FORMER Botswana president Ian Khama says while he is in the country to visit Rupiah Banda, who is battling colon cancer, he has also taken advantage of the trip to pay his last respects to Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

Speaking when he visited Dr Kaunda’s family in State Lodge, Tuesday, Khama said his relationship which the Kaunda family had been a close one.

“I came here to visit the former President Rupiah Banda because I had heard that he hasn’t been too well and I thought it was a good opportunity to come and visit him and see how he is doing and at the same time to come and pay my condolences and respect to the family of the founding President Kaunda over the loss of their father and recently of their brother. The relationship of me and the Kaunda family has been very close right from the early days when the founding President Kaunda was President of Zambia. We have a strong relationship together and that is the reason why I am here,” Khama said.

He said Zambia and Botswana had a special connection.

“Well, my Country and Zambia have continued to enjoy a strong relationship since Independence, remember, my father was also the President of Botswana and in a way, not only because of our country’s geographical perspective, but because of what was going on in the region with white minority regimes which were causing so much havoc in the Southern African region, Botswana and Zambia being neighbours were the only countries which were not under the york of that kind of the colonialism by South Africa or by the Portuguese and that brought about a special bond between the two of them. My father and late President Kaunda worked very closely together towards the freedom of the sub-region and that the special bond relationship being existed, has brought about overflow between the people of Botswana and Zambia,” said Khama.

“That bond continued even when I was President. I had the privilege to work very closely with the Presidency of Zambia that time. When I came into office, there was President late [Levy] Mwanawasa, and then Rupiah Banda and late President [Michael] Sata was there, then, President [Edgar] Lungu and we had that special bond relationship which has brought about overflow between the people of Botswana and Zambia and that is something which we promoted and I was very happy to have been President when we built that bridge the Kazungula that links Botswana and Zambia and that is a legacy that I will always be very proud of.”

Meanwhile, Senior Chief Puta of the Bwile people of Chiengi district in Luapula Province has urged Dr Kaunda’s family to be strong and united.

“Well, the death of our founding father Dr Kenneth Kaunda who was the father of the whole nation affected all of us and now we are talking about the death of your brother Captain Kambarage Kaunda. It is a sad moment but all we can say is that you should be strong and also be united. This moment will pass,” said Chief Puta.

And speaking on behalf of the family, Colonel Panji Kaunda thanked Khama and Chief Puta for the visit.