BOOK REVIEW – Levy Patrick Mwanawasa: An Incentive for Posterity
By Alibandila Greatford Kamona
Writing a biography is not an easy undertaking; let alone one of a Head of State. Amos Malupenga, a journalist and Managing Editor of the Post Newspapers, took the bull by its horns in pursuit of this commission and managed to come out on top of it.
He is the first Zambian author to undertake this challenge, as no Zambian head of State, sitting, or past, has bared his soul as much as Mwanawasa did to Amos. Every issue was up for discussion, save for those which are exempted for obvious reasons under the Official Secrets Act.
The book’s forward is written by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, whose working knowledge of Mwanawasa started from the time he was Foreign Minister, to the time he was elected his country’s President. It is edited by Zambia’s own eminent son, Professor Fackson Banda, of Rhodes University in South Africa. The author takes the reader through Mwanawasa’s life as a School boy, his being a victim of a tragic fire accident as a child in Sub A; the equivalent of grade one, his education, marriages, law practice, his faith, the road accident which nearly killed him when he was Vice President, and right through to Levy Mwanawasa as President of the Republic of Zambia, until his passing, and to the finale of a chilling voice from the grave; an emotional account of a pre-recorded will to the Nation made by the late President.
The difficulty in writing a biography of a Head of State is that most of the information is already in public domain because by the time a president enters office, he will have under gone a lot of press scrutiny. The difference here is that this book contains behind the scenes accounts which were, until it was published; only known to a few privileged people, Mwananwasa’s family on one hand, and senior Movement for Multi-party Democracy and government officials on the other; such as how he came to stand for the office of Movement for Multi-party Democracy vice president at the party’s inception.
The events leading to the Garden House Motel meeting and the formation of the MMD are well covered, and so are those who played courageous roles in defiance of the threat posed by the then vicious government of the day. Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika exposes those who came to be seen as champions of the cause despite their earlier fear of getting involved in the struggle to dislodge the one party system of government.
Of interest is the fact that Mwanawasa never sought public office. He was a reluctant politician who was more at home in a court room than on a political platform. Even when he was voted legal sub-committee Chairman of the fledgling MMD in absentia at the dawn of multi-party politics in 1990, he was so riled that he almost declined, until after an exhaustive consultation with his family.
The book also makes mention of the people who were at loggerheads with the late head of State. One such person is Michael Sata. Mwanawasa gives an account of why he fell out with Sata when he was Vice President. In all fairness, the author makes the book an interesting read as he departs from the norm of a one sided biography, by giving those mentioned in a negative way by Mwanawasa, an opportunity to rebut. Michael Sata gives an interesting explanation of why he fell out with the then Vice President, in such a way that he does not only elucidate, but he also edifies on the workings of government, while Dr. Kenneth Kaunda reserves his reasons of firing Mwanawasa as Solicitor General after only nine months, for his soon to be published memoirs.
While the nation knew Mwanawasa as a stone faced, serious man, and anti corruption crusader, he was really a big softie and family man, as evidenced by the author when he gives an account of when the late President was being taught how to swim by his children. The author goes behind the scenes and talks to people who intimately knew the deceased President; the ones who give a personal account without which the book is dismissed as events compiled on press clippings.
Tragically, as of any book published posthumously, the author confesses to the problem of the reliance on such interviewees, as some of them were to recant their earlier testimonies and confess to their fear of Mwanawasa when he was still alive. For a first attempt at book writing, it is not only a laudable effort by the author, but one which will encourage possible “biographees” to open up, as well as encouraging budding writers to pick up a pen.
The book is richly bound and printed on superb gloss paper. The cover is graced by a pensive Mwanawasa in Statesman like demeanour. It is a decent book to have on the shelf and a good reference tool for researchers, political science scholars and those keen on keeping up with events. It is also none partisan in the sense of the political divide at party level.
At K170, 000.00 or equivalent, it is a must have copy, for those keen on increasing knowledge of the goings on in government, the backstabbing, the power struggle, the lobbying and the political snobbery. It is also a good gift for those who are yet to make up their minds on what Christmas present to give a Political Junkie of African state of affairs.
Title: Levy Patrick Mwanawasa: An Incentive for Posterity
Author: Amos Malupenga
Publisher: NISC (Pty) Ltd, Grahamstown South Africa.
Number of Pages: 280
The book by Amos Malupenga is now available for purchase on-line from the leading seller of African titles in the UK, “Africa Book Centre” who for many years had offices at the Africa Centre in Covent Gardens and now moved to Brighton.
Africa Centre was officially opened by KK in 1964 there used to be a sign to this effect by the entrance, but it has now been removed.
To order the book kindly click on the following link; then Enter Catalogue on home page, click on New Titles 27 May 2010