Find us on Google+

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The ills of Levy's legacy (Guest Blog)

Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda (RB) was elected president of Zambia on the 30th of October 2008 taking over the reign of power from his late predecessor, Dr. Levy Mwanawasa, who passed away after a stroke whilst attending an AU summit in Egypt. RB fought factions within the party to emerge victorious and stood on the ruling party ticket for the presidency of Zambia. The leading free press newspaper, The Post, embarked on a slander campaign to discredit RB and they accused him of being corrupt, passive and without vision. The opposition took advantage of this situation and marketed themselves as the only option to replace the late president. Rupiah did not realize how difficult taking over where Levy left off was going to be when he was sworn in on the 2nd of November 2008.

Nine and a half months later, RB has shown that he can continue with change where his predecessor left off, as promised in the 2008 campaign. Never-the-less, RB has had to deal with tumultuous situations that have arisen as a result of the rule of his predecessor.

When he was appointed vice president on the 10th of October 2006, RB found himself in the middle of a fight against corruption which is targeted at the former leader, Dr. Chiluba and his colleagues in the ruling party. This fight was systematically tailored to investigate and prosecute only the 10 years of rule by Dr. Chiluba. It started with the stripping of his immunity by parliament and the consequent prosecution of cases where only selective top officials in the ruling party were targeted. Seven years later, a lot of these cases are still in court whilst a few have been disposed and the erring government officials implicated have been jailed. Furthermore, several senior military officers have been investigated for corruption and have been found guilty, and some are even serving time in prison for their offences.

Dr, Chiluba has claimed that the late president was vindictive and overly reactional to the threat of political division within the ruling party. He has stated that the late president’s fight against corruption ignored existing investigative bodies and was channelled through a state house task force created to give the leader absolute power over the investigation, prosecution and judgement. He stated that the task force was an illegal body which was created to allow the president to abuse the justice system in order to settle scores with those who oppose his ideas. Chiluba further stated that he would not receive a fair trial if the prosecution was being driven by the most powerful person in Zambia at state house.

On the 17th of August 2009, Dr. Chiluba was acquitted of fraud and theft of US$500,000 in a judgement he considered free and fair. He thanked God for allowing justice to prevail and is now looking into the restoration of his immunity by parliament. In 2006, it was alleged that the opposition would pardon him for all offences once they were elected to office and in turn, Dr. Chiluba threw his support the opposition way as he campaigned in his stronghold of the Northern provinces of Zambia.

RB found himself in another predicament earlier this year when reports of corruption at the Ministry of Health showed that over K200 billion in tax payers money was systematically siphoned out of the institution by an organized civil service clique. The late president’s personal physician was implicated in these crimes as chief executive officer (Permanent Secretary) of the ministry and he wrote a letter to RB begging for leniency and forgiveness when dealing with this issue. The letter was leaked to the press and the case was investigated by the legally constituted Anti Corruption Commission which brought the culprits to book. The investigations show that the theft of public funds goes back to 2006 when the late president failed to discipline his personal physician, and chief executive officer of the ministry, who threatened and chased away government auditors who were scheduled to audit the financial accounts of the ministry.

Then RB was faced with a rebellion within the party as those loyal to the late president accused him of failing to continue with the legacy. They claimed that RB was surrounded by bootlickers whose intentions are to remove all of the late presidents’ remnants from the party and create a new ruling clique of their own. These rebellious members were known to be very close to the late president, and some were even related to him, but they did not share a similar relationship with the current leader. They began to question RB’s integrity in the free press and disobeyed party orders to channel grievances through clearly laid down party processes.

RB dishonourably discharged the two most vocal rebellious members from government and the party, who were also directly related to the late president and were suspected of being brought into politics through nepotism. These members immediately challenged their expulsion in the high court when they realized that RB had the support of the grass roots in the constituencies they represent. This means that they stood no chance at winning a by-election against the ruling MMD in their constituencies. They have since chosen to rally behind the president and his intention to contest the 2011 general election.

Finally RB was met with hostility from the late presidents’ wife over his presidency of the party. She insisted that the former finance minister, Magande, was the chosen successor of the president. Magande also insisted that he was a better candidate as he was destined to continue with the late presidents legacy despite the party’s executive overwhelmingly picking RB as the successor.

