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A glance at Mwanawasa as president of Zambia

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By Owen Miyanza

Today four years ago, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, Zambia’s fourth president died in France. Time is running fast but memories are still fresh of his good leadership.
Levy as a leader was not liked by many when he assumed the presidency in 2002. He only got about 2 percent over his close contestant late Anderson Kambela Mazoka ‘Mwanamubotu’ of UPND on that 2001 disputed election. Despite ascending to power through a disputed poll, Levy managed to win the support of the majority who did not vote or like him. He carried himself in an exemplary manner and brought respect to the rule of law.
Levy also brought respect to public resources through his anti-graft crusade that saw the man who handpicked him for the presidency – Frederick Chiluba be brought to face the law for abuse of office and alleged theft of public resources.
By the time he was going into the second year of his presidency Levy had won the support of not just his fellow citizens but even the international community.  The country’s economy started showing signs of growth. He had instilled confidence and created a conducive environment for investment, making Zambia one of the most idea destinations for foreign investment.
Levy did not look at a political party on his appointments to government position. He looked at the skills one possessed and made appointments on merit. He brought in professionals to help him steer the country to prosperity. Some of the notables he convinced to join politics and drafted them to his team are Ng’andu Mangande, who is the longest serving Minister of Finance, late George Kunda one of the country’s legal brains, Dr Brian Chituwo to mention but a few.
He assembled an ethically balanced but skilful team that included representation from the opposition. The appointment of Members from the opposition was not well received by the opposition especially Michael Sata and his PF. Sata condemned it though he is doing is now doing the same, I want to believe that it was well intended. Perhaps the mistake being made is that there is no consultation with the political parties where those appointed represent.
May be the ideal situation is that the republican president should be able to informing the party leader before making such an appointment if indeed it is well-intended. I will not dwell so much in that as we are remembering Levy Mwanawasa.
Levy in most cases put the interest of the country above personal interest, a very rare situation among politicians. Leaders normally will make populous decisions even if it has negative effect to the country. This was not the case with Levy; sometimes he made decisions which his party – MMD and government viewed as costly politically.
Levy always stood for the right no matter the consequences. For instance in the region politics, he spoke against the undemocratic tendencies exhibited by his neighbour – Robert Mugabe when everybody in the region was so scared to take on Mugabe publicly. He likened Zimbabwe whose economy at the time was on its knees to a sinking titanic.
The political impasse in Zimbabwe was worrying Levy and he wanted it resolved sooner than later. Insiders say he got little support from his colleagues in the region who didn’t want to tell Mugabe on his face that all was not well.
The Zimbabwe issue was expected to be tabled at the African Union Summit in Egypt that year – 2008. It is against this backdrop that according to those close to Levy he just had to attend though he was not feeling well.
It was during the AU Summit that he suffered a stroke, rushed to a Paris Military hospital in France where he spent a few weeks in Intensive Care Unit.  He died as a soldier on national duty!
Towards the end of his life he managed to prove and show sense to the man who had criticised him throughout his reign, Michael Chilufya Sata that he meant well for the country. Levy even became a darling of privately owned Newspaper The Post which was always critical of government.
When he was dying, the country was solely behind his leadership having reconciled and won the support of the then main opposition leader Michael Sata.
There is a lot we can learn from his leadership. His views and wishes for the country were video-recorded where he also apologised to those he offended during his reign. In my view Mwanawasa stands as one of the great leaders Zambia will ever have.
My prayer is that God continues to guide and comfort his family. Levy you ran your race and will always MISS u.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31