By Kennedy Limwanya
Working with his Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda outside State House has been, yet , another instructive curve in my life; exposing me to a whole new world of understanding African politics using the Zambian model.
Or is it mere coincidence that presidents Kenneth Kaunda, Frederick Chiluba and Rupiah Banda all did endure some nasty experience after leaving office as Zambian heads of State?
Well, this is a subject for another day.
For today, I want to say I cannot thank Mr Banda enough, for the opportunity he accorded me to serve him in the Office of the Fourth President as Deputy Administrative Assistant, just months after I had worked as Chief Policy Analyst for Press and Public Relations at State House during his tenure as our country’s fourth president.
It has been an eventful three years—from 2012—that has given me such a clear understanding of friendship that I am now able to categorise it into seven classes.
Yes, seven categories of friends.
Friends, it was once said, are the thermometers by which we gauge the temperature of our fortunes.
“When the sun shines on you, you see your friends,” wrote Marguerite Blessington in Commonplace Book.
I have observed this, right from the time Mr Banda lost the Zambian presidency to Mr Michael Chilufya Sata in the September 2011 election; when he had his immunity lifted; the time he was summoned by the Joint Government investigation team; the moment he began appearing in court; up to the day of his acquittal on 29th June, 2015.
There was also the time he decided to, again, throw his hat into the political ring; when the Supreme Court ruled that Nevers Mumba was to be the Movement for Multiparty Democracy candidate in the January 2015 presidential election; when he resolved to back the candidature of the Patriotic Front’s Edgar Lungu; up to the time Mr Lungu became Zambia’s sixth President.
I know what true friendship is!
When Mr Banda lost the 2011 elections, I remained at State House for two weeks, during which time I handed over office to George Chellah, the newly-appointed Special Assistant to the President (Press and Public Relations), and his deputy Amos Chanda.
After the handover, I was gone.
Almost suddenly, my mobile phone went literally off; no incoming calls!
Fast-forward to January 2015 when Mr Banda helped Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu assumed the title of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander-in-Chief of the Zambian Armed Forces, my phone became busy again!
Rupiah Banda still had friends!
With time, I have learned to place friends into seven categories.
My time with Zambia’s former president has been a lesson on its own, and I will always cherish it.
In my own quiet moments with Mr Banda, during his trying period, I came to understand him more closely than I did when I worked with him at State House.
I came to know what a courageous person he was. He also taught me the spirit of humility, love and forgiveness.
He would often tell us that life was too short to be spent on harbouring vengeance; vengeance, he would explain, invariably devoured the one who sought to exercise it.
I remember being with Mr Banda at his New Kasama home on the evening of 15th March, 2013 when his immunity was being lifted in Parliament.
He watched all the proceedings live on television.
Did we need to be the ones reassuring him?
No, it was he asking us to be strong in the wake of his lost immunity against prosecution.
There is a lot to write about, based on my experience with the former president, as he would, sometimes, ask me to travel with him in his official vehicle as we hit the road to Chipata.
Those times, I could see Rupiah Bwezani Banda the person; a loving father, uncle, brother-in-law, father-in-law and grandfather. Not Rupiah Banda the politician.
I also recall how, during our travels out of Zambia, Mr Banda would be denied his deserved diplomatic courtesies by our missions abroad, leading to a near-diplomatic contretemps with the Kenyan government at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in February 2013 when we arrived in Nairobi to observe that country’s presidential elections under the Carter Center.
Not to be forgotten, either, is the morning of 9th April, 2013 when we arrived at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on our way to Nairobi to attend the inauguration ceremony of Kenya’s President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.
Just before we could board the Kenya Airways plane, we suffered some humiliation when airport authorities informed us that they had been instructed by authorities “above” to not allow the former president leave the country.
This humiliation was to repeat itself three months later, on a trip to Johannesburg.
On a personal level, I, too, have endured some humiliation, particularly in the past one year.
Fortunately, I learned, during my time as a waiter and barman over 20 years ago, how, as Brian Tracey teaches in The Science of Self Confidence, to turn lemon into lemonade and to pluck success from the jaws of failure.
The details of my experience, both within and outside State House, and indeed the seven categories of friends, are part of the subjects in my upcoming book.
Perhaps, just as well, I did not have it published immediately just after the 2011 elections.
The four years of the post-Rupiah Banda presidency have added an even richer dimension to my book.
The autobiography also encompasses a number of profiles of individuals, many of them from humble backgrounds—whose trajectories have, over time, somewhat intertwined with mine.
Having come to the finishing line of another race in my life, it is now time to say farewell to the Office of the Fourth President and I wish to wholeheartedly thank all of you for the priceless support.
I have moved to Cabinet Office to open another chapter in my career.
Taking over from me is Mr Chibeza Mfuni, a former deputy ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
I send my love and respect to you all.
ZWD COMMENT: We also stood with Mr Banda when he was facing persecutions. In fact on the day he was stopped at the airport, he phoned our editor complaining emotionally that ‘ati lesha kupita pa airport’ (They have stopped us from passing through the airport). But later he decided to go and work with the same people that were persecuting him. We remain where we have always been: speaking for victims. Even Kaminaminsa might one day find himself running to us for help. We have also come to know who our real friends are. One day, just one day, we shall also tell our story. The whole truth.