Sunday, 4 August 2019

When scribe is victim of political violence


The vehicle after the attack. Picture by Mackson Wasamunu.

JACK ZIMBA

Lusaka


“GIVE me the camera or you die!” shouted one man with a tattoo on his forearm.

I would not have taken his threat seriously, but for his menacing look. His eyes were full of rage like a caged beast.

Besides, our vehicle was already surrounded by four or five men wielding machetes and baying for our blood. Their language was vile.

Another group of about 100 men, some wearing face masks, stood across the road chanting and brandishing their machetes, taunting the police. I saw one man with a pick-axe.

I fumbled with the key in the ignition, but it was too late.

I heard an explosion, and another and then another. Each explosion was followed by a shower of glass inside the vehicle.

My first instinct was to duck and shield my face, screaming. My colleague, Steven Mvula did the same. It was the most terrifying moment in my career.

The explosions sounded like gunshots, and the first thing that came to mind was the police crack squad in two pick-up trucks about 10 metres away.

Were they shooting in our direction to stop the group of men from attacking us? No.

The explosions were actually the angry men smashing the windows of our vehicle with their machetes.

Steven was struck on the shoulder when one man hit the window on the passenger’s side.

The tattooed man opened the door and was trying to reach for the camera.

“Give me the camera!” he demanded.

Steven was trying to hold on to it, but the tattooed man was unrelenting and issuing threats.

I quickly grabbed the camera from Steven and handed it to him.

He then pulled me out of the vehicle, while two other men charged at me with their machetes.

“We are journalists from Zambia Daily Mail,” I tried to explain.

It was no use.

One man punched me in the face and I fell to the ground. I quickly got back to my feet, fearing the machete man might land his blade on my neck or stomach.

The attackers were not done with me yet.

One of them swung his blade aiming for my leg. It landed at the back of my left knee, sending a sharp pain.

Before I could recover from the shock, he swung again and struck me on the same leg.

I only realised later that the blade had actually cut through my trousers and badly bruised my skin, causing a swelling.

What was clear to me, however, is that the attacker had hit me with the blunt side of the blade. Whether it was intentional or not, I will never know, but I shudder to think what could have happened to my leg if he had turned the blade.

The men then went through my pockets and the vehicle for any valuable items.

After they were done with the attack, I rushed back into the vehicle confused. We drove to Kabangwe Police Post to report the matter.

I was later attended to at the University Teaching Hospital. I had two swellings on my leg where the machete had struck me. I had another swelling below my left eye where I had been punched.

Steven had a sore shoulder where he had been struck.

The whole drama happened on the Great North Road at 10 Miles while Steven and I were covering the Katuba by-election, which was heavily contested between the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND).

It all started around 15:00 hours on Tuesday when we saw three pick-ups driving menacingly full of rough-looking men. Some of the men wore face masks.

My journalistic instinct immediately told me to follow the convoy. A possible big story was unfolding.

Big mistake.

The convoy turned off the Great North Road heading westwards towards Mungule’s palace.

We caught up with the speeding vehicles at a point where a police crack squad had mounted a road block.

Despite their menacing appearance, the convoy was allowed to proceed. We followed behind at a distance.

Two patrol pick-ups full of armed police followed behind, but soon they made a U-turn.

Later, the convoy of three Toyota Land Cruisers had grown to 10 or 11 vehicles. Three of the Land Cruisers appeared new. Most of the vehicles had their registration number plates removed.

The men stopped at Chipeso Primary School, a polling station in the election. Some of the men jumped out and seemed to be looking for something, or someone.

When we tried to ask one of the men what they were looking for, we got no answer. Neither could the police give us any information about the men’s mission at the polling station.

Shortly, they left the place and headed back on the dusty road.

One police officer who had an AK-47 rifle rounded up a group of recruits and followed after the convoy on foot.

At one point, the men appeared to mount a roadblock, parking their vehicles in the middle of the road.

Police kept a distance.

The convoy later drove to Savannah Lodge on the Great North Road. It is where the PF had set up camp during the election. The UPND camp was about 300m away. The police crack squad followed in two pick-up trucks.

Shortly after arriving at the lodge, about 100 men brandishing machetes came to the roadside, interfering with traffic on the busy highway. One man was seen sharpening his blade on the tarmac, sending small flickers of fire as the metal hit the road.

