Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tragedy In Africa: The power struggle that might shape an entire region.

Above: Mwanawasas funeral procession, as his remains are driven to lie in state at Mulungushi Confrence Center.


A tragedy of national proportions has occurred. On August 19th 2008, Zambia lost its foremost leader in, Republican President, Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC.

Dr. Mwanawasa, 59 died in Percy Military Hospital in Clamart, Paris, France from a stroke he suffered in Sharma El Sheik, Egypt while attending the 11th Ordinary Session of the African Union. On Saturday, 23rd August 2008, Mwanawasa’s body was received by a sea of people that lined up the 12km stretch from the Lusaka International Airport to Mulungushi International Conference. The show and outpouring of open and public grief created a sight to awe in its significance. Zambia stood untied in grief, united in purpose.

A few African countries can be cited where leaders have died, in different circumstances, whilst holding office of Head of state. The death has been different. Some were deposed and killed; while others just succumbed to illness.

Here are the few:


Egypt’s 3rd President Anwar Al Sadat, 63, was killed at a military parade on 6th October, 1981. Sadat was a senior member of officers that overthrew the Muhamad Ali dynasty and a close friend of Gamal Abdel Nasser who he succeeded as President in 1970. He was succeeded by Abdelaziz .M. H. Hosni Mubarak.


Angola’s first independent leader, Antonio Agostinho Neto, 57 (The Poet) died on 10th September 1979, in Moscow Russia where he had travelled to receive cancer treatment. He was succeeded by his planning minister, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.


Togo’s President of 38 years, Gnassngbe Eyadema, 69 died on 5th February 2005 when he was being evacuated for treatment. Although the Togolese constitution prescribes for the Speaker to take over as President until elections are held in 60 days, lawmakers amended the constitution and made Faure Gnassingbe (the son to the late) President as Speaker and allowed him to serve the rest of his father’s term. After international outcry, Gnassingbe was forced to hold elections in April 2005, where he was declared winner.


Patrice Emery Lumumba, 35, independence hero and newly elected leader of Democratic Republic of Congo was deposed and killed by Katangan soldiers commanded by Belgium on 17th January 1961. Others implicated in his death were the USA, Britain and the United Nations as now opened archival material shows. He was replaced by Joseph Desiree Mobutu Seseko. Laurent Desiree Kabila cranked up a military campaign in 1997 and overthrew Mobutu. Mobutu died in exile, in Morocco. On January 16th 2001, Kabila was killed by his own staff Rashidi Kasereka, who was also immediately gunned down. Kabila’s son, Joseph Kabila took over.


Samara Moises Machel, Mozambique’s liberation hero, died on October 19, 1986, in Lebombo Mountains in South Africa when his plane crashed while coming from Lusaka. His presidential Russian plane, a Tupolev TU-134, was carrying 34 passengers but only 10 survived. Machel and others including government ministers perished. His foreign affairs minister and fellow freedom fighter, Joaquim Chisano succeeded him.
The widow, Graca Machel has since re-married to world statesman and South African ex-president, Nelson Mandela. When she married Mandela in 1998, she became the first woman to marry two Presidents whilst they held office.


The USA has lost some of its Presidents in office in, Warren G. Harding. William Harrison, John F. Kennedy, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Like Zambia, the USA has a spelt-out constitutional process that guides the nation in the event of an abrupt vacancy in the Office of president.



Following the death of President Mwanawasa, Zambia is scheduled to go to polls to elect its new president on or before November 17th 2008. The new President is expected to hold office only for the remaining 3 years. This however remains a matter of serious legal debate.

Another matter that has attracted serious legal debate is the position of Mr. Rupiah Banda during this interim period. Many contend that his title in accordance with the constitution, should have immediately changed to ‘’Acting President’’ (and preceded by His Excellency), instead of the continued official reference to him as ‘’His Honour the Vice-President.’’

Power is about symbols and symbolism. The protocol breach can send inadvertent wrong signals. In a statement to the media on August 21, 2008, Minister of Justice George Kunda stated that if the Office of President becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, or by virtue of his ceasing to hold office by virtue of Article 36, 37 or 88, an election to the Office of President shall be held within 90 days from the date the office becomes vacant. He further stated:

‘’Until the vacancy in the Office of President occurred on 19th August, 2008, His Honour the Vice President was performing the functions of Office of President pursuant to an instrument of delegation of functions of President given in his favour by His Excellency the President prior to his departure to Sharma El Sheik, Egypt on 28th June 2008’’

‘’Following the occurrence of the vacancy in the Office of President on August 19th 2008, His honour took charge of the Office of President in an acting capacity pursuant to Article 38(2)’’.

