Former president Rupiah Banda says if the court did not stop him from standing against President Edgar Lungu in 2015, he would have won the elections because Zambians loved the peaceful way in which he handed over power to the late Michael Sata.
And Banda says he was humiliated in court over charges of abuse of authority after leaving office, but he has forgotten those who ganged up against him.
Meanwhile Banda said he is passionate about the fight against cancer because his first wife succumbed to it while his current wife Thandiwe was also diagnosed with the disease.
The former Head of State was speaking on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview with Gravazio Zulu.
Below is the verbatim of the interview:
Gravazio; Tonight, I have my special guest who once served in the African National Congress (ANC) headed by the late Harry Mwanga Nkumbula as well as in the youth wing of UNIP, way back in the independence days.
He was one of those who became one of Zambia’s early diplomats who served in Egypt, the United States, as well as the United Nations as permanent representative. My guest tonight is His Excellency Rupiah Bwezani Banda popularly known as RB. He reflects on Zambia’s Independence struggle and how the country can nature its freedom, peace, and unity. Your Excellency, it is good to have you on the show.
RB: Thank you, thank very much for the opportunity.
Gravazio: Now I want to start, of course everybody is interested in knowing life after the presidency, is it boring?
RB: Nobody will believe me when I say that its good life. You get up when you want to get up, do what you want to do, spend more time with your family and friends, you attend to each other’s problems with your friends. It is a good life. I would encourage everybody who has been president or wants to be a president to know that life after the presidency, that’s when you can start thinking about what to do for your country.
Gravazio: What are you doing as a matter of interest?
RB: I am farming. I have a very big farm in Chipata, about 500 acres farm. I am not doing much because I am not traveling to the farm very often. It is becoming more and more difficult as I get older but here I have a 60 acre farm and there I am growing tomatoes, cabbages, fruits. I am finding it very exciting. Tomatoes in particular, they are money makers because I sale good quality of tomatoes every week.
Gravazio: So you understand the market pretty well, the drop in prices and when they rise?
RB: Yes yes, and we have a good data base, we know who is our market. So two, three days before, my people contact all the marketeers from as far as Livingstone, from as far as Chililabombwe and tell them we are selling on such and such a day and they are there by themselves and buy everything.
Gravazio: No credit?
RB: No credit at all
Gravazio: The story you are telling us today is a story of independence, that’s basically the reason you are here, and I must take you back to 24th October, that day, 23rd into 24th, you were quite young I guess. How did you feel as a Zambian? What was going on in your mind? Just go back to that day and reflect, what was the mood like?
RB: Well, I must say I am one of the few left who were privileged to have been in the stadium itself and to see the British flag come down and you see the Zambian flag go up, and to see Dr Kaunda stand up to become our new president, and to see a number of men stand up in the crowd. I was part of that crowd. A few of my friends I can remember like VJ and so on, it was wonderful and unbelievable. And when we came back from the stadium, almost every house there was a party going on. You know, that time most of the bigger houses like in Kabulonga, Woodlands and so on were owned by white people and many of them opened their houses to parties. You just go in there and they say ‘welcome home’ it was a wonderful thing.
Gravazio: Many people joined in the celebrations?
RB: Yes yes, they did, I guess that’s why you see our country is unlike many other African countries. Our brothers who suffered so much post independence, [there was war], our country hasn’t had that because from the very beginning, most people were happy. Those who were not happy packed up and left, but they were very few.
Gravazio: There was no resistance whatsoever?
RB: No, no, because of the manner in which Dr Kaunda and his colleagues handled the struggle. All the time they made it very clear that we were fighting for justice for everyone. That all the people that lived in Zambia in 1964, if they want to be Zambians, they become Zambians. So many of the white kids or Europeans who were working here, who wanted to become Zambians, became Zambians. It was a wonderful thing. We were all fighting for each other, not against each other.
Gravazio: There was that rough build-up, the Cha Cha Cha violence, did that dent our struggle, our fight?