Soon, there seemed to be a stand-off between the police and the men. A senior police officer was trying to calm them down. And I was there, at a distance trying to capture the confrontation.

And suddenly one man pointed at me, and all hell broke loose.

Many questions linger about the attack.

Why did the police crack squad not fire any shot, if only to scare off the attackers? Why did they not make any arrests when the men who attacked us did not flee the scene, but walked right back to their positions with our belongings?

The biggest question that many people have asked me in the wake of the attack is who funds the criminals?

I have been a journalist for over 15 years and I have read stories about political violence; I have seen pictures of political violence, but this was now me at the centre of it.

Of course, I never wanted to be part of the story. People seldom plan to be victims, especially where they risk losing their lives.

I was merely following on what I thought was potentially a big story – something that I thought was inimical to my country. I wanted to show something the country must bring to a stop.

I lost the images on my camera, but the harrowing image of men branding machetes and pick axes remains engrained in my mind. The image of a man swinging a machete at me will haunt me for a long time.

At least I lived to write the story, but if this political anarchism is left unchecked, next time someone may not write their story.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

When life matters most



Pamela Mutale (left) and her daughter Mwenda (middle) made the long trip to India to seek medical attention for the little girl.
 
Mwenda had a form of nasal cancer. She was successfully treated in an Indian hospital and
is now fine and back in school.





 
When life matters most

·       Local company helping medical tourists pay for their lives

 
 

JACK ZIMBA

 
THEY say you cannot put a price on life, but for one mother fighting to save her only child, it took all her savings to afford a trip to India for treatment.

