“Fellow countrymen, with deep sorrow and immense grief, I would like to inform the people of Zambia that our President Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa died this morning”, announced the vividly sorrowful acting Zambian president, Rupiah Banda.
The 59-year-old Zambian president, Levy Mwanawasa, died after spending a number of weeks in a Paris hospital. He got seriously sick when he was attending an African Union Summit and was flown to Paris.
Mr. Mwanawasa, who succumbed to a stroke, had a long health problem that was exacerbated by a very bad road accident he was involved in. He stayed in South Africa for a whole year while under treatment.
Like the former Tanzanian Prime Minister, the late Edward Moringe Sokoine, Mwanawasa will be greatly missed by the people of Zambia, mainly because of his serious war against corruption.
He has been a no-nonsense leader who never feared to confront any corrupt individual or individuals. One of the big shots that never survived his wrath was the former president of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba.
“Zambians will remember him for standing up to his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba. He proved he was no puppet, despite being Mr Chiluba’s chosen successor, and within months of taking office in 2002 he had stripped the former president of his immunity from prosecution for corruption”, said Farouk, a BBC Focus on Africa Magazine journalist.
Under most African situations, it is abnormal for one to turn against somebody who helped him gain power, no matter what crime he or she could have committed.
Mwanawasa’s attitude towards his ‘mentor’ thus makes him a unique president to go into the Guinness Book of records. Owing to poor records of most of Africa in terms of corruption and theconsequent poverty, the character of Levy was expected to help Zambia.
The late president will not only be missed by the nationals but also by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and most of the world.
It was only Mwanawasa and Botswana’s president that openly opposed the dictatorship of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Most other African leaders decided to keep a low profile, while others completely remained indifferent.
Levy had no kind words for Mugabe and never regretted his stand, a thing that makes him a rare breed of African leader that we shall miss.
“SADC cannot stand by and do nothing when one of its members is experiencing political and economic pain”, Mwanawasa told a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, referring to Mugabe.
His position completely contrasted with that of Thabo Mbeki, the South African president who is mediating between the protagonists in the Zimbabwean conflict.
Mr. Mbeki has been under intense criticism that his position in the conflict has only helped Mugabe and his cohorts to keep power.
Mwanawasa’s war against corruption and his economic policies have further earned him international credit and no wonder almost the whole world is sending messages of condolences.
US President George W. Bush expressed his condolences to Mr. Mwanawasa’s family, describing him as “a champion of democracy in his own country and throughout Africa”.
Mwanawasa has, however, had critics along the line of his economic policies and the general poverty levels in the country. The accusations are not unique to any economy in the world, save for very few countries.
They blame him for not having allowed his economic boom to reach the ordinary man. Nevertheless, the problem lies in the general measurements used in determining economic development of a nation.
The GDP and GNP for example, cannot be used solely when determining people’s standards of life or livelihoods. It is not therefore an issue unique to Mr. Mwanawasa. Furthermore, I cannot go so wrong if I likened Mwanawasa to Sokoine.
“This nation lost treasure, a true son of our soil, the greatest patriot this country has ever produced, a man of great character, a leader dedicated to the development of his people and country”, observed a Tanzanian journalist, Mangengesa Mdimi.
Sokoine, like Mwanawasa, was at the vanguard of the struggle against corruption. He had a long-term objective that never spared anyone, of ridding Tanzania of all corrupt individuals.
His struggle was popularly known as “vita kwa wa hujuma ucumi” in Kiswahili, literally translated as a war against those who plunder the country’s riches.
Unfortunately, the two share again a similar tragedy in a way. Sokoine died in a horrible road accident on the Dodoma-Morogoro Road in 1984, at the age of 56.
Tanzanians and all other African lovers missed him. Africans too will miss the 59-year-old Mwanawasa in a way reminiscent to the one compared to him above. May God Almighty rest his soul in eternal peace.