RB: Yes of course it was very unfortunate. I remember very well the incident on the Copperbelt where an innocent white lady with her children was set on fire and so forth. Most Zambians were sad about that. Those who believed that, be it the white, the Indian, the colored, everyone didn’t like this kind of thing. I think even now they still don’t like that kind of thing. You know when you heal, violence, most Zambians don’t like that.
Gravazio: I know that you were born in Gwanda, Zimbabwe…
RB: Yes, there is no secret about that, [laughs] its public.
Gravazio: But then you still found yourself in active Zambian politics, how did that happen?
RB: Because my parents came from here. My father and mother come from Chipata from a place called Chipalamba and then they went to Harare in Zimbabwe to look for work. They walked, all the way from Fort Jameson now Chipata, with a group of friends, all the way and worked on the way until they ended up on the railway line that goes up to Bulawayo to Beit Bridge on the way to South Africa. There my parents settled and there we were born.
Gravazio: Now where did your interest in politics come from? Some stories say that it’s probably some people that sponsored you in your education, your education was politicallyactive?
RB: No no, it’s the other way round. I was sponsored by an Indian family and Zimbabwean family who himself later on became political and ended up at Gonakudzingwe, he was detained by Smith because he supported the rest of the population in the fight for independence. The Joshua Nkhomo and President [Robert] Mugabe’s group. So he supported those and he was arrested by the white government there and put in jail for many years. Unfortunately he passed away just a few weeks ago, I think a month ago. But my brother was working for him. He was a tailor. You know how the India shops are inside, you have got clothes and other things they sell and outside the veranda you have got a sewing machine where you use your hands and then when a lady buys a dress or a gentleman buys a shirt, he will come outside to the tailor and the tailor measures it, and alters it for you. That was the job of my brother. So I used to go to see my brother and also to collect money for my sister in law and my mother for groceries and so forth. And then we started talking, myself and the owner of the shop. He became very interested, it is the other way round, I converted him.
Gravazio: Into politics?
RB: Yeah, into politics, because don’t forget that much earlier than that, my parents had decided that I should come back and know my country. So they sent me back to Northern Rhodesia, they sent me to Madzimoyo Mission which was owned by the Dutch reformed church. In the little location, Gwanda location, where we lived, there was an old man Mr Zulu, who was a missionary, he was sent from Madzimoyo to wherever their mission station was in Zimbabwe. So he was the one where my parents went to church and he found me a place to study there. I was 14-15 when I came back.
Gravazio: Now I know that at some point you belonged to the ANC led by Harry Nkumbula, then you moved on to the youth wing under UNIP
RB: Yes, that was ZANC, we moved with most young people who were on the radical side. So when the ANC looked like they were a bit slow, they were not prepared to confront the British so that we can have our independence soon, Dr Kaunda broke away from that and took with him many of us younger people who went and formed ZANC and came …Palo who also came with all the other radical young ones who were studying abroad in India, South Africa and so on…Mr Mwanakatwe. We all felt that we wanted to go to the radical side. So that’s the side which I wanted which later on became UNIP.
Gravazio: Was that a sad moment for you, did you feel sad that you were leaving ANC which was…?
RB: Yes, yes ANC has been around for a long time and I am happy that later on we managed to come together. It’s what made it easier to get our independence because instead of us fighting each other, our leaders saw that well, what are we fighting for we are fighting for the people why don’t we all sit down and agree to…the power and they met in Monze we were too young to participate and they met in Monze and agreed to come together and we got our independence in 1964.
Gravazio: Your contribution
RB: This is a very important question you are asking I really like it because the people listening out there should understand that we are coming a long way and by we, I mean the Zambian people and that what has happened to the Zambian since 1964 to now is as a result of how we prosecuted house trouble in other words we had leaders who always reminded everybody that what we wanted was unity peace and independence and as a result, we are one of the few countries in Africa who can claim to had not have a civil war. Thank God and I hope we will never come to that.