In 2018, Pamela Mutale’s child, a daughter named Mwenda, was diagnosed with nasal cancer and needed specialist treatment in India, as recommended by doctors at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH).
Before her child’s condition was correctly diagnosed, Pamela had spent about a year trying different hospitals, but the little girl’s condition only grew worse.
Pamela talks of the frustration of going from one doctor to another without proper help.
“She spent about a year being misdiagnosed in Zambia,” she says.
According to Pamela, her daughter was having headaches and flu-like symptoms, and she would usually lose balance and her sight would become blurry.
She says the first doctor who attended to Mwenda, who was only 10 at the time, attributed her condition to weight – she seemed overweight at the time - and recommended that she should lose some kilos.
Other doctors suspected the little girl had sinusitis because she had difficulty breathing through her nostrils.
At UTH, doctors suspected Mwenda had adenoids, and they offered to remove them.
Adenoids are glands located in the roof of the mouth, where the nose connects to the throat. They produce antibodies, but are supposed to shrink and disappear in adulthood.
When the little girl’s condition advanced, she started bleeding through her nose.
Pamela was a stricken mother.
“She used to have heavy clots of blood. It worried me a lot, and it bothered me that nobody was trying to investigate further, other than the basic investigations done when you go to a hospital,” says Pamela.
“The most painful part is that nobody felt they needed to do any further investigations. It really put me in a hopeless situation,” she says.
Later, Mwenda started vomiting excessively and she would bleed through her nose and mouth.
Pamela says her daughter usually experienced pain and she would cry most of the time.
“She would sleep in my arms throughout the night. We tried many medications but it was still getting worse,” she says.
Doctors at UTH had to artificially enlarge her air vents to aid her breathing through the nose.
One doctor ordered an MRI scan. When the results came out Pamela was told to get to UTH as soon as possible.
Doctors ordered a biopsy, and results revealed that she had nasal cancer, which had already advanced to stage three.
“It was overwhelming, but I didn’t have any room to break down because if I break down I would break her. I had to remain strong for her,” says Pamela.
She says people around her had lost hope.
“But I didn’t want to give up,” she says.
The little girl was referred to the Cancer Diseases Hospital, but doctors rated the success of her operation at only two percent.
It was a huge disappointment for Pamela, and she refused to take the chance.
“The level of confidence was not encouraging. I needed people who 100 percent could tell me they could do it,” she says.
Mwenda was referred to India for treatment.
That is when she was introduced Lyfboat and one of its founders in Zambia, Dr Surbhi Suden.
Lyfboat is a new company in Zambia now connecting hundreds of people to hospitals abroad, to get the right information before they jump on the plane.
Lyfboat, which is an international company, connects thousands of patients across the globe to some of the best doctors and hospitals for various treatments, including cosmetic surgery.
Pamela speaks highly of Dr Suden and her team at Lyfboat.
“She was really helpful and it gave me that motivation and encouragement that there was hope for my daughter,” she says.
She adds: “Lyfboat managed to lighten the burden I had because they kept my daughter happy.”
Pamela says she had to use all her savings – she had been saving for a house – in order to afford the trip to India to treat her daughter’s condition, because her insurance company could not help her.
“They told me I did not follow procedure,” she says.
Her daughter’s treatment and lodging cost about US$45,000.
Pamela is now happy her daughter’s life was saved – she calls it a “miracle”.  But she is not oblivious of the many people who die trying to get medical treatment abroad, but cannot afford it.
She says through her daughter’s sickness she came across many children in need but could not afford treatment abroad.
“I had to use up all of my savings, but what about that person who comes from a low income family or from the village, what happens to them?”
Her hope now is that many people could be given a chance to access better medical treatment abroad just like her daughter.
In fact, a week before I talked to Pamela about her daughter, a colleague of mine had lost his sister who had been on a waiting list for government sponsorship for medical treatment abroad. She died on the queue.
Most medical treatments abroad cost over K100,000, a life’s fortune for many poor families.
Those unable to foot the bill are assessed by a team of doctors and then put on a long list of patients for Government sponsorship, and hope they get evacuated before their condition worsens.
Many do get help, but many don’t.
But for some people, even getting the right information about the new concept of medical tourism is hard. How do you know where to go, and how much it will cost?
Medical tourism is a fast-growing industry. According to Patients Without Borders publishing group, the industry is now valued at around €80 billion worldwide, with 20 to 24 million patients travelling for medical treatments annually.
Mitika Gupta is co-founder of the Lyfboat Zambia.
She is a computer engineer who worked for Microsoft and Amazon but quit her job to help found Lyfboat.
Mitika says it is important for patients to have sufficient knowledge about their condition and the procedure required, as well as the hospitals best suited to deal with the condition before they can jump on a plane.
She says Lyfboat gives patients the chance to compare hospital fees, while at the same time getting doctors’ opinions before they even set out on an expensive trip abroad.
For Mitika, her biggest satisfaction is to see sick people get well.
She hopes the company will in future be able to help some poor patients to get on the plane to seek medical attention abroad.
She wants a stronger linkage between Zambian and Indian doctors.
Anuj Gupta, who is chief executive officer and founder of Lyfboat Zambia, has a personal story to tell about medical tourism.
He writes on the company’s website: “I consider myself a child of the global age. I was born and raised in Zambia to Indian parents. I studied in the US, and then worked at various multinational companies before moving to India to start my own IT consulting firm. With such a diverse background, I am fortunate to have friends, family and a network in all parts of the world.
“My global network didn’t matter however, when my father fell seriously ill and had to travel from Zambia to India for medical care. Suddenly, my world was turned upside down. When mortality stares you in the face, you feel fear that you have never imagined before. The only thing that matered was that my father got better. I wanted to find the best and most trusted care for my father. I talked to multiple people, who offered varied opinions and suggestions, but I was on information overload trying to keep track of all the feedback and was still not convinced of the ‘right’ choice. Thankfully, my elder sister, who is a doctor and works with several doctors and hospitals in India, helped assess our options and make the right decision for my father’s care; opinions are always plenty, but picking the right one can be the difference between a life saved and a life lost.”
Anuj adds: My father was treated and is healthy today, but the journey to good health was not easy. I wish there was a Lyfboat then – to provide the information and tools to research treatment options, prices and get trusted opinions all in a single solution.”
“Lyfboat is not just a start up for us. It is our purpose, of helping others, being manifested. If Lyfboat can help you or your loved ones find the information you require, to get the right treatment at prices you can afford, I would consider our work a success,” Anuj says.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Can anything good come out of Chibolya?




 
Abraham Tembo wants to have a music label to promote talent in Chibolya. Pictures by Jack Zimba.


Ethel Kasabi dreams of becoming a model.

Ethel poses for a photo.

Many household in Chibolya live in poverty.



Lushomo Mweemba plays for the women's soccer national team.

