Zambia has declared seven days of mourning following the death of former president Rupiah Banda who, while in office, championed small-scale farmers in an attempt to make the country more food secure.
Banda (85) was declared dead at his residence on Friday, 11 March 2022. According to local reports, he had been receiving treatment for cancer of the colon.
He served as Zambia’s president between 2008 and 2011, and had asked the nation to pray for him during his last public appearances.
Le Journal Le’Afrique described him as the “Zambian pharaoh” who has long lived in the shadow of the country’s founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, who died in June 2021.
The political leader, who was born in Gwanda, Zimbabwe when it was known as Southern Rhodesia, was a key figure in Zambia’s war for independence. He used to jokingly share how colonial masters had imprisoned him when it was discovered he was delivering mail to liberation fighters.
In 1964, after Zambia became independent from Britain, he would become a diplomat. At 27, he became the country’s first ambassador to Egypt. A mere three years later, at the age of 30, he would fulfil another role as a pioneer: he became Zambia’s first ambassador to the United States.
This was followed by an illustrious political career which included a stint as Zambia’s permanent United Nations representative, and foreign minister.
From across the globe, people paid tribute to Banda on various social media platforms.
A friend of agriculture
While he was fulfilling this role as foreign minister, Banda also served as chief for the grain company. At the time it was known as the National Agricultural Marketing Council. This board was operational between 1969 and 1989. It was responsible for promoting food security with a particular emphasis on how marketing could be used in the provision of frameworks for small-scale farmers.
Agriculture was close to his heart. During a 2019 visit to South Africa, Banda reiterated the importance of young people embracing opportunities in farming. Zambia, he said, had land available for this purpose.
Meanwhile, South Africa conveyed its condolences with the people of Zambia following the news of Banda’s death. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the two nations were united in mourning Banda.
Namibian president Hage Geingob also shared his regret at the news of Banda’s death.
“Indeed, with his passing, Namibia has lost a dependable friend. But, we are comforted by his indelible contributions to the liberation movements of our region and the socio-economic development of its people. During this hour of grief, I extend sympathies to his wife, Thandiwe Banda, the children and the fraternal people of Zambia. May his soul rest in peace,” Geingob said to Xinhau.