Before the President died, Mr. Banda remained Vice-President performing the functions of President while the incumbent was absent. Now the office is vacant by virtue of the death of Dr. Mwanawasa. Our constitution is far sighted and legally astute. It never creates any vacuum. It therefore remains a wonder, why the offial-dom has resisted to refer to Banda as Acting President as explained even by the Justice Minister.

Many fear that Banda continues to be undermined behind the curtains and that his new position is deliberately being denigrated. Officials that are well versed with protocols and statecraft are all of a sudden making ‘mistakes’ ‘errors’ and ‘oversights’.

Kunda has stated that there will be no swearing-in function or ceremony for Banda:
‘’Does the Acting President require to be sworn-in as Acting President’’ Kunda asked and quickly answered himself by stating that:

‘’Under Article 40 of the Constitution, a person assuming the Office of President shall, before entering the office, take and subscribe to such oaths as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament. This provision is also echoed in section 3 of the Official Oaths Act’’

Kunda stated that Banda is only acting as President and will therefore take no Oath of Office.

At the funeral procession of Saturday 23rd August, 2008, officials kept on referring to the Vice-President as ‘’ Vice-President’’. In-fact, although it was an official state funeral with full military honours, protocol observed the First lady first followed by the ‘Vice-President’. At Mulungushi International Conference, Zambia Army Chief of Chaplain, Colonel James Phiri, referred to Mwanawasa as ‘Our late president who is the Commander- in- Chief’. How could the late President continue to be Commander-In-Chief even when such powers have since ceded to the Acting President. Colonel Phiri gave an uncharacteristic and instructive sermon urging the nation to pick a leader who will secure the nation’s resources.

The two wreaths that were laid at the foot of the casket were done in the order of: the First Lady, Mrs Maureen Mwanawasa and ‘His Honour, The Vice-President, Mr. Rupiah Banda’. The Orange Flag, which is a symbol of Presidency in Zambia, remained on the gun carriage of the dead President.

The continued reference to Mr. Banda as Vice-President is however not without support. Others contend that the Office of President remains vacant even during the 90 day period and no one should symbolically be seen to occupy it even in acting capacity.
Where is Law Association of Zambia (LAZ)? Why does it shy away from interim interpretation of the law? LAZ occupies a unique role in the country yet it renegades this statutory duty of giving public legal advice. Another example is where the remains of Dr. Mwanawasa will rest. During 2006 elections, Dr. Mwanawasa voted at a polling station near his new and mechanised farm in Palabana, 30km east of Lusaka. He told journalists that ‘’Let me let you in secret, my Will states that I should be buried here’’. He said that he found the place quiet, peaceful and serene. Cabinet announced that the President will be buried at Embassy square (near cabinet office, next to British embassy). It is clear that the State opted to use the death of President Mwanawasa to create a ‘Heroes Square’. When President Mwanawasa wrote his Will, he probably did not anticipate that he would die in office. He probably hoped that when he dies, as a private citizen, he could be buried in Palabana. He has died, however, whilst holding the Office of President. He therefore remains state property and of the nation.

Shouldn’t state and national interest override personal and family decision? Wherever, President Mwanawasa will lie, that place will become a pilgrim sight and a national monument. Wouldn’t embassy square have been ideal? Cabinet Office has now issued a statement in fulfilment of Mwanawasa’s wishes, citing Palabana as a place the President wished to be buried.



The MMD held its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on August 21st 2008. The NEC decided that since the nation will be holding presidential elections soon, following the death of President Mwanawasa, it’s imperative that a presidential candidate is immediately picked. The party has found itself in unfortunate circumstances where both the position of MMD President and Vice-President is vacant. These positions, in accordance with MMD constitution, can only be filled by its Convention.
The NEC has opted to pick only a presidential candidate for the November elections. The position of president and vice will remain vacant. The party picks this candidate on September 5th 2008. Rapid developments emerged. The meeting saw the shift of balance of power with Minister of Finance Ngandu Magande wielding excessive and unanticipated influence in the NEC. The party was just short of picking him as MMD presidential candidate. Magande had done his homework. The reputed influence of Katele and others in the NEC was wiped out. Katele and others had opposed a ‘Boardroom decision’ to pick the candidate. They called for a convention. However, this position was lost to Magande’s new recruits. Allegations have since emerged that NEC members from the provinces were paid up-to K30million to support this decision. Allegations have surfaced that USD900, 000.00 recently transferred to ZESCO from Ministry of Finance, found itself to members of the NEC attending this crucial meeting. It is yet to be seen if investigative wings will resolutely pursue this matter. Therefore, who are the potential MMD presidential candidates?