Players vie for the ball during a soccer tournament.


A billboard showing Augustine Mulenga, the national soccer team player who started his career in Chibolya. 




Can anything good come out of Chibolya?

JACK ZIMBA

Lusaka

VERY few places in Zambia are as forbidding as Chibolya Township in Lusaka. It has some of the dingiest houses, and drug dens where roughnecks and lowlifes spend hours lifting weights and openly smoking marijuana.
Here, you don’t need sniffer dogs to sniff out the illicit drugs; the smell of weed fills the air like smoke at a barbeque party. 
About three weeks ago, police and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) raided the township and rounded up over 100 suspected drug pushers in an operation codenamed Chalo.
Currently, 37 of those are facing trial for drug-related offences.
According to the DEC, the raid on Chibolya yielded 114kg of cannabis, plus 480 bottles of the cough syrup, Benylin, which contains the opioid codeine. Also seized were 2,170 tablets of diazepam.
But three weeks after the clean-up operation, nothing seems to have changed in Chibolya. The drug dens have reopened, and the drug pushers are back in business.
To many outsiders, Chibolya sits like a blotch on the city, its proximity to the central business district only adds to its incongruity.
In fact, many outsiders would rejoice to see bulldozers roll into the township and erase it from the city’s map.
But a group of residents think Chibolya has unfairly been given a bad name and bad publicity. The residents are now trying to change the image of the township.
Benjamin Phiri is the president of a non-governmental organisation called Chibolya Community Trust Fund (CCTF).
The organisation is barely a year old, and its major goal is to discover talent among the youths, and help them attain their dreams.
It is mid-day and I meet Benjamin and members of his executive at Lavania, a popular joint in one corner of the township.
The joint is run by Abraham Tembo. The business was started by his parents back in the 1980s, and it was passed down to him.
Abraham is also part of the CCTF in charge of edutainment.
All the leaders in the organisation were born in Chibolya and grew up in the township.
The members say they are driven by the love for their community.
“We love our community. We were born here and we grew up here and we are still in Chibolya because we want to provide solutions,” says 35-year-old Benjamin.
He adds: “We have all grown up here, and we have seen what it has become because of our silence.”
The NGO works with schools on sensitising pupils about the negative effects of illicit drugs.
“Our vision is to make Chibolya a better place, so that everyone can walk in and walk out freely, and it’s possible,” says Benjamin.
Desmond Sakala is the general secretary of CCTF. He was born in Chibolya in 1974.
He says Chibolya has not always been a lawless township. He says back in the 1980s, life here was different.
Desmond has a chilling illustration of how life in the township has changed over the years.
“Back then, if you dropped your wallet, people would pick it and hand it back to you with the full amount, but not anymore. Now if you drop your wallet, before it hits the ground, it will disappear,” he says.
But Desmond is optimistic the drugs problem in Chibolya will one day end, although he thinks the authorities are going about the problem the wrong way.
Desmond says the best way to win the battle against illicit drugs in the township is to engage the residents.
He thinks by conducting clean-up operations, the authorities only address symptoms, rather than the root cause of the drug problem, and only end up alienating the residents.
“They ambush us like Chibolya is a settlement for rebels,” complains Desmond. “They just come, teargas the whole area, surround it, not taking into consideration that there are old people, pregnant women, asthmatic people, and small babies. They don’t care.”
Desmond also thinks there is a link between the COMESA Market, some 400 metres away, and the drugs that are found in the township.
He is not the only one who sees the link. Webster Chomba, who is a member of the organisation, agrees with him.
“It plays a huge part because most of the traders there are foreigners and drugs come via Tanzania,” he says.
He says drug pushers take advantage of the poverty of the residents in Chibolya.
According to Webster, hard drugs such as heroin and crystal methamphetamine have also found their way into Chibolya.
But he insists Chibolya is merely used as a market for the hard drugs. Webster says the big drug dealers are not residents of Chibolya.
“The people who sell drugs here do not live in Chibolya. They just bring the drugs, sell them and take the money elsewhere, and our people remain poor,” says Desmond.
He says many of the residents abuse cheap alcohol and marijuana, others also abuse cough syrups such as Benylin and BronCleer, but the hard drugs such as cocaine are for outsiders – people who come from privileged communities and can afford to buy them.
The organisation has a number of activities for young people to keep them away from drugs, but big on its calendar is a soccer tournament which is under way.
It has attracted 16 teams, some from neighbouring townships.
It is past 16:00 hours, and at a dusty football ground at the edge of Chibolya, a game is in full swing.
There are clouds of dust as the men dash across the field and kick the ball around. It is Blaza versus Young Stars.
Blaza are wearing the Barcelona replica jersey and clearly have an upper hand.
I meet up with Benjamin again, who is seated on a bench on the side-line, under a large billboard bearing the name and face of Augustine Mulenga.
In fact, the tournament is named after him. Why not?
A few years ago, Augustine used to play on this same dusty pitch as a boy born and raised in Chibolya, but he now plays for Orlando Pirates in South Africa, and no doubt on some of the best pitches in that country.
In January last year, Augustine moved from Zanaco FC to Orlando Pirates at a cost of over R4 million (about K3.5 million).
That was after the 29-year-old, who also plays for the Zambia national team, was named Zambian Footballer of the Year in 2017.
Augustine’s success is no doubt a steroid for many of the young people here dreaming of escaping the griping poverty and hopelessness that life in the township offers. 
In fact, a few have followed in his trail, perhaps not just closely enough. 
One of those is Lushomo Mweemba, who plays as a defender for the women’s national soccer team, or She-polopolo.
The 19-year-old was born in Chibolya and started soccer on this dusty pitch before she was identified and called to join the She-polopolo.
Lushomo’s talent has taken her to four different countries, so far. For a girl who grew up in these slums, it is a major achievement.

