by Patson Phiri – SANF 08 No 53
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has died at Percy Military Hospital in France after suffering a stroke on 29 June while attending the 11th Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Egypt.
“It is with great sorrow that I announce to the nation that our President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, State Counsel, died this morning at Percy Military Hospital,” Vice President Rupiah Banda said Tuesday in a televised statement in the capital Lusaka.
Banda declared a seven-day national mourning in respect of the President’s death.
Mwanawasa was elected President of Zambia in December 2001 after his predecessor retired from power in what became the country’s fourth multi-party elections since independence from Britain in 1964.
He was seen as the beacon of hope to the economic slow down that affected the country during the 1990s particularly inflation which was between 25 to 35 percent.
Mwanawasa declared a zero tolerance on corruption and insisted on cautious expenditure of public resources.
He won the support of the donor community and attracted aid, which helped in the economic turn-around that saw inflation being reduced to a single digit for the first time in over three decades.
President Mwanawasa also formulated policies that helped Zambia boost agricultural production and promoted investment in mining.
Mwanawasa collapsed during the AU Summit and was later pronounced dead but the Zambian government immediately rebuffed the information and said the President was alive.
He was later transferred to Percy Military Hospital after being initially admitted in Egypt.
During his evacuation, Mwanawasa was in a semi-coma.
Born in Mufulira, Zambia, on 3 September 1948, Mwanawasa is the second born in a family of 10.
His career in politics started when he was the vice president of the University of Zambia Student Union and organised students in several demonstrations in support of the liberation struggle in southern Africa.
He enrolled for his Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Zambia from 1970 to 1973.
Between 1974 and 1982, Mwanawasa worked as a lawyer before he was appointed by former president, Kenneth Kaunda, as the Solicitor General of Zambia.
In 1991 he became the chairperson of the Legal Committee of the Interim Committee of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). In the same year he was appointed vice president of Zambia by then President Frederick Chiluba.
He resigned his position as vice president of Zambia in 1994 citing gross abuse of office and corruption by some leaders in government.
In August 2001, the National Executive Committee of the MMD elected Mwanawasa as presidential candidate. He won the 2001 election with a majority and was inaugurated president of Zambia in January 2002.
Mwanawasa held the rotating SADC chair for one year until the SADC Summit that was convened on 16-17 August 2008 in Johannesburg where South African President Thabo Mbeki was elected the new chair.
Mwanawasa was unable to attend the Summit due to his illness.