RB ignored these utterances and stated only once that the country was not a monarchy and that he was delighted that the party’s executive was ready to work with him in bringing development to Zambia. He stressed that the party was headed by an executive committee whose role is also to preside over who leads the party.

Shortly after, Magande decided to start campaigning for the party presidency in next year’s scheduled party convention. Thereafter, the MMD executive committee members held a meeting and resolved that RB should stand on the party’s ticket in the 2011 general election and that he should go unchallenged during the party’s convention next year. This brought about controversy as some members of the party with presidential ambitions felt the party executive committee was depriving them from a democratic system of elections to party presidency.

The late president froze the position of party vice president from being contested during the last party convention because of the intense campaign between opponents. The late president’s preferred candidate was being overshadowed by the other contestants and his ability to win the position was diminishing with every day that the convention drew closer.

RB responded by stating that unlike what happened in the last party convention, he saw no reason why other party members should be restricted from trying their luck at the upcoming convention. He stated that whilst the party constitution allows the executive committee to freeze elections of certain positions, he was ready to be challenged at the convention in order to be democratically elected and receive the support of the party majority.

Recently, a parliamentary committee was given a report by the defunct Zambia National Oil Company chief executive of 2001 who showed the late presidents involvement in oil stock trading and the deliberate closure of ZNOC in order to conceal irregularities in its dealings. This report indicates that during the rule of the late president, he was directly involved in a cover-up of millions of dollars and that contracts signed with oil suppliers were dubious. This allegation brings to light the reasons behind the Zambian government losing the case held in South Africa where ABSA Bank have sued our government. Our government has been ordered to pay ABSA Bank US$80 million as the bank was legally commissioned to finance crude oil supply to Zambia.

Whilst the former energy minister, Mr. Mpombo, did not state whether he was aware of these dealings and consequent legal battles, the Zambian government did not attempt to defend itself and the court ruled in absentia in favour of ABSA Bank. Mr. Mpombo has since resigned and decided to give up both his ministerial appointment and his ruling party executive position.

We can see from these few events that have taken place during the last nine and a half months that RB has had to find a way to continue with the legacy left by his predecessor without perpetrating the ills of this legacy. By the time RB is done getting things right, I wonder how much of a legacy will be left for RB’s MMD to continue with. We have left out other controversial issues from Levy’s seven year rule like the purchase of 100 hearses for rural areas and the decision to procure mobile hospitals which was initiated and concluded before his death.

The more that is exposed about the decisions made during Levy’s rule, the more this legacy is exposed for what it truly is.

Today marks one year since Levy was announced dead and the debate of his legacy remains hot in all political circles yet many wish to call for a national suspension to this discussion.

(Lusaka / Guest Blogger)


  1. very very good reading, i must say. fmd, you have brought out a side that was right in front but we could not see. leaders will always make mistakes but we should never give up holding them accountable. zambias weakness is always letting things slide when we should be learning from the mistakes of others so that we dont repeat them. fmd, your last line just shows how this government wants to sweep dirt under the carpet, probably to hide their involvement in corruption.

  2. Wonder is; if mobile hospitals are a Levy project why is Rupiah Banda defending this decision to the extent of telling us two contradictory explanations?

  3. Interested to hear FMD's response to Frank's question, but there's also the broader question of what RB's place was in the Levy government.

    Was the VP just a bystander ?

    How much responsibility does RB carry for what occured during his time as VP?

    I suspect very little, if as we have been led to accept, power in Zambia is concentrated in the seating President's palm...

  4. The opposition have claimed that the idea of mobile hospitals is unfounded because the existing hospitals should be replenished. The Post newspaper also suggests that the mobile hospitals idea was intended to scam the public of much needed funds. There have been calls by chiefs to urge government to deliver these hearses and mobile hospitals but we will only know whether these are in good faith once the goods touchdown and people respond. Maybe this is one part of the legacy RB feels, is worth pursuing. It’s tricky trying to “continue with change”!

