The UK’s minister for Africa was caught in a howler this weekend after he confused Zimbabwe with Zambia in a speech at the funeral of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president.
Kaunda, who died last month at the age of 97, ruled Zambia from 1964, when it won independence from Britain, until 1991.
He was respected across the continent as one of a generation of Africans who fought to free their nations from colonial rule.
Dignitaries from across Africa and beyond gathered to celebrate Kaunda’s life in a ceremony in Lusaka’s National Heroes’ stadium, with James Duddridge delivering a speech.
The Conservative MP read out a message from the Queen before describing Kaunda as a “great man, an African hero, and a highly respected friend of the United Kingdom who helped end apartheid in South Africa and was firmly committed to the Commonwealth.”
He continued: “Today the United Kingdom mourns Dr Kaunda’s passing alongside his family, the people of Zimbabwe and indeed the wider world.”
The slip prompted anger on social media, with some seeing evidence of enduring colonial-era attitudes among British officials towards African countries.
The reaction of Cyril Ramaphosa also seemed to say it all.
Duddridge also appeared to stumble over the pronunciation of the name of Zambia’s present leader, Edgar Lungu.
Watch the clip in full below:
Nothing to see here. Just the ??minister for africa mixing up zimbabwe and Zambia. While in Zambia. At funeral of Zambia’s liberation leader/long term leader Kenneth Kaunda.— Jason Burke (@burke_jason) July 4, 2021
As @AfricasMartha says ? for Cyril Ramaphosa reaction… https://t.co/uHBdAwZB5J