Zambia's 4th President Rupiah Banda gestures during the Reuters Africa Investment Summit held in JohannesburgZambia's 4th President Rupiah Banda
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Zambia’s 4th Republican president Rupiah Banda was born in the town of Miko, Gwanda, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rodhisia); his parents left Zambia then (Northern Rhodesia) and migrated to find employment prior to his birth.

Young Rupiah Banda

Rupiah Banda married his first wife, Hope Mwansa Makulu, in 1966 and the couple had three sons together. Hope Mwansa Banda (born 29 August 1941), died in South Africa on 11 October 2000 after losing her battle with cancer. (this will not be his last encounter with the disease) She was buried in Leopards Hill Cemetery.

Hope Mwansa Makulu Rupiah Banda's 1st wife
Hope Mwansa Makulu

His second wife, Thandiwe Banda, a political science teacher, was more than thirty years younger than Banda. Thandiwe Banda served as the First Lady of Zambia during his presidency from 2008 to 2011. Banda had 7 children from both marriages.

Rupiah Banda & Thandiwe Banda
Rupiah Banda & Thandiwe Banda

Rupiah Banda’s early education was sponsored by a local Dutch Reformed Church preacher (and later, the family of B. R. Naik, a family of Indian origin) to continue his education into adulthood. Banda received his second-cycle education from Munali Secondary School. He later earned a scholarship to study at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Rupiah earned a BA in Economic History from Lund University, Sweden in 1964. He returned to Zambia after completing his course in Sweden and enrolled at the National Institute for Public Affairs (NIPA) for a course in Diplomacy and International Relations.

Rupiah Banda joined the UNIP youth win in the 1960’s was the UNIP’s representative in Northern Europe in the early 1960s and in 1965 at the age of 28 he was appointed Zambia’s Ambassador to Egypt (the United Arab Republic). While there, he became friends with UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, and the decision to allow UNITA to open offices in Lusaka at that time has been attributed to Banda’s influence. At the age of 30 Banda became Ambassador to the United States on 7 April 1967.
He served as Ambassador to the U.S. for about two years, then returned to Zambia to serve as Chief Executive of the Rural Development Corporation for about two years and subsequently as General Manager of the National Agriculture Marketing Board NAMBoard for a similar length of time.
He was then appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and while in this position he also headed the U.N. Council for Namibia paving the way for Namibia’s independence. After about a year at the U.N., then president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda wanted to take advantge of Banda’s acrued experties on the international stage and appointed him to the Zambian Cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs. During his brief stint as Foreign Minister (1975–1976) Banda was occupied by the task of to broker a cease-fire in Angola.

Banda began his political career where he attended secondary school in Munali, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Munali Constituency in 1978 he later lost the seat to Simeon Kampata in 1983. He also served for a time as Minister of State for Mines.
In 1991, he was defeated in the Munali Constituency by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) candidate Ronald Penza. Although he initially intended to run again for the seat in the 1996 election, he supported the UNIP’s boycott of the election.
After President Mwanawasa was re-elected in September 2006, he appointed Banda vice-president on 9 October 2006, along with a new cabinet. Following his appointment he subsequently joined the MMD. Banda’s appointment was widely viewed as a means of rewarding the easterners for supporting the MMD in the election, as this was the first time that easterners had done so.

Following President Mwanawas’s public criticism of Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, tensions between the two leaders were high. President Mwanawasa saw it prudent to ease tensions and normalise relations with Zambia’s neighbor to the south. In August 2007 Prior to a planned summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Banda was sent by Mwanawasa to improve relations with neighboring Zimbabwe.

In June 2008 then president Mwanawasa travelled to the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to attend an African Union summit. On the 29th of June President Mwanawasa suffered a stroke which would eventually take his life. Subsequently then vice president Banda took up the position of acting president and his first order of business was to keep the nation updated with the status of Zambia’s ailing president. Acting president gave vague optimistic updates which were received with skepticism from the general public but Banda insisted he had “no reason to lie”

President Mwanawasa never recovered from his stroke and eventually died while still hospitalised at Percy-Clamart military hospital just outside Paris. On the 19th of August 2008 acting president Banda announced to the nation that Zambia’s third president had died. The nation was struck with immense grief and sorrow, Zambia never before experienced the loss of a sitting president. Acting president Banda declared 7 days national mourning and called for elections to be held in 90 days in accordance with the republican constitution.

Acting President filed in his application to stand as the MMD candidate. In the intra party elections Banda received 47 votes against then finance minister Ngandu Magande’s 11 votes paving the way for his first run at the presidency. On pole day Banda beat late president Michael Sata with President Banda taking the day with 40% of the vote while Sata took 38%. President Banda was sworn in the same day the results were announced on November 2nd 2008. With the nation and his party highly divided President Banda had an uphill battle ahead of him with the opposition Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front refusing to accept the results and pockets of dissent sprouting on the Copperbelt towns of Ndola and Kitwe. Following his election He promised to unite the party and the nation.

According to the Republican constitution at the time President Rupiah Banda would serve for the next three years till the next general election. His presidency did not lack controversy with allegations of corruption nepotism and gross mismanagement being labeled against his administration. President Banda’s administration focused on building international relations to focus on economic development. Notable among the nations president band courted were Egypt, China, India and Italy. President Banda’s administration to a controversial stance towards his predecessors fight against corruption and rolled back and dismantled most of the Levy Mwanawasa initiated anti-corruption initiatives.

In mid 2009 just two years before the next general election the MMD National Executive had unilaterally chosen Banda as the candidate for the 2011 General election. This was critisied by some in the party arguing that the nomination process should be open to all ellegible members this led some senior member to tend their resignation most notably among these was the then Defense Minister George Mpombo who resigned in July 2009. President Banda subsequently opened up the nomination and allowed others to challenge his candidacy. He eventually emerged victorious and subsequently represented the MMD at the 2011 poles. President Banda’s MMD Lost to Michael Sata’s PF at September 2011 pols ending his 3 year presidency. He conceded the highly contested pole in an emotional address to the nation and once again called upon the nation to unite and rally behind the victor.

The early years of his retirement were marred by allegations of graft. A motion to lift his immunity was brought before parliament in 2013. His immunity from prosecution was stripped clearing the way for prosecution in allegations in to acquisition of public property and misappropriation of public funds involving more than $11 million US dollars. He was never convicted nor did he serve any jail time.
President Banda eventually settled in to his role as statesman and was called upon at an advisory level. President Banda has led election observation missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Sierra Leone under the Carter Center and to the Royal Kingdom of Lesotho under the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. The United States-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) whose chairperson is former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, invited Banda to co-lead the NDI delegation with former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, former Niger Prime Minister Mahamadu Danda, former Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam and former governor of Colorado Bill Ritter.

President Banda died at his home in Lusaka at the age of 85 after losing his battle with colon cancer on 11th March 2022.
May His soul Rest in Peace

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