Gravazio: Your role in the struggle is not so much told. Were you so much active? In the youth wing, were you in the background?
RB: No, no, no I was quite active inside there as you know there was only one secondary school and then after that there came Chikuni, the one in Monze, and then after that one or two more secondary schools came after that but there was only one secondary school…university so that was hot bird of Zambian or northern Rhodesian nationalism, it was there that I emerged as one of the leaders and…people like Chinkuli and others who agreed that we had to rally behind nationalist movement then I was fortunate to get a scholarship to Ethiopia to study at the university and there. Ethiopia was also seaming with nationalism in support of the African countries that were fighting for their independence, Ethiopians had been independent for 3,000 years and the emperor there understood that the rest of Africa needed to be free. When I was there, I was able to penetrate the system there I was able to was able to raise funds for the freedom struggle here and I invited our president then, Kaunda, president of the party to visit and he was received by the emperor government there and gave us some money to proceed with the struggle. From there I got another scholarship to Sweden at the University of Roan…and there I continued to address meetings everywhere and the party was very strong then and they wanted their party to be known internationally and so they appointed me to become the representative of UNIP in northern Europe. I used to travel all the way from Finland to Germany addressing universities, the students, asking them to support our cause.
Gravazio: So you were very active on the international network?
RB: Yes, yes
Gravazio: Now you have spoken highly of the school that was hot bird of the police activities, Munali, was it likely that anybody could have passed [through] that school, could have come out without being politicized in a way?
Gravazio: names that you remember that come to you mind that you were with at Munali that really impacted on the freedom struggle as well as on your life
RB: Yes yes very much some of them have just come back. I think I was telling the Director General that I only arrived back from Eastern Province last weekend that I had gone to bury the elder sister to one of my close close friends who later became the Vice Chancellor at the University of Zambia, become the governor of the bank Dr Jacob Mwanza, as you know he was a twin with his brother Esau, the three of us became very very close then he had friends from the rest of the country who later became key leaders even our teachers. It was at Munali where I met teachers who came from South Africa, they were recruited from teachers who came from Fortier like Mr Masiye and Mr Martin Kaunda, he is late now but he was one of our lecturers at Munali and then we had some English teachers. We had the principal who was…the English type of head master who used to whip us yes. But it was a wonderful experience…And because we had the highest institution of learning, we decided that we will try and organize the rest of the students in the country.
Grevazio: Now taking you back into the struggle. The liberation struggle, was there some point, a point in your life that you felt maybe Zambia was pushing too hard, maybe the country will never be independent?
RB: …I recall purely that the whole country was like on fire. Everybody wanted independence. And we were divided, within the country there were some who didn’t want to move too fast and I think that’s what caused the split between the ANC and those who played by Kaunda and followed by a lot of these young people who just graduated from South African university and from India. From all parts of the country. It was the first time that we had leaders from everywhere. Mr Matoka, I can remember, he is late now, Dr Matoka, they all had come back and they all wanted independence so we were following them and supporting them.
Gravazio: I want you to share with us any moment that you look back and say this was either your happiest moment in the struggle or the lowest moment or lowest point at that time?
RB: My highest point was independence in 1964 which was the most exciting and there after it became even more exciting because we were the only young people who had some education so we really got good jobs. Like myself, I became ambassador and immediately after that in 1964, the first crew of ambassadors, I think I’m the most senior. A school was opened here by the British it was called Diplomatic school at NIPA and it was a school to educate us young people to serve our country overseas. And not only in Zambia but Kenyans, Malawians, Tanzanians Lake Tanganyika, so we all met here…Vernon Mwaanga joined us at school and Alinani Simbule…we were all together at school and a few others from Kenya who later on became ambassadors and ministers in their countries. But they were all trained here. And we were the first group of diplomatic staff who were appointed as ambassadors.
Gravazio: So at that point you had won your masters, they were not in denial, they were already accepted?
RB: No, they were not in denial, they had accepted.
Gravazio: They had to train you, especially that the independence was coming?
