Kenneth Kaunda: Africa Must Cultivate the Culture of Meritocracy

Published on 12th August 2008

Kenneth Kaunda
Kenneth Kaunda was born at Lubwa (North-east Zambia) in 1924. Although he is celebrated as the founding father of Zambia, he suffered humiliation of being declared an alien (due to his father's Malawian roots) after almost three decades at the helm. He steered the country through challenges from the apartheid regime in South Africa and Zimbabwe and was removed from power when the winds of multi-partysim under the trade unionist Frederick Chiluba started blowing. Below is his independence speech.


"I speak to you on the very threshold of the most important day in the history of my country, for in a few hours time-in the first seconds of twenty-fourth of October, 1964- our new national flag will be hoisted for the time to fly proudly from the masthead here in Lusaka, and the Republic of Zambia will be born. I do not need to tell you of the mounting excitement here in our capital city; pride in the thought that tomorrow we take our rightful place among the nations of the world – pride that we also emerge as full members of the commonwealth in our right; pride that we have achieved this without losing the friendship of anyone; but with our pride goes humility, for we do not shout from the mountain-top that we are great-rather we do realize that now we must work to prove our right to greatness. 


We realize the difficulties that lie ahead, but we shall meet them with courage and determination and give national interests precedence over all individual interests and prejudices, in this I am fortified by the knowledge that all the people of Zambia, regardless of race, color or creed, are with me, and with the help of God, good fortune awaits us all provided we are dedicated to hard work and above all, UNITY. At this time I like to think that you of the Commonwealth now listening to me will wish us well in our task and extend to us the hand of friendship, and that you with us, will pray that we can fulfill our destiny with dignity and in peace.


This is an occasion to bring joy and happiness to people of all races and creeds, both within the territorial boundaries of Zambia and far beyond to those other countries which will be watching the birth of this new nation with sympathy and friendship.


When you, Madam, handed to me the Constitutional Instruments which formally created this new country of Zambia, I became, once again, deeply conscious of the great honor bestowed upon me when the elected representatives in the National Assembly of the people of Zambia indicated that I was their choice as the first President of the republic of Zambia. At the same time, my own emotions of pride were tempered by those feelings of humility, which I know are an essential ingredient for all forms of leadership. Let us be proud of Zambia; let us be proud of our achievements and of our ambitions for the future of our country of Zambia. Let us also show the humility towards God and friendship towards others which will assure us of our self-respect and at the same time will assure us of the respect of other people and other nations.


At this historic moment, the birth of our country of Zambia, our thoughts must naturally turn back to the national struggle towards our independence. In our resolution and determination by the knowledge that our cause was just and right, and therefore that it would prevail. To you all who took part in the political struggle, whether in the limelight or in the shadows, all of us in Zambia must acknowledge our debt today as we achieve our independence.


This indeed, is a fitting moment for all of us to pay tribute to those who fell during the struggle for freedom and who would have loved to be with us at this historic moment. The nation will never forget them! Today, however, is an occasion, not for dwelling on the past, but for rejoicing at our present happiness, and for anticipating the future of our country with optimism and loyalty.


Speaking of the future, I am glad to tell you that the five year Development Plan which Government intends to initiate in early 1966 is still being worked out, but Government is also very much interested in the transitional development plan which we hope to publish in two months’ time. I am, however, already able to give you some indication of the determined way in which we are resolved to develop our resources, and to take full advantage of the potentialities of our people.


Government spending on schools and teachers’ houses was only a little over one and a half million pounds last year. In 1965, we intend to spend six million pounds. It is also intended that there should be very substantial increase in Government investment  in defence, housing, agriculture, health, roads and the provision of electric power. Although we expect Government spending on construction alone to pass a figure of twenty-seven and a half million pounds, compared with eleven and a quarter million pounds in 1964. I have mentioned these figures specifically since they represent a challenge to Zambia’s building industry. But is a challenge which – given this advance notice – I am confident the industry will be able to meet. To help the industry, a fuller statement of these target figures will be published in a few days.


