FORMER State House press aide Dickson Jere says late fourth republican president Rupiah Banda told President Hakainde Hichilema that he is a good leader, despite the fact that he read him wrong at first.
And Jere says a day before Banda’s demise, Anglican priest Fr Charley Thomas told him that this is when Zambians were appreciating all he did for the country.
Speaking on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Jere said he was honoured to have served his best friend long after any contractural obligations.
“I must say that I felt honoured the President to have given me that task to be the mediator to go between. Certain messages had to be delivered and I was also privileged to have convened the historical meeting where we sat President Hakainde came to visit President Banda at the house and I was again privileged to be part in that meeting throughout. So it was me and President Banda on one side and the other side it was President Hakainde and his political advisor. We discussed quite a number of issues, but significantly, he told the President that ‘I probably did not read you properly, I think you are a good leader. I now can say in the presence of these two young men that I am going to give you 100 percent support. And if there is anything I could do, I will do it to make you succeed and one of the things I have strong men like Dickson who are strong with me and the other team, I will ask them to see if they could find a way to working with you and helping you. For me I am now in retirement but I will be available for anything’,” Jere said.
And Jere said Fr Thomas told Banda that it was only now when Zambians were appreciating how he managed the country’s economy.
“The day before he died when I said I took Fr Charley Thomas, that is exactly what he told him, he said ‘President it’s only now that most us Zambians are now appreciating actually what you did for the country. It is only now that when we look at the figures, the inflation, exchange rate, the GDP of the country, the bumper harvest, all indicators beautiful’. And he said but I wanted you to know (telling President Banda) I wanted you to know that we are appreciating the role you played. And he turned and said my young friend here Dickson records everything, he is my recorder he is the keeper of my secrets he knows how passionate I feel about that, I hope one day Zambians will wake up and say I meant well. But now that Father, you are telling me that people are appreciating, I am at peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jere described how positive Banda was throughout his painful battle against cancer.
“I was one of those privileged to receive a call every time he was going for chemo. He would call me, ‘I am going in’. When he comes out, he would call me and we would talk about it. So I even more less knew the routine that once he does the chemo, he will need two to three days to recuperate before he can get back to normal. So sometimes I could go have a meal with him, chat with him, read books and I used to take a lot of books for him. I saw him slowly getting deteriorated; losing weight and it was a painful experience,” Jere said.
“But he was quite a very strong person. He really believed that he was going to come out strong and he will defeat cancer, but it was not to be. When he decided to go public, it was also to encourage those who are suffering from cancer that this disease can or could be defeated. One of the people he got close to during this period was our fellow colleague, journalist Edem Djokoto, they used to meet and speak about the chemotherapy.”
He revealed that former president Edgar Lungu had provided the presidential plane whenever he was going to Dubai for treatment and that this continued after President Hichilema assumed office.
“President Banda remained very grateful to president Edgar Lungu because when it was announced that he had cancer, president Edgar Lungu took up that initiative so he started going to Dubai with a presidential plane from president Edgar Lungu’s period. During that transition, this issue actually came up, President Hakainde, then he was president elect, president Edgar Lungu was there and President Hakainde mentioned whatever arrangement has been put in place by my brother, meaning president Edgar Lungu, they shall continue. All the treatment lines won’t be disturbed so the two Presidents played a major role and I was glad that the decision was discussed in his presence. And not too long ago, he sent a delegation to president Lungu just to say thank you. So that is how it proceeded and President Hakainde maintained that support and that’s why you saw that the presidential plane went to pick him,” Jere said.
Jere also recalled Banda’s passion for football.
“He loved football. Most of the long calls it would be football. He went for holiday in Mfuwe, he came out of the game park, he saw kids playing football so he would sit to watch them. He was amazed with the talent he found in Mfuwe. He did the unknown to us, he formed an academy which had no name, he brought them here. So every Thursday if you went to his house, he created a little pitch and was part of his therapy, he would come down and watch them, started even bringing coaches to train those kids. Afterwards, he would prepare a meal; he would sit and eat with these kids,” Jere said.
“He was quite a very down to earth person. I was telling journalists that you are all interviewing the big wigs, the politicians. To know the side of President Banda, try to get to his farm. Let them interview the cooks, the gardeners then you get a story how he sits with them, eats with them. Even in State House we had a problem. He never wanted to eat if body guards are not eating. So he called them to come and join the meal and they will scamper and then he will say, ‘I am not going to eat if you won’t eat’,” said Jere.