RB: Yes, and they went out of their way really to help us to prepare so that we can take over properly.
Gravazio: Are there any low moments that when you look back during the struggle really you say this was…
RB: Yes, when there was a break between the ANC to ZANC, we just felt like it is mad people from, I don’t get it, so that’s how we radicalized and decided to go a different path. We felt very low when the ANC was unwilling to move in the direction of radicalism and there were some of our leaders who agreed even to sell [to] the British parliament, they joined the federal party and so on. But the majority of the Zambians in all the provinces decided that we were going to go the radical way.
Gravazio: Those who had joined the British government, did you consider them as traitors?
RB: Only that they were very few, I even know their names and it is not fair to…
Gravazio: To mention the
RB: Yes, because their children are still around here but these are some of the difficult things that I would still want to tell you that during my holidays, I used to go to Southern Rhodesia, to Gwanda to see my parents. And my parents would say to me, ‘don’t you think you are wasting your time to go and fight the white people?’ That time, the whites in Zimbabwe, in Southern Rhodesia were in transit, so our people never believed that, that was possible. That time when people like Joshua Nkhomo also were leaving the country to come North, to look for support to fight them. So my parents would jokingly say ‘you can’t manage these people, niwazungu aba mungabakwanise lini’ and we would tell them that ‘you will see we will get there’.
Gravazio: There were no phone calls then, so you had to go on a train to go and tell them that?
RB: [laughs] and it was very hard…When I got my first job, I was training in the civil service. Before I became ambassador, I worked for the post office, went to Livingstone to learn how to send telegraphic messages. You hit on the board and then you type-write and as soon as I got my black pay which was my four months salary, I sent it to my parents and told them to come back home. Because there it was getting rough. So there was a time when we thought that perhaps we would not make it but we made it.
Gravazio: Today, one of the challenges that we face is that we are independent quite alright but economically, we are still not very independent.
RB: Yes, I think now we have gotten to the point which affects us now, first off all let’s go back to history. In 1964 when we got our independence, we were three million people. Only three million people. There were no schools, only one at Olive secondary school. A few primary schools, missionary schools like in the Eastern Province we had the Kamoto, Madzimoyo, Magweru and so on but very very few schools. Most of our people were not educated. So all these challenges came before our new leaders that led us to independence. So in 1964 with only a population of three million people and our people went straight to work. They realized that challenges were to give adequate education to their people, to improve health care, to build good hospitals and to build new infrastructure, roads to whatever extent we could at that time. And this country, the economy was based on copper only. Unlike now where there are other sums of money but even that is not adequate. So the problem then was to educate and feed three million people and do everything for three million people. And since then, we have grown to 15 million people. So you can see the problem has grown for over the last 50 years. So obviously, we have serious problems. We have to consider how to solve this.
Gravazio: The question is how did we go wrong? We are still struggling 50 years?
RB: Is there a place where people are not struggling? You have to struggle everywhere; you have to see our politics. You go to South Africa, you go to England. It is the same thing, we have had the Indians, there are people who always want something better and a lot of good things have happened in our country. I am not saying there are no bad things, I realized that I was president, I suffered very hard to try and ameliorate the situation but the fact is that we have achieved quite a lot. Look, how many kilometers of roads do we have in the country? Every province is connected, still not adequate, we have to repair them to move from the main road to the rural parts of the world, etc. We have more roads that we had before, we have hospitals in every district of our country now, we have secondary schools, primary schools, universities, over 20 universities both private as well as state, we have achieved quite a lot. But most importantly, we have peace. We are the only African country who can claim that we have not had major social upheavals in our country
Gravazio: But you are an economist, would you say the public took a wrong economic turn at the start or at some point?
