The condition of Zambian
President Levy Mwanawasa has suddenly worsened. Mr. Mwanawasa, who was elected in 2002 and is in the middle of a
second four-year term, has been under treatment in a Paris hospital since early
July after suffering a stroke. Zambian
Vice President Rupiah Banda, who is governing the country in the president’s
absence, said in a statement yesterday that doctors noticed a deterioration in the
59-year-old leader’s condition late Sunday night. He had been flown to the French military hospital after being
stricken in Egypt on June 29. In Lusaka, Radio Phoenix reporter Sanday Chongo
Kabange said the timing of the
president’s stroke was unfortunate, as he was due to play a key role in the
debate on the election crisis in Zimbabwe, both at the African Union (AU)
summit that was just getting underway in Cairo and at last weekend’s Zimbabwe
discussions at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting that
was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“I think it’s really been sad that the president
has not been at the SADC summit. You
know, Mr. Mwanawasa had been the SADC chair.
He was the rotating chairman that is held for about a year and Mr.
Mwanawasa had been one of the main critics of the Robert Mugabe regime, so I
think his absence might have been felt.
And I’m sure that there are certain things that he wanted to mention,
might have a lot of contributions he would have made if he himself had attended
this summit that was held over the weekend in South Africa,” he said.
During his term as SADC leader, President
Mwanawasa was outspoken against the violence and political and economic
instability in Zimbabwe that contrasted with positions taken by other neighbors
of Zimbabwe. Journalist Kabange says
those views were missing, not only from last weekend’s SADC discussions, but
also from the African Union summit that opened in Cairo back in June. President Mwanawasa suffered his stroke on
June 29 on the eve of the AU meeting, which commenced three days after
Zimbabwe’s controversial runoff election. Robert Mugabe easily won that vote,
running unopposed after his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the race
because of unmitigated violence against members of the opposition, most notably
in Zimbabwe towns and rural areas.
“His absence may have definitely played a
negative role in the negotiations for free and fair, or maybe a partial
government in Zimbabwe because early on, Zambia was actually considering going
to boycott or snub the South Africa SADC summit. Well I’m sure Zambia was supposed to be part of the SADC summit
in South Africa, probably, one, because Zambia’s outgoing chairperson, Mr.
Mwanawasa, was outgoing chairperson. So
he was supposed to be there in order to hand over the chair from Zambia to
South Africa, who are the incoming chair of the group. So if Mr. Mwanawasa was there in person, I’m
sure he would have boycotted, because like in the case of Ian Khama (president)
of Botswana, who says he could not attend because he’s not content with the
government of Robert Mugabe. So if Mr.
Mwanawasa was there in person, I don’t think he would have taken part. Or if he had come, he would have gone there
just because he was supposed to hand over the chairmanship of the 14-member
grouping. So it’s really a blow to the
negotiations in Zimbabwe that President Mwanawasa himself did not attend,” said
At home, Kabange says Zambians are struggling
with the suspended state of their leader’s rule. He says Vice President Banda has been doing more to preserve
citizen confidence by keeping the public informed about changes in the
“There was too much anxiety. There was some point where we were told that
the president had died. So that kind of
anxiety had continued in some areas and some people remained concerned. But he (Vice President Banda) has tried to
run the country and maintain peace.
There might be a few incidents that are taking place, but he has used
his managerial ability to run the country and maintain law and order,” said