Jun 20, 2011

FTJ - the legacy

How does one eulogise a divisive character like Zambia’s late ex-president Frederick Chiluba. People are climbing over each other to either canonise or demonise him. I find some morbid fascination in watching it all unfold because people are just…oh, what’s the word…I’ll just bite my tongue until it bleeds. 

A friend on twitter forwarded me an obituary that appeared in the Guardian newspaper online. It’s quite stunning. I’m neither the president of Chiluba’s fan club nor am I stoking the flames on his pyre but it seemed overly harsh.

Yes, Chiluba left a tainted legacy during his tenure as president and his administration failed to deliver on many campaign promises but to forget the early years is a disservice. There was no mention of how Chiluba and his party, MMD, burst on the scene and unified the country is our quest to be rid of the one-party rule of Kenneth Kaunda. Do people really understand how difficult it must have been to stand against a giant of KK’s stature at the time? Or what it took to get people to truly believe their actions (attending rallies & voting) could in fact lead to regime change even at the risk of being tear-gassed and whipped by the police and their goons?

How quickly we forget that Zambia became one of the first countries in Africa to experience a peaceful transition to multiparty rule.

The policies

There were radical economic reform programmes that on one hand empowered more people to advance and on the other impoverished others such as the former employees of now defunct parastatals. I certainly cannot overlook the dangerous legacy of corruption that spread like a cancer in the fabric of Zambian society as people became more desperate, or the masses thrown into poverty by bungled market reforms.

Chiluba was indeed a contradiction:

- a self-styled democrat who later regressed into autocratic rule that he previously railed against and had even seen prison for.

- a champion of media freedoms who later pursued journalists who dared question his authority to act unilaterally in issues of national importance.

He represents different things to all of us. He was somebody’s father. A husband. A flawed politician. Whatever.

All I ask is that we be honest in analysing his legacy. Let's talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. Doing less than that is disingenuous. There's no need to dance naked on his tomb or to wail as though his death signals the end of humankind...he was a man who like everyone else will be judged by the work he did during his life. 


So true. I was stunned, I mean LITERALLY STUNNED, when I heard that KK had lost in '91. No-one could have imagined that anyone could beat KK on his own patch of this Earth. Even KK himself was taken aback by his loss. At least we can give Kapfupi credit for that.

KK's defeat was indeed stunning. I mean this is the man who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Nkhrumah, Nyerere, Kamuzu and others. He was expected to die in office not be defeated by the man he dubbed the "4-ft dwarf."

It was ballsy and changed the course of our history forever.

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