Rupiah Bwezani Banda who served as Zambia’s fourth president from 2008 to 2011, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and had been getting treatment.
He died however at home on Friday, March 11, after his long struggle with the colon cancer, according to his family and the president.
As many listened to current president Hakainde Hichilema’s address in the capital city of Lusaka, where Banda had his family home, a gloomy tone hovered over various eateries and pubs.
“We recognise with fondness his long and illustrious career in public service and we appreciate his service to the nation,” Hichilema said, addressing the nation in a special televised address, to pay tribute to his predecessor.
The government has announced that Banda will be put to rest on March 18 at the Presidential Burial Site, Embassy Park in the capital Lusaka.
President Hichilema has set seven days of national mourning in honour of the former president, and his enormous contribution to the country.
Prior to the burial, the government will hold a state funeral on March 17 at the Lusaka showground, which is likely to be attended by leaders of state and government.
Banda, who was born in the then-Southern Rhodesia, started politics at a young age. He was a part of Zambia’s fight for independence.
He proudly told stories about being cornered and imprisoned by colonialists for delivering mail to freedom fighters.
Following Gambia’s independence from Britain in 1964, he got a number of appointments, and served in senior diplomatic positions under Gambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda,
At the age of 27, Zambia’s founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, selected him as the country’s first ambassador to Egypt. He was named Zambia’s ambassador to the United States at the age of 30.
He was then nominated vice president by then-President Levy Mwanawasa in 2006. When Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008 while on assignment in Egypt, Banda took over as acting president.
On a ruling party platform, Banda narrowly won elections in October of the same year, contending with Mr Micheal Sata in a snap election. Sata, however, beat him in the September 2011 polls.
Source: Reuters | The Nation