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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Remembering President Levy Mwanawasa

A speech by Mrs Mwanawasa on the first memorial of her husband as made available to the media :

Speech by Dr Maureen K. Mwanawasa on the first memorial of the late President of Zambia Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC on August 19, 2009

Mere words cannot convey the overwhelming feelings of shock, disbelief, numbness and despair that resulted from the tragic loss of my dear husband and Republican President Dr Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. No one is ever totally prepared for the death of a loved one.

A year has passed since that fateful day and I have had time to reflect on the life of a great man, the late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. There is now an empty space where, before, there was a great living human being.

I have since come to learn and appreciate that I have not been alone in this grief. The loss of President Mwanawasa, has not only been hard on the members of the family, but it has also been a traumatising experience to the entire nation. Since he was put to rest a year ago, people from all walks of life have continued to flock to the Embassy Park to pay their respects and lay wreaths at his grave. I have come to learn that the late President was loved and respected by many.

Grief can affect us in different ways but then it is said to be a necessary part of the healing process and of learning to adapt to the new situation. Just as a severe physical wound takes time to heal, so it is with bereavement.

Your Excellency the President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to walk you down the memory lane of the life of President Mwanawasa and to highlight some of his salient characteristics, what he stood for and what he experienced as he led this great nation of Zambia.

President Mwanawasa believed that to lead was to live dangerously. When leadership counts, you have to lead people through difficult times of change. As you advocate for change, you challenge what people hold dear, i.e. their daily habits, tools, loyalties and ways of thinking with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility.

President Mwanawasa came to understand that people push back when you disturb their personal and institutional equilibrium, and that people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game, pushed aside, undermined or eliminated all together.

President Mwanawasa also learnt that however gentle your style of leadership, however careful your strategy, however sure you may be that you are on the right track, leading was a risky business, but these facts did not deter him. Instead he gained more courage and passion to lead Zambia to the best of his ability, together with his team of men and women who believed in his vision for Zambia. He was anxious to do what he could to bring relief to the people’s suffering and to find solutions to the many problems besetting the nation.

In this vein, President Mwanawasa hated conduct and practices that were detrimental to the development of the country. He deeply despised laziness, corruption, opportunism and self-serving pursuits. He strongly believed that these vices were an impediment to national development. His stance on corruption was the same to those close to him as it was to others.

The absolute selflessness and passion with which President Mwanawasa served the nation should serve as an example and be emulated by those aspiring to positions of leadership for the benefit of our nation.

As we commemorate the first anniversary of our beloved President’s passing, allow me to suggest that the best way to remember him is to try and champion some of the causes he stood for while he had the privilege to lead this country.

Our late President stood for a fair society that was governed by the rule of law. President Mwanawasa fought to emancipate our country from poverty so that all our children could grow up in good health and security.

He believed that employment brought dignity to people and family life. He wanted the people of our country to responsibly explore and yet promote the well-being of our natural environment.

Our memories are equally filled with his passion for justice. In his public and private life, he was thirsty for fairness. he desired that everyone be considered and treated equal under the law. He genuinely believed equality before the law was the barest minimum requirement for fair society
Our memories are filled with the late President’s passion for the development of our country. He expressed this through his promotion of the agriculture and mining industries. Ladies and gentlemen, you should have seen him as he walked on his farm to inspect the crops. He believed that farming was key to Zambia’s economic progress.
Through promoting local and international investment, he hoped to create full employment for our country.

He always expressed his worry about youth unemployment. He wanted to create opportunities for young people in this country because he believed that they are our hope for the future
President Mwanawasa took bold steps in response to economic challenges and that is what forms the Mwanawasa legacy.

As we remember the late President, let us celebrate the gift of life. Our celebration emanates from the fact that our lives have a purpose. When we identify and live that purpose, it does not matter how long we live. Through our legacy, we will live on.

The successes that President Mwanawasa achieved cannot be attributed to him alone. His vision was shared by men and women who closely worked with him; men and women to whom he would have said thank you, thank you very much had divine providence allowed him to complete his term of office in 2011.

Indeed we cannot ask Jehovah God why President Mwanawasa’s life had to end in that manner as time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all. We can only continue praying to Jehovah God for the resurrection time and that those of us who have survived him can take courage to continue working even harder for the aspirations of our country.

I sincerely feel our late President lived his purpose. He showed the world how to embrace people who hold different opinions from us. He challenged unfairness even when it came from his fellow heads of state as was stated in his last will and testimony which was broadcast on our electronic media.

He was aware of his shortcomings. He asked for forgiveness for the mistakes he may have made as he governed our country. He also tried to reconcile with those with whom he differed in his line of duty.

Distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to mention that it was a great privilege for us to live with President Mwanawasa. Beyond his very apparently strong personality lay a very gentle soul who did everything in his power to make his family, friends and co workers happy. I have fond memories of the quality time he took to attend to our needs and to assure us of his love and care. He took every opportunity that his busy schedule permitted, to be with his children. He enjoyed spending quality time with his family and friends.

Since the funeral, I have received messages of encouragement and support from our President, His Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda, from his colleagues the presidents of other countries, officials who served in the late President’s administration and many relatives and friends and I am most grateful for their support
I am equally grateful to our government leaders and officials who organised a funeral befitting a head of state.

The dignity with which my husband’s funeral was planned and conducted demonstrated that the President had numerous friends, admirers and well-wishers. I extend special thanks to our men in uniform for the manner in which they put their Commander-in-Chief to rest.

I am grateful to the members of the family, parents, sisters and brothers, aunties and uncles of the late President for having given to my children and me such a wonderful person as a father and husband. We could not have asked for a better gift from them. With great gratitude, we acknowledge that without his family members’ support, he would not have been the wonderful man we were privileged to live and enjoy life with.

Your Excellency President Rupiah Bwezani Banda, on behalf of the family and myself, please accept our sincere gratitude for everything that has been done to commemorate countrywide the first anniversary of the death of my late husband and Dr Levy P. Mwanawasa, SC.

Your Excellency, I am aware that provinces have been advised to hold memorial services today. In addition, this service is being broadcast live on radio and television to allow as many people as possible to observe the commemoration of the life of a great man.

Ladies and gentlemen, once again allow me to say thank you for your solidarity. Allow me to thank our government for the place and space they continue to give the late President in the life of our country. I repeat my appreciation to our countrymen and the international community for their kind messages.
Allow me to thank our church leaders whose wise counsel and visitations are helping us to face the future with courage in spite of our deep loss.

Join me and my family as we thank Jehovah God for providing the peace of God that excels even when the wound is still fresh (Philippians 4: 6, 7).

Through Jehovah God, the children and I are able to smile once again. We have strength provided by the power beyond what is normal (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, through solidarity we can make sense of pain and loss. Supporting one another, we can make meaning of situations that are impossible to understand.
May Jehovah God continue to be our pillar and our rock of strength (Psalms 71:3).
I thank you all.

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