Levy Patrick Mwanawasa
(3 September 1948
– 19 August 2008
) was a Zambian
politician. He was the President of Zambia
from January 2002 until his death in August 2008.
Early life and legal career
Mwanawasa was born in Mufulira
, Northern Rhodesia
as the second of 10 children. He held a law degree from the University of Zambia
. He worked in private law firms from 1974 until 1978 when he formed his own firm Mwanawasa & Company. In 1985 Mwanawasa served as Solicitor General in the Zambian government but he went back to private practice in 1986.
In 1989, he led the legal defense team for Lt. Gen Christon Tembo, who was accused by the Kenneth Kaunda government of conspiracy to overthrow the government, which was judged as an act of treason worthy of the death penalty; Tembo won the case against the state, and Mwanawasa's fame among the anti-Kaunda opposition grew. After Frederick Chiluba was elected as President, he appointed Mwanawasa as Vice-President in December 1991. Mwanawasa left his firm in March 1992.
Before his party's convention in 1990, Mwanawasa was widely tipped to become the President of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), but he declined the overture, citing his young age and inexperience. He opted instead to stand as a Member of Parliament
and won with an overwhelming majority of the popular vote. Political opponents within his party have been suspected of orchestrating an attempt on his life. On 8 December 1991
Mwanawasa was involved in a serious traffic accident
in which his aide died on the spot. He suffered multiple body injuries and was flown to Johannesburg
, South Africa
for medical treatment. He remained hospitalized for three months. A lasting effect of the accident was his noticeably slurred speech. A commission of inquiry was set up to investigate who was responsible for the alleged assassination attempt. Visiting investigators from Scotland Yard
concluded that there had been no plot.
Mwanawasa served as Vice-President until he resigned in 1994, citing gross abuse of office and corruption by some leaders and insubordination to him by some colleagues. In 1996 he unsuccessfully contested Chiluba for the presidency of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy
. After the loss, Mwanawasa retired from politics until the 2001 election.
In August 2000, the National Executive Committee of MMD elected Mwanawasa as its presidential candidate for the 2001 election
. He won the election, held on 27 December 2001
, with 29% due to Zambia's first past the post system
, beating 10 other candidates including two other former vice presidents (Godfrey Miyanda
and Gen. Christon Tembo
); Anderson Mazoka
came in a close second with 27%, according to official results. Mwanawasa took office on 2 January 2002
. However, the results of the elections were disputed by main opposition parties, including Mazoka's United Party for National Development
, which many observers claim had actually won the elections. Both domestic and international election monitors cited serious irregularities with the campaign and election, including vote rigging, flawed voter registration, unequal and biased media coverage, and the MMD's improper use of state resources. In January 2002, three opposition candidates petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Mwanawasa's victory. While the court agreed that the poll was flawed, it ruled in February 2005 that the irregularities did not affect the results and declined the petition.
In January 2005, Mwanawasa apologized to the nation for failing to tackle Zambian poverty. About 75% of the country's population lived on less than $1 a day, the United Nations' indicator of absolute poverty.
He was elected as President of the MMD for a five-year term in 2005.
Mwanawasa ran for a second term in the presidential election
held on 28 September 2006
. Michael Sata
of the Patriotic Front
was considered his main challenger. His re-election was confirmed on 2 October
; according to official results, he received 42.98% of the vote. He was sworn in for another term on 3 October
. A few days later, he named a new cabinet and appointed Rupiah Banda
Mwanawasa criticized President Robert Mugabe of neighboring Zimbabwe. Mwanawasa was one of the first African leaders to publicly do so.
In April 2006, Mwanawasa experienced a mild stroke
On 29 June 2008, while in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for an African Union summit, Mwanawasa was hospitalized due to a second stroke. On 1 July, he was flown to France for further treatment. The head of the Egyptian hospital to which Mwanawasa was taken said that the doctors there had stopped the brain hemorrhage and that he was in a semi-comatose state. Vice-President Banda said that his condition was stable, and Minister of Information Mike Mulongoti noted that Mwanawasa had previously suffered from hypertension; Mulongoti also stressed that Mwanawasa was a "very hard working man" and said that this may have been a factor.
