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Former Zambian President Chiluba Dies

Frederick Chiluba, a former president of Zambia, casts his vote in national elections in Lusaka, September 28, 2006

Frederick Chiluba, a former president of Zambia, casts his vote in national elections in Lusaka, September 28, 2006

Former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba died Saturday at his home in Lusaka.

President Chiluba suffered a heart-attack at home after spending most of Friday with his lawyers and members of parliament. He had been treated for a heart condition for several years. Emmanuel Mwamba, his former spokesperson said he became ill in the early evening and his condition continued to worsen.

“His personal physician attended to him and he went into an attack just before midnight. His doctor tried to do all he could and sadly we lost the president at five minutes after midnight,” he said.

Chiluba learned his political skills as a trade unionist and was detained by former president Kenneth Kaunda in 1981 for organizing a wildcat strike that paralyzed the economy.

He helped found the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, or MMD, in 1990, leading the party to victory the next year in the first multiparty post-colonial elections in Zambia. The MMD beat Kaunda’s United National Independence Party, or UNIP, paving the way for Chiluba to become president.

Chiluba began his tenure by allowing greater political freedoms and liberalizing sectors of the economy, and received accolades at home and abroad for his efforts.

However, his administration became increasingly bogged down by allegations of corruption and maladministration. He also was the target of personal criticism for his lavish lifestyle, including his wardrobe of handmade monogrammed shoes and suits.

Chiluba won a second and final five-year term in 1997 but in the lead up to elections in 2001 he repeatedly proposed changes to the constitution that would allow him a third term. A backlash from Zambians forced him to back away from the proposals.

After he left office his hand-picked successor Levy Mwanawasa instituted anti-corruption investigations and Chiluba was charged with misappropriating $500,000 to his personal account. He was acquitted in 2009.

However state prosecutors also filed civil charges against him in Britain and he was found guilty of stealing $46 million in government funds while president of Zambia. He was ordered to repay 85 percent of the money, but the court order was never enforced in Zambia.

Chiluba is survived by his second wife and nine children. He was 68.