President Kaunda: First Time I Met Him- Part Two


Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

(Names of people have been changed to respect their privacy)

“Your—- excellency, Sir, ehh!!!” I said still stuttering but regaining my composure. “My boss, President Hansen of Oakhill University College has sent me to ask if you could come and address our students at the college. The fifteen hundred students at the Christian school are mostly white. They would be honored and would learn a lot about Africa and Zambia if you visited us.”

“Mr. Mufwaya!” President Kaunda calmly called as I was talking. “Have you found it?”

“Not yet, Mukwayi,” Mr. Mufwaya replied from the kitchen. “I am starting to do laundry.”

Conversations went back and forth with his staff as the President and I talked. He said he and Mr. Mufwaya would look at his schedule. We can discuss the date and details later. As I was realizing my five minutes would be up soon, a spontaneous urge came over me about the numerous questions I had been curious to ask him for many years.

President Kaunda in his office in Lusaka in the capital of Zambia in November 2012.

“Sir, I have been curious for many years. What was it like to meet South African Prime Minister Vorster in the train car in the middle of the Zambezi railway Victoria Falls bridge in the fight against white racist apartheid policy in South Africa?”

President Kaunda’s face animated and eyes suddenly sparkled with passion. He began to describe to me that he had been doing everything or anything to fight and negotiate to dismantle apartheid. He knew that without the peaceful resolution of apartheid, there would be terrible bloodshed in the whole of Southern Africa. His sudden passion was as if my question had turned on a switch.

“Vorster was very treacherous… deceitful…insincere….” Suddenly President Kaunda paused in thought. It was as if he had realized something. “If you were……well young man….” His voice faded away.

“Mr. Mufwaya! Are you ready?” President Kaunda suddenly yelled.

“No!”  Mr. Mufwaya replied from the kitchen. “Mukwayi, I am busy doing laundry and doing some house work today. Can he take my place?”

I was not paying attention to the conversations because I knew my five minutes were nearly up and I was very happy and ready to leave.

“Young man, can you play golf?” President Kuanda suddenly asked.

I glanced around me because I thought the question was directed at someone else behind me. There was no one else behind me.

“You mean me?” I jabbed at my chest with my forefinger.


“Yes, of course!” my sudden emphatic reply shocked me. What was I doing?

“Mr. Mufwaya, can you get and lend your golf shirt to the Professor?”

Since I was a young boy from the village through secondary school, I was the worst person at sports. In the chifwayo soccer or football I played with other boys using a ball tied with rags and tree fiber, the choice of who would be on the two teams was always humiliating for me. I was last to be chosen. If the total number of players was an odd number like 7 or 9, I was last and the one player who both teams willingly said: “You can have Mwizenge on your team! He doesn’t matter.” The teams would then play with my team having 4 players against 3 or 5 against 4. One time when I was at the Prestigious Chizongwe Secondary School, I tried to learn how to play tennis singles with my classmates Charlie, Mike, Ben and Ruskin in 1970. I failed miserably.

For some reason, when I was doing my Ph. D. at Michigan State University in 1985, I decided to learn how to play golf. I took ten lessons. I thanked my stars because today twenty-one years later in 2006, I was going to be able to play golf with my hero President Kaunda.  What a lucky son of a gun? God sometimes blesses fools like myself.  I thought to myself.

When we arrived at the golf course for tee off, a 65-year-old African-American man was paired with his 30-year-old son. President Kaunda and I were paired. The President was going to drive our golf cart. At that moment, a million thoughts rushed through my head. There were no cell phones yet for me to take selfies. I wished at that moment that my parents, my brothers and sisters, family members in Zambia and America, my wife, and my childhood friends were there to see me play golf with President Kaunda. Who was going to believe this? Even I could not believe it. It felt like a dream.

After a few minutes of these fantasies, I made one important decision: to enjoy every second and minute of my 18 rare holes of golf with President Kaunda. I decided to talk little but see, hear, smile, smell, and laugh. You can never really enjoy special moments if you are trying to talk at the same time during the whole time.

