Foreign heads of state and government are expected to attend the state funeral of the late former president of Zambia Rupiah Banda at Lusaka Showground on 17 March, a day ahead of his burial at the Presidential Burial Site, Embassy Park.
Banda, Zambia’s fourth president since independence from Britain in 1964, died on Friday at the age of 85 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.
He’s the second former Zambian president to die after Kenneth Kaunda in just under a year.
Acting Secretary to Cabinet Patrick Kangwa said in a statement foreign heads of states had been invited to attend the state funeral. He also said the funeral programme had been discussed with Banda’s family, who gave President Hakainde Hichilema their full blessing.
To Joseph Kalimbwe, a youth leader in the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND), Banda will be remembered for accepting the will of the people after he lost in the general elections of 2011.
“… [the] late Rupiah Banda was an incumbent president in 2011 with the military at his disposal. But when his ruling party lost the election, he faced television cameras to accept defeat,” he said.
Banda would be known by his speech in which he said, “Zambia is an African nation where if a president loses they go peacefully. It’s my turn to leave.”
Banda would later be involved in a power transition in 2021 but as a former head of state helping to facilitate transition when Edgar Lungu vacated office as president, and Hichilema was ushered in.
On 16 August last year, Banda brought together rivals Lungu and Hichilema at his residence along with African Union (AU) Chief election Observer, Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, and Commonwealth Chief observer, Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
It was at that meeting that Lungu accepted his fate and allowed democracy to win.
To date, Zambia is one of the leading lights for democracy in Southern Africa.
During a meeting between United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat on Friday, the two commended Zambia’s commitment towards democracy in Africa.
“Zambia pledged to improve the independence and transparency of its Electoral Commission… In these very practical but important ways, countries around the world, including in Africa, are taking steps to make progress to strengthen and deepen their democracies,” said Blinken.
Before rising the political ladder eventually becoming head of state between 2008-2011, Banda had served as a career diplomat during the presidency of the founding father of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda.
In a statement, the Namibian presidency said the country would remember Banda for the steadfast role he played towards Namibia’s fight for independence.
The People of Zambia have lost a great Statesman, former President Rupiah Banda. In 1974, President Banda, in his capacity as Permanent Representative of Zambia to the United Nations took on the special responsibility of President of United Nations Council for Namibia.
“In that difficult assignment, President Banda played a pivotal role in advancing the cause of Independence for the Namibian People. With his passing, Namibia has lost a dependable friend,” said the Namibian presidency.
Banda was born in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) in a small mining town Gwanda, 150km south of Bulawayo the second-largest city to Northern Rhodesian (Zambian) parents who had moved south of the federation in search of work.
In 2009, he went back to the town of his birth when he was on a state visit at the invitation of the late president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.
Journalists who were part of that trip remember Banda asking about a tree he used to climb when he was a child. It had been cut down.