• Short Summary

    At presidential elections in Zambia on Tuesday (12 December) voters will be faced with only one candidate -- Kenneth Kaunda.

  • Description

    At presidential elections in Zambia on Tuesday (12 December) voters will be faced with only one candidate -- Kenneth Kaunda. He has been President of Zambia for 14 years now, and looks set to start his fourth five-year term as leader of the landlocked, copper-rich country of five million people.

    SYNOPSIS: January 1964 and Kenneth Kaunda was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of the then Northern Rhodesia by Governor Evelyn Hone. Six months later he was President of the new republic of Zambia. Seventy years of British rule had ended.

    Relations with Rhodesia, to the south, have played an important part in President Kaunda's African policies. The 1975 meeting at the Victoria Falls border, aimed at arranging a constitutional conference, ended in deadlock. The leaders involved could not reconcile their differences. The meeting had been arranged a few weeks earlier in Pretoria. President Kaunda had sent an envoy, acting for Bishop Abel Muzorewa's National African Congress and four African governments, to meet Rhodesia's Ian Smith and South Africa's Prime Minister, John Vorster.

    With units of Joshua Nkomo's guerrilla army based in Zambia, President Kaunda has seen relations with Rhodesia deteriorate. There have been a number of Rhodesian land and air attacks on Zambian territory, bringing the six-year bush war to within 16 kilometres (10 miles) of the country's capital, Lusaka.

    President Kaunda's policy of supporting the guerrilla movements has not gone without criticism from some Zambians, who claimed it is provided at the expense of the man in the street. Though only one wing of the Patriotic Front is based in Zambia, President Kaunda also supports Robert Mugabe's Mozambique-based ZANU wing of the movement. President Kaunda maintains that genuine peace can only be achieved in Rhodesia when the rule of Prime Minister Ian Smith is replaced by that of the Patriotic Front alliance.

    Early last year (1977) President Podgorny of the Soviet Union pledged to continue his support, along with President Kaunda, for guerrillas fighting white minority rule in Southern Africa. Recently it has been reported that Joshua Nkomo has been supplied with military equipment by the Soviet Union.

    Internally, President Kaunda is having to face Zambia's worst ever economic crisis. Queues for basic commodities have shown the extent of shortages. Living standards have fallen, the gap between rich and poor has widened. Experts have said there is little chance of economic recovery before 1980 -- despite President Kaunda's promise that this year would see an improvement.

    A severe crisis threatened next year's maize crop because fertilisers could not be brought in. Nor could vital money-earning exports get out. Two months ago President Kaunda acted to ease the transport problem -- by re-opening trade through Rhodesia. His other outlet, the Tazara Railway to Tanzania, cannot cope. The decision to trade through Rhodesia, thus making more goods available, has been seen as providing President Kaunda with a political boost in time for the elections. There have been forecasts of a lower turnout than in the 1973 election. Then, he gained the support of less than a third of those able to vote.

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