Zambia mourns opposition leader

A businessman-cum-technocrat turned politician, Mazoka, who was also president the country’s largest opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND), died at Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the early hours of Wednesday morning. Mazoka, 63, died of kidney complications a fortnight after local media reports said he had been admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for a routine medical check-up. Mazoka narrowly lost to eventual winner Levy Mwanawasa in the 2001 presidential elections when Frederick Chiluba stepped down after his second and final five-year term as president. As leader of the opposition alliance during this year’s forthcoming elections, Mazoka was again expected to slug it out with Mwanawasa who will be seeking to retain the presidency for the last term of office. UPND spokesperson Patrick Chisanga confirmed the death of Mazoka, who leaves behind a wife, Mutinta, and several children. “Mr Mazoka has died. He died at about 01:00 hours this morning (Wednesday). All senior party officials are meeting now before we give more details to the Press,” said Chisanga in a brief telephone interview. President Mwanawasa said he had received the news of the death of Mazoka with a deep sense of personal and national loss, sorrow and pain. Mwanawasa said though Mazoka espoused different political beliefs from him, he regarded him as a brother. Before turning to politics, Mazoka was chief executive officer of Anglo American Corporation, East and Central Africa. He was also the CEO of Zambia Railways from 1971 to 1980 before moving to Boart Longyear, where he was managing director from 1980 to 1989. His political clout showed during the 2001 president elections when he lost narrowly to Mwanawasa. At the time of his death, Mazoka was one of the favourites expected to lead the opposition alliance challenging Mwanawasa and the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in presidential and general elections later this year. The body was flown from South Africa and by press time burial arrangements were still being made. The comments from Mwanawasa are contained in a statement released to ZNBC News by his Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations John Musukuma. The president said he and the deceased shared a common bond of brotherhood which transcended political considerations. Mwanawasa also sent a message of condolences to Mrs Christine Mazoka and the UPND. The president said Zambia had once again lost one of its prominent sons who dedicated his life to the service of the country. A cross-section of the Zambian society has received the death of Mazoka with shock, describing it as a great loss to the nation. Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi said her party had been devastated by news of the death. Nawakwi, who worked with the late UPND leader in the UDA, said the loss had left a big vacuum in the alliance. United National Independence Party (UNIP) vice president Njekwa Anamela, who is also in the UDA, described Mazoka as a courageous leader. Heritage Party president Brigadier-General Godfrey Miyanda said his party had received the news of the death of Mazoka with shock. National Democratic Focus spokesperson John Ziba said his political grouping was saddened by the death as the country prepares for tripartite elections this year. Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president Leonard Hikaumba described Mazoka as a dependable leader. Council of Churches in Zambia chairperson Reverend Japhet Ndhlovu described Mazoka’s death as a great loss to the nation. ‘ Additional reporting by ZNBC.

May 2006
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