I was not going to try to be a golf hero hitting the ball 300 yards or 275 meters. If you hit the ball too wildly as a terrible golfer myself, the ball would end up in the bushes under trees. You waste time looking for the ball in thick bushes. I decided I was going to play it very safe. I would drive the ball for about 100 yards or 91 meters in the middle of the fare way. And that’s what I did for 18 holes. I avoided embarrassing myself. President Kaunda had one of the smoothest beautiful swings in golf I had ever seen.

As we were motoring toward the 18th hole, it was getting dark, cold, and raining. I held our large umbrella as President Kaunda drove our cart. When we arrived back at the apartment, I was thoroughly content to leave. I told my hosts I was going to leave to find a motel room, sleep, and fly out of Boston in the morning at 8:00hrs. President Kaunda would not hear it. He said I was welcome to sleep in the one spare bedroom they had.

We did not call a taxi or get a limousine to go out to a restaurant for dinner. President Kaunda took a warm bath. All five of us walked, with President Kaunda in the middle, in a single file along the sidewalk of the busy city street at night in the  City of Boston, the way we walk on a bush path between rural villages in Zambia.

After four blocks, we arrived at an Indian Restaurant where we ate a delicious dinner amidst jokes and hearty laughter. When we arrived back at the apartment late that evening, I bid President Kaunda goodbye thanking him for the great wonderful time I had. When I hugged him good night, I noticed he was so tall that my forehead barely touched the bottom of his chest. Early the following morning, Mr. Phiri escorted me to the railway station on my way back to Boston Logan International airport for my flight back Washington, D. C. to Oakhill University College.

President Kaunda: First Time I Met Him – Part One


Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

(Names of people have been changed to respect their privacy)

My intense interest to meet President Kaunda started 61 years ago in 1962 when I was eight years old. My father was a teacher at Mafuta Primary School in Chief Mafuta’s area 30 miles or 48kms north of Chipata along the Chipata-Lundazi road. There were political tensions, skirmishes and violence as the United National Independence Party (UNIP) and the African National Congress (ANC) were vying for power in the fighting for independence against the British colonial government in the then Northern Rhodesia.

President Kaunda in his office in Lusaka the Capital City of Zambia in November 2012

Violent clashes between UNIP and ANC supporters were common. As they were discussing what was going on in the country in animated, tense, and sometimes hash-hash tones in our house, I would hear my father and mother mention “AKaunda” and “ANkhumbula” “UNIPI” “KONGRESI” also “Welensky”. This is how my young ears were exposed to the political founders of independent Zambia such as Kenneth Kaunda, Harry Nkhumbula, Simon Kapwepwe, Reuben Kamanga whose home constituency of Chitandika was just west of Mafuta, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, and many others. As a child I often wondered what it would be like to meet some of our great legendary leaders such as Kaunda, Nkhumbula, Sipalo, and Kapwepwe.

After being elected the first President of Zambia at independence in 1964, President Kaunda often toured all parts of Zambia to unite the young fragile country. When I was in Form I or Grade 9 in January 1967 at the prestigious Chizongwe Secondary School, students from the school walked to the Lundazi-Mfuwe road to see, cheer, and wave our small Zambian paper flags at President Kaunda who was touring the Eastern Province. His fast motorcade was driving from Chipata Airstrip. Kaunda’s motorcade zoomed by in his black swift Mercedes Benz as he waved his white handkerchief smiling from the back seat. Later that afternoon, we students walked 5Kms to Mpezeni Park in Chipata where President Kaunda addressed a massive rally. I was fortunate to be close enough to the podium in the massive crowd that surged forward when the President arrived. The rally was a very electric political spectacle.

During my first year as a student at University of Zambia in 1972, I bought and read on my own Kenneth Kaunda’s “A Humanist in Africa”. It was his celebration of our Zambian/African culture and his thoughts about our African politics of liberation at the time leading to 1964. Kenneth Kaunda the President and his philosophical ideas began to intrigue me. “Who is this man?” I began to ask myself as I was to read all his five books the next eighteen years. I began to ask myself what would happen if I met this man face to face? What questions would I ask him about his ideas and about being President? He became my hero who I greatly respected and he became center of my admiration.

