A RIPPLE of excitement passes through the crowd as the
diminutive figure rises to his feet clad in a double-breasted
"The hour ... the hour ... the hour has come," proclaims the
crowd of 40,000 or so people reaching forward with the symbolic
thumb-and-forefinger salute of the Movement for Multiparty
The hour is noon on Saturday Nov. 2 outside Lusaka's high court
- the scene for the swearing in of Zambia's second president.
The man is Frederick Chiluba - the former trade union leader who
embodies the wave of popular feeling that swept longtime ruler
Kenneth Kaunda from power over the weekend.
Opens with a prayer
Normally, he would have initiated the haunting chant himself.
But instead Mr. Chiluba, a reborn Christian since he was detained
for trade union activities a decade ago, opens his speech with a
Then he continues: "The stream of democracy, dammed up for 27
years, is finally free to run its course as a mighty African
river...." His supporters call him "The Liberator," or "The
Messiah," or "The Black Moses." In Zambia's Copperbelt, where he
grew up, he was known as, Aka Red, the Winning Dice.
"We know that President Chiluba is a not a talker but a doer,"
the pro-MMD Sunday Express said in a recent editorial."That is what
makes him different from other leaders who spend most of their time
Chiluba's life is a paradox. It is rare in Africa to find a
trade union leader emerging as the leading advocate of free
enterprize and the architect of economic reconstruction in a
country devastated by socialism. He has inherited the ruins of a
centrally controlled economy in an advanced state of decay. Yet
Chiluba's greatest challenge could be to hold together the unlikely
eight-month-old MMD coalition of workers, big business, church
groups, and the professional class.
As a member of Zambia's largest tribe, the Bemba, Chiluba could
also face tribal tensions in his government if he does not strike
the right ethnic balance in his Cabinet. Mr. Kaunda successfully
maintained tribal unity because he wasn't Zambian; he was the son
of a missionary from neighboring Malawi.
Chiluba, who was born in Zambia's northern Luapula province,
spent most of his childhood in the Copperbelt town of Kitwe. His
father was a copper miner who died when Chiluba was a child.
Chiluba was then raised by his grandmother. He dropped out of
school and worked briefly as a personnel clerk in a sisal hemp
plantation in neighboring Tanzania where he developed an interest
in trade unionism. He later completed his schooling by
correspondence, passing exams in politics and government.
Chiluba was elected leader of the 300,000-strong Zambian
Congress of Trade Unions in 1974. He held the position until he was
elected the first president of the MMD in February.
Kaunda, who ruled the country for 27 years, suspended the
Constitution soon after independence, nationalized the copper mines
in 1968, and ushered in one-party rule in 1972. Chiluba rejected
repeated attempts by Kaunda to neutralize him as an opponent by
bringing him into the Cabinet after his release from detention in
Chiluba is in the mold of a new generation of African leaders
who are prepared to confront the severe crisis the continent faces
rather than blame Africa's ills on the legacy of colonialism. …