RB: Yes, yes but you know, at that time, most African countries had taken the same turn. Don’t forget that there was a time when the sovereignty union emerged on the world theme and created this division between the capitalist countries and socialist countries. And for us because of our level of development, we preferred to go the more socialist way but politically we tried to keep normalizing, we tried to stay in-between the Western countries, the Americans, the Australians and so on and the sovereign union tried to stay in the middle but economically, we tried also to try and bring people from Russia, Rumania and all these others. These were difficulties but we all tried. We all tried different methods and so on but the most important thing is that we still have our independence and we still fighting, we still doing better, trying our best to make our country better.
Gravazio: Is it possible for the country to be economically independent? Are we able to attain this?
RB: Yes of course. Our country is a huge country with 750 square kilometers of land, lots of waters, mountains, trees, rivers and good soils and a sizable population of 15 million people. We can of course, and that’s what we are aiming at. First, we must continue to work together. The thing that has hurt most of Africa is conflict between the people. During our time, the tribe of a person or where he came from was inconsequential. Unfortunately, I have to be honest, unfortunately now it is very important, people are now saying ‘no we are left out, none of our people is there’ but we are the same people. Our leaders must try and go back to history and understand where we came from and what has kept us together. And in my opinion, it is the belief that all Zambians are the same.
Gravazio: We have seen so many people talk about tribalism, regionalism, how big in your view is this cancer, this problem?
RB: It is big and I don’t think that it is generated by us. I think it is created from outside. Just like during the struggle, immediately after the struggle for independence here in Zambia, there started to be a division between those who wanted state control as in the sovereign union and the socialist countries and those who wanted to run the country in a capitalist way, you create divisions within the country. Now I think we are seeing interest groups from all over the country wanting to come here and take our properties, take our…what we have underground here, perhaps oil if we don’t find it. Not only in Zambia, this is a case in many other African countries. We say that oil is a case, you have seen the countries that have found oil, there are a lot of problems. And here, we haven’t found oil yet but we have copper, we have other minerals and unfortunately we cannot do it alone, we made people from outside to come and help us. And they also have interest, they want royal taxes, they don’t want you to tax them so much. So there is division amongst ourselves as to how best to manage this. But I think that Zambians should come together and try to manage it together.
Gravazio: You were sitting there in State House at one time, did you see this problem coming? Do you think something could be done about it?
RB: If you recall, I made no speeches during my presidency without concluding by saying ‘I am the president of all Zambians’, it was not an accident, it was something thought out so that this division that people are feeling that they are left out because in the last election, perhaps they belong to another political party or another grouping, now that Rupiah Banda is the president and they feel left out and they will not be part of the peace in the country. I fought very hard and believed and still believe that leaders, must be leaders for all. Those who voted for them, those who belong to their party, and those who didn’t vote for them.
Gravazio: Let’s probably get back, in probably some scenario after independence, tired, how did you manage as a new nation to get over this?
RB: Wow, if we had gotten over it, we wouldn’t be talking about it.
Gravazio: I understand it had gone quiet for a while.
RB: Yeah but now it is becoming a little bit louder and I think we have to find a formula and this formula means that people must give up something in their side, in their feelings. We must humble ourselves, we must be generous to each other. We have to find a solution whereby our leaders can sit down together and find a solution. We don’t have to blow up this country.
Gravazio: Issues of violence…
RB: Yes, you know, the only good thing about Zambians, and I believe sincerely that the majority of us really believe in one Zambia one Nation, we believe in this everywhere, you can go anywhere. I can go to any part of this country, I am sure people will come to greet me, they will recognize me as one who was their leader before and treat me nicely regardless of where I go. And I think that is still there and we should nurse it and let it grow.
Gravazio: Let me talk about the violence in the last election, it was described by many as unprecedented, never seen before. Is it something that you have never seen before? Was it nothing closer to what happened before a one party state?
