M’membe’s admiration for dictators like KK, Castro

The Kalapashi Series

Yes Kaunda Was a Dictator!

It is very true our first republican president Dr Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda was a dictator, and a serious one for that matter. Only young people like Fred Mmembe and those born during the 1980s and onwards would not know this fact.

Fred Mmembe has a weird admiration for dictators. His number one idol is Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Mmembe speaks of Cuba as Moses the parrot from Animal Farm spoke of the ‘Sugar Candy Mountain’. Recently he sent his protégée, Wynter Kabimba, to go and study Cuba and see how best he, Kabimba, would model Zambia after that country. Upon his return Kabimba declared that Cuba is better than the United States of America. One wonders why there are more Cubans in the USA than Americans in Cuba, if that were the case.  After Castro, for Mmembe, comes our very own Dr K D Kaunda.

Even though Mmembe has never cared to put up a portrait of any sitting President (not even that of Michael Sata) the portrait of Dr Kaunda graces every room at the Post newspaper building. Little wonder Mmembe got so incensed with Hakainde Hichilema when the later recently spoke of ‘another dictator after 1991’! In a blind flurry, Mmembe warned Hakainde that he (HH) ‘will be sorry if he continued calling KK a dictator’. Of course, blinded by anger, Mmembe did not realise that his statement reeked of criminality!

In trying to make Hakainde look very bad and Dr Kaunda appear angelic, Mmembe and his auntie Inonge Wina come up with something like this ‘Dr Kaunda’s good deeds cannot be compared with Hakainde’s weaknesses’. That is one confused statement because anyone’s good deeds are better than the next person’s weaknesses. That is what happens when one losses one’s objectivity. Maybe they meant to say the vice versa. But then they could not just bring themselves to relate weakness to Dr Kaunda!

Back to Dr Kaunda, yes the man was a dictator. Barely 9 years after Independence Kaunda, almost single handed, turned Zambia into a one party state and elevated his UNIP above everyone and everything including the government. ‘The party and its government’, was his favourite slogan. Do you remember how President Sata and Wynter Kabimba tried to elevate the PF above the government soon after they assumed power? Clearly they dreamt of the days of the ‘PIG’, (the party and its government)!

Even though Kaunda appointed a constitutional review commission, under Mainza Chona, to usher in the one party state, he rejected some of the things that the people demanded such as the limitation of the presidential term. For 27 years Kaunda ruled under a state of emergency which allowed him to detain people at will. During that period he mocked democracy by running elections every 5 years where he ran against a frog, a hyena or any other ugly animal. Anyone was free to run for parliament but that is if one survived the party veto.


One of the worst victims of Kaunda’s viciousness was his own childhood and bosom friend Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe. Even after Kaunda, via his cronies, hounded Kapwepwe from government and UNIP, he still ensured that Kapwepwe did not advance his political ambitions by using full political persecution on his erstwhile friend. One day Kapwepwe was severely beaten by a group of thugs, believed to have been the dread UNIP junta, the vigilantes. When Kapwepwe tried to persist with politics even after that severe beating, Kaunda banned his UPP party and placed its entire leadership in detention including Kapwepwe.

Kapwepwe was wooed back to UNIP and assured that he would stand at the party’s 1975 convention for any position that he desired including the presidency. But he, together with Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, would be barred from entering the Mulungushi Rock of Authority premises even though they had already been disqualified from contesting by the UNIP constitution. The party constitution had been amended shortly before the convention.

By 1980 Kapwepwe was a tired, broken and disillusioned man. He died a lonely death at his daughters’ home in Kalulushi where he had gone to visit. Ten years later, after being retired by the Zambian people, Kaunda tried to ‘go back to the land’ in Chinsali. It’s commonly reported that the elders and wise men of the village greeted Kaunda with one question, ‘ngo munobe Mwansa a likwi?’ (where is your friend Mwansa). Kaunda came back hastily to Lusaka to retry his hand at politics. But Chiluba played a political number on him, by giving him a taste of his own medicine and barring him from contesting the presidency! Michael Sata and Edith Nawakwi did a Salsa on the floor of parliament as they sang, ‘Kaunda a lala, a lala, Kaunda a lala a lala’ (Kaunda has been defeated)!

Many others suffered at the hands of Kaunda and his UNIP. Chiluwe, a well known and successive business man suddenly became insane after he tried to challenge Kaunda for the presidency. To date Chiluwe wonders about in Lusaka West in a very sorry state. Chama Chakomboka, a wonderfully educated and intelligent man equally lost his marbles in similar circumstances. Andrew Sardanis, Kaunda’s pre-independence comrade in arms and post independence chief advisor, had his businesses frozen for a long period of time after he resigned from government. Chiluba and his entire ZCTU leadership were detained, on a number of times, for doing Union work.

Elias Chipimo senior was hastily dropped from chairing the board of Standard Chartered Bank after criticising Kaunda’s government.  Valentine Musakanya, Zambia’s first secretary to the cabinet, was tortured badly over the failed 1980 coup. So was Edward Shamwana the eminent lawyer who was destined to become Chief Justice. Gen Miyanda was bundled in the boot of a car from Lubumbashi to Lusaka for his alleged part in the same coup. Later Miyanda would be denied to attend his own wife’s funeral. Miyanda’s wife had died while he was in detention.

The general public also suffered. School children would be rounded up, and classes suspended, to go and line up along the streets to wave at Kaunda whenever he came to town. You could not enter any market without a UNIP membership card. The vigilantes were always on hand to lift you ‘by air’ if ever you dared go into the market without the UNIP ‘chitupa’. The vigilantes’ mantra was ‘UNIP mulilo, waikatako wapya’! Kaunda called journalists ‘stupid idiots’ or ‘stupid fools’ for asking questions he was not comfortable with. Ever wondered from where Mmembe leant to sprinkle his editorials with ‘stupid, idiot, and fool’? By the way Mmembe does not believe any of those three words is an insult except if used by somebody else other than himself.

Do you remember the ZNBC news read by wonderful people like Kenneth Maduma, Peter Mweemba, Constance Chisonta, Harold Besa, Maureen Nkandu, Margret Phiri and others but every boring? President Kaunda this, President Kaunda there, UNIP the one, UNIP the other! Sounds familiar?

The economy was equally not spared from Kaunda’s dictatorship. Obstinately he drove a socialist agenda and built a state company anywhere to produce anything regardless of economic reality. In fact the nationalisation of the mines was done to create resources for Kaunda’s socialistic and pipe dreams such as ‘grass from oil’. In the long run, he wiped out all the reserves left by the colonial government and drove the economy into the ground. The mines suffered from lack of reinvestment on one hand and being over milked by the other parastatals on the other. Yet it is said that at Independence, Zambia’s economy was better than that of South Korea!

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the economy was on its knees and Kaunda’s back was broken by the food riots of that period.

So Fred Mmembe, yes Kaunda was a dictator indeed.

Share this post