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Zambia: Netizens Shocked by Death of Former President

Waking up in the morning of Saturday June 18, 2011, I was greeted by social network buzz that Zambia’s second president Frederick Chiluba had died. It was shocking news to all and little wonder it was received with utmost caution on Twitter and Facebook where it broke out first.

The caution this time around was understandable because just over two years ago, when Zambia’s third president, the late Levy Mwanawasa was hospitalised in France after suffering a stroke while visiting Egypt, an announcement was made about his death which was broadcast all over the world later turned out to be false. Mwanawasa died two weeks later.

Zambia’s second president Frederick Chiluba. Photo courtesy of Zambia Chronicle

According to information oline, Chiluba died around 00.05 hours. The first tweet that came on my list was posted slightly more than hour after his death from geshgroove:

 

Reports out of Zambia are saying that 2nd Republican President FJT Chiluba passed away in Lusaka a few minutes ago.awaiting further details.

An hour later, another tweet followed from ZambiaOnline:

Former President FJT Chiluba has died http://fb.me/103B1UIvl

The following tweet came from a private radio station QfmZambia:

Information reaching Q-FM is that former president Dr FTJ Chilua dead shortly after mid night. Details will follow as soon as we get them.

An online radio tweeted the death with a question mark:

FORMER PREZ FTJ DEAD?

Tweep and blogger MissBwalya also sought confirmation for the death of Zambia’s second president:

Can anyone confirm or deny reports coming in that #Zambia‘s former pres, FTJ, has died?

Another tweep, responded to MissBwalya:

@missbwalya I went to Muvi TV website and there is nothing about that news. (The website was later updated with the news)

MissBwalya also tweeted about how she could not get any news on state-owned radio stations:

Listened to Q-FM, Radio Phoenix, Radio 1 & Radio 4 for last half hour. No one has mentioned anything of FTJ death. #Zambia

What appeared to be definite confirmation of Chiluba’s death came through the following tweet:

@NKabalata my newsroom people are saying it is confirmed.

Munshyamunshya wondered if it could just be a rumour:

@missbwalya could it be a rumour?

MissBwalya responds with her distaste for rumour mongering which sometimes is a pastime for Zambians:

@munshyamunshya It could be a rumour. I don't like people spreading such stories without citing their source.

It is common in Zambia for radio and TV stations to suspend playing of secular music in favour of gospel music after the death of a politician who has held high political office. This appeared ominous to missbwalya:

Radio Phoenix & Q-Fm have started playing gospel music. Is this a sign? #FTJ #Zambia

The finality of Chiluba’s demise on my Twitter list came with this tweet:

I am listening live to Emmanuel Mwamba, the late President Fredrick Chiluba's spokesman confirming on QFM that he has past on.

Elsewhere on the Internet, the Zambian Watchdog broke the story some five hours after Chiluba’s death and within two hours there were more than 170 comments expressing a dichotomy of views of the man whose reign will be remembered more for his criminal conduct while in office for which he was controversially cleared. Chiluba was acquitted through what is largely thought to be the intervention of President Rupiah Banda who made Chiluba his political consultant.

Here are some of the comments left by readers [the site does not have permanent link for individual comments]. BossMan said:

MHSRIP. THIS IS INDEED A SAD DAY FOR ZAMBIA. WE HAVE LOST A GREAT LEADER AGAIN

WATERSHED 2011 wondered if Chiluba is canonised in death.

In death, he is a saint? Indeed REST in Peace.

In very few words, reflecting on what great things Chiluba would have achieved during his presidency, Legal Crime takes away with a caveat below:

Condolences to Mrs. Chiluba. Suffice to say that chiluba had a great opportunity to go into the annals of history as one of the greatest african statesmen…whatever went wrong!!!

BossMan was not happy with the comments by others:

BE SERIOUS SOME OF YOU BLOGGERS, GROW UP! ARE THESE THE KIND OF COMMENTS YOU CAN BE POSTING WHEN YOUR FRIENDS ARE MOURNING? HAVE RESPECT THAT MAN FOR TEN YEARS TOOK CARE OF YOUR ***

BossMan was quickly countered by Lamborgini:

No BossMan, he took care of your ass and screwed the rest of us. You idiot nigga!

However, the general feeling in the nation was summed up by a contributor called Chocked:

Its extremely sad but no one can turn back death when time comes. We all had mixed feelings about his political career but this is the time to unite as a nation. MHSRP.

The Lusaka Times website went further than just announcing the former president’s death by doing an obituary of his rise from humble beginnings to the highest political office in the land. As usual, the story attracted comments commending the man and those condemning him.

Mushota said:

The man is dead let us not sensationalise this news. The man embezzled millions and millions of pounds. He is not a hero, he is a villain! Making this too much news worthy and bringing your crocodile tears on this blog will not bring any sympathy from me, or anyone who is smart and intelligent like me

Its unfortunate he is died, but let him go away. Let us talk about better life, X factor, Cheryl Cole.
Grow up and go back and improve the country and have some breakfast. He died a pain free death, unlike Mr Mwanwasa. If you want to mourn, mourn Mr Mwanwasa. Use your brains. Thanks

In reference to the forthcoming elections in which the ruling MMD is facing serious challenge in its 20 year reign from the opposition Patriotic Front, Nubian Princess had this to say:

Chiluba’s death is symbolic to the end of the MMD Era…

Please donate those 300 pairs of booties to the street children. The money used to purchase them in the first place should have improved their living conditions

A more sober analysis came from Kwandangala says:

Chabipa kamudala (sad, little man). But your iniquities will overshadow the good you did.

Munshya remembers Chiluba with a post titled “A Short Man who Walked Tall: Life and Times of Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba (1948—2011)”:

Here a man without High School education worked hard as a bus conductor to read a few A Level courses which he later admitted to have flanked. Additionally, not to be outdone by his many challenges, Chiluba went as far as Tanzania looking for opportunities. When he came back to Zambia in his twenties, he translated the knowledge he acquired while working in the Tanzanian Sisal industry into good use. He used his courageousness and his fearlessness to become a defender of his fellow workers. Through the trade union, a diminutive Chiluba had found an opportunity to talk and walk the tallest.

When Kenneth Kaunda legislated that all trade unions would be amalgamated and controlled from one umbrella body, little did he know that one of the leaders that would use this umbrella body to oust him was Frederick Chiluba. Indeed Chiluba used and enjoyed the visibility that his stature gave him. And as an outspoken member of the unions, it was just natural that the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions would appoint him its leader. The leadership position he held until 1991 when he was elected president of the Republic.

Whatever one’s views on the death of Chiluba, it closes a political chapter in which citizens regained their social, political and economic freedoms denied under the one party, socialist-like system of his predecessor, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, now 87.

One question remains:

How will Chiluba be remembered? That is the question.

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