Due to Mwanawasa's incapacitation, Banda became acting President.
On 3 July 2008
news outlets began reporting that Mwanawasa had died in a Paris
hospital due to his stroke. The story originated at the Johannesburg
-based 702 Talk Radio, which cited Malone Zaza
, who claimed to be the head of protocol at Zambia's High Commission in Pretoria
, South Africa
; however, the commission denied having someone employed at the embassy with that name. Mulongoti, speaking for the government, said the news of Mwanawasa's death was "false, and he urged the South African media to show more restraint in its reporting. As the reports were spreading, South African President Thabo Mbeki
called for a moment of silence in Mwanawasa's memory; the South African government quickly expressed regret over this misunderstanding and expressed Mbeki's hopes for Mwanawasa's recovery.
Treatment in France
Mwanawasa was hospitalized at the Percy Military Hospital
, near Paris
. In a statement on 7 July 2008
, Banda said that Mwanawasa "remain[ed] in a stable condition" but had to undergo surgery, which Banda described as minor, to correct a breathing problem. Banda said on 8 July
that this operation was successful. On 11 July
, Banda said that Mwanawasa's condition was stable and that his doctors were "satisfied with [his] current status".
Benny Tetamashimba, the MMD's Chairman for Information and Publicity, subsequently said that the MMD "should begin looking for a successor" to Mwanawasa as President of the MMD. Mulongoti, speaking on state radio on 14 July, said that Tetamashimba's suggestion did not represent the government's views. United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema said that Mwanawasa's incapacitation had paralyzed the functioning of the government. On 15 July, Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata questioned the official claims about Mwanawasa's health, and he called for a team of doctors to be sent by the Cabinet to examine Mwanawasa; this team would then disclose Mwanawasa's actual condition. On 17 July, the MMD announced that Tetamashimba was facing potential disciplinary action, including the possibility of expulsion from the party. Tetamashimba argued that he had been misunderstood. He also said that Mwanawasa's condition was improving and that he was "responding to treatment", while asserting that the government was functioning smoothly and criticizing the opposition call for a team of doctors to report on Mwanawasa's health.
Banda gave another update of Mwanawasa's condition on 24 July, saying that he was making "steady progress ... in his recovery". Skepticism regarding Banda's optimistic updates was reportedly widespread. Minister of Health Brian Chituwo, speaking before the National Assembly on 8 August, said that Mwanawasa's "healing process will indeed be long" due to the "serious nature of [his] illness".
Vice President Banda said on 18 August
that Mwanawasa's condition had suddenly deteriorated and urgent medical intervention was necessary. The intervention was successful, according to Banda, but Mwanawasa remained in serious condition. On 19 August
, a family member who wished to remain anonymous stated that Mwanawasa had died early that morning. The news of Mwanawasa's death was confirmed by Banda through a television broadcast on the government-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). He informed the nation that Mwanawasa had died that morning at 1030 hours (0830 GMT) at the Percy Military Hospital in Paris. Expressing "immense grief and deep sorrow", Banda declared national mourning for seven days and urged Zambians to "remain calm and mourn our President with dignity". The mourning period was extended to 21 days on 21 August
The constitution requires that a presidential by-election be called within 90 days. There is no clear successor to Mwanawasa in the MMD.
Reactions to death
The Patriotic Front's Michael Sata expressed sadness and said that Mwanawasa's death was a "national disaster", urging Zambians to remain calm. The Zambia Daily Mail
, a state-owned newspaper, said that his death marked "a dark day for Zambia" and had left Zambians "shell-shocked and grief-stricken". As the country went into mourning, with flags flying at half-staff
, the National Assembly session that had been in progress was indefinitely suspended; a strike by doctors was also suspended, and sporting matches were cancelled. Former President Kenneth Kaunda paid tribute to Mwanawasa, saying that he was "a true servant of the people who served this country with dignity and honour. ... He observed the rule of law and he gallantly fought graft in all its forms. ... We have lost a great leader who had a real vision for leadership and problems that face the country.