Today, she is back where her career started from and little has changed. The pitch is still turf-less and uneven. And yet neither spectators nor the players seem to bother much.
There are cheers when Blaza score their second goal.
Desmond says the Augustine Mulenga Challenge Cup is diverting the attention of young people from destructive behaviour to concentrate on something positive.
And yet, even here at the soccer pitch, the smell of weed is unmistakable. In fact, looking around, I see a young man a few metres away smoking a joint.
Benjamin calls the young man and very politely asks him to stop smoking.
“We are all here for football,” he tells him.
The man is very cooperative. He stabs his joint into a metal pole to put it out.
There is a glint of satisfaction on Benjamin’s face. It is a small success in this drug war.
But a few metres away, three or four men are blowing away in a carefree manner while rooting for their teams.
In fact, one of the teams is believed to be sponsored through drug money.
When the game breaks at half-time, I head back into the township with Benjamin and Abraham. We pass a den where a man is packing marijuana into balls for sale.
Even being in the company of Benjamin and Abraham – who are well-known in the community - does not guarantee my safety. They, too, are very cautious where we can go and not go.
They are clearly flustered having me with a camera slung over my shoulder. But I know better not to use it anyhow.
“As a team, we have faced a lot of intimidation and threats, but we are the ones doing the right thing and so why should we be afraid?” says Benjamin.
A dingy short alley leads us to an enclosed house where I meet Ethel Kasabi. 
The 21-year-old dreams of becoming a top model. Ethel also fancies herself as a talented singer. She has so far recorded 10 songs.
But she has had to deal with the stigma of growing up in this community.
“It hasn’t been easy growing up here because many people picture us as bad people who do drugs,” she says.
Although she expresses love for her township, Ethel has not been left unscathed by its roughness.
“It was around 18:00 hours one day,” she narrates, “I was coming back home from shooting a video for my song. I was alone and about six boys attacked me. They got my phone and my bag.”
Ethel now lives in fear.
But she is still optimistic change will come to Chibolya.  
“Something good can come out of Chibolya because there is a lot of talent, like me. We can change it,” says Ethel.
At the Inner Circle, a studio at the Lavania, is where the young people showcase their talent.
Every Friday is freestyle and attracts hordes of young people hoping to break through the music industry. Many of them do rap songs.
Abraham’s dream is to have a record label.
“It’s a journey of a thousand miles, and we have just begun,” he says.
Last year on December 28, Jamaican reggae band, Morgan Heritage, visited the small studio.
Abraham has photos of himself with members of the reggae outfit, which won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2016.
“We were inspired when they visited us, and it gave me hope,” he says.
Back at the football pitch, the game is in its dying minutes. Blazer are leading 3-0.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

I was quite naughty, says President Kaunda's daughter


Musata Kaunda-Banda. President Kaunda's seventh child. Picture by Jack Zimba.

