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Kenneth Kaunda and Boschendal

Paarlites may recall how the much-respected former Zambian head of state Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who died recently aged 97, was honoured on a visit he made to the Drakenstein Valley more than a decade ago.

Apart from many accolades received in his political career, little is known about the statesman’s visit to the valley.

In 2007, Kaunda received the Ubuntu Award at a gala event at the Boschendal Estate. He was the second person after late former President Nelson Mandela to be given this award.

The National Heritage Council then honoured people whose character, leadership, philosophy and life mission are an asset to people worldwide “because it embodies the universal values ??of ubuntu.”

Local heritage expert Len Raymond was honoured to have been part of the occasion at Boschendal and has fond memories of Kaunda. “I was serving as both a councillor of Heritage Western Cape and as Chairperson of the Drakenstein Heritage Foundation at the time Anglo-American was selling the Boschendal estate to an empowerment consortium that had applied for subdivision and rezoning,” he recalled. “I was approached by representatives from the consortium trying to find outr what it would take to obtain my personal support for its plans, as the powers that be had objected to the proposal submitted.

“Out of the blue I received an invitation to attend a formal event at Boschendal. I duly togged up and arrived at the appointed hour, only to be redirected by the security to the adjacent La Rhone homestead.

“There had evidentially been a heritage occasion /seminar there earlier which had delayed things, so I with a handful of other invited guests stood around in and about this large marquee waiting for the event to start.

“The crowd slowly arrived bit by bit, and then eventually a convoy of the mandatory lang slap black vehicles arrived followed by a number of other important officials.

“The special convey stopped in front of the main house and the occupants were secreted into the building. It was not long after that that one of the main movers in the redevelopment partnership came and sought me out, and took me into the main house.

“The entrance hall and main room were filled with a fair crowd, all enjoying a drink. I was, however, taken through the door into the main front room where there was a very select group consisting of specially invited members of various royal households, mainly princesses.

“My host and I were the only white ‘strangers’ in the room. Immediately afterwards, Dr Kaunda entered to my surprise, for I was not expecting him nor could I say I recognised him immediately as he went around introducing himself to this limited ensemble of guests.

“When he got to me he shook my hand and sat down to talk. Firstly he wanted to know who I was. Then he began talking about his history. I was enthralled and charmed. He told me that he was born in Malawi and was not in fact eligible to be President of Zambia, where he had spent nearly all of his life.

What fascinated me most of all was his account of his definitive and recognisable white handkerchief. According to him, when he was about to be released from prison, an aide brought the handkerchief to him and, following the advice of a public relations consultant told him to use it always as a public relations symbol. He had used it ever since to great effect.

“We were then all escorted through the standing crowd who had lined the pathway to the tent to our seats (I still do not know why me) and I was seated at the second to main table just below the stage.

“This was some event. Kaunda was awarded the Ubuntu award for his contribution to Africa’s liberation and his support of the ANC in exile.

I am not sure who it was who actually handed it over on behalf of the country. The only person I knew among the dignitaries was our current Human Rights Commissioner who was involved in the Boschendal proposal and who had approached me previously for assistance.

“What I can say is that it changed my perception and appreciation of the politics of the previously oppressed.

“It was more like a jamboree; all the speakers danced and sang and did it well. They expressed regret that the days from the freedom fighting camps were over. They had carried down the stories and traditions, but now bemoaned the fact that the youth were not following those traditions.

“I appreciated then the value that they placed on their stories and their apprehension that as there was no physical or built fabric to tie them to their past struggles it may be forgotten.

“Who the dignitaries were I cannot say. They were not exposed to the ‘white public’, but the machine-gun dance was performed more than once that evening although in a spirit of celebration.

“With hindsight I realise that the World Cup final was in France the next day, and many of those invited to attend probably declined at the last minute because of that. So, to my enjoyment and enlightenment, I became a last-minute invitee.

“I wonder what became of the Ubuntu award? I have not seen in any of the tributes to the late former leader anything about this award or the event in Paarl. They are a link between him and Paarl that should be remembered.”

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