Kaunda is the youngest of eight children born to an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher. He followed his father’s steps in becoming a teacher.
He was at the forefront of the struggle for independence from British rule. Dissatisfied with Nkumbula‘s leadership of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress, he broke away and founded the Zambian African National Congress, later becoming the head of the United National Independence Party. He was the first President of the independent Zambia.
Kaunda is the youngest of eight children. He was born at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, Northern Province of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. His father was the Reverend David Kaunda, an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher, who was born in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and had moved to Chinsali to work at Lubwa Mission. He attended Munali Training Centre in Lusaka (August 1941 – 1943).
Kaunda was a teacher at the Upper Primary School and Boarding Master at Lubwa and then Headmaster at Lubwa from 1943 to 1945. He was for a time working at the Salisbury and Bindura Mine. In early 1948, he became a teacher in Mufulira for the United Missions to the Copperbelt (UMCB). He was then assistant at an African Welfare Centre and Boarding Master of a Mine School in Mufulira. In this period, he was leading a Pathfinder Scout Group and was Choirmaster at a Church of Central Africa Congregation. He was also for a time Vice-Secretary of the Nchanga Branch of Congress.
In April 1949, Kaunda returned to Lubwa to become a part-time teacher, but resigned in 1951. In that year he became Organising Secretary of Northern Province’s Northern Rhodesian African National Congress. On 11 November 1953 he moved to Lusaka to take up the post of Secretary General of the ANC, under the presidency of Harry Nkumbula. The combined efforts of Kaunda and Nkumbula failed to mobilise native African peoples against the European-dominated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In 1955 Kaunda and Nkumbula were imprisoned for two months with hard labour for distributing subversive literature; such imprisonment and other forms of harassment were normal rites of passage for African nationalist leaders. The experience of imprisonment had a radicalising impact on Kaunda. The two leaders drifted apart as Nkumbula became increasingly influenced by white liberals and was seen as being willing to compromise on the issue of black majority rule, waiting until most of the indigenous population was responsibly educated before extending the franchise. The franchise was to be determined by existing property and literacy qualifications, dropping race altogether. Nkumbula’s allegedly autocratic leadership of the ANC eventually resulted in a split. Kaunda broke from the ANC and formed the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. ZANC was banned in March 1959. In June Kaunda was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, which he spent first in Lusaka, then in Salisbury.
While Kaunda was in prison, Mainza Chona and other nationalists broke away from the ANC and, in October 1959, Chona became the first president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the successor to ZANC. However, Chona did not see himself as the party’s main founder. When Kaunda was released from prison in January 1960 he was elected President of UNIP. In 1960 he visited Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta and afterwards, in July 1961, Kaunda organised a civil disobedience campaign in Northern Province, the so-called Cha-cha-cha campaign, which consisted largely of arson and obstructing significant roads. Kaunda subsequently ran as a UNIP candidate during the 1962 elections. This resulted in a UNIP–ANC Coalition Government, with Kaunda as Minister of Local Government and Social Welfare. In January 1964, UNIP won the next major elections, defeating their ANC rivals and securing Kaunda’s position as prime minister. On 24 October 1964 he became the first President of an independent Zambia, appointing Reuben Kamanga as his Vice-President.
At the time of its independence, Zambia’s modernisation process was far from complete. It had just 109 university graduates and less than 0.5% of the population was estimated to have completed primary education.The nation’s educational system was one of the most poorly developed in all of Britain’s former colonies. Because of this, Zambia had to invest heavily in education at all levels. Kaunda instituted a policy where all children, irrespective of their parents’ ability to pay, were given free exercise books, pens and pencils. The parents’ main responsibility was to buy uniforms, pay a token “school fee” and ensure that the children attended school. This approach meant that the best pupils were promoted to achieve their best results, all the way from primary school to university level. Not every child could go to secondary school, for example, but those who did were well educated.
The University of Zambia was opened in Lusaka in 1966, after Zambians all over the country had been encouraged to donate whatever they could afford towards its construction. Kaunda was appointed Chancellor and officiated at the first graduation ceremony in 1969. The main campus was situated on the Great East Road, while the medical campus was located at Ridgeway near the University Teaching Hospital. In 1979 another campus was established at the Zambia Institute of Technology in Kitwe. In 1988 the Kitwe campus was upgraded and renamed the Copperbelt University, offering business studies, industrial studies and environmental studies.
Other tertiary-level institutions established during Kaunda’s era were vocationally focused and fell under the aegis of the Department of Technical Education and Vocational Training. They include the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce and the Natural Resources Development College (both in Lusaka), the Northern Technical College at Ndola, the Livingstone Trades Training Institute in Livingstone, and teacher-training colleges.