Musata (front row, left) with Betty Kaunda and siblings.


Musata

Kenneth Kaunda
 
 

I was quite naughty, says President Kaunda's daughter


JACK ZIMBA

WHILE her father kept a grip on power, Musata became the rebellious teenage daughter of the President who longed to have the freedom that she could only dream about within the walls of State House.
She was only three when her father became president in 1964, but when she grew older, she yearned for the freedom of an ordinary citizen.
On a few occasions, she scaled the brick perimeter wall at State House in the night, on the western side overlooking the Lusaka Golf Club, to escape to parties.
“I knew State House like the back of my hand, so we knew where to jump, where there were no soldiers,” says Musata.
Once out of her palatial prison, she hiked a car on Saddam Hussein Boulevard (now Los Angeles Boulevard).
“When you come out, nobody knows who you are so even if you stop a car they don’t know who you are,” she says with chuckle.
“I was quite naughty, but I’m a good girl now,” says Musata as we sit on the porch of her house in Kabulonga.
She is vivacious and straight-talking. Musata is the sixth born in a family of nine, and one of only two girls born to Kenneth Kaunda and his wife Betty.
Her younger sister, Cheswa, was born in 1963, in a set of twins.
Of course being the president’s child had its advantages, but some disadvantages, too.
“There were some good things and some bad things,” says Musata. “The privileges were there, obviously. Everything we needed, we had. But there were some things that you wished were different, like when I went to school, all my friends were being dropped by their parents, I was brought by the driver. I wished my mom could take me to school or my dad could take me to school.”
“I pestered my mom once, and I made her take me to school,” she recalls.
State House was boring sometimes
Musata attended Holy Cross Convent School in Lusaka. She later attended Fatima Girls School in Ndola, which she liked because she was able to be among many girls from ordinary families.
For Musata, associating with ordinary girls was not a problem, because “we had already been taught that we were not better than anybody else.”
“I didn’t think that I was special, as special as other people would expect me to feel. The only time that I would think about that was when my friends would ask me at school how it felt to be the president’s daughter,” she says.
She still remembers how all eyes rolled to her table in the dining on her first day at Fatima.
“They all watched me about to eat scrambled eggs and nshima, and I ate. I was hungry and they were like wow, ‘she ate nshima’,” she says.
But while she may have been the envy of her peers at school, Musata says sometimes life in the confines of State House got boring.
“Maybe that is why I became naughty, because you’ve got nowhere else to go. You are not allowed to leave the gate,” she says.
“We never really used to go out when we were teenagers. My mom was very strict, she would never let us go,” she says.
But when the girls were older, they were allowed to attend birthday parties for friends.
But they were always under watch. 
“You go on a date with your boyfriend and the bodyguard is sitting behind you, how do you do that? It used to upset me,” she says.
“But it got to a point where we started sneaking out because it was happening and we were missing out,” she adds.
On a few occasions Musata and her sister, Cheswa, sneaked out on their bodyguard in town.
“Otherwise life was going to pass me by. I just wanted to have fun, I wanted to experience things,” says Musata.
But life in State House did give her some experiences she could only have dreamt of.
“We met a lot of world leaders, which was exciting,” she says.
According to Musata, the world leaders would usually stay with them at State House. She remembers having dinner with some of them, including Fidel Castro.
“Some of them became very close to my father, like President [Julius] Nyerere. He loved us very much and he spent a lot of time with us,” she says.
But her most exciting moment was when she met Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. 
“He was so regal,” she recalls. “He came with these little Chihuahua dogs and he let us play with them.”
The Emperor even let the little Musata sit in his lap.
“It was really sweet,” she says.
Later when she was a teenager, she met Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Zambia.
A missing dad
Being president meant Dr Kaunda was usually too busy for the family.
Musata talks of a father who was never really available for his children.
“He wasn’t there for us from the time he became president, we hardly saw him. That is what we missed a lot. We would see him maybe after three days. Weekends sometimes we would see him more often,” she says.
She adds: “We did miss his presence in our lives. Sometimes he didn’t even know what was going on in our lives because he was too busy.”
According to Musata, her father usually went to bed at 4am and back to the office by 8am.
“Sometimes we would wait for him at the top of the stairs to come up from the office. He knew we would be waiting and he was very excited to see us and he would lift us up in the air,” says Musata.
