US Vice President Kamala Harris remembered her maternal grandfather PV Gopalan, an Indian foreign service official, during her tour to Zambia and paid a visit to the Gopalan family home in Lusaka.
“My visit to Zambia has a special significance for me, as many of you know, and for my family. As you know, I visited Zambia, Mr President, as a young girl when my grandfather worked here,” Vice President Harris told reporters in Lusaka at a joint news conference with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.
Vice President Harris said her grandfather was a civil servant in India. “And in 1966, shortly after Zambia’s independence, he came to Lusaka to serve as a director of relief measures and refugees. That was his title. He served as an advisor to Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda. And he was an expert on refugee resettlement.”
“I remember my time here fondly. I was a child, so it is the memory of a child. But I remember being here and just how it felt, and the warmth and the excitement that was present. And, in fact, I was talking with my aunt recently, and she was reminding me of the relationships that she made when she was working at — then it was called Lusaka Central Hospital — when she was working there with the physicians there,” Vice President Harris said.
“So, from my family and from all of us, we extend our greetings and hello to everyone here,” she added.
PV Gopalan was deputed to the government of Zambia as the Director of Relief Measures and Refugees in January 1966 by the Indian government.
To perform these duties, he relinquished his role as the head of the office of the joint secretary in the Ministry of Rehabilitation in India’s government. He resumed charge of the Office of the Joint Secretary to the government of India in the Ministry of Rehabilitation in July 1969, on reversion from the government of Zambia.
After much efforts, the US embassy in Lusaka, working with the Vice President’s office, located the spot they believe Gopalan lived. It was the land where his house was, not the structure which is no longer there.
According to a White House official, while in Lusaka in the 1960s, her family resided at 16 Independence Avenue, though the numbering of addresses has since changed and the location was ultimately identified using plot numbers in public records and land surveys.
The US Embassy in Lusaka pursued research to identify the location of this home, including going through public records, engaging with Zambian and Indian authorities, and speaking with those who worked in the Zambian government at the time, said the official on condition of anonymity.
“In addition, members of the Vice President’s family provided recollections about the home, which aided the search. After much work by the Embassy and dead-ends in the search, the Embassy identified this location only a few days ago while the Vice President was in Accra, Ghana,” the official said.
Ultimately, the Zambian Ministry of Lands, with assistance from others, identified 16 Independence Ave as the Gopalan family home, as recorded in a public lands document dated March 9, 1967. The property now belongs to Madison Group, a Zambian group of companies that include Madison General Insurance and Madison Financial.