By Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba
My heart goes out to the family of the late former Vice President Lupando Mwape. This is a difficult time for the family and close friends of the late servant of the people. May the Lord our God strengthen us all as we reflect on this wonderful life.
At the height of his public service he remains as one of the few Vice Presidents who acted as president for a prolonged period of time when the late President Levy Mwanawasa was hospitalized in London.
It was therefore befitting for the government to have evacuated him to South Africa for specialized treatment. We commend government for the gesture.
Without disturbing the spirit of mourning, I wish to raise a pivotal issue which relates to the plight of former Vice Presidents in Zambia. Although Vice Presidents actually act as President and play a significant role in the management of the the nation, the occupants of that office have zero sustainable benefits once they leave office. The only sure retirement benefit has been a state funeral at death.
Hon Lupando’s death becomes an opportunity to raise this matter in the hope that government can ensure that those who serve the nation faithfully are taken care of after leaving office.
Former Presidents, the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Service Chiefs and civil servants have packages once they retire but a former Vice President has none. I however need to place a disclaimer that I do not raise this matter to benefit myself having held this office but to highlight a matter that has embarrassed Zambia for years both at home and abroad.
In most nations, a Vice President leaves office with sustainable benefits. In Zambia they leave office with debt arising from whatever loan they could have contracted. Everything is withdrawn, the security, staff, vehicles, diplomatic passport and are thrown onto the streets with no monthly stipend to help in paying off the loan they could have contracted while in office.
Those of us who knew and walked with the late Lupando Mwape remain heart broken by the life he was subjected to. His case must raise a moral debate as to why a man who did not even have a place to lay his head should be given an expensive state funeral. In life, he suffered from lack, in death, he is treated as a king. This is not to belittle the honor of the state funeral but to challenge cabinet office as to the morality of this status quo.
This problem of the nation’s number two comes from the UNIP days. Vice Presidents Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Secretary General of UNIP, Grey Zulu, Prime Ministers Malimba Masheke, Kebby Musokotwane, Nalumino Mundia, Mainza Chona. I believe as MMD we failed to secure these freedom fighters financially to give them a dignified life. Some have gone to the grave in great poverty. I am reminded of the immeasurable hardships the late former Vice President Gen Christon Tembo went through in trying to pay for medical bills, until we lost him. He was however given an elaborate state funeral. As MMD, we approved former Presidents’ package but left out those who labored side by side with them.
I hope the PF can see the value of correcting this national anomaly.
President, Movement for Multiparty Democracy
28th January 2019