On 19th August 2008 President Levy Mwanawasa passed away. I heard the news of his death in Ngwanzi village which is on the shores of the River Zambezi in the Kazangula District of Zambia.
We had spent a whole day travelling throughout the Kazangula District in search of Chief Sekute. The Chief was travelling from village to village in his Chiefdom visiting his subjects but he had agreed to give us an audience provided that we could find him! We were travelling with two of his nephews, but as our mobile phone signal only worked in certain areas out in the Bush we were finding it very difficult to actually find him.
Eventually, almost as the sun was setting, we found out that the Chief would shortly be arriving in Ngwanze. We made our way to the quaint fishing village and awaited his arrival. Whilst waiting we were shown around by the Headman. The village was a hub of excitement. It was a time of great anticipation awaiting the Chief's arrival. As we waited we heard the Zambian National Anthem being played on a distant radio. At the time this didn't seem unusual but with the benefit of hindsight we realised the significance of this event. Nearby to where we had parked our hired 4x4 vehicle we huddled around a small radio, that barely picked up a signal, and heard the news that the President had died.
People had long speculated over the health of the President and some had quietly speculated that they suspected he would never return to Zambia from his hospital in Paris. Logic dictated that this was a reasonable hypothesis. However, there was always hope. Hope had ended with this radio broadcast though and now all had fallen silent.
Soon Chief Sekute arrived, but to a much different atmosphere to the one of only an hour earlier. Upon his arrival he made his way to the centre of the village to be greeted by the senior villagers. The mood was sombre as Betty and Constance made their way to pass on our condolences to the Chief. We had sort out the Chief in order to discuss the possibility of acquiring land in his Chiefdom but now our trip had taken on a new perspective.
President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa was an honest, decent and humble man who sort the best for his people. He fought corruption in Zambia and upheld the rule of law and the principles of democracy. He is sadly missed by the people of Zambia and by many others in Africa. May he rest in peace.