Acting President Banda announced state funeral arrangements for Mwanawasa on 21 August
. According to this programme, after Mwanawasa's body was returned to Zambia, it would first lie in state
at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka
, the capital. The body would then be moved to different provincial capitals from 25 August
to 29 August
, after which it would again lie in state at Mulungushi International Conference Centre until 2 September
. His burial, planned for 3 September
, was intended to coincide with his birthday; Mwanawasa would have turned 60 years old on that date.
Mwanawasa's body arrived in Lusaka from France aboard a French military aircraft on 23 August. It was received with full military honours; Banda and Kaunda were present for the ceremony, which featured a 21-gun salute and jet fighter planes in the sky. It was then taken to all provincial capitals of Zambia, where members of the public had an opportunity to pay their respects. The body was accompanied by both the opposition and the ruling party leaders beside the first family during the tour.
The burial of Mwanawasa occurred on 3 September at Embassy Park opposite the Zambian Cabinet Office. The funeral was attended by heads of 14 African states, including Mbeki, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete. In her eulogy at the funeral, Maureen Mwanawasa said of her husband: "Typical of you, you died on duty. You died a sad man as no one seemed to appreciate your sacrifices. Had you been with us today, I am sure these accolades could have made you happy."
- - African Union Chairman of the Commission Jean Ping expressed condolences on August 19, saying that Mwanawasa's death was "a great loss not only to the people of Zambia but also to the southern African region and the entire African continent." The Chairman of the African Union, Jakaya Kikwete (also the President of Tanzania), said that "Africa will remember Mwanawasa for his role in resolving African conflicts particularly when he was chairperson of the Southern African Development Community.
- - Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma: "He was deeply devoted in particular to the Commonwealth's goals of delivering development and prosperity to all, as well as its ideals of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law. He strove hard to implement those objectives in Zambia and the region, especially in his role as the Chairman of the Southern African Development Community."
- - President Nicolas Sarkozy: "The president of the Republic presents in his own name and in the name of the French people, his most saddened condolences to his family and the Zambian people."
- - President Mwai Kibaki: "During struggle for plural politics in Zambia, the late Mwanawasa played a pivotal role and was not only a source of inspiration and encouragement to the people but also displayed tremendous powers of the application of the rule of law."
- - President Hifikepunye Pohamba: "On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Namibia and indeed on my own behalf and that of the First Lady HE Mrs Penehupifo Pohamba, I wish to convey our deepest and most sincere condolences to the widow, HE Mrs Maureen Mwanawasa, the entire family and to the Government and people of the Republic of Zambia."
- - South African President Thabo Mbeki expressed "heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Zambia and to his widow Maureen Mwanawasa and the children". Later, at Mwanawasa's funeral, he said that Mwanawasa had contributed to "the restoration and strengthening of regional political unity and cohesion".
- - At Mwanawasa's funeral, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said that Mwanawasa was "a great leader, a true pan-Africanist and a champion of the poor".
- - State Minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem said Ugandans "share Zambia's sorrow during this period of mourning," while the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Prof. Ogenga Latigo stated, "Mr Mwanawasa will be remembered for his contribution in the fight against corruption."
- - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Mr. Mwanawasa was at the forefront of Zambian politics at a time of exceptional challenge and change in his country."
- - President George W. Bush: "As Chairman of the Southern African Development Community, President Mwanawasa worked tirelessly to uphold the values of good governance, speaking out against human rights abuses and threats to democracy when many others were silent."
- - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said at the funeral: "Mwanawasa was a very courageous leader. He was very frank and wanted to change not only his country but the entire southern African region. We will greatly miss him.
Mwanawasa married Maureen Mwanawasa on September 3 1988
, and they remained married until his death. He had six children: Miriam, Patrick, Chipokota, Matolo, Lubona and Ntembe. Miriam and Patrick were from his first marriage. His wife was a baptized member of the Jehovah's Witnesses
but has since been disfellowshiped because of her active role in politics. It is against the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses to take part or sides in politics.
In March 2005, Mwanawasa was baptised by Southern Baptist missionaries.
In September 2007, Mwanawasa traveled to Arkansas in the United States to give a speech at Harding University in Searcy and received an honorary doctorate from the college. While in Arkansas, he addressed students and press at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service about social, economic, and political development in Zambia and the region with specific attention paid to HIV/AIDS in Africa and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.