She adds: “He also felt bad that we could not spend much time together, and we understood that he had work to do for the country.”
And despite the fact that he was absent from the family, Musata admired her father.
“At one point I used to look at him and admire him, you know when you read those stories about kings and queens, I thought oh, my dad is a king as well,” she says.
She also talks of his kindness and love for mankind.
“He is a very kind man, very loving. You see it in his eyes,” she says.
“I remember when we were little, sometimes when he was speaking about South Africa and the apartheid thing that was happening there, he would always cry. I would see him cry because sometimes we would be there when he was making those speeches,” she says.
“So I used to pray to God ‘Dear God my dad cries a lot, please make him stop crying, please give independence to South Africa so my dad can stop crying’,” she says.
“It made me sad to see him cry,” she says. “He is a very emotional person. He cries easily.”
“He is a cry-baby,” she adds with chuckle.
Holiday time with dad
President Kaunda had a way of making up for lost time with his family. Every August the president would take his whole family for holiday in the South Luangwa National Park for two weeks.
“That was really nice,” recalls Musata with a tinge of nostalgia.
The family watched the sun go down together and went for game drives.
“Those are happy memories that I will never forget,” says Musata.
A lover of wildlife and a strict vegan, President Kaunda wanted to instil the same value in his children.
“He wanted us to appreciate wildlife and he would tell us what each animal was called in Bemba. Those were the fun days when we would spend every single day with him,” she says.
“He found it amusing when we didn’t know how to say certain Bemba words then he would laugh,” says Musata.
“I think he understood that he needed to do that and every evening we would sit and eat together. We hardly did that back in Lusaka,” she says.
But it was also lesson time for the children.
“He reminded us from a very early age that we should never think that we are above others just because he is the president,” she says.
Musata says her father also talked to his children a lot about God.
But both her parents were also very traditional.
In fact when Musata reached puberty, her mother brought a busload of people from her village in Eastern Province to conduct an initiation for her right at State House.
Musata was 14 then, and in boarding school at Fatima Girls School in Ndola. She was withdrawn from school for about a month in order to undergo the cinamwali.
“My cousin came to pick me up from school. They lied to me that we were going to China because they knew that maybe I would refuse,” she says.
When she got home, she found women with drums in her bedroom. Then she was told by her mother that she would not leave the bedroom until the initiation was done.
“I was so upset,” she says.
But looking back, Musata says she is glad to have gone through the initiation, except for lessons on how to handle a man in bed.
“Now that I’m older, I think things should change a little bit,” she says. “I think 14 is a bit too young to teach certain things, if you know what I mean.”
So they taught you ‘certain things’? I ask her.
“They taught me everything,” she says laughing. “You are 14 years and they are showing you stuff like that.”
The day she came out of her room, she found her dad sitting with some of his cabinet ministers, then she was required to dance before him and his guests.
A rebel daughter
After completing her high school education, Musata attended national service training, which was mandatory for every citizen who completed secondary school education at the time.
But she did not like it, and one night, she and her friend tried to escape from the camp, which was located in Solwezi.
“People were running away, so I also thought let me try,” says Musata.
The two girls managed to slip out of the camp and get to the roadside, but they flagged down a wrong vehicle – a military vehicle. It took them right back into the military base.
The president’s daughter spent three days in the guard room as punishment.
After passing out as an officer cadet, Musata went to the University of Zambia (UNZA) to study psychology. Although she didn’t want to go to university at the time, she looked forward to the freedom of a varsity girl. She was 17.
But to her disappointment her older brother, Wezi, was studying law at UNZA and usually kept a watchful eye on her.
“I thought at university I would get a little bit of freedom, but then my brother was there. He thought he needed to take care of me, so I rebelled,” she says. “I wasn’t happy. I wanted him to give me a bit of freedom.”
She only did a year of study at UNZA and she decided to quit.
“My parents were not very happy with me quitting school to get married,” she says.
When she was about 19, Musata met James Banda, the man she would fall in love with and later marry.
She met him at a disco where he was playing as disc jockey.
“I was looking to settling one day with an ordinary person, not someone from the upper class
