ALMOST everyone who interacted with the late founding president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has shared their fond memories about the fallen legend. For the young generation that was not privileged to live under Kaunda’s rule, all they found in “Super Ken” was a very charming fellow who was always present to either share a photograph moment or even a special blessing from his white handkerchief.
Fortunately, the death of Dr Kaunda has given both the old and new generation of citizens an opportunity to look back at his early years in politics, his leadership experiences and how he dealt with national crises. We can now see, from the many documentaries that have been produced about our founding father that Dr Kenneth Kaunda was a man who was very comfortable in his own skin. We have learnt that he knew who he was and he tried to live according to his own principles.
One of the strangest experiences that many of us would have had in the wake of president Kaunda’s passing, is the fact that his death has, for once in a very long time, made our national broadcaster, ZNBC, interesting to watch again. It has been a gratifying experience to tune into ZNBC and to get a sense of what this country’s leadership used to look like.
ZNBC has brought us old clips of President Kaunda at his best. They have shown us footage of Dr Kaunda traveling overseas, meeting international dignitaries, and they have also shown us footage of Dr Kaunda facing the press in Zambia. One of the things that has caught our attention, being part of the media fraternity is that the media under Kaunda’s One party state, seemed to have enjoyed more access to the presidency. It is so intriguing and fascinating to see how journalists from state media were allowed to ask the Head of State difficult questions and how the President was expected to answer without throwing a condescending attitude at the interviewers.
There is one interview that ZNBC has been playing in which Dr Kaunda was being interviewed by senior officers from state owned media, which included then Times of Zambia editor Naphy Nyalugwe, Rev Rogers Ng’ombe, Mr Ignatious Kashweka and the legendary Charles Mando. What was clear in that interview which took place in 1983 is that the country was facing serious economic challenges and the president was being grilled on his policies by these journalists. And Dr Kaunda appeared comfortable enough to accept challenging questions that were thrown at him and he was answering them candidly.
It is impossible to imagine a similar scenario today where our president can invite senior editors from local media houses to ask him important questions about the state of affairs in the nation. It is hard to explain how we got to a place where even just imagining our Head of State appearing on TV for an interview or simply holding a press conference is a far-fetched dream.
How can it be that a one party State allowed the media more freedom than a multiparty democracy? How come a president who ruled for 27 years without worrying about being removed from power was more accountable to his people than a president whose mandate is so short lived? Watching KK as we remember him during this time of mourning has left us wondering how we have moved from such a high standard of leadership and discourse to where we are today.
One could not help sensing that KK was sincere when he said he did not take the Zambia people for granted and that he always strove to tell them the truth, because “you cannot hide the truth from the people. If you do, they will soon find you out”. There is a lesson for our government in this statement from Dr Kaunda.
For a long time, they have been lying to our people about many things, and now it looks like our people are fed up. KK set a very high standard for leadership. And they all need to work very hard to restore the kind of leadership that we knew then. The fact that we had to wait for a funeral to enjoy ZNBC is enough demonstration of what is wrong with our country. KK’s funeral should make us hungry for good leadership.