Was Fredrick Chiluba A Hero Or Villain?
PRESIDENT Frederick Chiluba had been skipped from the history of Zambia until now and had it not been for the momentous political events unfolding, he would have continued to be a victim of the politics of revenge, now ravaging Zambia. And the MMD is clearly to blame for that.
June 18, 2016 was the fifth anniversary of the death of Zambia’s second president, Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba.
The question had been asked on the fifth anniversary of the death of President Chiluba as to whether he was a hero or villain, reflecting post- death. Until President Lungu, answering the call of the moment, decided to honour Chiluba, the answer to the question seemed to conclude that Chiluba had been consigned to the category of villain. The writer had written: “ Dr Chiluba remains the only former head of State not to have been honoured by successive governments despite being the pioneer of democracy and free market economy… he left an indelible mark on the conscience of the nation and transformation of the economy. Yet Dr Chiluba is hardly recognised as a significant political player and a trendsetter”. The writer itemises all the honours bestowed on other leaders and the institutions named after them, but no institution had been named after Chiluba despite his acknowledged and stated contribution to Zambia.
Unfortunately, the writer did not try to give reasons as to why Chiluba had been neglected or who specifically neglected him. Was it because of the massive taint of corruption that was smeared on him? Perhaps. Did those charges stick? Who was responsible for not resuscitating his image? We all learnt as children that when you point your fingers at the alleged perpetrator of ills or misfortunes, more fingers point back at you.
It is my thesis that it is the MMD government that eventually painted him as a villain. His very successor whom he had hand- picked labelled him as corrupt and stripped him of his immunity. There was supposed to be a Chiluba Institute of Industrial Relations near Arcades shopping complex, which the MMD tore apart.
The MMD governed for another 10 years before losing power and during that time, they never named any building, or institution after the modern father of Zambian democracy – Chiluba. You could not expect the Sata government to name buildings after Chiluba when Chiluba had by- passed Sata when he named his successor. Mr Sata remembered significant national heroes and named airports after them: Kenneth Kaunda, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Harry Mwanga Nkumbula airports.
President Rupiah Banda of the MMD, who governed for three years, did not honour Chiluba.
The other thesis is that Chiluba had been neglected because Zambia is imbued with the politics of revenge. Because when one is in power, he or she dishes out favours to his or her friends and relatives and rules dictatorially such that when they are ousted from power, revenge, justified or unjustified, runs in the veins of the new governors. The previously detained and tear- gassed become the new detainers and teargassers.
Chiluba thought President Kaunda had mistreated him so he engaged in revenge politics and unjustifiably tried to revoke his citizenship. Those that Chiluba had wronged while in power teamed up to label Chiluba as corrupt leading to his loss of immunity and subsequent court cases. Dr Mwanawasa and Mr Sata died before completing their terms so no one could go after them. But before Mr Sata died, he had an occasion to strip Mr Banda of his immunity and had him criminally charged.
Studying the brief history of Zambia, I can predict with almost 100 percent certainty that the politics of revenge will continue because every President has been subjected to the same treatment, with slight variation in respect of President Kaunda. Chiluba probably endured the worst form of treatment. Common law politics of precedents has been set in Zambia, and precedents are powerful inducements.
On this fifth anniversary of the death of Chiluba, it has to be pointed out that Chiluba is not forgotten, that not all is lost and that eventually his proper place in the history of Zambia will be recorded and many buildings and institutions will be named after him. This rebuilding of the Chiluba image is already underway. For example, Charles Mwewa has dedicated his 1,100- page book on Zambia entitled Zambia: Struggles of My People & Western Contribution to Corruption and Underdevelopment in Africa, to President Chiluba.
In his dedication, Charles says this: “ Frederick TJ Chiluba, April 30th, 1943- June 18th, 2011. You died exactly one month before the proposed launch of this book. I would have loved you to read for yourself, especially on the Chiluba Matrix, Chapter 32. Despite the matrix, you will always be the standard by which the strength of Zambian democracy will be judged.
And, indeed, ‘ it is true that your greatest gift to Zambia was the establishment of a lasting and sound democratic system”. There is so much positive written about Chiluba in this book, it is a neutral, rather than biased, evaluation that rings through.
Chapter 32 extols the victory of Chiluba, in context.
The colonialists stated that “ if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book”. Or use weapons of mass destruction. Or of mass deception. They colonised us by requiring us to sign a written contract, a contract which we never read because firstly, it was written, and we don’t read, secondly it was written in a language we did not know. To rehabilitate Chiluba and his significant contribution to Zambia, Zambians ought to read about what he did for Zambia, beginning with Charles Mwewa’s book. We should annihilate the habit of not reading certain books because they were written by our alleged enemies or because those books extol the virtues of people we hate.
When you point at someone who you allegedly think is uncivilised, look at who the majority of your figures are pointing at.
The author teaches law at Zambian Open University. He is the compiler of a book entitled The Case Against Tribalism in Zambia.