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Saturday, 19 July 2008
THE last time I was in Lusaka — a few months ago during a Sadc summit — what hit me with the force of a pile-driver was the optimism of the people, just ordinary people going about their normal business.  This was during the last term of the presidency of Levy Mwanawasa, a man once pilloried as “a cabbage”, after a horrific accident during which some people thought he had lost his marbles.My last visit had been in the early 1990s, a few years after the ouster of President Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president, ruler of Zambia since independence in 1964 until 1991.

Frederick Chiluba was president then and there was despair in the air, specifically at the airport, where I stopped to catch another flight to Europe. A girl waiting at the airport turned out to be an old friend. She said she was waiting for anyone going overseas who could take her with him. What for? I asked. She said something to the effect that anywhere else would be better than her own country.

A few years later, she was dead.

Mwanawasa’s presidency has been spectacular, politically and economically. What has endeared him to many Zimbabweans must be his stance on the imbroglio we have faced since 2000. His denunciation of President Robert Mugabe’s impunity vis-a-vis democracy in our country has been succinct and robust.
So, when a few weeks ago, during the African Union summit in Egypt, it was announced he had died in Paris after being rushed to a hospital there, an understandable air of despair must have enveloped both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Fortunately, after an awkward period of silence, the government in Lusaka announced he had survived. In his absence, the declaration from the AU on Zimbabwe was nothing dramatic, except for Raila Odinga’s public assertion that Mugabe should be temporarily barred from the AU until he holds free and fair elections.

Mwanawasa had previously and publicly declared that Zimbabwe, under President Robert Mugabe’s stewardship was a “sinking Titanic”. None of the other leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) had come anywhere near to condemning the situation in our country in such graphic language.

South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki had made the astonishing statement that there was “no crisis” at all. Would he and the other Sadc leaders take up Mwanawasa’s forthright language to raise the stakes in the group’s campaign to get Mugabe to do the “right thing”?

Unlike Mbeki, Mwanawasa has no “liberation war credentials”. But he has earned the respect of his colleagues in Sadc through the steady and efficient administration of his country. Zambia’s economy has developed fast since he came to power. Certainly, there are some who believe he is “the best thing” that has happened to their country since 1964. He is serving his second and last term and it must be the hope of many Zambians and even Zimbabweans that whoever replaces him is not another KK or Chiluba.

If the three countries which formed the ill-fated federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Zimbabwe has fared the worst. Ironically, at the height of that British-inspired union, Southern Rhodesia was the most prosperous, but also the most politically explosive. Its government’s racist policies had all the elements of a burgeoning apartheid-style regime.

Today, Zimbabwe’s economy is the worst of the three former states of the federation. Even its political upheavals are more spectacular than anything that has occurred in the other two countries.

Its leader, moreover, became the head of government when the founding presidents of the other two were in power: Kaunda in Zambia is still alive but long out of power, but Kamuzu Banda in Malawi has long passed on, after he had lost power in an election.

All these statistics must rankle with Mugabe in his most private moments of reflection. Why would he believe his tenure must continue indefinitely when the country is in such a mess and the likelihood of it getting out of it seems decidedly remote, as long as he is in the saddle?

What appears to have been accepted by many is that Zimbabwe’s road to perdition has been preordained and that Zanu PF will play a key role in the manner in which the country will resolve its crisis.

That Sadc, the AU, the United Nations and even the European Union have all failed to bring the men and women at the top in Harare to book can no longer be disputed. Only the people themselves can wield the final weapon to undo the destruction wreaked on the country in eight years of political and economic sloth.

Mwanawasa may be remembered for having tried to infuse a sense of urgency in trying to deal with Mugabe, but we must all be sorry that although his spirit was robust and willing, the flesh was probably not equal to the task.

Source: The Standard – Zimbabwe’s Leading Sunday Newspaper

Comment From Zambian Chronicle Below:  


Please keep the first family in your thoughts and prayers; they need them more than any insinuations and Webfetti.cominnuendos right now. Honoring and praying for those who are ill is the most honorable Zambian thing to do … 


Get well soon, Mr. President; can’t wait to fly you back home so you can continue kicking some butt, you got a lot of work cut out for you.


Live Long & Prosper; Long Live Levism … thanks a trillion. 


Brainwave R Mumba, Sr.  

CEO  & President – Zambian Chronicle


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