PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says late Simon Zukas was a gallant freedom fighter who was concerned about the polarisation of the country on tribal and regional lines.

Addressing mourners at Memorial Park burial site, Tuesday, President Hichilema said Zukas had demonstrated how to serve humanity.

“Simon demonstrated how to serve humanity and so let us all make this occasion to celebrate him. To celebrate this engineer because of his love for humanity, for his immense selflessness to the political and economic landscape of our country. As the country headed to the recent elections, Zukas was extremely concerned about the polarisation of the country on tribal and regional lines. He was a gallant freedom fighter or a veteran politician. He was not only a politician, Simon was a businessman, sometimes we forget that part of his life. He did a lot of good in the business circles. On behalf of the government and myself, I wish to extend my deepest condolences to you Cynthia (wife), the children, grandchildren and the family on the loss of Simon Zukas,” he said.

“Today is a sad day because not long ago, almost three weeks ago, Simon and his colleagues visited us at State House and we had a wonderful conversation. A conversation that told anyone in that meeting that at 96, Simon still has a sound brain. And the conversation we had did not indicate in any way that Simon will be going. To Simon, service to humanity was always something important. It comes first before anything else and so, we just need to reflect while we are seated and think about ‘how much do we think about others before ourselves when we are confronted with a situation’? Many simply walk away and say, ‘those people who are suffering are not my relatives’. To Simon, we were all his relatives. We were all his family members and he was concerned about our welfare.”

President Hichilema assured that his government would endeavour to grow the country’s democracy, human rights and freedoms as they strive to build the economy.

“Simon was very instrumental in the struggle of this country’s Independence. He chose to be on the side of the oppressed. Apart from being instrumental in Zambia’s struggle, prior to 1964, Simon was a firm believer in democracy. He also played a significant role in promoting the return to plural politics in 1988/1990. Simon didn’t retire in serving the community and that was the reason why we met last month. The reason was to remind me and others why OCIDA was formed. Why OCIDA supported the process of change. Simon, I want to assure you that my government working with all of you citizens and friends of Zambia, we shall endeavour to grow democracy, human rights and freedoms as we strive to build the economy,” said President Hichilema.

Earlier, OCIDA representative Gilbert Temba said Zukas died a happy man after playing a key role in helping bring about the “New Dawn”.

“At the time of forming OCIDA in 2020, Mr Zukas was deeply concerned about the precarious state that had arisen from corruption, tolerance of it, from the diminishing political space, the lack of inclusiveness, the partisan use of the public media by the ruling party, and the partisan application of the Public Order Act by police. As OCIDA, we hope change of government, that has taken place through the ballot, will create a foundation for good governance, inclusive social development and a sustainable economic programme in the country. I am sure that Mr Zukas has left a very happy man, after playing such a key role in helping bring about what we have today- the New Dawn,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa described the late Zukas as a genuine and dedicated cadre of progressive change.

“As a genuine and dedicated cadre of progressive change, a defender of principle and the public good, and a porter of a moral power earned from selfless service as a foot soldier for freedom, development, democracy, equality and justice, Zukas evinced true citizenship. Ever on the right side of history, he showed us that to live is a state of continual consciousness,” said Dr Sishuwa.

Several other people attended Zukas’ burial, among them diplomats accredited to Zambia, freedom fighters, MMD leader Nevers Mumba and Socialist Party leader Dr Fred M’membe.

Others were clergymen from different denominations, civil society representatives, among others.

Simon Zukas died on September 27, 2021 at the age of 96.