RB: As you know with violence, you always find violence during the election and so on…people are bitter. When I say people, I am talking about everybody. We are bitter and we shouldn’t [be]. I think that we should come together. I read on those what do call them? Blogs? And people write and you don’t even know who is writing and they are very rude towards each other, they insult, especially me, I have been a big victim of that. I think they don’t understand me. How can I advise that ‘you should not concede elections’ when I myself conceded? It is not possible. I believed sincerely that after an election, I will have to concede and somebody had to win and after that has happened, I believe the winner had to go out of his own way to embrace the loser so that we can hold the next election which was towards democracy and once you have democracy it means that you and I and all the others can belong to the political party of their choice and choose who they want. You can’t say for instance that Rupiah Banda should belong to this side, it is his choice, it is your choice to belong to wherever you belong and it doesn’t matter. We are going to meet in the civil service, you will be a civil servant, it doesn’t matter, belong to whatever political party you belong but don’t bring it to work. Don’t start victimizing other people because they are not in your party. But unfortunately now, civil servants start to believe that ‘I know I belong to this and everything I do must ensure that those of my party benefit’.
Gravazio: How can we heal from this issue of tribalism, regionalism or violence?
RB: All problems that human beings face can only be solved by talking, by dialogue. Even if you chose to go to wall like they did in the first world war, the second world war, all these conflicts we have, they start with saying ‘no we can’t talk’ and they go and kill 20 million people and after killing 20 million people you sit down and agree. Why didn’t you agree before? In my opinion, every problem can be solved. We have to give up a little bit to our pride, a little bit of the ego, a little bit of our powers or maybe share. So in my opinion, I do not think there is need to go to the point where we hurt each other.
Gravazio: you did speak about being a victim…do you think social media is probably eroding our morals, eroding the way we relate to one another, eroding the sincerity?
RB: And it is not only in Zambia, there is this called fake news in America where they will talk about it and say ‘Rupiah Banda was here with a bag of money and he was paying some people to support so so’. Meanwhile you find that Rupiah Banda was not even there, Rupiah was at another 1,000 kilometers from the place they are talking about, it is fake news and it is all because of social media has done that. And also we are Africans, we are not Europeans, we are not Chinese, we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are Africans. We have our own way of doing things. Like you did as I came in today, the Director General and all the staff they had to receive me as the former president, as a father you see we greeted each other nicely, no bitterness in me. I don’t know what you believe in but the one thing you believe in is that we must give respect to each other and I do the same. And whoever I meet, I know that these people allowed me to be their president for three years, allowed me to be their vice-president for three years, allowed me to be their ambassador for 15- 20 years. I owe it to every Zambian, to respecting, to thanking [them] for what they gave to me to be what I am today. So that is the way of live. So I am saying we are not Europeans, we are not Indians we are not Chinese, our way is to respect one another. We know how to do it. When you want to get married to somebody’s daughter, even if the father is illiterate, no job, he has no shoes, the truth is you love the daughter, he is your father-in-law. What do you do to your father-in-law? You kneel down when you go there, you sit down when you go there ‘eh apongozi how are you and so on’ you do everything you can to help them. You should do the same. Where has our Africanism gone to? All our tribes we are same, every Zambian tribe, we have the same custom. Why should we abandon that and instead we want the blog way? To insult people, call people with bad names every day, no sympathy to one another, wishing each other death. I have heard on social media, and that is why I have stopped reading it now because when you read there you hear somebody saying ‘yea, let him die’. That’s very unAfrican, we have never had that. When there is a funeral in the village, everybody comes in the neighboring village to come and bury the passed. That is the way.
Gravazio: there is a group which people call ‘the born free’ those that probably do not understand what it takes to fight for independence, they will still ask you ‘what is there to celebrate’ 53 years now?