To you, Madam, as the personal representative of Her Majesty, we are greatly honored by your presence and by the continuing interest in our country which has been a feature of the royal family over a period of years. To Her Majesty’s Government, as we attain independence, I have a special message of friendship. We appreciate the contribution to the welfare of this country by the British Government over the past sixty years. It has given us a foundation for human, economic and political development. This will enable us to direct our new national pride into methods of increasing the economic and social wealth of all the people of Zambia


At the present time we look forward to the growth of a new political relationship with the British Government as we emerge as a full and equal member of the Commonwealth of Nations.


It is fitting that I should, at this point, pay tribute to Sir Evelyn Hone who has been Her Majesty’s representative in the Territory. His contribution to the peaceful solution of our political problems has been unique; his firmness has been tempered with patience and tact, which should be model, which those of us who are now responsible for the affairs our country of Zambia would do well to follow. When Sir Evelyn leaves our country shortly we shall say goodbye not only to the last colonial representative of her Majesty, but we say farewell to a wise and kind friend of Zambia.


As this new and special association begins today with the British Government, let me also extend the hand of friendship of Zambia to all those other countries of the world that believe in the international brotherhood of man. To all who are after friendship and respect for our state, we shall both welcome and also reciprocate their kindness and sincerity


I have said before, and I repeat now, that the solid foundation of our foreign policy is non-alignment. We defend this as a constructive approach based on the strong belief that the man is one and indivisible wherever he happened to be. A policy that clearly indicates Zambia’s intentions to play her role in international affairs without artificial prejudice against anyone. To help a human family realize its cherished idea of unity of mankind, Zambia is going to be not only a member of the Commonwealth, but also the organization of African Unity and the United Nations. At this juncture, since so many nations have blessed the birth of this young nation with the presence of their representatives, I should take this opportunity to thank all these representatives most sincerely and to ask them to convey out very warm greetings and appreciation to their people.


Today on this occasion of great pride to us all in Zambia, I dedicate myself humbly and sincerely to the service of the people of Zambia. The task before us is building our new nation is formidable and I shall need the support of you, the people of Zambia, if I am to succeed. I need the help of everyone, from cabinet – ministers to their fellow-citizens working on the road, from civil servant to political leaders, from businessman to the village cultivator. If we believe in our country’s future then we must look to the people, and to all who live in Zambia, confident in the knowledge that together we shall succeed in realizing our ambitions.


I will state here categorically that it is my firm intention to defend the constitution of the Republic of Zambia. Let me state once again that under divine guidance I shall serve all my fellow-citizens loyally and faithfully without regard to any artificial considerations.


I pledge myself to be guided by the noble principle that man is one and indivisible wherever you find him, as I have pointed out already. I promise to suffer with every Zambian and likewise to rejoice with every Zambian wherever I happen to be. I am promising to uphold the cherished freedom that is embodied in our constitution. I am aware of the many forces at work, some of them will be tribal, religious and indeed political, to say nothing of those other forces that limit progress when we try to fight the hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease that is too prevalent in our midst.


I might mention the most dangerous one and this is unwillingness to work hard. Perhaps it is fitting that at this point I should thank all the people of Zambia for their wonderful response to call of the nation for hard work. I am most encouraged, but I should emphasize that this is only the beginning.


I promise further to see that no law abiding citizen will be victimized in any field at all. I promise progress and advancement to every law abiding and hard working Zambian.


Let it not be said in Zambia that a citizen rose to the highest on any grounds other than merit.


In the name of the people of the Republic of Zambia I call upon each and every citizen in this promising young country to rise and March forward to peace, progress and human development and dignity so that we can work for the day of plenty for every citizen in the country.


People of Zambia of all races and religions, and those who believe in and have a true friendship for our new state, let us remember today our national motto-‘One Zambia-One Nation.’"


Question of the Week


 "I am aware of the many forces at work, some of them will be tribal, religious and indeed political, to say nothing of those other forces that limit progress when we try to fight the hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease that is too prevalent in our midst."


How can we harness these forces for Africa's progress?

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