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Zambia: Violence at Chiluba's Funeral Gathering

Zambia’s second President, Frederick Chiluba is every bit as controversial in death as he was alive. Chiluba’s funeral wake, a tradition in Zambian where mourners gather from the day a person dies up to the time of burial, has been marked with violence and political manoeuvrings.

Dr Chiluba died from suspected heart complications in the early hours of June 18, 2011. He was a known heart patient who used to frequent South African hospitals for specialist treatment particularly between 2002 and 2008, at the height of his court cases when he was charged with plunder of national resources involving millions of US dollars.

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

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

Just a few hours after Dr Chiluba died and people started gathering at his home in the leafy suburb of Kabulonga, less than two kilometres from State House, the seat of government he occupied for ten years from 1991 to 2001, the vocal provincial chairman of the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) for Lusaka, William Banda issued a warning to all politicians and journalists who had been critical of the former president.

In particular, Banda had in mind opposition the Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata who for the last two and half years has been campaigning for this year’s forthcoming elections on the grounds that he would re-instate Chiluba’s court cases and send him to jail if found guilty. Sata and his party members had accused President Rupiah Banda of interfering in the judiciary to free the former president. What had made matters worse was that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) refused to appeal to the High Court, a lower court decision to acquit Dr Chiluba.

Also banned from visiting the funeral house were journalists from private media organisations such as the Post and Radio Phoenix.

In the wake of Banda’s statements, a leader of a small opposition party, Cosmo Mumba, Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) leader and former minister under Chiluba, Edith Nawakwi, Reverend Edith Mutale and a reporter from Radio Phoenix were reportedly harassed.

As a result of Banda’s warning and the cases of violence that have been reported so far, Sata and his senior party officials have resolved not to attend the funeral.

The Zambian Watchdog a few hours after Dr Chiluba’s death, quoted Banda saying:

As the party in the province we have directed our youth wing to be vigilant of the people who want to politicize the funeral of the late second republican president Chiluba, hence for security purposes we shall not allow some people to enter the house where the funeral is being hosted and those people know themselves better, and this also goes to a media house which has been against Chiluba, it should not even think of attending the funeral this is an MMD arrangement.

Ironically, President Chiluba had deported Banda to neighbouring Malawi in the first few years of his presidency. Banda was a staunch former ruling party, UNIP member and governor of a rural district who had been harassing the then opposition MMD members even whipping those unfortunate enough to have directly crossed his path. He only came back to Zambia after he was pardoned by President Levy Mwanawasa, the man who took over from Chiluba and now late.

Readers were not amused:

Mr. Capitalist – 3 E's steering economic growth wrote:

Mwa yamba (you have started it). Mr. William Banda, just behave yourself. Let us bury the man. Stop it with the politics. Can’t we have just one event without politics. I don’t understand this country. Even though I support MMD, I do not support this cheap move by Mr. William Banda.

Another contributor, ZHOBOO, had this to say:

William Banda is a bandit. – Recipe for Disaster. Stop SATA and hang yourself.

How can SATA miss Chiluba’s funeral? He has nothing to do with his death. MMD over used Mr Chiluba and should be ashamed, not SATA. What are you achieving by SATA not going to his friend’s funeral. Chiluba supported SATA, then switched sides and supported MMD. Did PF say MMD should not attend funeral because they took Chiluba to court?

Fellow Zambians, no sensible person can find Chiluba’s passing on a case in Mr SATA.
We will see how RB reacts to this threat because if no Govt official or police inspector fail to condemn the SATA is free to use what ever means he can to be a the funeral even if it means ordering body guards to carry firearms for self protection.

More condemnation of Banda from lums law:

Wow!! I All the sentiments submitted on this thread are so unanimous against William Banda. The man is a waste of space and should be “retired” in the right way. Friends and foes alike all come together in times of sadness; what kind of old man is William Banda? Where is his wisdom? Or is there something to hide from FTJ’s death…? Wise up please! FTJ rest in peace despite the problems you left us behind.

The Zambia Police issued a statement quoted by Lusaka Times, denying harassment reports at the funeral gathering but netizens would have none of it:

Div nafuti says:

Marubbish (rubbish)!! so yu mean all these pipo ie cosmo, nawakwi, mutale, radio phoenix gal et al are all liers?? Iwe kasiamana is that wat yu were taught at lilayi (police college) to sit in yo scrafy offices and wait until a crime has been commited??? What the hell are yo CIOs doin? Answer my question!!!

Another contributor, Zambians Being fed, calls for extreme measures against Banda:

This mentality of the Police sitting back whenever William Banda is committing genocide will one day blow over in turn into a big civil catastrophe. Is the president not aware of the violence this guy is causing? or may be he has the blessings of Rupiah. And on the other hand, don’t we have assassins in this country to ki.ll this sun.of.a.bitc.h William? The Police and the MMD should try and safeguard the peace by both acting to prevent violence, bring to book perpetrators.

One blogger, Elias Munshya wa Munshya, explains why Sata should attend Dr Chiluba’s funeral without let or hindrance, tracing the long political history the two have had over time. Sata served in various portfolios in the Chiluba administration. He was national secretary—the equivalent of chief executive—of the ruling party and at one time as minister without portfolio, third in the government hierarchy. Elias says:

The news that a group within the MMD has been formed to keep Michael Sata from coming to the funeral of President Frederick Chiluba should be a concern to all peace loving Zambians. In fact, even our gallant security wings have fallen prey to this gibberish by entreating Michael Sata to stay away from the funeral—in the name of “security”. The very thought that it could come to this is not only ridiculous but insolently immature. I wish to argue in this article that Michael Sata should be allowed to attend and mourn his former boss. This is consistent with our common humanity.

Those who believe that Sata had been an enemy of Dr. Chiluba have chosen to look at a fraction of history and ignored the whole. They are simply being economical with reality. There has not been any true enmity between Chiluba and Sata. What existed were mere political interests that took these two gentlemen in different directions—only since 2008.

Chiluba’s political influence will still be manifest in death considering that at the time of his death, he was considered as incumbent president Banda’s political consultant who promised to deliver opposition strongholds of the Copperbelt, Luapula and Northern Provinces where the majority of his ethnic Bemba-related groups reside to the MMD.

But the ruling party also stands to lose in the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year if government fails to convince people on why Chiluba was not evacuated to either a local hospital or abroad, letting him to die at home.

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