A political life plucked out of retirement by President Mwanawasa. Banda is said to have delivered an electoral gift of Eastern Province for Mwanawasa and the MMD. He was rewarded with the position of Vice-Republican President after the 2006 elections. He has wide influence among chiefs in eastern province. An experienced diplomat and businessman. Time has found him where he ought to be. He has guided the nation during the illness and death of president Mwanawasa and remains instrumental during the transitional period.

If he won the MMD presidency, he could be a strong candidate against PF leader Michael Sata. He is courting a seemingly political lightweight Bwalya Chiti, a royal from the Bemba Royal Establishment to be his vice. Bwalya Chiti is a fierce backroom operator. With his recently accumulated wealth earned from selling TELECEL to MTN, he will be underground force.

The combination is already being referred to as The Dream ticket. This ticket is aimed at creating a formidable force against the resilient Patriotic Front (PF) leader, Michael Sata who commands wide political support in Northern, Luapula, Copperbelt and Lusaka. If chosen by the NEC, Rupiah Banda can legally use extensive state resources such as ZAF Helicopters, media coverage and government motor vehicles in the campaign, without repercussion, since he is Acting President. The leverage of the advantage of incumbency can widely benefit him. He has shown ability to deal with issues in an independent manner. Many are saying that UNIP trained its leaders well and Banda is such an example who promotes good, over blind loyalty and private agendas. Mike Mulongoti, Mbita Chitala and Benny Tetamashimba have since openly supported Banda and are said to have influence in the party. The First Republican Dr. Kenneth Kaunda (KK) has been paying Banda regular ‘visits’. So are Banda’s former colleagues from UNIP.

Although KK has a good relationship with The Post (Zambias most renouned privately owned newspaper. www.postzambia.com), he charts his own path usually. In 2001, when The Post supported FDD and General Christon Tembo, KK supported UPND Anderson Mazoka, his son, UNIP leader, Tilyenji Kaunda, and NCC leader Nevers Mumba. In 2006, The Post supported Mwanawasa, while KK supported the alliance of UPND, FDD and UNIP.
In 2008, The Post seems to have cast their eye on Magande or Maureen. It is said that in the event that the MMD does not pick Banda as a candidate, UNIP or a new party will adopt him to ensure that eastern province’s realistic chance at the presidency is sustained.


He is regarded as an outsider in the MMD. It’s even in doubt whether he meets the 3 year qualifications requirement for MMD presidential candidates. Professor Clive Chirwa has been banned by NEC citing this 3year clause. He is termed as a UNIP member. He has no constituency since he was only nominated and his popularity remain untested. His claim of delivering electoral victory in Eastern province is even in dispute, as others such as Vera Tembo Chiluba puts up this claim too. He was born in Gwanda, Southern Rhodesia, where his Zambian parents were migrant workers. That President Mwanawasa in his last cabinet meeting stated that he wanted a younger leader than himself to succeed him. This ‘disqualifies’ Banda 70yrs and Magande 61yrs against Mwanawasa’s wishes. Mwanawasa was 59years.

Banda is a mere trustee in the party and his juniors in government are his party seniors. He seems to be reacting terribly slow to events happening around the campaign from his opposing camps such as the First Lady, Maureen Mwanawasa’s, Ngandu Magande and others.


The First lady or now former First Lady (since the Office of President is vacant, there surely can’t be A First Lady), remains a force to watch. Despite the odds pitted against her, Maureen seems determined to contest the position. She wants to use a sympathy vote. She will claim that she is best suited to take-over from her husband and complete their vision. She will package Mwanawasa’s vision as ‘theirs’.
The Post of 24th August, 2008 carried an editorial praising her and urging her to respond to the call to honour her husband’s legacy by standing as president in the forthcoming elections: ‘’If for a moment, she thinks that she is going to mourn, weep and cry like the rest of us and then attend to her husband’s legacy later, there will be no legacy..........Maureen has no choice but to make herself available, whenever needed, to make clear what her husband’s legacy is.’’ Later in the day, Northern Province Lameck Chibombamilimo, who is now reputed for disjointed and disconnected public statements, held a press briefing and announced that he has kicked-off Mrs. Mwanawasa presidential campaign. Despite the sensitivity surrounding Maureen as widow, all caution seems to be thrown to the winds, as desperation ride high against common decency.

