29 June 2021 – President Kenneth Kaunda will be remembered as a giant on the African continent, a hero in the struggle against apartheid, a passionate supporter of sport and a humanist.

The apartheid regime believed, by 1960, that they had successfully crushed the internal opposition against apartheid by banning the Africa National Congress, the ANC, and the Pan Africanist Congress, the PAC.  The brutal suppression of the Sharpeville uprising and the Rivonia trials, resulting in the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmad Kathrada and many others, was their trump card. The turning point for the liberation movements in South Africa came when President Kenneth Kaunda became president of Zambia at Independence in 1964. The liberation movements banned in South Africa and other countries moved into exile and continued their resistance from beyond South Africa’s borders.

President Kenneth Kaunda welcomed the southern regions liberation movements in Zambia. He provided a base for South Africa’s ANC and Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), SWAPO, and People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) in Namibia, ZIPRA and ZANLA in Zimbabwe, FRELIMO of Mozambique and others.

Sport, particularly football, was his passion. He was a keen supporter of the Zambia national football team. A football match was part of the first independence celebration when President Kaunda invited Ghana for a match. President Kwame Nkrumah and President Kenneth Kaunda were comrades and allies. The Zambian National Football Team were nicknamed the “KKXI”. The nickname was coined by Zambia’s famous commentator Dennis Liwewe in honour of KK’s unabashed support of the team.

South African Football was first suspended by FIFA in 1964, when Kenneth Kaunda became President of Zambia. FIFA objected to the policies of apartheid. In 1976, FIFA expelled South Africa whilst setting two conditions for South Africa’s return to global football. These were:

  1. That Apartheid should cease in terms of law and policy
  2. That South Africa should have a single non-racial governing body of football

President Kaunda was a key player in satisfying both these demands because of his support for the struggle against apartheid. He allowed South Africans to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to discuss the process of Unity in Sport. These processes became a major focus after the second South African State of Emergency in 1985. Our internal sports structures met the ANC delegation based in Lusaka at the Pamodzi Hotel. This was to start the process of unifying South African Football which operated in four racially divided bodies.

The process ended in 1991 at the end of President Kenneth Kaunda’s rule as President of Zambia after a general election loss. However, it was during his term in office that the liberation of South Africa made tremendous progress, from the banning of political organisation in the sixties, to the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, and the formation of a single governing body of football. The South African Football Association (SAFA) was duly formed.  This was achieved by the time Kaunda departed office in 1991.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) invited the Zambia national team to play at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Kenneth Kaunda, now in retirement, was warmly welcomed to the inauguration of the first democratically elected president by all South Africans’ irrespective of colour.

South Africa, and the continent, are mourning with Zambia, the loss of a dedicated, passionate leader. He was a man with integrity and a respected servant of the world for his contribution in the advancement of African emancipation from colonialism. We know that as a continent we will continuously value his great work ethic, and his sacrifice for the love of the Africa.

Africa is poorer without him but will be eternally grateful to have had him as leader in the continent. His contribution will be eternally cherished.

South Africa will forever be grateful for the contribution and sacrifices that President Kaunda and the people of Zambia made towards the liberation of South Africa.

We wish to take this opportunity on behalf of the football family, to comfort the Kaunda family, the Zambian people, and the continent. His contribution will be remembered eternally.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Yours sincerely