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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Profile: Zambia's Mr 'Integrity'
Levy Mwanawas Zambian presidential candidate
Mr Mwanawasa 'does not tolerate injustice'
Anthony Kunda profiles President Frederick Chiluba's chosen replacement to run in elections this year

From the moment Levy Mwanawasa, the burly-looking Lusaka lawyer, was anointed successor to President Frederick, very few have commented on the choice without mouthing the word "integrity".

Even his critics in opposition parties agree that it is difficult to find any dirt on him.


It is a challenge I have accepted with humility. I love challenges

Levy Mwanawasa

Dr Nevers Mumba, leader of the opposition National Citizen Coalition (NCC), said Mwanawasa is "highly respected for the integrity he has displayed in his public life".

When he quit as President Chiluba's number two in July 1994, he said his integrity had been "put in doubt," following a row with minister without portfolio Michael Sata.

Outclassing

Now on his second coming, again it is his integrity that has pushed him into the presidential race, outclassing other Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) executive members.

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba
Chiluba chose Mwanawasa above senior party figures

It was much like in 1991, at the formation of the MMD, when Mwanawasa, with little political experience, influence or wealth, scooped the position of vice president.

Mr Mwanawasa has already warned that people who expect ministerial appointments in his government "should know that the honeymoon is already over".

Some people say that Mr Mwanawasa, due to his strong Christian beliefs, always insists on being on the straight-and-narrow.

Fair minded

For this reason, some serving ministers, who have got away with all kinds of scams, are already on alert.

Street protestors in Lusaka
People power against Chiluba's third term

Many people who have worked with him like George Kunda, the former chairman of the lawyers association, say he does not tolerate injustice in any form.

Although Mr Mwanawasa belongs to a small ethnic group called the Lenje, in central Zambia, he was born and brought up in the Copperbelt province.

In 1970, he entered the law school at the University of Zambia, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1973.

He has been practising as a lawyer ever since.

Treason case

He has had numerous professional distinctions, among them becoming the first Zambian lawyer to be appointed advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.

In Zambia, he is famous for taking up cases that few lawyers would even contemplate. But the one case that pushed him into prominence was a treason case in 1989.

He had to defend former vice president Lt Gen Christon Tembo and others who were charged with plotting to overthrow the government of the then president Kenneth Kaunda.

Some people say Mr Mwanawasa will have a tough time working with the MMD, a party tainted by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

But he takes it in his stride with a smile: "It's a challenge I have accepted with humility. I love challenges."

At 53, Mwanawasa is married to a fellow lawyer Maureen with whom he has five children. Although he lives in an exclusive residential area, Mwanawasa is said to be a man of modest habits.

Honesty

People who are critical of the current government's extravagance hope Mr Mwanawasa, if he wins this year's election, can bring some modesty and honesty to public life.

But that would seem an uphill battle, what with Chiluba, still as MMD chairman, seen to be calling the shots from behind the curtains - an unseen puppet master.

There also might be problems, if Mwanawasa tries to be his own man, too soon and drop all, or most, of the current crop of ministers.

Mr Chiluba might not be too pleased.

Health

But even before the elections take place, if there is something that his opponents might use against him. It is his health.

In 1992, he was involved in a near fatal road accident and was hospitalised in South Africa for almost a year. From then on his health has not been very good.

In fact, Sakwiba Sikota, a fellow lawyer and vice president of the opposition United Party for National Development, pointed to incidents when court cases had been adjourned to enable Mr Mwanawasa to seek medical attention abroad.

As if to emphasise his point Mr Sikota added: "And this is factual."

But Mwanawasa insists he is as fit as a fiddle, otherwise "they would not have chosen me".

But he may have a harder time convincing the electorate of this.

See also:

05 May 01 | Africa
Zambian protests turn violent
04 May 01 | Africa
Chiluba: 'I won't stand again'
21 Apr 01 | Africa
Ministers tell Chiluba: Time's up
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Zambia
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