LUSAKA – Vice President Kamala Harris paused Friday during a whirlwind diplomatic swing through Africa for something much more personal: A visit to the site of her maternal grandfather’s home in Lusaka, where he lived as an Indian public servant in the 1960s.
P.V. Gopalan was working with the newly independent Zambia government six decades ago on refugee resettlement and lived at 16 Independence Ave., where Harris visited as a little girl.
The home no longer exists; rather, an office building now stands on the plot of land. The location was identified using plot numbers in public records and land surveys, according to a White House official.
Harris on Friday said it was “very special” to go back, and she described her grandfather as “one of my favorite people” with a lasting influence on her life.
“He believed in the nobility of public service, he believed in fighting corruption,” she said. “These are things he would talk about a lot, and I don’t think until I was older I realized how that subconsciously influenced the way I think.”
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka pored through public records, spoke with Zambian and Indian authorities, and reached out to former Zambian government officials to identify the precise location of Gopalan's home. Harris' family members also offered memories about the home, which helped with the embassy's search, the White House official said.
The confirmation came just in time for Harris' weeklong trip to Africa; the U.S. embassy identified the location while Harris was in Ghana, the first stop of her visit to the continent, a few days ago. The Zambian Ministry of Lands confirmed that 16 Independence Ave. was indeed Gopalan's home, through a March 9, 1967 public lands document.
As Harris toured the location, U.S. embassy official Elizabeth Norikane told the vice president that she had been searching for the precise spot for a year.
Zambia has celebrated Harris' childhood ties to the country. On the drive from the airport into the city, Harris was greeted by signs that read: “Welcome back to Zambia.”
Associated Press reporter Seung Min Kim in Washington contributed to this report.