The opportunity to meet President Kaunda never occurred when I was in Zambia for 13 years in the 1970s and 80s. I was abroad most of that time doing my Masters and Ph. degrees which the Zambian people had paid for. The precious opportunity to meet President Kaunda did not occur until 2006. President Kaunda was to participate in the African President-in-Residence program at Boston University for one year. I was a lecturer or Assistant Professor teaching at Oakhill University College in the United States of America. The small body of 1500 students was mostly white. I thought that the students would learn a lot about my African or Zambian culture if the college invited President Kaunda to come and address Oakhill University College. This is how for four months, I called President Kaunda’s assistant Mr. Mufwaya to ask and arrange for President Kaunda to visit our college. President George Hansen, who was my boss at the college, was enthusiastic and encouraged me to work on inviting President Kaunda to pay our small rural Christian college a visit.

President Kaunda was a busy man at Boston College as so many organizations all over the United States were inviting him. This is when I suggested to President Hansen that I go to visit President Kaunda in Boston so that I could talk to him face to face about the invitation to visit our college.

As soon as my boss approved my trip to Boston, I was thrilled, scared, and nervous as hell. What profound thing was I going to say face to face with President Kaunda? This is the man who had been President of my beloved country for 27 years. He had dined with Kings, Queens, and Presidents. I was a nobody. I knew there would probably be a long line of dignitaries waiting to see him and I would be lucky to have even just five minutes to talk to him. My nervousness became worse when I realized this was my hero who I tremendously respected and was eager to impress.

During my one-hour flight from Washington, D.C to Boston, I carefully rehearsed what I would say to President Kaunda in five minutes. I caught a train from the airport to the City of Boston. Another of President Kaunda’s assistants, Mr. Phiri, met me at the railway station. We walked three blocks to President Kaunda’s flat or apartment. When we entered the apartment building, I realized the great moment had come. We had to climb 15 stairs to get into his apartment. My heart was thumping into my throat each time I climbed one step closer. I saw President Kaunda sitting upright in a dining room chair with a second chair next to him. He was not wearing a black suit with a tie. He was wearing casual clothes. There was no line of people waiting to see him? How lucky was I? Did I come too early? Nothing looked normal about meeting a former head of state. Something had to be wrong.

“How are you, Professor?” President Kaunda smiled as he rose and we shook hands.

“I am—-alright, Your—– Excellency,” I faintly stammered as I cursed my stupid heart as it was still racing and thumping in my throat. I was as nervous as hell. Remember what you have to say, remember what you have to say, I reminded myself. I feared my stupid heart was going to waste my five precious minutes with this busy man.

……to be continued.

Pele is Dead: What do we Remember?


Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news that the greatest football or soccer player in the world Pele had died? I was eating lunch alone in Virginia in the United States at the dining room table in my house as the TV CNN news channel was running. The announcer said “CNN Breaking News”.  Once I heard that Pele had died, my hand froze with the next bite of the piece of watermelon I was eating and chewing to finish my lunch. I paused for about a minute to just let the news sink in. I felt terrible but not shocked. Pele had been in the hospital during the recent world cup that had ended just a few days before on December 18 when we watched the World Cup final between Argentina and France. I was sad. I knew I and the world were going to miss Pele’s genuine happy bright smile. Boy, did he have passion for what he called the beautiful game of football or soccer?

My immitation of Pele at my age of 69 years in backyard when he died.

My immediate reaction was “Who can I talk to about Pele”? Ten years ago, I would have picked up my cell phone to call Zambia to talk to my uncle who had introduced me to the legend of Pele in 1969. But my Uncle Mr. JJ Mayovu died in 2014. I would have called my friend and University of Zambia classmate Dr.  Vincent Musakanya who lived in the UK. But he also passed away October 9 2019.

Since Pele was born in 1940 and died in 2022 at 82 years old, there are perhaps billions of people who have died who lived, saw, heard about, even played with and enjoyed the football legend’s breath-taking plays. After exploring all his football achievement statistics, what can we reminisce from Pele playing spectacular football on the world stage for nearly 20 years from 1957 to 1977. There are numerous questions that one can ask about Pele the legend. You can ask the millions and perhaps billions of people in the world when did you hear about Pele and how? For those to have been fortunate enough to see him play, when did they see him and what did they think? Some of the most bitter disagreements football fans may have today is how would Pele fare in today’s football? In spite his fame, were there players during Pele’s era who were better than him?

