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.”