Over 13 African heads of state and government are in Zambia for today's (Wednesday's) burial of the late President Levy Mwanawasa who died last month in Paris, France from complications of a stroke. Until his death President Mwanawasa led Zambia after winning the 2001 elections after former President Frederick Chiluba reportedly handpicked him to represent the Ruling Movement for Multiparty Democratic (MMD). Mwanawasa was re-elected in 2006 until his untimely death.
Western donor countries hailed his tough stance against corruption and also credited him with turning Zambia into one of Africa's most economic success stories. Mwanawasa is survived by his wife Maureen Mwanawasa. Mike Mulongoti is Zambia's information minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Lusaka that Zambians want to give the late president a befitting burial.
"It was recognized that it would be important to coincide with his (Mwanawasa's) birthday, and also there were some consideration that ultimately it can be made a holiday so that he can be remembered on his birthday and the same day he would be put to rest. The plans here are very advanced. We've got almost 13 presidents from all of Africa who are already here. We've got heads of international institutions; we've got the chair of the AU (African Union) here and quite a number of people have come," Mulongoti noted.
He said the burial of the late president has attracted lots of local and international admirers because of his unselfish personality.
"This is in recognition of the fact that they dealt with him as some point. And they recognized that he has got the capacity to achieve setting things, and also that he was an honest and sincere man who devoted his life to working for his country, Africa and the world at large," he said.
Mulongoti described late President Mwanawasa's legacy as impeccable.
"He came into government first of all with the view to bring integrity to government. This is why he embarked on the fight against corruption, so that the respect for public assets and public resources is brought into government. He also had to ensure the economic fundamentals, taking care of inflation, interest rate etc. He also realized that for the government to gain respect within the country and outside, they had to encourage the citizens to grow their own food so that there is sufficient food. He also realized that there is potential in the mining industry even if the mining industry was on its knees it was possible to attract investments from outside and within inside Zambia. And these he managed to achieve and was also an honest man and was full of integrity," Mulongoti noted.
He said the policies embarked upon by the late president would be continued by the ruling MMD party ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
"Yes, his policies would be sustained and more so because he did not just end at looking at those who worked in government. Before even during his tenure of office, ministers were prosecuted, and government officials were prosecuted. So, with that approach, the people of Zambia were given confidence that he did not shield anybody who was in government. And because of that confidence was built that at the end of the day it did not matter who you were, but that the rule of law has to prevail anybody. If you did something wrong, the law has to visit you. With that kind of approach, confidence was given to the public and those of us, who were in government, would want to continue to pursue that kid of arrangement. So, that the people of Zambians can continue to feel secure that this government can protect their assets, and this government can continue to maintain integrity," he said.
Meanwhile, civil society organizations have advised the MMD to let the people's will prevail on who should take over from President Mwanawasa instead of campaigning on the basis of the late head of state's alleged preferred choice.