DID you know that the late President Levy Mwanawasa in 2005 accused Fred M’membe of habouring presidential ambitions but Fred vehemently refused?

For details, follow the excerpt below from

(Conversations with Memorable Personalities)

REMINDER: Do you recall that President Mwanawasa predicted [or foretold], in his WILL, that he would die whilst in office and would be mourned by a multitude of people across the country?

In November 2005, at the height of The Post’s differences with the government, Fred penned down one of the most caustic editorial comments against President Mwanawasa. This was during the public debate concerning the Constitution making process. The Post, as expected, had taken a harder line on the matter.

Irritated by the newspaper’s attacks on the matter, President Mwanawasa challenged M’membe to come out in the open and declare his political intentions instead of continuing to hide behind the newspaper in the name of press freedom or freedom of expression and attack his political rivals.

“Who doesn’t know that Fred M’membe has presidential ambitions?” President Mwanawasa asked at a public meeting. “Let him come out in the open so we can meet on a political podium and I will crush him!”

Following that statement, Fred M’membe questioned Mwanawasa’s ability to run the country’s affairs in a more rational manner. He condemned what he called as President Mwanawasa’s “foolishness, stupidity and lack of humility”.

“We say this because it is very difficult for us to understand how a man can erupt like a volcano when a simple, humble and honest advice is given to him,” the editorial comment read in part.

Consequently, the police launched a manhunt for M’membe. Both his residence and offices were surrounded by the police. The following day on November 8, 2005, Fred surrendered himself at Kabwata Police Station in Lusaka where he was charged with criminal libel and detained for a few hours before he was released on bond at the close of the day.

A few days later, Zambia’s first president the late Dr Kenneth Kaunda visited M’membe at his office to offer him solidarity. Fred told Dr Kaunda how he was so shocked to hear President Mwanawasa accuse him of harbouring presidential ambitions.

This particular experience appeared to have shaken or at least troubled Fred M’membe because President Mwanawasa expressed his anger in an extraordinary manner, followed by police action.

“Does Levy really believe I have presidential ambitions?” Fred asked me in the aftermath of his arrest.

“This time around he sounds like he is really serious about it,” I answered as Fred continued: “Aba bantu kuti banjipaya fye for nothing [these people can just kill me for nothing. Go and tell your friend [President Mwanawasa] that I don’t have such ambitions. He can accuse me of anything else, not presidential ambitions.”

That’s how I phoned President Mwanawasa indicating that I was a bearer of a special message and was asking for an opportunity to deliver the same.

President Mwanawasa granted me the request and I…

(An excerpt from Conversations with Memorable Personalities)


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