The two events were clearly designed, choreographed and trumpeted.
While thousands of Lusaka residents filed past and viewed the remains of President Mwanawasa in shock and deep grief, it looks like those related and close to him were instead busy plotting and planning to continue to use and abuse his name even in death. This is to ensure that power is retained at all cost, even in circumstances that appear repugnant to Zambia’s culture and norms.


Mrs. Mwanawasa is now a widow. She is expected to have time to mourn her husband with dignity. Under the circumstances, she will have to eject Zambia’s cultural practices to achieve her ambition of becoming president. Already many are alarmed and fear that the program to take the remains of President Mwanawasa across the country, is not meant to honour him, or offer our people a chance to mourn its President, but instead his body seems to be used, with open indignity, to campaign for the forthcoming elections. It is for this reason that all politicians wishing to stand for elections, have planned to meet the body at various provincial centres. Mr. Sata has gone to the expensive extent, of chartering a private plane to take him to all the provinces to ensure that he meets the body, Rupiah Banda and Maureen Mwanawasa on equal footing.

If Mrs Mwanawasa follows her presidential ambition that she has been nursing for a long-time, this might back-fire and jeopardises the honour President Mwanawasa has received in death. It is shocking that her candidature is announced by her proxies, even before President Mwanawasa has been buried.



The finance minister who is credited with stabilising the exchange rate, bringing down inflation rate and has helped bring in foreign direct investments (with Felix Mutati) and shore up donor support to Zambia. He has partnered well with his long-time colleague and friend from the UNIP government, Bank of Zambia Governor, Dr. Caleb Fundanga, to manage the economy. He is seen as an establishment candidate with support from the First Family and ‘Bwinjimfumu Road’ The ‘Family’ is said to be negotiating that either Magande or Maureen stand down. A strange approach seems to have been taken where both Maureen and Magande’s names are immediately under discussion so that public response is measured to see who is likely to win. Magande’s deputy and Mwanawasa nephew, Jonas Shakafuswa has in the past supported him. Bwinjimfumu road is where The Post Newspaper is located. Its Editor-in-Chief, Fred Mmembe has over the years gained so much influence that his agenda during the last seven years, does more often than not become the nation’s agenda. He has marshalled a tight knit of leaders who he summons to fight his causes. Many in government circles worry that he literally hijacked Mwanawasa’s presidency that certain important decisions were made in Bwinjimfumu and merely implemented from State House.

Mmembe enjoys good relation with business partner Mutembo Nchito. He also enjoys good and personal relationship with First republican President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. Others are Women for Change Executive director Emily Sikazwe and Mark Chona.

Rahjani Mahtani, Moses Katumbi (MNB were lawyers for Moses), Mrs. Mwanawasa are some of their backroom friends and supporters. There is now rife speculation that the empire Mutembo and Fred built in the last few years in Zambian Airways and The Post is under serious financial trouble and threat that if a ‘miracle’ is not found, the empire will collapse before them.

For the new president, its personal survival that a friendly force is in State House. Managing Editor, Amos Malupenga is writing President Mwanawasa’s book. Malupenga has had numerous hours with Mwanawasa. The book has reached advanced stage and is expected to be out at the end of the year. Amos developed a unique personal relationship with the Mwanawasas- a bit strange for a journalist- and was seen, on national television, weeping uncontrollably after viewing the remains of President Mwanawasa.


Magande joined Mwanawasa as his Finance minister, when Emmanuel Kasonde was fired. Magande was UPND leader Anderson Kambela Mazoka’s economic advisor and has suffered the tag of ‘outsider’. His constituency seat is in Chilanga, Lusaka, and it is doubted if he can bring an electoral win even to his province of origin- Southern Province. His past attempts to stand as an MP in southern province failed. His win of Chilanga seat in 2006, was strongly disputed by his opponents. Evidence of serious and glaring acts of rigging and fraud were cited. The Supreme Court has however recently ruled that Magande was duly elected. Mwanawasa is said to have wanted a younger leader.

It is feared that the support he received from Dipak Patel, a non-MMD member, merely represents a powerful but unelected clique behind him, in Mmembe and others that have been known to control and shaped policies of this country in the Mwanawasa presidency. Does Zambia want another president with powerful puppeteers in the background?


