FORTH republican president Rupiah Bwezani Banda says he was mocked by fellow African leaders when he accepted defeat to Micheal Sata in the 2011 presidential election.

And Banda says there is need to unite the country before the 2021 general elections.

Speaking during a Loyola Television Zambia programme titled “Ignite with Mwangala” recently, Banda said many people thought he was a fool for accepting the election results when he had the power not to concede defeat.

“It still remains a lesson to the young Zambians, what to do when you are confronted with a situation such as mine. A lot of people then and now still think I was a fool to accept. Many leaders in Africa mocked me, they say ‘you were the President, you had all the power, how can you concede easily?’ I said had already promised the people that the winner will be the winner. I was President, I was busy so much I had to meet chiefs I had to attend rallies. It was really very tough and so on, then you run all the ministries, the Parastatals, it was a very tough job. Then suddenly, you are not President anymore. You have lost the election, are you going to sit there and become bitter and say who made me lose these elections? For me, I decided that’s it!” Banda said.

“You remember that night when the Chief Justice called me at about 01 AM that ‘things are not looking very good, I think that it looks like’, I said ‘tell me what are you saying’, ‘I think that you have lost the election’. I said well that is the idea of elections. I was waiting for the results to come out from Western Province, there were some results still in the Eastern Province from the valleys which had not come out, so my advisors and myself felt like when these come out we will definitely overcome the leadership of Mr Sata, but according to the Chair of the Electoral Commission, they said they have calculated everything it is not possible that I will make it.”

He said he was shocked by the 2011 election results as he was confident of winning that general election.

“Of course it was a shock to me, I didn’t expect it, I thought that I had won that election, I had done everything. Normally, when you are a President and the economy is going good as it was going there, of course the opposition was saying it was not going good but I think now they know what going bad of an economy is. At that time, the economy was going good, we were mobilising the country, our mobilisation campaigns went very well. The marketeers had begun to benefit from the economy, they would bring money to us to win the election. So everything was going on very well, we were pulling big crowds and a lot of people were coming to the crowds. I think I had succeeded to a certain extent to unite the country. If you remember, my running cry was ‘Rupiah Banda President for all Zambians’, it was deliberate, it was to bring everyone. Every rally I addressed all over this country, I said ‘look I am here to persuade you to vote for me because I have done this and that for you and because I will do this and that for you, however, it’s up to you in the end, you have to decide’. I, more or less, was preparing myself for the outcome of the election,” he recalled.

“I may not have realised it but then I kept saying this to the people of Zambia that it is up to you. I was sure that they will [vote], then came the news from the chair of the electoral commission that it is not looking good, you have lost. I was talking on the phone to her, my wife was laying on the bed and she said ‘what?’ And I said we have lost this election. My wife said ‘calm down, that is what happens in an election, some win, some lose’. So I told her that tomorrow morning, 10 O’clock I am having a press conference and I want you to come. Immediately I picked up the phone I called Dickson Jere who was my press aide and said I have just finished talking to the [ECZ chairperson] and it doesn’t look very good, it looks like we are out and I want you to come now. Then I want you to get in touch with Richard Chembe, get in touch with my political advisors and all my key people, everybody must come now, we have to prepare for the press conference for tomorrow. So two hours later, we all met, I didn’t sleep that night and we went for the press conference and I would like to look for that speech so that you can read it again so that you can understand what I said in that speech.”

And Banda said there was need to unite the country before the 2021 general elections.

“I am not ashamed to say this, if we don’t follow those that came before us like Dr Kaunda, Dr Martin Luther King, like all these great people, if we don’t follow what they told us about this issue of forgiveness, this issue of love, this issue of peace, this issue of justice, we will have problems. We need to go forward together regardless who is going to win. Once they have won, it is their duty to look after everybody. It is their duty to forgive others. It is their duty to be fair in the distribution of the wealth of the country. I just want for this country to continue to have good leadership. To have leadership which puts us together, which forgives because we are human beings if we stay long enough, I will offend you or you offend you,” Banda said.

“Zambians have to learn the proceeds they have to forgive each other so that we can have this country together. I believe that whatever is happening in this country, the fact that you belong to party A, and I belong to party B, others belong to party C, that is what we choose to be. So, If we chose to be like [that], we should tolerate each other, we should be able to forgive each other. I think all our leaders must commit themselves to bringing Zambians together, they must bring unity among the Zambians. These material things they are talking about, there is a limit to them, we can’t forget about our unity as Zambians, all of us. The beauty of this country is that it is one of the few countries I can say before this that we didn’t have tribalism.”

Banda said respect should be given to the leader that will be chosen in the 2021 general elections.

“We have a year to go before the election, the call from people like myself is that we pray to God to give us the ability to get our people to come together and realize that this Zambia belongs to them. The aim of the elections is not to win all, the aim of the election is to choose a leader because we chose that as a method of choosing that we will go for an election. We will go there with our different candidates once the Zambian people have chosen, all of us must come together and respect that leader,” said Banda.

“I like to be remembered mainly as a parent, there is one thing that losing elections has done to me, it has given me the opportunity to enjoy my family, to enjoy my children, to enjoy my sisters, to enjoy my brother.”