Rupiah Banda

[By Michael B Munyimba]

By the time you are reading this today, July the 8th, KK will have been buried already, or about to be.

What a solemn period this past month has been for Zambia, Africa and the world! Not only did Zambia lose its first president but several important people too, such as Chief Justice Irene Mambilima, former minister in the Chiluba era Newstead Zimba and other senior guys in government. This sparked all sorts of whispered speculation in dark corners ati ‘Tiyende Pamodzi’, thus changing the original meaning of KK’s slogan to imply ‘mass exodus’ to the grave in escort of a ‘king’ that had died. I am sure you know what I mean.

But, of course, when a giant tree such as KK falls, you expect all kinds of blubber from people, perhaps due to the state of shock they find themselves in. The man was far from ordinary, most people described him as being bigger than life itself. He had transcended beyond the beacons of fame and greatness, and news of his demise became almost unbearable to all of us.

As we put the old man to rest ending the 21-day mourning period, we can only say, go well KK! And thank you Colonel Panji for allowing his remains to be flown to all provincial centres for the country to bid him farewell, though there were speculations that he, Panji, had a physical clash with one of his younger siblings who did not append his signature to that idea. But well, whether that is true or not, it seems the Colonel ‘won’ that fight, as we all saw the whole transition run successfully to the end.

Now, sadly, barely a day after his passing, some unscrupulous individuals found it amusing and began posting false information about other important people they claimed had also passed on. And among them were Fisho Mwale and former president Rupiah Banda. The rumours were so bad and had spread like wild fire on social media. The two actually had to come on national television to dispel the rumours and assure the nation that much as they may be ailing, they are still alive and kicking.

It is, indeed, very disheartening to note that we have in our midst some dysfunctional mindsets that find joy in abusing social media and take pleasure in wishing others dead. Why would a normal person do that? People such as Rupiah Banda are important national trophies, and as such, should be loved and honoured and wished long life; and not wishing them dead.

It is against that backdrop that I saw it imperative to pay tribute to president Rupiah Bwezani Banda, reminding my readers of the significance of this noble man by excavating some of the great works he did for not just Zambia, but the region at large. This is with the hope that this will teach these people that they are playing with fire. And that they should no longer stoop so low next time, and that perhaps they will learn to treasure and appreciate our heroes.

One of Banda’s greatest hallmarks was when he was made president of what was called the United Nations Council for South West, which later became United Nations Council on Namibia in 1974, which was effectively the government of Namibia. He was practically in charge of Namibia for several years while the liberation movement of that country, the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), led by Sam Nujoma battled South African Boer colonialists in the bush. This he did while the matter of South Africa’s disputed mandate over the territory was being resolved. All activities of that country during that period had to be authorised by RB. The council was dissolved in 1990 when Namibia got independence.

So, in other words, you could actually say that our own RB was once ‘president’ of Namibia. What a trophy for Zambia! And thanks to KK who is believed to have recommended him to the council. How many politicians have ever been granted such a mandate in a foreign country? None. And for those who may not know, let me just shade a bit of light on this iconic hero who held several important posts in and outside Zambia, including ministerial ones such as foreign minister and lands minister.

He was born in Zimbabwe on the 19th of February 1937 and was Zambia’s 4th president. Banda was UNIP’s representative in Northern Europe in the early 1960s, and in 1965 he was appointed as Zambia’s ambassador to Egypt. He was also appointed ambassadar to the United States on the 7th of April 1967 where he served for two years. Banda later returned to Zambia as chief executive for the Rural Development for about two years and subsequently as general manager for the National Agriculture Marketing Board (NAMBOARD).

He was also permanent representative to the United Nations and was later appointed minister of foreign affairs. Banda was also given the task of trying to broker a cease-fire in Angola. He was also member of parliament for Munali in 1978 and on October 9, 2006, he was appointed the country’s vice-president by late president Levy Mwanawasa.

Prior to the planned summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2007, RB was sent by Mwanawasa to improve relations with neighbouring Zimbabwe following the latter’s criticism of then president Robert Mugabe. He finally took over from Mwanawasa as president of Zambia in September 2008 after the former died in Paris while on official duty.

So, that’s the summary curriculum vitae of a man some lunatics take for granted. Let’s honour our heroes while they are alive. RB is a legend with one of the best biographies on this land. That’s why Mwanawasa honoured him together with KK. In fact, now with the demise of KK, RB remains as the father of Zambia. Long live RB and go well Dr Kaunda!/EC

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