By Ajong Mbapndah L
Like him or hate him, Rupiah Banda is a towering figure in Zambian politics. His critics will point to tales of corruption while he served as President from 2008 to 2011 despite the fact that Mr Banda went through a very agonizing judicial process, and personally sat through lengthy court sessions to finally cleanse his name and absolve himself of any wrong doing. To many in Zambia and across Africa however, Rupiah Banda is one of the eminent members of a small but growing club of elder statesmen who do not see the presidency as a matter of life and death.
Beaten by Michael Sata of the opposition in the elections of 2011, President Banda did what few sitting leaders in the continent will think of doing by accepting the verdict from the poll.
“It was a very tough decision, but one of the best I ever made ,” President Banda said in an interview which took place recently in Philadelphia,USA, where he was participating at a Leadership Forum hosted by the National Democratic Institute-NDI on the sidelines of the Democratic Party Convention.
“There is life after the Presidency and a better one too,” says Rupiah Banda who prides himself as one of the biggest tomato and vegetable farmers in his country. “There is no port in Zambia and perhaps Southern Africa where you will not see tomatoes grown by me,” says President Banda who served as President of Zambia from 2008 to 2011. “Some may think I cherish life after the presidency because I am out of power, but that is far from the case,” said President Banda, who says he takes delight in moving at ease in his country and interacting with his compatriots.
Reminiscing on the choice he made to accept the verdict from the polls, President Banda said, though there were avenues for him to challenge the elections, Zambians had spoken and he did not deem it patriotic to be the stumbling block on the will of his people at the risk of throwing the country into untold chaos.
“It feels great to move freely in any part of Zambia ,Africa and the world, it feels good to interact with people freely, and that I Ieft Zambia in peace and intact when I had the opportunity to challenge the election ,rig, or even use force to stay in power remains my biggest legacy,” said President Banda
“I left Zambia intact and I made the people to understand that their institutions can work,” President Banda said of his legacy. Having five elections in the last ten years can be a little tiring and takes a toll on development, President Banda said, but gave credit to Zambians for their political maturity . It is the political maturity that President Banda urged Zambians to display in the build up to yet another election with tensions running high between the ruling party and the opposition.
The African Union Passport launched in Kigali, Rwanda is a very welcome development and a step in the right direction for the continent, President Banda said. It will not only ease travel, but has the potential to boast integration and economic development, said Mr Banda.
Visibly looking younger and full of vitality for a 79 year old, President Banda said one of the things he will be working on in the years ahead is the publication of his memoirs.