Lovemore Chikova in Lusaka, Zambia
President Mnangagwa has described the late former Zambian President Rupiah Banda as a Pan-Africanist and a regional icon.
The President was speaking at a State funeral for President Banda at the Lusaka Showgrounds this afternoon.
President Banda died last week after a two-year struggle against colony cancer.
President Mnangagwa was among heads of state and governments and former leaders from the region attending the event.
“President Banda was indeed a Pan-Africanist and a rare breed in our region,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said President Banda played a key role in the decolonisation of the region.
President Mnangagwa chronicled the days he worked with President Banda in the political scene in Zambia as youths.
He also pointed out that President Banda was also close to Zimbabwe, where he was born.
Countries represented at the State funeral where hundreds attended included Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Others who spoke also praised President Banda for his contribution to the liberation of the region.
President Banda, who died last week, will be buried at the Presidential Burial Site, Embassy Park in Lusaka tomorrow.
President Banda was Zambia’s fourth president since independence from Britain in 1964, and he died at his residence on Friday last week at the age of 85 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.
According to a biography published by Lusakatimes.com, President Banda was born on 13 February 1937 in Gwanda, in the then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to Zambian migrant workers.
His parents, Bwezani and Sarah Banda, had come to Zimbabwe in search of job opportunities.
He spent his childhood in Zimbabwe where he was initially sponsored by a local Dutch Reformed Church preacher and later by the family of B.R. Naik who helped him financially and enabled him to get a good education. President Banda received his secondary education from Munali Secondary School where he proved to be a bright student.
While at Munali, he became a member of the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) headed by the late Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula.
He earned a scholarship to study at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
Here, too, he excelled academically and received a scholarship from the International Union of Students to study Economic History at Sweden’s prestigious Lund University and earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in 1964.
His interest in politics increased with time and eventually he became disillusioned with the ZANC’s moderate approach and left it to join the youth wing of founding Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP).
While studying in Sweden, President Banda also served as UNIP’s representative to Northern Europe and helped in spreading awareness about UNIP’s cause and secured scholarships for several Zambian students.
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.
At 27 years, President Banda became Zambia’s first Ambassador to Egypt.
He left that posting in the year of the “Six-day war” of 1967. At 30 years, he was named Zambia’s ambassador to the United States and moved to Washington DC.
In 1970, he was appointed general manager of the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBOARD), the state crop marketing company.
He subsequently became head of the Rural Development Corporation (RDC), the state agricultural holding company, one of the largest state conglomerates of its time.
In 1974, President Banda became the Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN.
He served as Foreign Minister of Zambia from 1975, a critical period in the history of Southern Africa.
At that time, Zambian diplomacy centred on efforts to help liberate Southern Africa and Zambia’s role was pivotal in the events and initiatives leading up to resolution.
Zambia’s abiding interest in the liberation of the region meant that its Foreign Minister was among the key figures in the diplomacy and events that eventually led to the emancipation of the region.
As such, President Banda is known by, and interacted extensively with, many of the leaders of the region today.
He also served as President of the UN Council on Namibia which was effectively the government of Namibia while the matter of South Africa’s disputed mandate over the territory was resolved.
President Banda had been Member of Parliament for the Lusaka seat of Munali for many years.
He also held the position of Senior District Governor for Lusaka, where he was the political and administrative head of the Zambian capital.
After the 2006 general election, he was tapped for the post of Vice President in Dr Levy Mwanawasa’s government.
He took over Dr Mwanawasa’s presidential responsibilities after Dr Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008.
Following Dr Mwanawasa’s death in August 2008, President Banda became acting President.
As the candidate of the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy, President Banda won the October 2008 presidential election.
Seeking re-election in September 2011, he was defeated by opposition leader Michael Sata.