Originally published in Inqaba ya Basebenzi No. 8 (August 1982).

by Headman Sasa

On 30 April President Kaunda of Zambia and Prime Minister Botha met, at Kaunda’s request, in a mobile caravan carefully placed on the Botswana-SA border.

What made Kaunda want to talk to Botha, and what made Botha accept the request? After all, in doing this, Kaunda ‘broke ranks’ with the frontline states – although from these states there was only muted criticism of his actions.

Kaunda is reported to have told Botha that if the SA government wants “racial peace” it will have to release from prison the black leaders such as Mandela, Sisulu and others, and negotiate with them.

It was, he claimed, “as a result of my meetings with John Vorster in 1975 and with Mr Ian Smith” that Mugabe and Nkomo were released from prison in Zimbabwe – “the essential first step to Rhodesia becoming independent Zimbabwe”.

In fact the release of Mugabe and Nkomo was forced on Smith by the pressure of the peasants and workers who had overthrown capitalism in Mozambique and Angola and were becoming radicalised in the war situation in Rhodesia itself. The imperialists feared for the destruction of capitalism in Rhodesia, and escalating working class struggle throughout the region.

In SA too it will not be fine words by black leaders, but only the organised movement of the working class, that can compel the release of all political prisoners.

Thus Kaunda exaggerates his personal magnetism. His real concerns are shown by the report that he told Botha, that unless SA’s rulers withdrew from Namibia and made reforms in SA, “the resultant explosion would make the French revolution look like a Sunday school picnic”. Kaunda fears that such an “explosion” would affect the whole of Southern Africa – including Zambia itself.

After the Kaunda-Botha meeting, the Zambian press stopped referring to SA as ‘racist’.

When black states like Zambia attained independence the workers and the poor masses thought that they were going to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Instead, under capitalism, they have found themselves being forced to struggle against the very same people they put into power, waging strikes and demonstrating to register their complaints and grievances.

The protest of the masses is met with brutal force by the armies, the police and the courts. In these countries as well as South Africa the workers are chained to the factories and have the police and army to force them to produce more wealth, thus prolonging the survival of capitalism and its defenders.

In Zambia as in SA trade union leaders have been arrested and detained. In most of the Southern African countries the trade unions are strictly controlled by the government, and strikes are illegal.

Today Zambia is troubled, with gigantic strikes by the workers and bitter opposition to the regime. This is as a result of Zambia’s economic problems, fuelled by the world capitalist crisis.

Thus Kaunda, with his dream of “humanism” faded, runs from his problems to Botha, using Namibia and SA to divert the attention being focussed on him by the Zambian masses. He hopes Botha can bring an end to the explosive tensions in Southern Africa and save him the trouble of having to face the Zambian workers who are already on the warpath.

Hoping Vainly to Buy Time

No doubt Botha told Dr Kaunda of the so-called “reforms” he is promising to bring about in SA. With such meetings, and his talk of reform, Botha hopes vainly to buy time and convince the Southern African black working class he is driving closer to change.

Because of Zambia’s economic dependence on SA, the SA ruling class hopes to draw Kaunda and other such leaders into active defence of the capitalist system in SA. This is the meaning of the statement by Colin Eglin, former leader of the PFP, when welcoming the Botha-Kaunda talks, that “despite hostile rhetoric and understandable hostility to apartheid many people in Africa displayed a very real and even understanding interest in SA and would like to see circumstances change so that the people of Southern Africa could benefit from SA’s inclusion in a wider community of African nations”.

But the problems facing the working people of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and the whole of Southern Africa cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism. Under capitalism the workers will always remain poor, live in horrible conditions, and work endlessly for the capitalists who depend on the police and the army for their rule.


But the capitalist system in Southern Africa is day by day creating its gravedigger, the working class, which is forced by its misery and poverty to see the need to unite and struggle for democracy and an end to exploitation.

The working class in SA and Zambia must unite in the struggle to rid South Africa of racism and capitalism. In the same way the South African workers must build their links with the workers struggling in Zambia, and throughout Southern Africa, to carry out the socialist transformation of the region.

Time is running out for Kaunda and Botha and they must know that their talks will not help them. It is the working class that will free South Africa’s political prisoners and call on them to take their full part in the struggle.

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2022).