Did Zimbabwe Have a Hand in the Death of President Mwanawasa?
By David Zulu.
The death of President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa on August 19, 2008 was one of the darkest periods in Zambian history, perhaps only surpassed by the tragic loss of the Zambia National Team off the coast of Gabon on 27th April 1993. These two sorrowful events brought the nation together in a way never witnessed in its history before.
President Mwanawasa’s untimely passing remains a sensitive and painful topic for most Zambians. Despite being initially viewed as a villain by his political opponents, he departed as a hero and symbol of hope and peace not only for Zambia but for the entire SADC Region.
Mwanawasa introduced a new style of leadership and governance in Zambia, characterized by accountability and prudence. However, this departure from the norm in Zambian politics garnered him immediate enemies, notably the late President Michael Chilufya Sata of the Patriotic Front. Sata vehemently opposed Mwanawasa, not due to policy differences but based on personal and ethnic reasons. ‘Nkulibonesha’ was a veiled vernacular idiom coined by President Sata himself, ironically in Mwanawasa’s mother tongue,describing his unworthiness to take up the mantle of leadership, allegedly reserved for tribes perceived as aristocratic.
It became clear that President Mwanawasa’s influence extended beyond Zambia and resonated throughout the SADC region. He had a style of openly addressing matters, even seemingly breaking diplomatic norms, which led him to touch upon taboo subjects and previously forbidden territories within SADC, with unusual candor and firmness.
This was particularly evident during his tenure as SADC Chairman where he publicly condemned the brutal attack on Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai by ZANU-PF thugs. This drew swift and harsh avalanche of criticisms from ZANU-PF, accusing him of promoting regime change and being a so called puppet of Western imperialists, a term often popular with African despots justifying human rights abuses against their own people, and their failure to democratise their nations. Consequently, relations between Zambia and Zimbabwe took a severe battering and nosedived.
Therefore, it was not surprising when senior ZANU-PF official Patrick Chinamasa revisited the history of President Mwanawasa’s death, warning current President Hakainde Hichilema that he would “live to regret” appointing Dr. Nevers Sekwila Mumba as Delegation leader of the SADC Troika Organ on elections, in the recent Zimbabweans election which President Emerson Mnangagwa was declared winner.
The SADC Organ, based in Botswana and chaired on rotational basis, currently by President Hichilema, observed that the Zimbabwean elections fell short of SADC election protocols and violated sections of the Zimbabwean constitution that called for fair and transparent elections.
In a statement published in Zimbabwean online newspapers, Patrick Chinamasa insinuated that Zimbabwe may have had a hand in President Mwanawasa’s death after he refused to change his stance on Zimbabwe’s political conduct and human rights record.
“Mwanawasa suffered a stroke, which put an end to the regime change agenda as a SADC-initiated project… President Hakainde Hichilema, perhaps unwittingly through Mumba’s appointment, reignited the flames of Western-inspired regime change in Zimbabwe and will live to regret it”.
The death threats against a sovereign Head of State of a neighboring country that shares deep historical and cultural ties, as well as common resources and a long border, are perplexing and extraordinary. The future relations of the two nations remain uncertain at least in public for now, but it raises pertinent questions that were prompted by ZANU PF itself: Did President Robert Mugabe have a role in the death of President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa?
Furthermore, what implications does this have for former President Edgar Lungu, the Patriotic Front, and Fred M’membe of the Socialist Party, who have openly supported a foreign power, that confesses to involvement in the death of a popular Zambian President and threatens the current Head of State of their sovereign country? I will respond using Patrick Chinamasa’s chilling satirical threat; “Yes Zambians have eyes to ‘eye’ and ears to ‘ear’.