RB: Peace, do you know that you can jump in the car right now, you can decide you will go to Soweto and get whatever you want, you don’t have to worry that on the way, I will meet armed people. If you can get up and you know, if you talk…you see, these bad pastures, these people who come from Europe, they have got these trucks and they are about 30 people there and they are touring all Africa. I meet a lot of those people and I would like to talk to them and you know what they tell me? When they enter Zambia, they feel the difference. They feel that this is the best country they have entered, why? They don’t know anything about Zambia, because of the peace, the people you meet them nicely, you stop and buy bananas, talk to them, nobody is hostile, yell on the road and so on, there is peace here. And peace is enough to celebrate. So the fact that I am not the president doesn’t mean that I have nothing to celebrate. There is a President, when I was leaving, I was leaving my presidency to my worst opponent, to Mr Sata who had fought me for years, not only fought me, they fought the MMD and so on. When they phoned me telling me that he had won, I went and congratulated him. I went even up on the podium. I know it is very difficult to say this but we have to do that. That’s the way. If perhaps I had not been stopped by the courts from standing last time, most probably I would have been president again, why? Because the people appreciated the manner in which I vacated, I conceded. We have to teach each other that don’t worry even if I am the president, you my opponent is also part of the president.
Gravazio: Co-existence. I want to take you back a bit again, you were among a few Zambians that were educated at Independence, share with us, how difficult was it to deal with a new nation?
RB: It is very difficult, you know you can’t build a new nation without enough educated people. Yes being the first graduate of course makes you a little bit pompous and a little bit better than the others but we are only few of us and so on, but you need other people to be educated too. You know, to achieve whatever you want, if you want to become and industrialist which I became myself, I owned companies on the Copperbelt, I owned Robert Hot Farm, a owned a number of companies, a shirt factory, you need people who are educated to help you run these factories. Now if you are the president, the head of this establishment called Zambia, you need to have a lot of educated people in your field to assist you to run that country so that, that country can become more efficient and richer.
Gravazio: What lesson can Zambia learn from the independence struggle?
RB: Unity. We learn that together we can achieve a lot, divided we can fall.
Gravazio; I want to take you away a bit from independence, on a personal note away from independence. October is breast cancer month and I know that former first lady had cancer of the breast. Just as a way of encouraging people that are watching and those that are listening, I want you to share the challenge of fighting and winning this battle.
RB: The question, this subject comes at the time which is very appropriate to me, my wife, Hope Mwansa Makulu had passed away 17 years ago from breast cancer, two weeks ago, 17 years ago, she died. It was very traumatic. I had to travel long distances. I took her to America where my daughter, Dorica was working for the World Bank she had an insurance policy, she was bringing money here so that she can pay for her. We traveled around. Unfortunately for me, I remarried to Thandiwe and three years ago she was found with cancer as well, breast cancer. So you can imagine what I have gone through. So this subject is the one very close to my heart and I would ask, first of all, I would like to know what led the ministry, especially Ministry of Health and government for the interest that they have taken in fighting this cancer. During my old time as President, I brought in a lot of equipment, country equipment, diagnostic equipment into UTH and all other hospitals. We have got X-rays and so on so that we can detect this quickly. Other people, Zambian people, have to realize that it is a good thing to know in good time if you have cancer or not. If you found out, if you catch it early, it can be cured. My current wife, thank God, since we found it early and also I have developed quite a lot from the time I lost my first wife and she has recovered and thankfully we hope that she has recovered for good. So I would advise the country and the people in the country, and it is not only breast cancer but everywhere all over our bodies. Many years ago, we didn’t know about it. In the villages, people would say mailo enze bwa? Lelo amwalila (how were they yesterday, today they are dead). It could have been cancer which we didn’t know about. So now it is possible to look for it and so for women, they should go for early…I hear there are personal things that they can do. They can feel their breasts and if there is a lamp, they should go quickly [for screening]. So and us men we have got our own. We have got prostate cancer which is also devastating a lot of men all over the world. So this year, October being breast cancer [awareness month], I encourage that we should all learn to go for testing so that we can seek help. I have gone through it twice, my father also went with cancer of the throat, it is everywhere.
Gravazio: Now in rural development and agriculture. Agriculture for you is a passion, is a way of life. What message do you have for Zambia?
