(The Perspective with Edward Bwalya Phiri)
THE United National Independence Party (UNIP), in its memoir dubbed ‘History of UNIP’ wrote that, “Zambia needs men who will serve, and men who can sacrifice the self for the whole, men who have unflinching determination, men who can thirst and hunger, push and pull for the glory of their motherland Zambia.”
And Greg Mills wrote that, “The main reason why Africans are poor is because their leaders have made a choice.” The import of Greg’s assertion is that national poverty is a choice; in the same token prosperity is a choice, made by national leaders.
On the Perspective today, the spotlight is on Zambia’s third Republican President, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, SC. He was known by different names; to his children, he was known as the “Tiger” and to his political nemeses, he was known as “Cabbage”. But to the nation, Levy was known as a hardworking President, and to Africa and the world, he was known as a champion who fought corruption and helped improved the economy of his country.
It was only after his death that the world got to know, that he had made a choice to improve the country at all cost; including his own life. This was evidenced by his own presidential mission statement. He had a personal mission statement, which stated: “Sacrificing everything, expecting little or nothing in return.” Those who were close to him revealed that he sacrificed a lot for Zambia, including his own health.
But the question is; who really can choose to sacrifice everything to a point of putting their own life at stake? The poor man died on duty, a sign that he could have been ill even at the time he was leaving for Egypt. When people were beckoning on him to retire because of his health, he refused to succumb to calls, because of his patriotism for the nation and an inner conviction that it was only him who could have put things right. Surely he fought for his beloved nation, till his last strength, till his last pain, till his last breath.
Obviously, when he was dying angels were on hand to strengthen him saying you have laboured, and in reply would have said, “I have fought a good fight and I can now rest, but alas to my country for they still have a long way to go.” It’s unfortunate that his epoch ended so soon. Many people considered Levy not only as a president but a ‘god father’. Because he initiated and developed a number of things that set the pace for Zambia’s economic emancipation; even when RB took over, he had a guide and off course, a great challenge to prove himself a worthy leader.
The name Levy Mwanawasa is synonymous with sacrifice, hard work and integrity. He was really, an epitome of a God chosen leader. He never only fought for his own, but for the nation as attested by his mission statement. Top on his agenda was good governance; rule of law and integrity. He wanted his people to work hard, be honest, transparent and accountable. Honourable Kabinga Pande, foreign affairs minister then, narrated a discourse he had with him in Egypt shortly before he fell ill. He disclosed that the President (late) wanted to see Zambians develop a good work culture, which would guarantee a massive development of the Zambian economy.
There is always a tendency by African leaders to concentrate on urban areas for developmental activities. But Levy refused to subscribe to this notion because he was a staunch advocate for equity. Perhaps, this explains why he was garnering more votes from peri – urban and rural areas – an indication that he was bent on sharing the national cake equally, even to the poor folks in the remote areas. Up to his demise, most of Zambia’s outlying areas were a hive of activity that were aimed at making the lives of ordinary Zambians better.
Dr Mwanawasa always wanted the best for his nation. One good example is when he refused to accept the food aid that was genetically engineered. He did this to protect the posterity of this nation. Despite the pressure, both internal and external, he did not seek to gain popularity or please people by either succumbing or bowing to demands which were unfounded. He looked beyond what the physical eyes could see. Mr Chibamba Kanyama described him on the programme: Zambia mourns, as the “President of the future”.
He will forever be remembered for his passion to develop the nation and his desire to unite the nation as was seen when he was ushered into office. Far from the expectations of the people, he demonstrated that the dream for a better Zambia is only possible when people work together regardless of the many differences, videlicet; political, tribal, religious, cultural among others. Levy extended the “Olive Branch” to the opposition. At first many were sceptical as they thought he wanted to destabilise the opposition but in the end it became evident that he meant good for everyone.
During his reign, he may not have achieved a dream of a united Zambia but his sickness and subsequent death certainly did. We all witnessed and can attest to the fact that from the time he got sick to his burial, we all spoke the same language: praying and mourning together; politicians, civil servants, clergymen, among others.
Dr Mwanawasa fought for the involvement and empowerment of both women and youths in policy-making programmes as well as economic activities. The youths and women are the major culprits of chauvinism by their elderly and male folks respectively, in many cases. The late president wanted to prepare the youths for leadership at a higher level. The country saw how he appoint the likes of Honourable Gabriel Namulambe and Honourable Richard Taima who were at the time the youth and child development minister, and the State House deputy minister, respectively.
Levy was an ambassador of peace, unity and reconciliation as embodied in his last speech on the Zambian soil at the Association of Member Episcopal Conference in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) shortly before leaving for Egypt where he fell ill, and subsequently evacuate to France, where he died. He emphatically revealed that dialogue is the best way ever for resolving the inexorable conflicts.
Indeed, fighting does not pay; if we do, we will only help each other in running down what we have for a long time laboured for. In the end we will discover that we were partners in pulling down the remaining strongholds of the union, peace and security of our motherland.
Levy taught so many lessons. On the momentous reconciliation ceremony with late president Michael Chilufya Sata, Mwanawasa said, “If you asked me, I would have told you that nshalefwa no kumunfwa. But when he was sick, I realised how much I needed him.” And in response bashikulu ba Sata, who was always humorous said, “Kanshi ici cintu cisuma.”
Among the notable successes scored through his ‘New Deal’ strategy; he rebranded and regained public goodwill for the party whose political fortunes had waned. He helped reduce political hooliganism and violence by subjecting cadres to prosecution. He superintended over the process and met the benchmarks for Zambia’s debt write-off of over $7billion, through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt. He introduced the ‘Zero tolerance to Corruption’ campaign. He reduced the Dollar/Kwacha exchange rate to K3. He supported agriculture and introduced the winter maize cultivation. For today I will end here, Au revoir.
For comments: email@example.com