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Zambia: Chiluba Funeral Donation Call Raises Eyebrows

Zambian netizens have received an appeal by their government to donate money towards an estimated US$1 million towards the funeral costs of the late former president Frederick Chiluba with incredulity considering that barely two and half years ago there was massive abusive of resources towards the funeral of the then incumbent president Levy Mwanawasa.

The government declared Chiluba’s funeral a state funeral like those of people serving at the position of deputy minister, minister and higher positions or have served in these positions in the past. Ordinarily, the government foots most, if not all, of the associated bills.

Former Zambian president Dr Frederick Chiluba after being acquitted on six charges of embezzling US$ 500,000.  Photo by Harrison Tuku, copyright Demotix (16/08/09).

Former Zambian president Dr Frederick Chiluba after being acquitted on six charges of embezzling US$ 500,000. Photo by Harrison Tuku, copyright Demotix (16/08/09).

In typical Zambian tradition, donations include money and materials such as food. In the case of Chiluba, nearly all Zambians old enough to understand a bit of politics knew him. Naturally, an appeal to help towards his funeral would attract the attention of businessmen, companies and other well-wishers to generously donate towards the funeral.

For the business fraternity, to be seen to be donating to such a cause has two-fold benefits for them. One, it is an opportunity to advertise themselves and two, it ensures that they appear in good books with the ruling government in the hope that they could get favours. For ordinary citizens struggling to put food on the table, it is simply another tax.

Governmnet spokesman and Minister of Information Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha was quoted by the Lusaka Times saying government needed about K4.6 billion or about US$1 million, for the funeral, saying it had so far raised between K2 billion and K2.5 billion.

He said the money would go towards the burial and accommodate administrative and logistics for the funeral and that it was for this reason that government was appealing for financial and material support from well-wishers.

As expected, Gen Shikapwasha’s announcement did not go down well with readers:

Commenting on the announcement,Wanya Wanya says:

I said it, filefwaya ukulyamo (they want a cut). How on earth can a funeral cost a million dollars, in Zed (Zambia)?

The questions keep coming The Kimbaguist says:

Where will this colossal sum come from? Was it ‘budgeted’ for? Make it simple folks! Cut down on allowances for all those attending the funeral. Are you feeding the entire Lusaka population? Already some Ministers are finishing their projects and mansions from these funeral proceeds. That is sick!

A contributor mockingly urges people to contribute to the funeral costs because government has not even found the money for June as at times government employees go without pay for several weeks. mweembe says:

hey rich folks, just contribute, the govt needs this money like yesterday. as at now, they ve not yet transfered june salaries for civil servants, the govt really needs this money for our salaries. not the funeral. funeral will be covered from interest from bahamas.

Another contributor, Pepecho Suffering, raises the issues of the source of money government says it has raised:

The government has so far raised between 2billion and 2.5billion zmk……

What are u saying Mr Big nose? is this tax payers money or just contributions from well wishers?If it is tax payers money,did we plan how it should be used?spending is not an issue but people should learn to account for every Ngwee spent!! not the way things where done during Mwanawasa’s funeral.

Former President of Zambia Frederick Chiluba greeting supporters in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo courtesy of Lusaka Times.

Former President of Zambia Frederick Chiluba greeting supporters in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo courtesy of Lusaka Times.

Early last year, a government audit report of how money was spent during the funeral of President Mwanawasa who died two years into his second term of office in 2008. Apart from building an expensive mausoleum with the help of the Chinese government in central Lusaka, the MMD government flew the body to eight of the provincial centres outside Lusaka.

Zambian Watchdog reported at the time that the Auditor General Anna Chifungula had stated that the K20 billion (about US$5m) that was released by the Ministry of Finance to cater for late president Levy Mwanawasa’s medical and funeral expenses in 2008 was irregularly spent and unaccounted for by some spending agencies.

