President of Zambia and contestant in the 2011 election.
Rupiah Bwezani Banda is a Zambian politician and fourth and current President of Zambia since 2008.
During the Presidency of Kenneth Kaunda, Banda held important diplomatic posts and was active in politics as a member of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Years later, he was appointed as Vice-President by President Levy Mwanawasa in October 2006, following the latter's re-election.[ He took over Mwanawasa's presidential responsibilities after Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008,[and following Mwanawasa's death in August 2008, he became acting President. As the candidate of the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), he narrowly won the October 2008 presidential election, according to official results.
Banda was born in the town of Miko, Gwanda, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); his parents had come from Northern Rhodesia to find employment prior to his birth, and he was sponsored by a local Dutch Reformed Church preacher (and later, the family of B. R. Naik) to continue his education into adulthood. He became involved in politics when he joined the youth wing of the UNIP in 1960. Banda married his wife, Hope Mwansa Makulu, in 1966 and the couple has three sons together. Banda also has two sons from previous relationships and a set of fraternal twins from his current marriage.
He was the UNIP's representative in Northern Europe in the early 1960s, and in 1965 he was appointed as Zambia's Ambassador to Egypt (the United Arab Republic). While there, he became friends with UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, and the decision to allow UNITA to open offices in Lusaka at that time has been attributed to Banda's influence. Banda became Ambassador to the United States on April 7, 1967. He served as Ambassador to the U.S. for about two years, then returned to Zambia to serve as Chief Executive of the Rural Development Corporation for about two years and subsequently as General Manager of the National Agriculture Marketing Board for a similar length of time. He was then appointed as Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and while in this position he also headed the U.N. Council for Namibia. After about a year at the U.N., he was appointed to the Zambian Cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs. During his brief stint as Foreign Minister (1975–1976), Banda was occupied by the task of attempting to broker a cease-fire in Angola.
Banda was elected as a Member of Parliament for Munali Constituency in 1978 and was re-elected to that seat in 1983. Although he was defeated in the 1988 election, he took the issue to court. He also served for a time as Minister of State for Mines.
In 1991, he was defeated in Munali Constituency by Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) candidate Ronald Penza. Although he initially intended to run again for the seat in the 1996 election, he supported the UNIP's boycott of the election.
After President Mwanawasa was re-elected in September 2006, he appointed Banda as Vice-President on October 9, 2006 along with a new cabinet. He later joined the MMD after his appointment. Banda's appointment was widely viewed as a means of rewarding eastern Zambians for supporting the MMD in the election, as this was the first time that easterners had done so.[
Prior to a planned summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2007, Banda was sent by Mwanawasa to improve relations with neighboring Zimbabwe following Mwanawasa's criticism of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
As acting president
After Mwanawasa suffered a stroke while attending an African Union summit in Egypt on June 29, 2008, Banda became acting President. He subsequently delivered a series of optimistic but vague updates on Mwanawasa's health. These updates were greeted with widespread skepticism, but Banda insisted that he had "no reason to lie".
As Vice-President, Banda also acted as the leader of government business in the National Assembly; however, when the National Assembly met on August 5, 2008, following Mwanawasa's stroke, Banda appointed the Minister of Defense, George Mpombo, to lead the government's parliamentary business instead.
Mwanawasa never recovered from his stroke and died while still hospitalized in Paris on August 19, 2008. Expressing "immense grief and deep sorrow", Banda announced his death to the nation and declared a seven-day period of national mourning, urging Zambians to "remain calm and mourn our President with dignity". Banda officially took over as acting President prior to a new presidential election, which according to the constitution should be called within 90 days of Mwanawasa's death.
Banda filed an application to stand as the candidate of the MMD on August 26, 2008. On the same day, the MMD in Eastern Province released a statement in support of Banda's candidacy. The MMD National Executive Committee chose Banda as the party's presidential candidate in a secret ballot on September 5. He had been widely expected to win, and he received 47 votes against 11 for Ngandu Magande, the Minister of Finance. On this occasion, Banda promised to "unite the party and the entire nation" and to "continue implementing [Mwanawasa's] programs".
The presidential by-election was held on October 30. Initial results showed Banda's main challenger, Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF), in the lead, but as votes from rural areas were counted, Banda steadily closed the gap and ultimately overtook Sata. Final results on November 2 showed Banda with 40% of the vote against 38% for Sata. Banda was sworn in at State House on the same day, using his speech on the occasion to call for unity. The PF alleged fraud and refused to recognize Banda's victory, while Sata's supporters rioted in Lusaka and Kitwe.
With Lula da silva
As President, Rupiah Banda is focused on economic development, travelling abroad to promote Zambian trade to other world leaders. In December 2010 he travelled to Egypt to meet with President Hosni Mubarak.
In mid-2009 it was announced that the MMD National Executive Committee had chosen Banda as the party's candidate for the 2011 presidential election. Some criticized this, arguing that the nomination process should be open to other candidates; Mpombo, the Defense Minister, resigned from his post in July 2009 while criticizing the process as undemocratic. President Banda has since welcomed others to challenge him for the nomination at the MMC Conventions taking place across the country.
Since taking office, Banda has dismantled much of the anticorruption effort put into place by his predecessor, Mwanawasa.Bearak, Barry (20 June 2011)