FREDRICK T.J. CHILUBA: From Musangu to Plot One

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FREDRICK T.J. CHILUBA: From Musangu to Plot One

By Boyd Chipili

The month of June should not just elapse without talking about this great leader of the soil.

Fredrick Chiluba finished his race on earth on the 18th of June, 2011 and was put to rest on the 27th of the same month. Just like Kenneth Kaunda, Chiluba died at a period when the Zambian political field was becoming very tense as the country was preparing for the September 20th general elections.

By the way, Kenneth Kaunda died on the 17th of June, 2021 during the campaign period for the 2021 general elections. As proud and free Zambians, it is important to look back, take a sigh of relief and critically think about the social-economic contributions that our present and past leaders have made to mother Zambia.

But who is Chiluba? Blessed with a litany of names, Fredrick Jacob Titus ‘Mpundu Kafupi’ Chiluba, was Zambia’s second republican president who occupied plot one from early November, 1991 to early January 2002. President Chiluba hailed from Musangu, a small village along the Luapula Valley in Mwense district on the Mansa–Nchelenge highway.

There is about 20 kilometres from Mwense town to Musangu village and about hundred and fifty kilometres from Mansa town. Reaching the newly opened Mwense Trades School is a clear indication that you are few metres away from Musangu. The village is not only home to Fredrick Chiluba and his relatives but also a village to Professor Dickson Mwansa, founder of the Zambian Open University and other prominent figures.

The diminutive president Zambia has ever produced stood at 1.5m tall. Many referred to him as the master dribbler and stands out as one of the cleverest presidents Africa has ever had. His speech ever tucked in charismatic poetry was forever eloquent and distinct. He spoke with an accent of European derivation that pierced through the ear to make love to the listener’s heart with shire conviction.

Chiluba knew how to address the crowds and would tell them exactly what they wanted to hear at every opportune time. He was a tactician and deep thinker right from his early years. He declared Zambia a Christian Nation and re-introduced multi party in Zambian governance system.

Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba was born on 30th April, 1943. He was only 21 years at the time Zambia got independence from the British colonialists. Records of evidence might not be enough and well archived but by the virtue of his character, there is no vacuum for doubt that he participated in one way or the other in the freedom struggle of Zambia.

FTJ did his primary education at Mambilima Special School and he went to Kawambwa Boys Secondary School in the early 1960s. Oral tradition and written records still confirm that Chiluba was a controversial pupil at Kawambwa Boys who on countless times influenced learners to ‘rise against’ the school management.

From Luapula, Chiluba trekked to the Copperbelt where he spent good years operating as a bus conductor and later became a councillor in the local government. Due to his gifted brain box and cunning approbation, FTJ became an accounts assistant at Atlas COPCO and it was here where his fame began to develop wings. He further went on to work for National Union Building in Ndola and all this was during the Kenneth Kaunda regime.

Climbing the ladder, Chiluba became president of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, the position which helped him push a thorn in Kaunda’s seat. He was arrested on some occasions but came out stronger than before.

The long process of returning Zambia to multi-party democracy had started especially towards the end of the 1980s. On 20th July 1990, a conference was held at Garden House Hotel in Lusaka and a new organisation was formed under the name Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). Some of the early members and founders of the MMD were Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika, Arthur Wina, Levy Mwanawasa, Edith Nawakwi, Mbita Chitala (then as Derick Chitala), Vernon Mwaanga, and others.

A committee was elected to spearhead the campaign for the re-introduction of multi-partism. The committee chairperson was Arthur Wina, while Frederick Chiluba and Vernon Mwaanga were elected vice-chairpersons and Akashambatwa Lewanika was elected secretary.

Following the meeting the team had, Chiluba came out as MMD presidential Candidate for the 1991 presidential and general elections.

Following the elections which were held on 31st October 1991, Chiluba defeated Kaunda; making him the second president of Zambia. Chiluba got 75.77 per cent of the total votes cast, giving Kaunda only 24.23 per cent. 29 December 1991 saw Zambia taking a new trajectory in matters of faith and worship. President Chiluba who was barely two months in office, while addressing the nation at State House, declared Zambia a Christian Nation.

The country was offered to Jesus in all its entirety; from political, social and economic. Since then, the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation has been enshrined in the Constitution and the country is known as one that practises Christian morals.

Even if he did not own any church, FTJ was a ‘pastor’ in his own right. Given an opportunity at any occasion to give a word of prayer, Chiluba would pray fervently, touching emotions of the crowds or congregants. On one occasion during the burial of the football team and the crew (Gabon disaster victims) at the Independence stadium in Lusaka, Chiluba gave a moving prayer which sent the entire crowd wailing in sorrow.

During his tenure as president of Zambia, Chiluba worked with four vice-presidents namely Levy Mwanawasa, Godfrey Miyanda, Christon Tembo, and Enoch Kavindele. FTJ tried to push for the third term of his office but parliament and other civil society organisations didn’t tolerate his agenda.

Chiluba hanged his boots and handed over the presidential gloves to Levy Patrick Mwanawasa his first vice-president.

There are several achievements attributed to Chiluba which should be appreciated and cherished. He re-introduced the multiparty democracy system. This resulted into the formation of many political parties in the country and freedom of speech was guaranteed to some extent. Up to this day Zambia has embraced multi-partism, thanks to FTJ and colleagues.

He liberalised the economy through the introduction of free market economy. He followed the capitalist system of the economy; citizens and the private sector were at liberty to participate in the economy of the country and free to own property. Transport and communication greatly improved.

Private sector participated in the transportation system. Enough buses for public transport were imported for the first time since independence and other forms of transport were seen on the Zambian roads.

Chiluba also embarked on infrastructure development by constructing public amenities such as schools, hospitals, and roads. The Katima Mulilo Bridge in Sesheke, Western Province linking Zambia and Namibia was constructed during the reign of Chiluba.

He declared Zambia a Christian Nation and it has been enshrined in the Zambian Constitution.

We need to honour Fredrick Chiluba by building a national infrastructure especially in Luapula or Lusaka. He was a true son of mother Zambia and he should be remembered well. Indeed we are proud and free.

The author is a historian who has also written books. Send feedback to: chipilimutaleb@gmail.com, phone +260-978-483107.

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