Levy’s Legacy Debates

By Munshya Wa Munshya

There has been several concerns from various quarters within the Zambian political establishment about whether and how much the current President Rupiah Banda and his government have either betrayed or enhanced the legacy of the late President Levy Mwanawasa. Ng’andu Magande, a former Finance Minister, has been a vocal critic of Rupiah and his government’s betrayal of the legacy of Levy Mwanawasa. George Mpombo, a former minister of Defense, has on several occasions expressed the same opinions. Quite recently a cabinet minister in Rupiah Banda’s government Gabriel Namulambe openly criticized the president and expressed how saddened the Lamba people have been over what is perceived as the betrayal of the late Lamba President’s legacy. In fact, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa’s son Patrick has also been very defensive of his father’s legacy and has on occasions voiced disappointments with the way President Banda have handled Mwanawasa’s legacy.

On the other hand, the current government has been defensive of its approach towards Levy Mwanawasa. Vice-President George Kunda who served as Mwanawasa’s cabinet minister and close confidant has defended the current government to all issues Mwanawasa. Additionally, President Banda himself has categorically pointed out that contrary to what his critics are saying, he has enhanced Mwanawasa’s legacy in the few months that he has been in office.

Talk about preserving Mwanawasa’s legacy has revolved around several things. First, it has been about the fight against corruption which Mwanawasa was very well known for. The prosecution of former President Frederick Chiluba was a clear demonstration on Mwanawasa’s part that he was not going to condone corruption and in this regard no one was above the law. Mwanawasa would routinely suspend most public workers once they are cited for corruption. The second legacy is that of economic development, in the seven years of Mwanawasa’s presidency Zambia’s economy grew rapidly and quickly grew its foreign reserves. With the economic prudence of Mwanawasa’s Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande and Caleb Fundanga, Bank of Zambia governor, the rate of inflation was kept at bay and all economic indicators were positive to say the least. The third legacy that won Mwanawasa’s praise concerns tribal balancing. It is generally admitted that having come from the Lamba and Lenje tribal backgrounds, Mwanawasa was more willing to accommodate Zambians from a whole spectrum of tribes to work with him for the development of Zambia. Mwanawasa’s cabinet was one of the most tribally balanced Cabinet Zambia has ever had in many years.

Proponents like Magande, Mpombo, and Namulambe seem to blame the current government as the sole betrayer of Mwanawasa’s legacy. And indeed Rupiah Banda’s association with former President Frederick Chiluba has not helped matters at all. Rupiah Banda’s association with Chiluba who had a sour relationship with Mwanawasa has not been well received by some of those who were closest to Mwanawasa and who apparently have since been sidelined by Rupiah Banda.

In this article I wish to state that Rupiah Banda and his government should not be blamed for the perceived failure on their part to keep Levy’s legacy. It is my argument that the failure to keep Levy’s legacy lies on Levy himself. I believe this to be so for several reasons.

First, the greatest test of one’s legacy does not lie with the service he rendered alone, but rather by the succession plan he left behind. As such, Levy’s legacy should not be interpreted in terms of the services or activities he did alone. For itself, economic development or the fight against corruption should not be the only measures of Levy’s legacy but rather his succession plan should be considered too. As a politician and lawyer Levy had the opportunity to reflect on his succession. And according to his plan, out of the many brilliant people he had in his MMD and from the general population he went to the village in Chipata to pick a retired politician who had moved to his home village to become his Vice-President. Without even considering whether this was the kind of a person he would like to entrust his legacy to, Levy nevertheless, went ahead and appointed Rupiah Banda to be his number two. As a lawyer Levy knew very well, that a vice-president becomes a defacto president in the event that the president is incapacitated, and as a politician he should have known that an acting president in Zambia, enjoying the gift of incumbency would stand a huge chance of becoming president of Zambia and eventually succeed him. Regardless of how much corruption he was going to fight and regardless of how much Zambia’s economy grew, without a good successor to his presidency all of this good legacy would disappear as soon as Levy passed away.

The second reason is just like the first one, by choosing Rupiah Banda to be his vice-president, Mwanawasa had chosen his legacy. He had chosen the way he was going to be remembered by the people of Zambia. Rupiah Banda was levy’s legacy that he left for Zambia. And blaming Rupiah Banda for not following on Levy’s legacy is very unfortunate and unfair; in fact, Rupiah and Levy had nothing in common. They did not have a shared vision, and they did not have a shared passion. But the fact that Levy chose Rupiah anyway to be his vice-president goes to show how careless or reckless Levy himself was with regard to what he wanted Zambia to remember him by. In Bemba there is a saying which goes; “Ubufumu bucindika umwine” by appointing a person who had nothing in common with himself Levy had shown lack of respect for his own legacy.

Mpombo, Namulambe, Chitala, Magande should give Rupiah Banda a break. For him it was just sangwapo, he was just taken from his farm in Chipata to come and become Levy’s successor. It would be too much to expect anything much from him in the first place.

Thirdly, we could have been talking of something else now, had Levy for example kept Nevers Mumba as vice-president. Nevers is one of a few vice-presidents Levy actually said shared a common vision for Zambia with. Nevers spoke against corruption just as much as Mwanawasa. It is a pity that due to some political and foreign affairs mishap Nevers had to be dropped. He was nevertheless going to be a good legacy from Levy. Ng’andu Magande could have been a good legacy too. Magande as Finance Minister presided over an economy that grew in unprecedented ways. It is also said that Magande was Levy’s preferred successor. It is reported that Mwanawasa had told Magande this, and Levy’s widow Dr. Maureen Mwanawasa broke her customary silence during the mourning of her departed husband to support Magande’s bid to be the MMD’s presidential candidate. But that was not to be, because in as much as Levy preferred Magande to succeed him, he had by choice chosen Rupiah Banda to be his vice-president thereby giving Rupiah the advantage to become the gauge of Levy’s legacy.

We may say whatever we may say, but Rupiah Banda is not entitled to keep Levy’s legacy. To the contrary Rupiah Banda was the greatest legacy that Levy left for Zambia, and only history will tell us what kind of legacy it was. As for now, we know that Rupiah Banda did not share an iota of Levy’s brain.

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