In her report on public accounts for the financial year ended December 31, 2008, Chifungula stated that during the period under review unvouched expenditure was the most common irregularity. The audit report stated in part: “A total amount of K1, 030, 904, 720 was paid to Ministry of Works and Supply to procure various goods and services for the funeral of the late President. Out of the total amount released, the ministry spent K759, 852, 000 for the procurement of mattresses, carpets, coffee tables and chairs for which no disposal details were available.”

At that time people were not happy with what the audit report exposed as shown by the comments left on the post below:

THE SAINT
wrote:

This is a damning report. We all suspected that the late President’s funeral was a hiatus for syphoning of public funds and now it is clear that it was so. “Payment vouchers were either missing, inadequately supported or unacquitted” is the story of how the Zambian government has been spending money. Year on year the AG, even from the days of Kaunda, reorts about misuse of tax payers money but nothing is done about the culprits… Perhaps we should all refuse to pay tax if our money is being misused until someone is taken to task for this loss. May I humbly ask the President to ensure that people are prosecuted for this. Surely, this is worse than pornography. This theft robs the poor people of the services that could have bettered their lives. But having said that, may I also suggest that we should do away with these expensive funerals. Why do Zambians, especially the older generation (above 60s), pay so much attention to funerals. It is like people would rather sit on their back sides for zonks mourning the dead while absent from productive activities that bring food on the table. K20 billion spent on a dead man! Forgive me for this, but I cannot stomach this waste. This is just under £3 million! This would have equiped UTH with a Magnetic Resonance scanner, another state of the art CT scanner and upgraded the Intensive care unit with 5 state of the art beds! All was spent on a dead man, whose estate could have paid for his own good funeral. I am appaled!

The contributor below spoke to soon! Barely just over a year after writing this, President Chiluba was dead and government was talking billions of Kwacha for his funeral and asking for donations from citizens:

Volcanologist wrote:

Taking advantage of a dead man to make money, shame. The culprits must be brought to book and prosecuted. Its unheard of, its not our culture to do what they did. Am disappointed. And who said a funeral can cost that much,K20 billion. This is serious and hoping to have our heads of state die in retirement and not when in office

On Twitter, @missbwalya is shocked that $1m is needed for the funeral:

$1m needed for late president Chiluba's funeral. C'mon
people let's get serious! #Zambia

@GNdhlovu asks:

What are legal provisions of a state funeral as in specific
Act? #Chiluba #Zambia.

@Thembinkosi wants to know if the government is building Chiluba a pyramid:

They building him a bloomin pyramid? RT @missbwalya: $1m
needed for president Chiluba's funeral. C'mon people let's get
serious! #Zambia

@OtienoHongo wonders if they government is airlifting him to heaven:

RT @OtienoHongo: #Africa RT @missbwalya: $1m needed for
late president Chiluba's funeral! #Zambia < << Are they airlifting him
to heaven?

@stretchdj says that funerals are expensive:

Trying to be as objective as possible about the #chiluba
funeral. Funerals are expensive. We spent K20m on my late sisters
send-off.

The ink on last year’s audit report that exposed the abuse of resources at the late President Levy Mwanawasa’s funeral is not even dry yet and the nation is again mourning a former president, but soon another audit report will likely expose more abuse of resources during the grieving period.

  • Shalala Oliver Sepiso

    As it happens, where all comments on Twitter and facebook and blogs all dismissive of the budget or is the writer simply taking on one side he sees himself?

  • Hi Shalala,
    It is possible that there are people supporting the budget (like the last part of the post, where there is a comment by Twitter user @stretchdj), if you have any links to blogs or Facebook pages in support of the amount of money the government wants to use, please let us know. You can send them to africa (at) globalvoicesonline (dot) org

  • Ras king Matola

    where n the world are we going waaat difference will t mek whether he goes without a huge send off or not the little man is gone n left half the people of Zambia hungry

    • Tonguelash

      We are not a rich nation to practice such levels of extravagance at the expense of the poor… soon and very soon we shall be on our knees with begging bowls asking donors to fund the mending of one road or other… now a precedent has been set…

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