“I just wanted to experience an ordinary life, with an ordinary person, and have an ordinary family, because I was the president’s child from the time I was three-and-half years old, and the only thing I knew was living in State House. So I just wanted a different life,” she says.
“I told my friend there is this guy called James Banda, I hear he is a hot guy and everything. It sounded like fun. That’s the time I had rebelled from university so I was free but my brother was looking for me because I had even run away from home for about three days because I was really upset,” she says.
Perhaps as a way to stop his daughter’s love relationship, President Kaunda decided to send Musata to Canada for school.
“I didn’t want to go because I just met my husband and wanted to get engaged.
“My parents were hoping that if they send me to Canada I will forget about this guy but unfortunately I didn’t forget about him,” she says.
She only did two semesters and came back.
In 1984, Musata and James got married at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Musata walked down the aisle her arm hooked in her dad’s.
“I left State House when I was 20-21. I wanted to get out so I got married. That was the best way to escape,” she says.
“I felt free,” says Musata.
After settling down in her own home, Musata went back to university and obtained a bachelor’s degree in human and social studies.
Out of power
In 1991, Dr Kaunda lost power to a Frederick Chiluba, after 27 years as president.
Musata says she was not sad that her father left State House, but was upset with the way he was treated later.
“It was very disappointing that people only wanted to look at the negative. They didn’t look at what he had achieved for Zambia. You’ve got to give it to him, he did a lot for this country. He had a vision that I think he wanted to complete but at the same time I appreciate that people wanted to change, which was inevitable,” she says.
“And I think he also realised that there are certain things that he could have done differently,” she adds.
“What I wished I could have seen is…the late President [Frederick] Chiluba could have given him more respect after he left power and treated him with dignity. He chose not to do that,” she says.
“He shouldn’t have turned the people’s hearts and minds against him. He was in power and my father handed power to him without struggle and I think he should have appreciated that, but he continued to go for him, which I think was unfair,” she says. “Those are the things that upset me at the time. It upset him as well. I’m not upset anymore.”
In December 1996, Dr Kaunda visited Musata at her home in Zimbabwe, but back home he was facing accusations of trying to overthrow President Chiluba.
Musata says she tried to convince her father to stay for Christmas, but he insisted on returning to Zambia to face the charges.
“He knew that Chiluba was trying to arrest him and he wanted to go back. It affected him a lot,” she says.
Dr Kuanda returned home and was arrested on Christmas day, and spent time in maximum prison facing treason charges.
Musata says when she later asked her father which was his worst day in life, he responded:  “My worst day was the day when I was arrested.”
But perhaps that was before his son, Wezi, was killed in cold blood in November 1999.
Wezi was shot several times at the front gate of his house in Lusaka as he arrived with his wife, Didi.
“When my brother died, I didn’t want to have anything to do with Zambia,” says Musata. “I was in Harare and I didn’t want to come here. I felt it was such an injustice. We don’t know what transpired, the real people who were behind it have never been caught. I think it was an assassination to get at my father.”
According to Musata, Wezi had become very close with Dr Kaunda.
“He was very protective of my dad. He was a strong soldier and a pillar of the family. After he was assassinated, I was talking to his wife and she told me that he [Wezi] told her one day that ‘I would rather die than bury my father’, and that is exactly what happened,” she says, her voice trembling.
The former president was also devastated by the death of his wife, Betty, who died in 2012.
“He misses mom a lot,” says Musata.
She says usually on his birthday, he walks to her grave (she is buried a few metres from the house) to give her flowers.
When she was a little girl, Musata used to fear that she might lose her father.
“I used to worry when I was little, I used to hear about John F. Kennedy (US president), who was assassinated so my fear was oh what if something happens to my father,” she says. “Now he is turning 95 and I get very emotional when I’m with him because I feel oh my God what if this is his last birthday. I pray to God that he keeps him strong.”
“I’m proud of what my father has achieved. I’m proud of his strength and what he did for Zambia,” she says. “I feel blessed, especially now that I’m older and as I have walked in my spiritual life with God; it’s a blessing to be a child of a leader such as Kenneth Kaunda. God chose me, I could have been anyone, but He chose me to be the daughter of this great man.”

 

 

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