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'KK' confessed he betrayed Nyerere with IMF, World Bank: Thabo Mbeki

Former president sings praises of liberation hero Kenneth Kaunda's contribution to the struggle against apartheid

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
Former president Thabo Mbeki said the admission took place during Kaunda’s address to the now-defunct Frontline States.
Former president Thabo Mbeki said the admission took place during Kaunda’s address to the now-defunct Frontline States.
Image: Masi Losi

Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda made an undertaking with his Tanzanian counterpart Julius Nyerere that they would never allow a situation that would lead to their respective countries carrying a begging bowl to the IMF or World Bank.

But Kaunda broke the covenant when Zambia borrowed money from the two global financial institutions under his stewardship, thus selling out on his confidential agreement with Nyerere.

The admission apparently took place during Kaunda’s address to the now-defunct Frontline States, a group of African countries that resolved to defeat the apartheid regime in SA.

Such was the level of honesty on the difficulties in mounting a liberation struggle by Kaunda, according to former SA president Thabo Mbeki who on Thursday delivered an inaugural memorial lecture in remembrance of the fallen liberation hero.

“[Kaunda] reported that he and Mwalimu Nyerere had an agreement that they would never allow the situation to arise when their two countries would have to appeal to the IMF and the World Bank for help,” said Mbeki. “He said that the reality, however, was that, in his words, ‘I have betrayed Mwalimu’. He said that even as he was speaking, there was an IMF representative at the ministry of finance in Lusaka.

“Now the government could not take any important decision on the economy without consulting the IMF representative to seek his agreement. He described this as a defeat for Zambia and himself, and said they had to act to reverse it.

Mbeki spoke in colourful terms about the role Kaunda played in the ANC struggle against white minority rule.

This, Mbeki recalled, he did by working closely with the party's longest-serving president, OR Tambo, who at some point operated out of the ANC head office at the time located in Lusaka.

When Tambo was changing sleeping locations all over Zambia, ducking apartheid security forces, said Mbeki, it was Kaunda who decided to accommodate Tambo at his State House, which was heavily guarded.

Furthermore, Kaunda was the one who had Tambo airlifted to London when he collapsed from stroke while working at the ANC offices in Lusaka in 1989.

Before that, Mbeki told the audience, Kaunda had been central to the beginning of talks between apartheid business and the ANC as he personally organised logistics for such a meeting and was present as an observer when it took place.

“The critical outcome of that process of talking to the ANC resulted in ensuring that by the time the regime lifted the ban on the ANC in 1990, we had succeeded to rally around the broad objectives of the ANC the majority of the broad leadership in our country, black and white, and thus further weakened the regime by deepening its domestic isolation,” said Mbeki.

As the ANC operated out of Lusaka, it was Kaunda who gave the Zambian Broadcasting Services the green light to allow space for the ANC’s propaganda machine, Radio Freedom, to operate and transmit to SA.

Most importantly, Mbeki opined, Kaunda and Tambo were “joined at the hip”.

“In the revolutionary memory it is not possible to separate these two African giants, KK and OR, recalling that they were to each other more than mere comrades in arms.”


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