By Alfred A. K. Ndhlovu
The decision by Club de Madrid to honour former president of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda who is affectionately known as RB, is a fitting gift to him personally and also to the people of Zambia generally who have struggled to build a democratic dispensation since 1964. Admittedly, democracy was stifled and distorted from 1973 to 1991 when the one-party State was tried but later found inappropriate for the gallant and forward looking people of Zambia. The one-party State failed to deliver. It instead created problems which actually it was supposed to address and solve in the first place!
The agitation to revert to multiparty politics started in 1980 when the local government system changed under the guise of decentralization. The then decentralized system was resisted by trade unions which interpreted it as the ”consolidation of dictatorship”. In 1984, foreign exchange started being auctioned at Bank of Zambia amid widespread shortages of what used to be called “essential commodities,” largely groceries. Later in 1986, food riots erupted on the line of rail which resulted in deaths in Lusaka and Kitwe. The Kaunda administration introduced mealie-meal coupons as a measure to ration the staple food. All measures in a central commandist system were tried but failed to yield expected results. Ownership of companies and enterprises is key and very crucial in running companies successfully. The economy which was dominated by parastatal companies was bleeding to death. All nationalized enterprises failed to perform which accounted for the shortages of groceries. That is why and how socialism failed in Zambia.
It took two years, from 1990 to 1991, of active protest and agitation for the Kaunda administration to realize that democratic change was a solution essential to ameliorate the performance of the economy. The Movement for Multiparty Democracy was formed in July 1990 as a rallying NGO. In January 1991, it was registered as a political party to contest presidential and parliamentary elections against the United National Independence Party which governed the country since 1964. The MMD established itself as a viable political alternative necessary to undertake change. The late Dr. Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba led the MMD to win the elections overwhelmingly, landslide, in November 1991. That change was fundamental and underlined the people of Zambia’s desire and resolve to be under a democratic dispensation.
Zambia has so far had five democratically elected Republican presidents. Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, a former teacher turned politician, was the first and founding president of Zambia. He led the liberation of Zambia from British colonialism. It is important to note, however, that colonialism is the worst form of corruption and a crime against humanity which those who did it must be ashamed of and pay compensation to the once colonized people who were disadvantaged in all respects. Colonialism is, in fact, like slavery.
Secondly, Dr. Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba, a trade unionist, was the second president of Zambia having led the country back to multiparty democracy and discarding socialism through liberalization of the economy. This was a daring exercise which addressed the issues of production and distribution of products. Suffice to say that liberalization is painful, especially when the people were used to free and cheap things on the market. Labour costs, wages and salaries, were also, hitherto, low!
Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC, a criminal lawyer, became the third president of Zambia. Dr. Mwanawasa focused on eliminating corruption and rebuilding the economy, particularly the mining industry which had been nationalized. The solution was to privatize the industry to what it was before 1974. Dr. Mwanawasa’s fight against corruption was marred by arraigning his predecessor on expenses on a secret service bank account that did not follow conventional banking laws and rules. Even the then Chief Justice was victimized over the use of that secret service bank account. Dr Mwanawasa collapsed in Egypt at an African Union Summit in July/August 2008. He was evacuated to Percy Military Hospital in France where he died.
Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda was vice president of the Republic of Zamba since 2002. He was recalled out of retirement in Chipata to deputize Dr. Mwanawasa. Mr. Banda has a good and traceable curriculum vitae. Like first president Kaunda, Mr. Banda is a freedom fighter in the wings of such luminaries as Mr. Reuben Chitandika Kamanga, Mr. Alexander Grey Zulu and others. He was a UNIP youth together with Messrs. Vernon Johnson Mwaanga, Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda, and others. He served in the Kaunda administration in various portfolios as a diplomat, general manager of NAMBOARD, seniour governor of Lusaka and minister of foreign affairs to mention a few. He is also a business man in the private sector.
RB went to local schools and ended at Munali Secondary School which was the only high school for black children. He later went to university in Sweden. RB speaks and understands several European and African languages.
After the death of his boss, RB became acting president for 90 days pending a presidential by-election. That is what the Constitution of Zambia provides. After the burial of Dr. Mwanawasa, the MMD National Executive Committee conducted a party by-election at Mulungushi International Conference Centre. RB beat his rivals 42 to 12 and 1 to become an MMD presidential candidate in the presidential by-election scheduled for later in October 2008. He proceeded to win the presidential by-election and became Zambia’s fourth Republican president.
Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda was the most criticized president in this country. The Post Newspaper in particular saw no good in him and his leadership. Everything he did was perceived to be corrupt. Several other weekly newspapers, especially those run by opposition sympathizers, criticized everything RB did as president of Zambia. The conspiracy was hatched by criminally inclined critics because he had flatly rejected a request to write off huge debts owed to private and public financial institutions. RB recognized that the rule of borrowing is to pay back with interest, and not to default! His critics chose to support a political party that would embrace corruption and encourage default on legal and legitimate debts. The same people demonized the Judiciary in order to frustrate judges. It was most unfortunate that US Ambassador Mark Stollera rubbed shoulders with criminally inclined RB’s critics! The British High Commission was another accomplice under the illusion to register and enforce the so called London Judgment against a deceased former president Chiluba.
Several MMD members suggested at the time of proscribing such malicious newspapers but the calls were dismissed as unfriendly to freedom of the press, speech and democracy. History has now shown that the criticism was intended to demonize him to lose the scheduled tripartite elections in 2011.
RB’s birthplace and parentage were issues of litigation in the courts of law. The same courts are now being called corrupt and eligible for dissolution under the guise of Judicial Reforms!
