requires fortitude of character and taking constant doses against self-aggrandisement.

It is worth noting that KK left political office after 27 years at the helm with only US $8,000 in his bank account, a few safari suits and books! This is an example worthy of emulation. KK lived what he taught and taught what he lived. His love for his fellow human beings was beyond doubt.

The citizens could go to bed knowing that they had a leader who cared for them. Off course others took advantage of his generosity by showering him with praises only worthy of a deity. Among the UNIP loyalists and fanatics, others would praise him saying, “Citwe mambo, mankangala, munshifukatilwa and other glorifications that ended up making him to prolong his stay in power.

Key lessons

Magnanimity: KK gave up two years of his tenure in office for the sake of peace and unity for the country that he loved dearly.

Simplicity: KK lived a simple life and gave up the consumption of beef as well as bathing hot water despite living in a place where all kinds of luxuries were available. This is an enduring legacy of his solidarity with the poor who could not afford such luxuries.

Integrity: Throughout his life, if there was one thing you could count on, it was his word. To his death, he remained true to his ideals of loving God and your neighbour as yourself. These two values continue to define his life and legacy.

Pan Africanism: KK lived and died for this ideal and was ready to pay the ultimate price to attain it.


The life and legacy of KK will live on for many years to come. The death of KK saved Zambia from potential calamities at the height of political campaigns that had reached boiling point with sporadic violence here and there. He died just in time before matters spiraled out of hand.

As the tributes and legacies were being broadcast on radio and television, the political temperatures began to cool down. Looking back, the death of KK could not have come at a better time than when the nation was reeling from the worst forms of brutalism and oppression ever seen in our country.

On 7TH July, the nation bid farewell to its gallant soldier and hero. Just as the stars disappear in the morning, fading away in the light of day, KK now lives in a realm beyond human sight. Yet, his life has been immortalised by his unwavering sacrifice and love for humanity. He was the greatest symbol of our country with many admirers across the globe.

On the day of his burial, as his casket was being lowered to the ground, KK seemed to speak to us in silence, “It is better to die living, than to live dying.” The least we can do now is to follow his path and tread the holy ground where his feet are printed. Long live KK!

Email: mwamba2330@yahoo.com, WhatsApp: +260 0977 869070.

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