By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
June 19, 2016
June 18th, 2016 was the 5th Anniversary of the death if Zambia’s second president, President Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba.
The question asked by Mr. George Chomba on the 5th anniversary of the death of President Chiluba is whether Chiluba was a hero or villain, reflecting post-death. The article seems to conclude that Chiluba has been consigned to the category of villain. Chomba writes, “Dr. Chiluba remains the only former heard of state not to have been honoured by successive governments despite being the pioneer of democracy and free market economy…he left an indelible mark on the conscience of the nation and transformation of the economy. Yet Dr. Chiluba is hardly recognized as a significant political player and a trendsetter”. Chomba itemizes all the honours bestowed on other leaders and the institutions named after them, but no institution has been named after Chiluba despite his acknowledged and stated contribution to Zambia.
Unfortunately Chomba does not try to give reasons as to why Chiluba has been neglected or who specifically neglected him. Is it because of the massive taint of corruption that was smeared on him? Perhaps. Did those charges stick? Who was responsible for not resuscitating his image?
We all learnt as children that when you point your fingers at the alleged perpetrator of your ills or misfortunes, more fingers point back at you. It is my thesis that it is the MMD government that eventually painted him as a villain. His very successor whom he had hand picked labelled him as corrupt and stripped him of his immunity. There was supposed to be a Chiluba Institute of Industrial Relations near Arcades shopping complex which the MMD tore down. The MMD governed for another 10 years before losing power and during that time, they never named any building, or institution after the modern father of Zambian democracy, Chiluba. You could not expect the Sata government to name buildings after Chiluba when Chiluba bypassed Sata when he named his successor. Sata remembered significant national heroes and named airports after them: Kenneth Kaunda, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Harry Mwanga Nkumbula airports.
President Banda of MMD governed for three years before losing power, he didn’t see fit to honour Chiluba in those three years. He forgot his Wako ni Wako mantra that has served him so well elsewhere.
The other thesis is that Chiluba has been neglected because Zambia is imbued with the politics of revenge. Because when one is in power, he or she dishes out favours to his or her friends and relatives and rules dictatorially without let so that when they are ousted from power, revenge, justified or unjustified runs in the veins of the new governors. The previously detained and tear-gassed become the new detainers and tear-gassers.
Chiluba thought President Kaunda had mistreated him so he engaged in revenge politics. Unjustifiably even trying to revoke his citizenship. Those that Chiluba had wronged while in power teamed up to label Chiluba as corrupt leading to his loss of immunity and court cases. Mwanawasa and Sata died before completing their terms so no one could come after them. God took care of that. But before Sata died, he had an occasion to strip Banda of his immunity and criminally charged.
Studying the brief history of Zambia, I can predict with almost 100 percent certainty that President Lungu after loosing power after this election or if he wins power until 2021, he will be stripped of his immunity and criminally charged because every President has been subjected to the same treatment, with slight variation in respect of President Kaunda. Chiluba probably endured the worst form of treatment. Common law politics of precedents has been set in Zambia, and precedents are powerful inducements.
Zambia has to stop revenge politics. But before that, Zambian leaders have to stop being corrupt, they have to stop cadre violence, they have to stop using illegally the Public a Order Act, they have to stop behaving as if they are Gods on earth and that they will never lose power. All empires eventually collapse and the unrelenting tool of accountability takes over. It rarely fails.
On this 5th anniversary of the death of Chiluba, it has to be pointed out that Chiluba is not forgotten, that not all is lost and that eventually his proper place in the history of Zambia will be recorded and buildings and institutions will be named after him. This rebuilding of the Chiluba image is already underway. For example, Charles Mwewa has dedicated his 1100-page book on Zambia, the biggest and best book ever written on Zambia so far, entitled, Zambia:Struggles of My People & Western Contribution to Corruption and Underdevelopment in Africa to President Chiluba. The book is found both at Bookworld and Planet Books in Lusaka.
In his dedication, Charles says this: “Frederick T.J Chiluba, April 30th, 1943- June 18th, 2011. You died exactly one month before the proposed launch of this book. I would have loved you to read for yourself, especially on the Chiluba Matrix, Chapter 32. Despite the matrix, you will always be the standard by which the strength of Zambian democracy will be judged. And, indeed, ‘it is true that your greatest gift to Zambia was the establishment of a lasting and sound democratic system'”.There is so much positive written about Chiluba in this book, it is a neutral rather than biased evaluation that rings through. Chapter 32 extols the victory of Chiluba, in context.
The colonialists stated that “if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book”. Or use weapons of mass destruction. They colonized us by requiring us to sign a written contract, a contract which we never read because firstly, it was written, and we don’t read, secondly it was written in a language we did not know. To rehabilitate Chiluba and his significant contribution to Zambia, Zambians ought to read about what he did for Zambia, beginning with Charles Mwewa’s book and George Chomba’s article and not forgetting Richard Sakala’s book: A Mockery of Justice. We should annihilate the habit of not reading certain books because they were written by our alleged enemies or because those books extol the virtues of people we hate. When you point at someone who you allegedly think is uncivilized, look at who the majority of your figures are pointing at.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University. He is the compiler of a book found at Bookworld and Planet Books entitled, The Case Against Tribalism in Zambia.