It is interesting to note that records of all RB’s critics show that most of them are crooks, thieves, adulterers, money launderers, drug barons, etc. Some Zambians have dubbed the group a Cartel or indeed a criminal syndicate.
The Post newspaper has vowed not to criticize their friend and collaborator, Mr. Michael C. Sata as president. This is a solemn undertaking to highjack State House from an elected president. A president is elected alone and swears to govern and defend the Republican Constitution alone. Any person or group of persons who appoint themselves to help him or her can only do so for criminal reasons and it will show.
The entire Post newspaper has already been rewarded by appointments in government and the diplomatic service. What remains is for the King Cobra to write off the ZMK14bn owed to the Development Bank of Zambia. There are maneuvers to award the newspaper dubious contracts to aid it repay the ZMK14bn in due course so that government pays DBZ! This is what some discerning Zambians have called Grand Corruption of the PF in government.
In three years, RB consolidated liberalization of the economy and privatization of enterprises. His administration privatized ZAMTEL in order to remove the burden of subsidy from the shoulders of government. This was called corruption because it was a state enterprise! Several private companies have been sold in this country without insinuations of being corruptly done. RB identified credible companies to use to develop the nation’s infrastructure countrywide. He stabilized the growth rate in the hope of increasing it progressively. Per capita income rose to US $1000, making Zambia enter the lower middle income bracket. He set a target of refurbishing or improving State House, Supreme and High Courts buildings, Society House as symbol of Lusaka, etc. These dreams were left on the table of development. Why demonize such efforts?
Human beings do not stay or live in one place all the time. They migrate for many reasons. The most pertinent is that they are always in search of the proverbial “greener pastures” and also to look for whom to marry! Our country has, therefore, got a share in migration of its people. The railway line and copper-belt have, in fact, experienced immigration of people from many lands including those from overseas. There is also migration caused by fleeing from troubles and instability such as refugees. The effect of this movement of people is to create new societies which we have throughout the world today.
African tribes have not been spared of the effects of migration. There is no tribe which is “pure” as such. Each is a product of one or more. Zambians today are a mixture of people. Many have either a mother or a father coming from a different tribe within the country or indeed from outside Zambia such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Angola, D. R. Congo, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, etc. This is not surprising and will not stop by wishful thinking. It is dictated by the nature of human beings. In short, migration is the working rule and not an exception.
If RB was born outside Zambia with both parents having originated from eastern lands of what we now call Zambia, what is Mr. Wynter Kabimba’s problem with this? Some cabinet ministers today have such parentage. A learned person is supposed to know and understand this phenomenon very well. A professional lawyer, for instance, is supposed to be knowledgeable enough to understand human diversity. RB did not fight back against Mr. Wynter Kabimba’s group over such issues as he took leadership of Zambia as a challenge big enough to occupy his mind. First president Kaunda experienced tribal discrimination even more than any other person for a long time! Mr. Kabimba himself, a Sala of Mumbwa, is believed to be a son of migrants from across Africa including South Africa. What really is Mr. Wynter Kabimba’s problem with ethnicity and places of birth of other Zambians?
Club de Madrid is a group of civilized, educated, professional and big people. It is largely a club of former leaders such as presidents and prime ministers in countries which qualify to be called democracies. Others are eminent business executives and international civil servants. This prestigious club cannot think low and petty like Mr. Kabimba thinks. They look at RB with respect and affection. The loss of the elections in 2011 is not an issue to justify that RB should be marginalized or discriminated against. He had served his country faithfully and diligently as vice president since2002 and substantive president since 2008. No one will ever be president of Zambia without making some mistakes! RB has brought esteem to Zambia when he was admitted as a member of the Club de Madrid.
I hasten to assert that the PF administration has already made so many mistakes that it cannot survive an impeachment motion in Parliament if it was raised any time. It is corruption of the worst grade to shield debtors who owe public institutions an amount of over ZMK14bn without interest. When interest at 20% is added, ZMK16.8bn is supposed to be paid back to DBZ. Failing to pay that money means that the persons owing should be declared bankrupt by the High Court. A government which is allergic to corruption cannot defend bankruptcy.
Mr. Kabimba, Mr. Chikwanda and Dr. Scott have not commented truthfully over this debt. President Sata wants to erase it by interfering with the Judiciary. Such maneuvers on corruption cannot succeed. They have already been noticed. The Zambian Judiciary has been built at great cost over a long time. Such an institution cannot be dissolved at the whims of people who want to escape a bankruptcy conviction. Where can Zambia get good and professionally qualified lawyers to form a new Judiciary overnight? It is agonizing to see that the worst critics of our Judiciary are lawyers themselves. Did they train to destroy the institution which they are supposed to work with or for?
I am reserving comments on Mr. Wynter Kabimba’s work in the local government administration where he left at the level of Town Clerk. He was honoured recently by president Sata for his record in that field! Suffice to say that Mr. Sata had said earlier that local government system was moribund.
Mr. Wynter Kabimba should congratulate RB for having been honoured as a Member of the prestigious Club de Madrid instead of crying foul and denouncing his compatriot. Corruption in Zambia is always by word of mouth, perception and allegations. Very few politicians have been convicted. Several permanent secretaries, controlling officers, have so far been convicted. Let us look at ourselves with favour. Improved delivery systems will eliminate and prevent corruption anywhere in the world today.
Any attempts to molest RB in retirement like Mr. Frederick Chiluba was, will be resisted even physically. If the vacation leave on which Justices Sakala and Chirwa have proceeded pending retirement are engineered by and on tribal sentiments, the successors will surely go the same root sooner rather than later.
To RB, I am glad that you are a Member of the prestigious Club de Madrid. Well done for Zambia! Three Cheers and CONGRATULATIONS!!!