He is the dark force of the MMD. His strong showing at the last MMD convention despite disapproval even from President Mwanawasa, earned respect and is fondly called ‘Kaka’, ‘Zuma’. As national secretary of the party, he is at the helm of the party. He has used this position well and he has consolidated his power base country-wide. In the event that a MMD convention is held to pick a candidate, he would likely sweep such elections. He however, has been suffering some poor health and is being treated for cardiac condition. This seems to have slowed down his up-beat campaigns. His recent political life has been plagued and dogged by allegations of corruption brought about by Mwanawasa and his Taskforce on Corruption (TFC). The matters are in court. He is the only senior MMD that has held high position in government and the MMD without any break or departure, since 1991. It is for this reason that he and his supporters are called the ‘True Blue’ ( blue is the color of the MMD). Every time his political life is on the rise, it receives a stinging editorial from The Post. FELIX MUTATI, KABINGA PANDE, RONNIE SHIKAPWASHA, BWALYA CHITI , LUDWIG SONDASHI, GEORGE MPOMBO AND OTHERS.

There are numerous presidential hopefuls in the MMD. Their ambitions might deserve only footnote attention for their unrealistic chances. Shikapwasha, who has been made strong in roads with some constituencies in Lusaka and Central province, and the evangelical churches, has had ambitions halted, by ACC extensive investigations currently underway. Others seem to have scaled down their interest to that of Vice-President hoping that they will re-launch their bids in 2011, the expected calendar of ordinary general elections.



He remains the clear front-runner to win this election. His decision to reconcile with President Mwanawasa, when he returned from South Africa from his medical treatment, has earned put him in good stead and as a leader with far sights. To pacify those that were alarmed by his policies on China, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, and his other central policies seem to have received subtle revision. He has since dropped public rhetoric of ‘anti-Chinese and anti-Indian’ approaches seemed to have gone under revision.

His harsh treatment of the 26 MPs that rebelled against him has earned wide criticism. Many wonder how he is capable of forgiving and reconciling with his arch-rival and arch-enemy, Mwanawasa and yet refuse to bring to the fold his own MPs, in the name of discipline. This has sent a chilling effect and reinforced the fear of his numerous dictatorial tendencies. The 26 MPs have however, no effect on the coming elections since no constituency is under election. This is a presidential Election that can allow Sata to use party structures other than MPs. His strong relationship with the catholic is beneficial as he quickly picks the church social struggles and issues as his. (NCC, Salary Increments for Constitutional Offices. This sometimes makes him flip-flop a lot. Sata, Mwanawasa and other leaders were the architects of the NCC, when the catholic opposed it; he quickly joined in and reneged on his earlier position.


HH recently cooperated with Sata and held a joint and well attended public rally against salary increments for constitutional officers. They were joined by civil society groupings and trade unions. At this rally, Sata presented H.H as his running mate and showed like as a conclusive electoral pact had been sealed. There was a wild cheer from the crowd. The alliance presented itself as sure winner with safe guards to beat insulate against state riggings. Many held their breath. Sata did not seem to treat HH as his colleague and partner. He kept on referring to HH as ‘calculator boy’,’ computer boy’, ‘under five’ combined with good praises for HH’s decision to join hands to defeat the MMD. Many feared that the alliance would not hold. It was not founded well (like the FDD, UNIP, and UPND). It was preceded by shallow discussions without depth and wide consultation. The alliance that never was, quickly collapsed.

Most people realized that this was the quickest way for HH to raise his profile and have a fair chance to be president some day. HH is said to be battling MPs that continue to undermine him and seem pre-occupied, looking for the next deal.


Many continue to hope for the magic formulae that will launch their presidential campaigns beyond newspaper articles. It does not seem to come.
The next few days will show who will participate in this elections.


Like an eagle on its flag, Zambia will rise above this tragedy and triumph. Mwanawasa death has brought and forged a sense of deep unity among citizens. However, the living seems to be undoing, what Mwanawasa has achieved in death. The nation has stood united, peaceful and genuinely overwhelmed by grief for this loss. A President, who was accused of tribalism, has been mourned by all tribes. One that was accused of divisive tendencies yet has brought all to unity. Yet those succeeding him are bent to wash away this achievement. He believed in the rule of law and the mantra a ‘government of laws and not men’. Yet there appears to be loose adherence to the law by those in government and the MMD party. Mwanawasa abhorred and fought corruption, yet the methods being used to succeed him are steeped in acts of corruption, manipulation, trickery and fraud. We pray that God will grant Zambia, a leader, and a leader that she deserves.

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