  5. It appears that Levy may have done a few things to bring development to Zambia but to commit us to a US$80 million court settlement whilst 80% of our people live below a US$1 a day, is grand mismanagement. We even forgot about the ZNOC issue, the KCM sale, ZNCB sale, K5 billion is his personal account at Finance Bank, the grand nepotism where his brother was appointed as head of intelligence and other relatives in ministerial positions, selective fight against corruption, etc. This man was no saint. Levy’s successes were mediocre and were nothing out of the ordinary and yet we forget so quickly how he abused our trust in him.

  6. This whole legacy thing is just nonsense if you ask me. With every new leader, there will be new direction. Levy did not leave anything to be cherished. He just did what he thought was right for his wife, his family and his relatives. Only then did he think about Zambian people. RB is doing the same today. He is unwinding this so called “Legacy” and then doing what he thinks is right. This is what happens when you change leadership. When RB leaves, will we be discussing his legacy too or will we be prosecuting him like FTJ? We need to grow out of this legacy nonsense and start holding leaders accountable!

  7. It is a pitty Levy is not alive to explain these irregular deals and Banda will have a hard time coming to terms with the decisions made in the past. Never-the-less, it is up to Banda to take Zambia forward and we can only do that by assessing past performance. I agree that this whole legacy thing is overated and that it should not be used to bury the past. Banda and Kunda are asking for trouble if they think we will sit idle and not question corruption during Levy's tenure.

  8. FMD, just tell the truth. You and I both know that Banda is flip flopping on Levy's legacy! The legacy looks sweet on the outside but has a bad after taste. Banda is better off carrying on with a strengthened agenda as opposed to carrying on with a legacy which will have disasterous consequences. Banda needs to be his own man and stop depending on a dead mans legacy!

  9. This is very interesting and sums up Zambia's opaque style of governance and leadership(using the term metaphorically as opposed to transparency).

    Whoever is elected, however well meaning they intend, seems they will explore this inadequacy and get lost in it. What does this mean?

    How about our values towards leaders and the people? How free are you to differ in opinion with your boss in Zambia, and what forum is available to debate in the absence of agreed practical operational procedures and your job protection after that? What we hear more is protocol, and surprisingly this term,after the mention of democracy.

    I would not be so much worried if the term 'whistle blowing' was widely used thereafter, but alas!

    I am aware this is a long debate. Folks, examine the following?

    1. How much do we fathom the powers of the president as the main ingredient in this broth? How much does this style of leadership spill to other executives.

    2. How come statutory bodies can't carry out their work independently in so many cases we have come across?

    3. As a Zambian student, your teacher is all knowing.
    How much of that do you think spills over in the way you handle your subordinates?

    4. In a job, much is the fear of being fired than ones pride and expression and that the company will be liquidated ultimately.

    Guys we have to fix the above trends. Give the people the pride to sail above the opinion of ones boss and circustances add passion to it and we will be in the right direction. Is it not so silly that whoever we entrust power,later we cant get our respect back?

    The truth will set Zambia free.

  10. What biased analysis! Levy was no saint. What with the giveaways of KCM, ZANACO etc, no wonder we are so poor. RB will not be any different. Already the hyped out sale of Zamtel disguises a $2m fee to RP Capital for giving an unprofessional valuation. Could the problem be that because Zambians talk so much, the political leaders have stopped hearing the real issues among the chatter? Progress comes from incremental changes being carried over from one leader to the next, from one generation to the next etc and not from know-it-all leadership that demands "respect for authority".

  11. FMD,

    You have maintained that it is tricky for President Banda to try to "continue with change", what kind of change or changes did the late Mwanawasa introduce that President Banda is attempting to continue to pursue?

    There are a lot of demands which a lot of Zambians expect to be addressed by the MMD government, but which do not seem to have received any attention at all -- such as demands for a smaller and more efficient government, free formal education (from Grade 1 to Grade 12), free life-saving healthcare for all Zambians, greater and sustained food security, improvements in infrastructure, greater employment opportunities, lower Pay-As-You-Earn and value-added taxes, lower interest rates, safer local communities, improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas, and a genuine effort to address the scourge of corruption.


All contributors should follow the basic principles of a productive dialogue: communicate their perspective, ask, comment, respond,and share information and knowledge, but do all this with a positive approach.

This is a friendly website. However, if you feel compelled to comment 'anonymously', you are strongly encouraged to state your location / adopt a unique nick name so that other commentators/readers do not confuse your comments with other individuals also commenting anonymously.