|The late president, Levi Patrick Mwanawasa|
Tomorrow will be the 3rd anniversary of the death of our late president, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. One question I often ask is, “What killed President Mwanawasa?” We all know that since his traffic accident in 1991, his health was never in optimum condition. Thus he earned the name “cabbage” from his political foes—a name which initially angered him but which he later joked about whenever he trumped his opponents.
Let me share with you some thoughts around this question and some lessons that I have learned in answer to my own hypothesis.
Our former president suffered a stroke on 29th June 2008, while attending an African Union meeting in Egypt. And this is the stroke that finally led to his death on 19th August 2008. Despite the assurances we got from the acting president, Rupiah Banda, he never recovered from it. Thus far we are on solid ground. These are well known facts.
|Two causes of strokes in human beings|
But, what is it that caused this stroke? In my reading on this medical subject, I have learnt that a stroke is caused by shortage of blood going to the brain due to rapture or blockage of a vessel. And one of the causes of such rapture is sudden stress. So, what is it that could have caused President Mwanawasa sudden stress on 29th June 2008?
Again, a little reading around this subject soon revealed that bad news could cause sudden stress, which in turn could lead to a stroke. So, what bad news could President Mwanawasa have received on this date? What major events took place on 29th June 2008? A little investigation soon revealed that this was the date on which President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was declared winner of their last presidential election. Could this have been such bad news to Mwanawasa as to cause him to have a stroke?
|President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe|
This question is best answered if we can prove that Mwanawasa had such personal interest in this subject as to be passionate about it. And, I think, the answer is in the affirmative. At the time of his death, Levy Mwanawasa was the chairman of SADC. And as chairman of SADC, Levy had pulled no punches over the Zimbabwean election crisis. He was outspoken about the fact that the elections taking place in Zimbabwe were not free and fair. He had in no uncertain terms told President Robert Mugabe not to go ahead with the second run of elections because of the level of intimidation and violence that the supporters of his main rival, Morgan Tsvagirai, were being subjected to.
When a person is thus emotionally attached to an issue, bad news in that area will have a serious effect on him. Take our celebrated soccer commentator, Dennis Liwewe, as an example. When he heard that the whole Zambian national soccer team had died in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon, he collapsed and was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the University Teaching Hospital. We almost lost the man. He almost died. It was not because he was related to any of the players. Rather it was because of his passion for the game of soccer generally and for Zambian soccer in particular.
Unfortunately for him, the Philistines won this battle and carried the Ark of the Covenant with them. We are told that when the news reached Eli, he collapsed. Perhaps he would have still survived the stroke despite a lack of Intensive Care Units in those days, but he fell backwards and, being “old and heavy,” he broke his neck and died. Bad news is very dangerous. It can kill you, especially if your health is already compromised.
Could it be that President Mwanawasa got the news on 29th June 2008 that despite his very strong counsel to Robert Mugabe not to go ahead, he had still been announced as winner of the fraudulent elections and had been sworn in as president of Zimbabwe? Could it be that he was so affected by this bad news that it caused him to get so stressed up that he suffered a stroke? Could it be that it was this stroke that finally led to his death a little more than a month later? I am simply asking, “Could it be?”
|The Gabon Disaster coffins laid out during the national day of mourning|
If my hypothesis is correct, what can we learn from this? What can we learn from what happened to Patrick Mwanawasa, Dennis Liwewe, and Eli?
To begin with, we would be wrong to say that the lesson is that we must not be passionate about anything. Mwanawasa took his political role very seriously, Liwewe has taken football very seriously, and Eli took the fate of the Ark of God very seriously. That is not wrong. Men and women who were passionate about something have always been the ones who have achieved greatness in human history. Those who are lukewarm about things that really matter in life are the bane of humanity.
Rather, the lesson that we learn from all this is that those of us who are bearers of bad news need to be mindful of the emotional effect our news is likely to have on the people we are going to share it with. We must be mindful that if their health is already compromised, we could actually finish them off. We are carrying acid and should ensure that the vessel we are about to pour it into is well insulated.
|The Ark of the Covenant|
This is the thinking that took place among Joseph’s brothers in the Bible when Joseph demanded to keep his brother Benjamin from going back with them to their father before he identified himself to his brothers. They appealed saying, “As soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the grey hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol” (Genesis 44:31). “We can’t do that,” they said. “This bad news will kill our father.” Let us learn from their wisdom.
The final lesson we learn from all this is that our lives are interconnected. The once famous slogan, “It’s my life; it’s my choice,” is terrible. If you engage in fornication or adultery and catch HIV, your death will affect others. Our lives are interconnected. Our actions affect other people and so we should always factor this into our decisions. God will hold us accountable on the judgment day for the effect our lives had on others. Let us keep this in mind as we remember the death of our beloved former president.