Former Republican President, Rupiah Banda says becoming Head of State came as a surprise to him.
Speaking during a televised program, Ignite with Mwangala, Banda said he never dreamt that one day, he would be president even though he had held various government posts.
Talking of his early years, Banda said he had a privilege of becoming a leader at grass roots level.
“Just before parliamentary elections a group of people in Mutembere came to see me at my house at Chila Road saying they wanted me to be the area MP.
“I told them I have no means, but they said we are your means.
“Once I got in I had to decide on reruns, but to start with it was the people who pushed me into it,” he said.
Banda said his mother, seemed to have noticed that he would be a leader in later life.
“My mother seemed to have noticed at young age that I would be a leader. She said I was too kind I would come home with friends to eat despite us being a poor family growing up in Gwanda, Zimbabwe.
“When playing with others, from poorer homes, they would follow me home and we would have lunch together, my mother noticed that I was forgiving, generous, and praised me for it.
“Normally people want to eat food alone, but I was not like that,” he said.
He said after leaving active politics life changed for him when he lost his wife, he lived a miserable life in Lusaka, felt lonely and out of place.
“Though my children would visit me, I still felt out of place and decided to relocate to Chipata and my father, mother were still alive.
“I said to myself, why should I stay alone, let me go home and see my parents grow older,” he said.
He explained a moment that would change his life for good;
“One day, President Levy Mwanawasa sent his officials to come and see me at the farm. I was afraid because I thought I had done something wrong.
“He told me he was having problems with his campaigns, pointing out that he had narrowly won the previous election. So he wanted my help,” he said.
He was surprised;
“I asked him who told you to follow me, he mentioned a number of names, including his top advisers.
“Mwanawasa having had been my friend at one time, I agreed to work with him. He later appointed me his deputy and I finally succeeded him,” he said.
Banda was born on 19 February 1937, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia).
He earned a BA in Economic History from the Lund University in 1964.
Banda is the fourth President of Zambia serving from 2008 to 2011.
As President, he dedicated himself to improving Zambia’s economy, ensuring security, stability and prosperity for all Zambians.
He worked especially to improve healthcare and education, to increase agricultural production and to secure and increase the number of jobs in Zambia, particularly for people living in rural areas.
Banda was one of a generation of young men who participated in Zambia’s anti-colonial struggle. At 27 years old he became Zambia’s first Ambassador to Egypt. He left that posting the year of the “six-day war” of 1967. At 30 years old 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 the largest state conglomerates of its time.
In 1974 he 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 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, Banda is known by, and has 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.
Banda had been Member of Parliament for the Lusaka seat of Munali for many years. He has 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 Mwanawasa’s presidential responsibilities after Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008, and following Mwanawasa’s death in August 2008, he became acting President.
As the candidate of the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy, he won the October 2008 presidential election. Seeking re-election in September 2011, he was defeated by opposition leader Michael Sata.