Zambia’s deputy information minister Angela Cifire says funeral arrangements for former president Frederick Chiluba will be discussed today (Monday) by a government-constituted commission .
Its decision will be announced later this week.
“He is a former president and he needs to be accorded all the respect that we can give to one of the people that had done a lot of good works for the country,” said Cifire.
Chiluba, 68, who suffered from a heart condition, died of a heart attack at his home in the capital, Lusaka, over the weekend. He is survived by his second wife and nine children.
Chiluba is widely praised for helping to build the foundation for political pluralism and free elections in Zambia.
“He played a very big part in most people’s understanding of what democracy is in this country,” Cifire said.” Everybody remembers that multiparty democracy came with the name Frederick Chiluba.”
Chiluba was Zambia’s first democratically elected president since the country won independence from former colonial power, Britain in 1964.
Cifire called on Zambians to put aside their differences.
“We need to think of ourselves as a people with unity of purpose…if we are one, we will be able to take our country to great heights,” said Cifire.
Emmanuel Mwamba, the long time spokesman for the late president, said Chiluba’s wife and the rest of the former first family were shocked by his death. Mwamba said Zambians have been showing support following the death of the former leader.
“The entire family is in shock, but they are comforted by the number of the good wishes that have come across political parties, [and] across tribes,” said Mwamba. “He has been respected more in death than during the difficulties we were having when he was facing his corruption allegations.”
In 2007, a British court convicted Chiluba of embezzling nearly $60 million dollars in funds.
In a separate case, he was acquitted in Zambia in 2008 of embezzlement after a multi-year trial. In 1990, he helped found the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), leading it to victory the next year in the first multiparty post-colonial elections in Zambia.
The son of a copper miner and former union leader, Chiluba took office after almost three decades of one party rule by Kenneth Kaunda.
He began his tenure by allowing greater political freedoms and liberalizing the country's economy.
Chiluba led Zambia from 1991 to 2002.