At independence Kaunda’s government inherited a country with an economy that was completely under the control of foreigners. For example, the British South Africa Company (founded by the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes) still retained commercial assets and mineral rights that it had acquired from a concession signed with the Litunga of Bulozi in 1890. Only by threatening to expropriate it on the eve of independence did Kaunda manage to get favourable concessions from the BSAC.
Deciding on a planned economy, Zambia instituted a program of national development, under the direction of the National Commission for Development Planning, which instituted a “Transitional Development Plan” and the “First National Development Plan”. These two operations, which attempted to secure major investment in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, were generally regarded as successful.
A major change in the structure of Zambia’s economy came with the Mulungushi Reforms of April 1968: Kaunda declared his intention to acquire an equity holding (usually 51% or more) in a number of key foreign-owned firms, to be controlled by his Industrial Development Corporation (INDECO). By January 1970, Zambia had acquired majority holding in the Zambian operations of the two major foreign mining interests, the Anglo American Corporation and the Rhodesian Selection Trust (RST); the two became the Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines (NCCM) and Roan Consolidated Mines (RCM), respectively. Kaunda also announced the creation of a new parastatal body, the Mining Development Corporation (MINDECO), while a Finance and Development Corporation (FINDECO) allowed the Zambian government to gain control of insurance companies and building societies. Major foreign-owned banks, such as Barclays, Standard Chartered and Grindlays Bank, successfully resisted takeover. In 1971, INDECO, MINDECO, and FINDECO were brought together under an omnibus parastatal, the Zambia Industrial and Mining Corporation (ZIMCO), to create one of the largest companies in sub-Saharan Africa, with Francis Kaunda as chairman of the board. The management contracts under which day-to-day operations of the mines had been carried out by Anglo American and RST were terminated in 1973. In 1982, NCCM and RCM were merged into the giant Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Ltd (ZCCM).
From April 1975, when Kaunda visited Gerald Ford at the White House in Washington and delivered a powerful speech calling for the United States to play a more active and constructive role in southern Africa, until approximately 1984, the Zambian president was arguably the key African leader involved in the international diplomacy regarding the conflicts in Angola, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Namibia. He hosted Henry Kissinger’s 1976 trip to Zambia, got along very well with Jimmy Carter, and worked closely with Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker. While there were disagreements between Kaunda and U.S. leaders (such as when Zambia purchased Soviet MIG fighters or when he accused two American diplomats of being spies), Kaunda generally enjoyed a positive relationship with the United States during these years.
On 26 August 1975, Kaunda acted as mediator along with the Prime Minister of South Africa, B. J. Vorster at Victoria Falls to discuss possibilities for an internal settlement in Southern Rhodesia with Ian Smith and the black nationalists. After the Lancaster House Agreement, Kaunda attempted to seek similar majority rule in South West Africa. He met with P. W. Botha in Botswana to debate this proposal, but apparently failed to make a serious impression.
Meanwhile, the anti-white minority insurgency conflicts of southern Africa continued to place a huge economic burden on Zambia as white minority governments were the country’s main trading partners. In response, Kaunda negotiated the TAZARA Railway (Tanzam) linking Kapiri Mposhi on the Zambian Copperbelt with Tanzania’s port of Dar-es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean. Completed in 1975, this was the only route for bulk trade which did not have to transit white-dominated territories. This precarious situation lasted more than 20 years, until the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.
For much of the Cold War Kaunda was a strong supporter of the Non-Aligned Movement. He hosted a NAM summit in Lusaka in 1970 and served as the movement’s chairman from 1970 to 1973. He maintained a close friendship with Yugoslavia’s long-time leader Josip Broz Tito and is remembered by many Yugoslav officials for weeping openly over the latter’s casket in 1980. He even had a special house constructed in Lusaka for Tito’s visits to the country. He also visited and welcomed Romania’s dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu in the 1970s. In 1986, the University of Belgrade (Yugoslavia) awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Kaunda had frequent but cordial differences with US President Ronald Reagan whom he met 1983 and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher mainly over what he saw as a blind eye being turned towards South African apartheid. He always maintained warm relations with the People’s Republic of China who had provided assistance on many projects in Zambia, including the Tazara Railway.
In August 1989, Farzad Bazoft was detained in Iraq for alleged espionage. He was accompanied by a British nurse, Daphne Parish, who was arrested as well. Bazoft was an Iranian-born freelance journalist attempting to expose Saddam’s mass murder of Iraqi Kurds. Bazoft was later tried and condemned to death, but Kaunda managed to negotiate for his female companion’s release. Kaunda served as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) from 1970 to 1973.
After retiring, he has been involved in various charitable organisations. Most notably is his contribution against the spread of HIV/AIDS, peace and conflict resolution and economic emancipation.
Awards and honours
In 2002 Kaunda was awarded the Supreme Companion of OR Tambo by South Africa.
On 19 October 2007 Kaunda was the recipient of the 2007 Ubuntu Award