By Dickson Jere
Had we been a reading citizens, this debate would not arise.
It is all written in the Government Policy of 2012 which governs State Funerals. The President of Zambia does not just wake up and decide the number of days of national mourning to accord a former leader. He is guided by the policy. And so the debate and comparison between Hon. Victoria Kalima, MP (Minister of Gender) and Hon. Daniel Munkombwe (former Deputy Minister) mourning periods is uncalled for.
Listen – the policy provides that a serving minister who dies is to be accorded three days of national mourning. That is what happened with Hon. Kalima. A former cabinet minister is to get one day of national mourning! Former President and serving Vice President is five days! All written.
But please note that the policy does not cater for former deputy ministers! Hon. Munkombwe was never a full cabinet minister… and so he does not automatically qualify for national mourning under the policy! Therefore, the acting President, Hon. Inonge Wina, used her discretion under the policy to accord Hon. Munkombwe an “OFFICIAL” funeral and not “STATE” funeral! The two are different! As for a former Cabinet Minister (whether in opposition or not) is entitled to state funeral as a matter of right!
We just lost the Mayor of Lusaka, Wilson Kalumba (PF Member), he was not accorded the state funeral simply because he did not qualify!
On the other hand, official funeral can be accorded to anyone at the discretion of the President. And it is this same policy that President Levy Mwanawasa used to accord late UPND President Anderson Mazoka an official funeral.
It reads: “the President shall reserve the right to decide which other persons shall be accorded an official funeral other than those listed in the guidelines and in such circumstances.”
Others entitled to State Funerals are; President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Speaker of the National Assembly, Cabinet Ministers and other state officials listed in the guidelines. All former holders of these offices are also entitled to State Funeral and different days of mourning are written in that policy. State Funeral, depending on the rank of office, also involves military rituals such as 21 gun-salute for the head of state.
“The logistics for a state funeral shall include the provision of caskets, tents, and firewood, gun salute and escort….” the policy further reads.
Instead of debating what is already written, maybe we should be advocating for the change of policy to accord other leaders state funerals if that is the wish of Zambians.
Comparing Hon Kalima (three days of mourning) and Hon. Munkombwe (one day of mourning) is missing a point. The two are in different categories despite the fact that Hon. Munkombwe May have served government longer than Hon. Kalima. That is why Americans say “law is an ass” and until it is changed, we abide by it.