By STEPHEN KAPAMBWE –
2021 has been a historic year for Zambia.
But in as much as so many developments came about in this year, the country also lost many people especially due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time since independence in 1964, Zambia is moving on without its founding father Kenneth David Kaunda.
Dr Kaunda, who was aged 97, died at Maina Soko Medical Centre in Lusaka on June 17, 2021.
He was put to rest at Presidential Burial Site in Lusaka on July 7, 2021 after his remains were taken to all the 10 provinces of Zambia.
Dr Kaunda, who ruled the country from 1964 to 1991, was in May this year honoured with a special award by the African Union (AU) in recognition of the role he played in the liberation of Zambia as well as Africa.
He was the sole survivor of Africa’s liberation struggle heroes who launched the AU’s forerunner, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), 58 years ago in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Dr Kaunda, who was fondly known as KK, was credited for having worked with others like Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Harry Mwaanga Mkumbula, Nalumino Mundia and Humphrey Mulemba in waging a struggle for Zambia’s freedom from colonialism.
He was also credited for having put in place a blueprint to develop Zambia’s economy through the construction of infrastructure and establishment of facilities that supported the newly independent State.
Dr Kaunda was also credited for having spearheaded the liberation of countries in Southern Africa by allowing liberation movements from Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, among others, to use Zambia as a launchpad for the struggle against white minority rule in the subcontinent.
Dr Kaunda was also known to be a peacemaker who united Zambia’s 73 tribes and inspired them to live together in harmony.
He was also credited for handing over power peacefully after losing elections in 1991, and for helping to fight HIV/AIDS as an activist through the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation after he left State House.
From being a simple teacher, Dr Kaunda rose to claim his place among Africa’s political heavyweights who led their countries to freedom from colonial rule.
Zambia also lost Simon Zukas who died aged 96.
Mr Zukas first became prominent in the political life of Northern Rhodesia (later Zambia) in 1951, as one of the founders and leaders of a radical and predominantly African committee that opposed the establishment of the settler-dominated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
In April 1952, the colonial government, holding that he was “a danger to peace and good order”, sought to deport Mr Zukas to the United Kingdom (UK), a country with which he had no connection with.
Mr Zukas, who was a son of Chaim and Libe Zukas, was born in Ukmergė, Lithuania.
He arrived in Northern Rhodesia with his family in July 1938.
For more than 20 years after Zambia became an independent State, Mr Zukas devoted himself to civil engineering and commercial farming.
But in 1990, disillusioned with the one-party State and Zambia’s economic decline, he helped found the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
Following the defeat of President Kaunda and UNIP in 1991, Mr Zukas joined the new government and served as Agriculture minister and later on in other portfolios.
He resigned in 1996 but returned to politics in 2001 as one of a group – the Oasis Forum – that successfully opposed Frederick Chiluba’s attempt to secure an unconstitutional third presidential term.
He then became chairperson of the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), a position he held until 2005 when he stepped down.
Although he was not an active politician, Mr Zukas remained a keen follower of political trends in Zambia and rendered a helping hand whenever he could.
10 days before his death, Mr Zukas led a deputation of elders to call upon the newly-elected President Hakainde Hichilema.
Mr Zukas, who was always committed to democracy, welcomed Zambia’s third change of government through the ballot box on August 12, 2021.
He was accorded a State funeral, which was also declared a day of national mourning.
Zambia also bid farewell to late former Chief Justice Irene Mambilima who died on June 20, 2021 in an Egyptian hospital.
She was the country’s first female chief justice.
Justice Mambilima died after being taken ill while on official duties.
Justice Mambilima, 69, was appointed Chief Justice on February 26, 2015.
Her death was issued in a statement by President Edgar Lungu’s then Principal Private Secretary Simon Miti.
Justice Mambilima had travelled for official duty to Egypt on June 10, 2021.
The late Chief Justice, who held a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Zambia (UNZA) and a Master of Laws degree from the University of London, was admitted to the bar in 1977.
Justice Mambilima served in various positions after joining the Zambian judiciary as a commissioner of the High Court in 1985.
She served as a judge of the High Court from 1989 to 2002.
In 2003, she served as sessional judge of the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
Justice Mambilima twice served as chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), between 2005 and 2015.
Justice Mambilima, who was widely respected, presided over the 2006 and 2011 general elections that saw the Patriotic Front (PF) dislodge the MMD from power.
She also presided over the 2015 presidential by-election which was scooped by former President Edgar Lungu.
The country also lost other people, among them former Western Province Permanent Secretary Augustine Seyuba and St Ignatius Parish Priest, Father Charles Chilinda.
Father Chilinda, who was also Loyola Media director, was an Apostolate of the Society of Jesus who, over the last decade, emerged as a strong figure from the clergy.
He was renowned as a peacemaker and national builder who helped to unify and bring together political figures in his efforts to end political conflicts in the country.
In fact, 2021 will go down in history as the year in which many people lost their loved ones on account of the country’s third wave of COVID-19 which led to a frightening spike in new cases and a subsequent rise in deaths.
The coronavirus took the lives of prominent figures from the corporate world, the political arena, traditional leaders and countless other people, leading to the Government closing down schools, churches, public places such as restaurants, nightclubs, bars and casinos and banning social gatherings.
As Zambia now faces a fourth wave of the pandemic, people are being urged to get vaccinated in order to save their lives and those of other people, as well as by not relenting in following the health measures that are aimed at minimising the chances of spreading the disease.