PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says former president Rupiah Banda kept the country hopeful during the difficult days after the general elections last year, revealing that what the nation saw was superficial because there was much more he did in the background to bring about unity.

And family representative Fisho Mwale says the Banda family has fully accepted that the late president be buried at the presidential burial site as accorded by the state.

Speaking when he visited the funeral home, Sunday, President Hichilema said the nation was grateful for the role that Banda played in unifying the country.

“We are here to console the family. It is unfortunate that we are in this situation because I was just here a few days ago where I chatted with president Banda. I encouraged him to be strong. It is unfortunate that he who gives and decided to take, when he takes his, we do not have much of a choice. He gives us life and he takes and we do not even know when but we have to accept. I think that is the message I wanted to deliver. We are with you. I am grateful for the words that you have said here. Giving us credit is absolutely inappropriate. I was just performing a duty but I accept the appreciation,” President Hichilema said.

“In rhetoric, I wish to say that I was just performing a duty which anyone else in this situation would have been required to perform. But it was not just a duty for us, it was compassion as well. I think that is most important. I wish to state that we drew a lot of guidance from RB. Most of you know that on 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th of August last year were very difficult days in the history of our country. RB stood and kept this country hopeful. He performed a wonderful function outside. What the nation saw was superficial but behind the there, he did a lot of work to bring us together in the situation that the public already knows by now. So we are very grateful for that.”

President Hichilema said he had talked to former president Edgar Lungu asking him that they mourn Banda together.

“We talked about unity and the economy in this house. I wish to encourage the family to continue with the unity and coordinate with the government. Where we will be needed, we will be available so that we are smooth. We do not want to demonstrate departure from what he stood for. I think that is the best way to remember him. We need to recognise how he united the country. To the citizenry, let us work together and mourn president Banda. There should be no divisive issues. If there are issues, we can deal with them later. What are those issues? I do not know,” he said.

“I want to confirm to the Banda family that I spoke to president ECL asking him that we must all mourn our former president together. I wanted to confirm this publicly. And I asked the team to be briefing former president Lungu over what is going on during the planning of the funeral so that we mourn with due respect and honour. I have asked others to reach out to each other and do the same so we can be dignified as a country. We need to take a different turn to reunite our country.”

And President Hichilema said urged youths to emulate Banda.

“We need to accept and recognise the exemplary service that he gave to this country over many years in public service. To the young people, RB entered public service at a youth age, I think around 26 years old. He carried responsibilities for the nation at an early age diligently. Isn’t that a great message to our youth? We can only learn from there. We can do something and do it properly. Age is not an excuse not to do it properly. As we work together to conclude the funeral processes, we must remember many things about him,” said President Hichilema.

Meanwhile, Mwale said the Banda family had fully accepted that Banda be buried at the presidential burial site as accorded by the state.

“It is to be expected that the giant of a man who has passed there has had so many innuendoes and rumors. This family exemplifies the character of Rupiah Banda. It is a united family and does not engage in any divisive pettiness. Whatever has been heard or said are just innuendos which do not arise from this family. We are united in one cause and that is to truly send off our hero in the most dignified manner. We have unreservedly accepted the entitlement that the secretary to cabinet explained to us,” said Mwale.

“There has been no illusion at all as to where we are burying our dearly departed. It is under the auspices of the state that it is here in Lusaka the place where we have been accorded the respect and status to bury our late former president. That is the designated burial ground. I want to assure you that at no time have we deviated from that requirement. The Banda family is not divided in any way but we are unified in this belief that we are burying our dearly departed at the presidential burial site. I just wanted to clarify these things.”

Mwale expressed gratitude to government over the support rendered during the funeral.

Banda, who died on March 11, 2022, will be put to rest on March 18.

President Hichilema has declared seven days of national mourning in his honour.