First Time

Later to be nicknamed Pele, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, in rural Brazil on 23 October 1940. He died          on 29 December 2022 (aged 82) in the city of  São Paulo in Brazil.

I was 372 miles or 600 Kms. away from the Capital City of Lusaka in rural Chipata in the Eastern Province of Zambia attending the prestigious Chizongwe Secondary School in Form III or Grade 9 in 1969. My uncle and aunt invited me to spend the August school holidays at their home in North mead in Lusaka. That first weekend my uncle took me to Woodlands Stadium to watch City of Lusaka hosting Mufulira Wanderers. It was my first time to see the famous Zoom Ndlovu. I saw him make a wonderful creative intelligent play worthy of the beautiful game of football.

Wearing Pele’s Number 10 jersey at my age of 69 years when he died.

Zoom was in the middle of his short swift crisp graceful passes to his team mates as they were building an attack against City of Lusaka. Zoom had intercepted a pass and had possession of the ball rolling it along as if looking to pass it. He stopped. He suddenly bolted forward taking his defender with him. Zoom did not have the ball. He had left it deliberately sitting on the ground. Zoom’s teammate took the ball. It was a pass to his teammate who had been nearby. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Z-o-o-m!!!!!” was the loud cheer from the crowd. I excitedly clapped as my uncle and I looked at each other with sheer amazement and pleasure at what Zoom was doing.

When we got home that evening, that is when my uncle told me about Pele. In a very excited tone, my uncle said Pele was a great player from Brazil who was probably ten times better than Zoom. “He can dribble or nyunya past a forest of 6 to 8 defenders and easily score with either foot. He can keep the ball in the air kicking and heading it two to three times past defenders and shoot a bullet to score. His headers are deadly. He creates fear in all defenders because of his dribbling, speed and agility!!!” I was hooked on Pele from that evening in August 1969. This was a time news was available in major newspapers only in large cities of the world. Widespread TV, the internet and the cell phone were 31 years away. But somehow the legend of Pele spread like wildfire to the remotest parts of the world.

The Role of the Internet

Instead of just hearing about Pele or reading about him from pundits like this author, the advantage of the internet today is that there is tons of information, history, books, and especially video clips, documentaries, and films of Pele. Over the last twenty years, I have spent countless times on Saturday nights watching video clips of Pele’s best plays and some old black and white films from the 1950s. You can check things for yourself. The problem in Zambia and perhaps most of the Third World is that the internet cell phone bundles cost so much that it is difficult and costly to watch just even a few old video clips.

Pele at the peak of his prolific scoring career. Pele’s headers were deadly.

Some of the video clips are the ones which show reactions from players from teams that played against Pele. The players attest that it was impossible to mark and defend against Pele. The man scored at least one goal in every game of the more than one thousand games in which he played.

Last Goal

I was fortunate enough to see the last goal of his entire professional career. I saw it on black and white TV when I was a graduate student doing my Master’s Degree at Michigan State University in Michigan in the United States. This was on 1st October 1977.  Pele’s professional football team at the time was the New York Cosmos in the United States. The team played the exhibition game against the Santos Football Club of Brazil.

I watched Pele take a free kick from about 30 yards or 28 meters from the goal. There was no wall of defenders in front of the free kick. The goalkeeper looked alert and ready. Pele struck the ball the way he had done for nearly twenty years. Like a Tomahawk jet powered laser guided ballistic cruise missile, the ball travelled just 32mm or 12 inches above the smooth football ground surface grass toward its target. The goalkeeper dove to the ground to block the bullet. By the time the goalkeeper had hit the ground, the ball was behind him and bouncing in the corner of the net. The crowd roared.

Soccer was still very unknown in the United States. So, I was watching that last game alone in my dormitory room. Pele had done it again for the last time. This is why in all of his interviews, Pele says his spectacular skills, unbelievable instincts during the game, passion, and love for the beautiful game of football or soccer was a gift from God. Indeed, he was a gift from God to the world that will never happen again. There will never be another Pele.