ZIMBABWEAN public intellectual Professor Ibbo Mandaza says Zambians should look for a selfless leader whom they can elect in next year’s general election.

And Prof Mandaza says president Levy Mwanawasa took up the challenge and turned around the Zambian fortunes like never before.

Speaking during the virtual Levy Mwanawasa public lecture, Friday, Prof Mandaza said selfless leaders were available.

“As we approach elections in Zambia and the region, look for selfless leaders, they are there in all our countries. They have to be encouraged and mobilised in the same way that you in Zambia successfully mobilised an almost regimented Levy Mwanawasa to come out. Let us look for these people, they are among us. Let’s find them in our generation,” Prof Mandaza said when asked what type of leadership people should be looking for as elections were nearing.

He said Mwanawasa had identified and selected technocrats who helped to address the key imperatives and goals of both good governance and economic management of the country.

“The national disruption is obvious in COVID [times] and even though we have lost many family members and friends, we hope that it is soon over. Therefore, my main attention in honoring Levy Mwanawasa as a leader is to look at the man-made moments of disruption and these are many and familiar in our region. Bad governance is a den for constitutionalism in the rule of law, economic and social despair, mismanagement, growing debt, corruption, growing poverty and inequality. And these are major challenges and I think the notable fact about Levy Mwanawasa is that he took up the challenge when he became president in 2002 and turned around the Zambian fortunes like never before,” Prof Mandaza said. “And we are returning as we are to the same kind of crisis which he inherited. We are therefore forced, compelled to remember him. And in doing so, we hope that we can in the few months, years renew leadership, not just in Zambia but in the region. I want to define leadership in relation to Mwanawasa. The first is personal integrity, leading by example. The second is self-introspection and the capacity to acknowledge one’s failings, one’s shortfalls and on the basis of that identify and select persons, technocrats who can help to address the key imperatives and goals of both good governance and economic management. Thirdly, confidence, accountability and trust that develops between the leader and those he had chosen to be part of his team.”

He said very few leaders would resign from their Cabinet position on moral grounds.

“In particular, the following stand out in terms of his personal character and integrity. First, importance of family and community, secondly commitment to education and technocracy, capacity for effective and selfless leadership, loyalty to principle, moral force and character, faith in one’s fellow human being and the proactive use of the law, as a lawyer himself, as the shield for the weak and ordinary citizens and not as a sword for the elite and powerful. He stood out as a leader, almost a natural leader who had to be persuaded into leadership, accepting such with humility and selflessness is rare in our time,” Prof Mandaza said.

“How many leaders do we know who had to be invited and came across as humble? How many do we know who, even after they are persuaded, have the guts, the courage, to do as he did on the 3rd of July in 1994, resigned his Cabinet position in protest against growing levels of corruption in government and the lack of transparency and accountability? How many have you seen in our times? And in 2001, as he was persuaded to come back into politics, he said ‘I am not going to come back, I will stay as a lawyer’, he had to be persuaded.”

He said Zambia was a joke in the 1990s but Mwanawasa turned the country around.

“He was a champion of good governance in democracy…Levy was a champion of economic reforms. He understood, clearly, the meaning of competent leadership, he understood the importance of knowledge, skills, discipline and good judgement and therefore, this affected the team that he chose to carry out the objectives for which he declared on that day. He had Magande, I am told by Zambians the best Finance Minister ever; he had Caleb Fundanga at the Bank of Zambia, he had [Mundia] Sikatana as a Minister of Agriculture and he had [Justice Mumba] Malila as Attorney General. He had inherited a poorly performing economy. We remember Zambia was a joke in the 80s and 90s but our friend Levy turned that around in the first term of office,” Prof Mandaza said.

He said Zimbabwe tried to emulate the agricultural revolution that Mwanawasa had introduced but failed due to lack of leadership.

“He rejected GMOs courageously from the US. He instituted an agricultural revolution which turned Zambia which had been dependent for decades on imports of food. Today, Zambia, thanks to Mwanawasa and his team, is exporting maize even to the country South of it. And today, we are trying in Zimbabwe under the so-called command agriculture to emulate the agricultural revolution that Mwanawasa did but we have failed because we don’t have the kind of integrity, the kind of leadership skills that Mwanawasa was able to put around himself. He had resuscitated the mining industry and he carefully implemented the unavoidable secular justice program and led to a near cancellation of the foreign debt in 2005,” said Prof Mandaza.

“…He was able to institute decentralization while maintaining the primacy of a unitary state. He instituted a constitutional review; last but not least, Levy Mwanawasa restored the national dignity of Zambia as a great country that it is…”