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Saturday, 9 July 2011

'No, You Can't Bring Along the Designer Suits And Shoes'

East African's Jenerali Ulimwengu on the moral poverty of Chiluba's legacy. :
One shop in Switzerland could report that on one occasion President Chiluba bought shoes worth $500,000. A picture of his shoe-rack shows some of these objets d’art, made out of crocodile, lizard and ostrich skin, complete with the monogram FC to announce His Excellency the wearer. At some point it was found that, for lack of cupboard space, Chiluba had hired a warehouse for his six hundred suits, all from the top drawers of the top designers of the world.

Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas, the Latin adage comes to mind. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. But honestly, this should be considered beyond the mere vanity of a small mind, and placed in the realm of the general study of the state of mental health in African high places. The desire to be so sumptuously suited and so luxuriously shod must have come from a subconscious flight from the spectre of millions of Zambians who walk around unclothed and unshod, a reminder of the humble beginnings of the man when he worked as a sisal cutter in the Tanganyika of yore. And this was a born-again Christian.
This assessment brought to the surface of my mind three things that characterised the recent mourning of Chiluba.

First, Chiluba prided himself as a "Christian leader". As Ulimwengu says "a born-again Christian". This is the president who after all declared Zambia a "Christian nation". When he was acquitted, he immediately attributed it to divine justice. Who can forget this video? But yet, there has been no assessment of how Christian measured to the highest ideals of Christendom.  We cannot evaluate Chiluba's legacy properly without assessing how he lived up to his faith because he made much of his alleged conversion to Christ.

Secondly, and related to the first, there was a distinct absence of any eulogies regarding his moral goodness. The Glorious Band have helpfully reminded us that funerals are the height of hypocrisy at which every uncle and nephew claims how the deceased was the nicest villager. We have seen no such assessment of Chiluba even by his hardent supporters, except imaginary assessment like "he gave birth to democracy". Okay, so you believe, but was he morally upright, humanly speaking?

Finally, we have seen an abrupt end to his mourning. When Levy Mwanawasa ("umwana wamwine") died, people were in shock and never stopped analysing his legacy. The burial of Chiluba seems to have come as a huge sigh of relief to many people. Its almost like his death was an inconvenience to the pending elections, right or wrongly. Such was the eagerness to forget Chiluba that fraudulent reports began to surface of other people who had also passed away.

In the final analysis, only God knows whether Chiluba's absence in body, means he is now present with Christ, as St Paul writes. But one can't escape Solomon's wise words, "A good and honest life is a blessed memorial; a wicked life leaves a rotten stench" (Proverbs 10:7 MSG). We look for a morally upright memorial from Chiluba's life and we see none. Yes, we see trade unionism, the grasp of power, unbridled determination and political dribbling. But are these investments that last for eternity?

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