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Levy Mwanawasa and our generation’s mission

By Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika

Responding to the death of Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara declared that:

“we have no intention of taking part in the competition among cynics who degree so and so many days of mourning, each one trying to assure us of their grief and attempting to demonstrate it by shedding tears, tears we revolutionaries must be able to see for what they are.”

But, even at the risk of being misidentified, let me record a response to the death of Levy, as one of those to whom Levy Mwanawasa was a comrade with who we shared a mission of a generation, and not a ladder for personal ambitions, individual careers and private gains.  This

Like Levy Mwanawasa, I was born on the Copperbelt, in 1948, when the first African political party, the Northern Rhodesia African Congress was founded, under the President-Generalship of my father, Mbikusita Lewanika.  Having already had my 60th birthday this year, I had been looking forward to teasing him for being younger than me, when he would have had his own 60th birthday on 3rd September, had he lived a couple of weeks mores.  I have been presumptuous that, through him, and with him, our generation would have ten years to recover and advance our 1990 dream for democracy and development. And, now, with his death before the scheduled end of his second term, we, the initiators and custodians of this dream are challenged to keep a hold of, and guard, his legacy, so that it is not recaptured by corrupt and money mongering forces.


Unconditionally Available

At his presidential inauguration in January 2002, I was the first opposition leader to be unconditionally available to assist Levy in “re-democratising” Zambia, fighting against corruption, reversing a quarter of a century of economic regression and emancipating our country from a debt-burdened puppet status.

Since 1990, I have been one of Levy Mwanawasa’s comrades in the struggle, first to end the One Party State, and of later to fight against a culture of corruption as well as to pave a pragmatic way forwards to economic recovery and transformation.  I have been the founder National Secretary, in the National Interim Committee of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), in which a served together with Levy, between July 1990 and March 1991.  This Movement spearheaded the campaign to end the One Party State, when it took personal sacrifice and risks to be a member or leader of MMD.  Again, together with Levy Mwanawasa, I served in the first post One Party State Cabinet, under President Frederick Chiluba, during those initial days of patriotism and promise. Later, we both resigned in protest against the growth of corruption, among other reasons.  And, we shared the experience of having been humiliated at a Convention for standing up for the MMD founding values and principles, though at different times.

In all this, we acted in order to fulfill, and not to break, the promises of freedom and democracy as well as social progress and economic development of the African Independence and liberation movement.  We did not, and do not, act for lack of appreciation for all the contributors and contribution towards these noble aspirations. We did not act to reinforce the prejudices and interests of those who have all along been against African self-determination, self-rule and emancipation.  We did not, and do not, act on behalf of those who thrive on the exploitation and land grabbing in African.  We did not, do not, applaud those who have all along dehumanized Africans.  In all this, we have stood with Levy Mwanawasa, therefore, his principled and brave stand on the current Zimbabwe issue should not be misrepresented to have been against African liberators or liberation.   

His Legacy

I would like nothing more than that his legacy be regarded as positively as possible, but not incorrectly. Thus, I have had to overcome the temptation to refrain from critiquing the seemingly flattering categorization of Levy as the “President of Zambia who fought against corruption and was a fierce and vocal critic of Robert Mugabe.”

Yes, it is correct that Levy Mwanawasa has been part of a new generation of African leaders whose formative years were not spent fighting for liberation, and, as indicated above, his presidency had taken on the fight against corruption.  But, it is s misrepresentation to say, as one publication states, that either this background, or indeed anything else, led him to become “a fierce critic of the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and that “where Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola saw a fellow liberation leader under attack from the West, Mwanawasa saw an ailing demagogue whose freefalling economy was having a devastating effect on the region.”

Levy, like many of us in Zambia, Africa and elsewhere, had much compassion for Zimbabwe refugees, whatever caused it, and victims of violence, whoever occasioned it, and was disturbed and frustrated by flawed Zimbbwe 2008 presidential elections in 2008. And, no doubt was set to have expressed these serious concerns and pushed for a way out of this tragic and shameful situation that has arisen in Zimbabwe.  It is a mistake to presume that this was an anti-Mugabe stance. Rather, it was a pro-Zimbabwe approach.  It was not against the agreed SADC diplomatic and negation options.


Demonizing Mugabe

Levy did not think, speak or act that demonizing President Mugabe or abandoning the efforts by President Thabo Mbeki at getting the contending parties to negotiation tables.  In fact, at his last press conference on the Zimbabwe situation, he was demanding to be more fully consulted and briefed on the conduct and proceedings of the Mbeki efforts to get the contending parties more towards agreement, as well as pleading to both parties to put Zimbabwe first. Levy was far from being content with just condemning the poll or condemning Mugabe, he really wanted Zimbabweans to dialogue with each other towards a win-win solution, which would advance the day the country would have elections whose conduct and result would undisputable enough to allow for a return to normalcy.

Had he lived on, Levy would have wished success in continuing what has been referred to as the “attempt by Mbeki to broker a power-sharing settlement between Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.”  He would not be anticipating to be celebrating the collapsing of these talks.  And, much as I understand, and, even welcome the reason and act of boycotting the SADC meeting by the Botswana Government, but Levy would not have done the same.  He would have recognised that equally democratic champions can adopt different signals and approaches in to moving Zimbabwe to its proper state in Africa.  And, as the would-have-been outgoing SADC Chairperson, he would not have shared the option of boycotting that some other member states may have had.

Imprinted contributor

In his life, he seized upon his educational, professional and political opportunities to have merited to be remembered, as an imprinted contributor to nation building and remodeling, in the spirit of the genuine liberators of Africa.  In a sense, he gave his life for the redemption of our land and people, and, therefore, his life and death should inform and fortify us as a committed people on a nationalist agenda.



Note: Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika is co-founder of Zambias’ governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy, the revolutionary party that ousted United National Independence Party government at the time led by Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda in 1991. Before his demise, Dr Mwanawasa had appointed Aka as he is popularly as Chairperson, National Governing Council (NGC) to locally oversee the implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment