"Big Levy" to be buried in Lusaka today

LUSAKA – The late Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa, will be buried in the capital Lusaka today. Heads of states attending the funeral include South African President Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

The funeral comes as economists warn that the fierce contest for the president’s position, within Zambia’s ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy party, could threaten the country’s economic stability. At least 15 party leaders have submitted their applications to stand in the upcoming presidential by-election, prompted by Mwanawasa’s death.

With the economy looking up, property is a favoured investment. Under Mwanawasa’s stewardship, construction, mining, manufacturing and agriculture powered the economy to an average 6% growth rate since 2002. However, critics say the late leader’s empowerment policies were too sluggish, resulting in a huge gulf between the rich and the poor. On the other hand, the late president’s onslaught against corruption is said to have boosted investor confidence.

Meanwhile the burial site at Embassy Park in Lusaka where the late President Levy Mwanawasa will be buried Wednesday is ready, the Times of Zambia reported on Tuesday.

Minister of Works and Supply Kapembwa Simbao was quoted as saying that works have progressed well and on schedule.

A Chinese firm has carried out the works according to government plans, the official said, adding that most of the works have been completed on Monday and that final touches would be done on Tuesday.

President Mwanawasa’s body will on Tuesday be taken to the Supreme Court for a valedictory service before being taken to State House where it will lie in state ahead of Wednesday’s burialat about 11:00 a.m. local time, according to the newspaper.

And the number of African heads of State who have confirmed attending Dr Mwanawasa’s burial has risen to 15, according to Simbao.

Zambia’s presidential by-election will be held within 90 days from the death of President Levy Mwanawasa on Aug.19 in France, according to Zambia’s constitution.

Mwanawasa died on Aug. 19 at Percy Military Hospital in Paris. He had battled poor health for many years before he suffered a stroke in late June in Egypt, where he was to attend an African Union summit. He was initially treated in Egypt and later flown to France.

In April 2006, he suffered a minor stroke four months before the general elections, in which he won his second presidential term.