Ramaphosa declares ten days of mourning for Kaunda
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PRETORIA – The South African government has declared 10 days of mourning for Zambia’s founding father Kenneth Kaunda who died on Thursday aged 97.
In a statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said he had learned with great sadness of the death of Kaunda, fondly known as “KK”, calling him an unwavering champion of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
“On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, President Ramaphosa extends his condolences to the Kaunda family and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia,” the Presidency said, adding that flags would be flown at half-mast during the mourning period.
In a moving tribute to Kaunda broadcast on television, Ramaphosa said South Africans bowed their heads in grief at the passing of “a beloved and rightfully revered father of African independence and unity”.
“We are united in our sadness with the Kaunda family and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia. We are united in our sadness with the people of our region and continent, to whom Kenneth Kaunda’s leadership was a source of inspiration and resilience,” he said.
“President Kaunda dedicated his 97 long years to the liberation and service of the people of Zambia. He devoted himself and the Zambian people to supporting liberation movements around our region in their quest for independence and freedom.”
“He stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of our greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of our freedom. It was in honour of this remarkable contribution that the South African government bestowed on President Kaunda the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in 2002,” Ramaphosa added.
Kaunda was a pioneering champion of a decolonised, united and prosperous Africa, and represented his country and continent with distinction on global platforms, the South African leader said.
He noted how Zambia’s first president after independence from Britain in 1964, stood with South Africa when it lost its own struggle heroes including former president Nelson Mandela.
“We remember his moving tribute as we laid Madiba (Mandela) to rest in Qunu,” said Ramaphosa.
“Today, we place ourselves alongside Kenneth Kaunda’s family and the Zambian nation as they mourn this deep loss. As the South African nation, we will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude that we owe to President Kaunda. Nor will we ever forget that it was with the help of this extraordinary leader’s care and solidarity that our freedom and our democracy was won.”
Kaunda was in power for 27 years before ceding power to Frederick Chiluba in Zambia’s first multi-party elections in 1991.
– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa