“She took to charcoal burning to feed the family”- On Zambia’s First Lady in state house, the late Mama Betty Kaunda the wife to the First Republican President of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda
Mama Betty was born on 17 November 1928 to Kaweche Banda and Milika Sakala Banda at Mpika. She had her education at Mbereshi Girls and later underwent training at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation’s Women’s programme. She worked as a teacher inMufulira .
She got married to Dr. Kenneth Kaunda in 1946, who was involved in freedom struggle and later went on to become the first President of independent Zambia.
In his own words in his book Letter to My Children , Betty was the strength behind him all through their 66 years of relationship as she took care of the children in his absence.
The colonial administration sent Dr. Kaunda to jail and she took to charcoal burning to feed the family. She is believed received multiple threats and coercions during those days, but she never gave up to the threats.
In her own words, “The colonial administrators threatened to send us back to the villages after our husbands were arrested, but we refused”. She mentioned that the letters she received from her husband during those days were source of strength to her. He instructed her not to move from their house in Chilenje.
Betty was considered the national mother by Zambian citizens. Betty suffered from diabetes for many years.
She was 83 when she died and survived by her husband, eight children, 30 grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. The whole nation mourned her death and she was given state respect being the First Lady of Zambia. She followed Christianity and her final rites were performed based on Christian practices.
The mass at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in Lusaka organized on 28 September on her memoir was attended by diplomats from other countries, state officials and thousands of Zambians.
Government declared three days of national mourning, while the TV and radio stations played hymns dedicated to her during the morning and evening. Her burial was planned initially to be held in Lubwa Mission of Chifunabuli (today), but was moved to the capital Lusaka on account of waning health of Dr. Kaunda.
She was and still our icon who suffered for ZAMBIA to be where it is today…
President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda on his late wife Mama Betty Kaunda to Owen Miyanza
Dr. Kaunda narrated to Owen Miyanza, the host of Zambia Young At Fifty Television program how his Mother who was staying with him at Lubwa Mission in Chansali one day informed him to go visit Betty in Mpika.
The First President said this when he featured on the first Segment of the five which was broadcast on ZNBC Television on Thursday evening sponsored by Apple Max.
He said the Mother who used to go to the Copperbelt for ministering the gospel would stopover in Mpika to see Betty. He narrated that when Betty was born while the parents were living in Chinsali, she was received by Dr. Kaunda’s mother the information he (KK) came to know after the two married.
Dr. Kaunda who was a Teacher disclosed that the decision to marry Betty was made the first day he went to visit her in Mpika adding that a marriage was then organised.
He said he was very happy with Betty and that the two grow up well together and with their 10 children plus one they adopted.
He also recalled on how he lost two of his sons – Major Wezi Kaunda whom he said was doing so well in politics and was allegedly assassinated by State Agents in 1999. Masuzyo who died of HIV /AIDS in 1986.
Asked why he had to announce to the nation that his son had died of AIDS when there was so much stigama at that time, Dr. Kaunda said he did so to show the nation the seriousness of disease.
Dr. Kaunda said he felt as a first family then they needed to lead by example.
Dr. Kaunda spoke high of his late wife Betty saying she was a great, humble and God fearing women who played a big role in helping him to raise the children and save the country.
“I did not realise that she would leave me, but I have no doubt that she is up there (heaven) because she lead an exemplary life,” said Dr. Kaunda.