RB: For us here in Zambia, fish is the easiest thing to because the best things are there. We have got good climate with good rainfall generally. We have good land. Our population is not too big, there is enough land to do what we want to do. So that should draw us Zambians towards agriculture, it doesn’t matter whatever you are doing a little bit of piece of land is something which you need. If you go to Zimbabwe, where I was born, every house has a little garden and the wife and the guys who are staying in the house grow their own cabbages and tomatoes and lettuces and onions and so on. That is economy you are saving, that is more money in the pocket. Not more money as we understood it here. More money because you don’t have to buy, it is healthy to eat. Your children will grow up healthy because there are vegetables around them. You can grow…like me in my case I especially deal in tomatoes and cabbages but I also have an orchard. I have a lot of fruits. Every day I feel like picking up fruit, I can take a tomato, mango or paw paw. We can grow all this. That is what I believe every Zambian should do, whether he is a director in the ministry, whether he is a minister I think we should spare a little bit of time.
Gravazio: …you have said it all…
RB: Because we had copper. From 1964 we relied on copper and most Zambians didn’t see any need for it just like you heard about Nigeria. Nigeria before that they used to grow everything. And by the way they stopped everything…it means that they spend a lot of money to buy food to, bring food from outside. I think before we get wealthier, before we find iron, before we find all these things, we should strengthen our agriculture. And from agriculture you can go to industrialization. There are agriculture industries which come from the products of agriculture.
Gravazio: You were in charge of rural development, you used to have a passion for rural development…
RB: Yes yes…from here as soon as I finish with you…straight I’m going to the farm. Every day when I’m there I don’t think no evil. I have no time to think [about] anybody… I worry about my tomato. Like right now as I was speaking there is a bit of diseases in one corner of my farm that worries me a lot. I have no time to think evil. Can you imagine if most of us did that? How would our country be?
Gravazio: Stop thinking evil, concentrate on a farm?
RB: [Laughs] Imagine.
Gravazio: Your messages to the people…any current messages…
RB: Well, I would really like to beg Zambian people to look…especially those of us who are privileged to be able to influence other people like teachers, lectures, historians…what was is it like prior 1964 and what is it like now? To say that it is worse now is last. Those of us who lived there that time were like slaves. So it is important that everybody should educate the other on the importance of what we have. We must remain together as Zambia and stop hating each other. I don’t know how to tell people this for them to believe me because when I say ‘aaargh!’ They don’t listen to me. ‘He is the one encouraging’. I cannot encourage hatred. I have lived through this country, it hasbeen a country of peace. You have done so much for me, I have done so much for you. I have seen you [Gravazio] grow up as a young man here and there is little to do now. Look at the development, how you have developed as an individual…So we need to solve this problem. We need to come together whether it is economical problem, agricultural problem, whether it is health problem, whether its security problem, we should listen to one another. You know, even now when I travel and I meet the chiefs, they always talk to me, they share issues with us and as leaders we should listen to them. Unfortunately these young people think that only himself is right. No, everybody has something to add solutions of our problems. Mine is just to tell you that I believe sincerely that together we can overcome every problem. We just finished a day of prayer yesterday, I wasn’t able to go because I had gone to the funeral but it is so important that we realize that we were created by somebody for one purpose only, to enjoy our existence in life. If we don’t pray to him he might not give us the fortune to enjoy ourselves. We are going to end up fighting each other and it is unnecessary. You know very well that after I lost my presidency, something happened to me which has never happened to any leader in this country. I was stripped of my immunity and was accused of all kinds of things that I didn’t do. People really believed that once you take away his immunity, you will find…sacks and sacks of money in his account, you find letters in the ministries which proves that I had instructed…nothing of that sort was found because I was innocent but I never held this against anybody else. I have forgiven every one of those people that were part of the campaign, humiliated me, humiliated my family, they shook my children. But if I believe in something, I have to tell other people to try and do it as well. Every day I was humiliated in that little box and the chase was over and now I hate nobody. We should not allow ourselves to be polluted by hatred for one another.
Gravazio: It has been a pleasure having you on the program. Thank you for coming.
RB: Thank you.