Zambia 2011: Two Events That Shook the Country

Undoubtedly, two events in Zambia will go down as having shaken the country in seismic ways. The first was the death of Second Republican President Frederick Chiluba, a maverick trade unionist turned-politician who defeated Zambia’s founding president Dr Kenneth Kaunda who had been in power for 27 years but was swept out of office in the first multi-party elections after 17 years of one party “democracy”.

This is how one Zambian blogger, Munshya, remembered Chiluba:

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.

@ictjournalist tweeted:

@ictjournalist: @GNdhlovu i remember him as a person who who started a revolution in Africa which has spread all over

Afriwoman was a little sad:

@afriwoman: Listening to Zambian radio stations, going through pics of #Chiluba's funeral courtesy of @QfmZambia . Didn't like the guy but a little sad

The second was the defeat of the ruling MMD after clocking 20 years in power and only three years in office of the incumbent president Rupiah Banda who lost to PF’s Michael Sata at his fourth attempt at the presidency.

After his election president Sata, in another political masterstroke, surprised the world when he appointed his long time ally and his party’s vice president, Dr Guy Scott, a white Zambian who has been on the country’s political scene for over 20 years.

Reacting to Guy Scott's appointment, Zambian tweep and blogger @missbwalya noted:

@missbwalya: Zambia is the only African country with a white VP. Wonder how that will be received by “anti-white African” militants.

Zambia's new Vice President Guy Scott. Image from the ruling Patriotic Front website.

Chiluba’s death, which citizens first learnt of through Twitter, shocked the nation which only three years before, had buried a sitting president, Levy Mwanawasa who died in France after collapsing in Egypt while on international duty. Chiluba’s death became a hot campaign issue for the MMD whose cadres threatened to beat Sata if he attended the funeral of his once boss under whom he saved not only as cabinet minister but as the MMD’s national secretary.

Sata never set foot at the funeral venue following threats to beat him up by MMD cadres but he unexpectedly turned up at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre where Chiluba’s body lay in state and paid his last respects, viewing it along ordinary citizens, vexing even security officials who did not know what to do with the then opposition leader who was clearly in bad books with President Banda.

By the time the belligerent MMD cadres turned up to sort Sata out, he had already left Mulungushi. This was probably one move that increased Sata’s stature in potential voters’ minds. The irony, however, is that Chiluba, before his demise, touted himself as President Banda’s political consultant who vowed to deliver Sata’s perceived regional strongholds to the MMD.

Supporters in a truck celebrate the victory of opposition leader Michael Sata as he was sworn in as the fifth Zambian president. Image by Owen Miyanza, copyright Demotix (23/12/2011).

Related to Chiluba’s death was the presidential election for which the MMD was sure to win with its well-financed campaign vis-à-vis a Spartan and low key campaign strategy of the PF which adopted the slogan “Donchi Kubeba” with donchi being a corruption of the English word, don’t and kubeba being tell.

The MMD government tried to suppress the release of poll results when it became apparent that things were not going their way but netizens where clearly a step ahead releasing the results on Twitter, Facebook and social networks.

President Sata has embarked on a massive investigation of corrupt activities under the previous administration and within a few weeks of commencement of the investigations, security wings dug out billions of Zambian Kwacha from a former minister’s farm. Several other former cabinet ministers have since been arrested or have had their properties suspected to have been corruptly obtained, seized. When the scale of impropriety became apparent, citizens started calling for the removal of President Banda's immunity from prosecution.

Netizens also wondered whether the former president implicated himself in his farewell speech. On Facebook, Gongs Jhala asked:

Do you think RB and his sons will face criminal prosecution? I found it interesting when he said they did not “knowingly abuse public resources” [does] that mean they abused public resources but did not know they were doing so?

Many netizens weighed in on the fight against corruption:

@lwangamwilu: Some people miraculously acquired wealth in 3 years in office, let them be investigated – Milupi #Zambia

@stevenputter: #Zambia, 1000 bicycles “for personal use” thought it was only God that could be in more than one place at a time, no wonder investigated

Perhaps we should mention the Barotseland Agreement debate, which picked up in 2011. Long considered a non-issue during decades of one party rule, Barotseland became an issue of political contention in 2011.

Two people were killed in January 2011 after riots broke out in Mongu, the capital of Western Province over reinstatement of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Some activists in the region argue that the Barotseland Agreement provides for separation from the rest of Zambia.

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