VP Kamala Harris visited the home of her maternal grandfather in the African country of Zambia on Friday. PV Gopalan was an Indian deployed by the Indian government to Zambia in 1966 to serve as the Director of Relief Measures and Refugees. This was shortly after the independence of Zambia and he lived at 16 Independence Avenue in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
VP Harris was on a tour of Africa and thought it would be best to visit the house of her grandfather – which she actually visited as a little girl. She was in Ghana visiting when White House officials in collaboration with the Zambian government set out to identify the precise location of PV Gopalan’s Lusaka home.
Harris said she was eager to see the house again because she recalled fond memories with her grandfather at the home. She said her aunt worked at the former Lusaka Central Hospital at the time, and that her grandfather worked as an advisor to Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda on refugee resettlement.
“My visit to Zambia has a special significance for me, as many of you know, and for my family,” Harris told journalists in Lusaka. “As you know, I visited Zambia, Mr. President, as a young girl when my grandfather worked here. 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. So, from my family and from all of us, we extend our greetings and hello to everyone here.”
PV Gopalan headed the Office of the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Rehabilitation in India. But he left the position to work in Zambia in January 1966 under the direction of the Indian government. After he completed his tenure in July 1969, he returned to India and took up leadership of the Office of the Joint Secretary again.
The house where the Indian government official lived with his family at 16 Independence Avenue is no longer there since there had been lots of structural changes in Lusaka since the late 1960s. But the US Embassy in Lusaka worked with VP Harris’ office and the Zambian Ministry of Lands to pore through public records and land surveys before the location could be identified.
A public lands document dated March 9, 1967, enabled officials to identify the location of the house. It also took the cooperation of VP Harris’ aunts and Indian relatives to recollect the general direction of the house their grandfather lived in. But the land now belongs to Madison General Insurance and Madison Financial.