Kaunda, aged 97, died on Thursday at a Lusaka military hospital after four days of admission for pneumonia, and had sent his last message to the nation “to pray for me,” according to press reports from the Zambian capital.
“We are united in our sadness with the Kaunda family, and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “President Kaunda dedicated (the greater part of) his 97 long years to the liberation and service of the people of Zambia.”
Affectionately called “KK”, the former leader devoted himself to the freedom of fellow Zambians, the president recalled.
After his country gained political independence from London in October 1964, he turned his support to the Southern African region’s liberation movements in their quest for independence and freedom from Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique, British colonialism in Zimbabwe, and apartheid rule in South Africa, Ramaphosa added.
“Steadfast against the intimidation of the apartheid state, he offered Lusaka as the headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC) in exile.
“Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth,” Ramaphosa said.
According to Ramaphosa, Kaunda stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of their greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of their freedom.
“It was in honour of this remarkable contribution that the South African government bestowed on President Kaunda the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in 2002,” the South African leader said.
In fact, the ANC’s exile head office was headed by Oliver Tambo as its leader in exile.