Institutional funders, trading partners, investors and much of the Zambian public breathed a sigh of relief when President Chiluba decided finally nor to run for a third term. The feisty bantamweight trade unionist turned politician had gone nearly the full ten rounds in his bid to overturn the constitution and stand for another five-year stint.
The KO appeared to come when most of his cabinet turned against him (including his Vice-President) and an impatient public became more vociferous.
If there was any winner at all in this mini crisis, it was the cause of democracy on the one hand, and Zambia's hard earned-reputation for consensus politics on the other.
Zambians are a hard-working, easy-going and fair-minded folk. They are proud and protective of the politics that run their country, a fact they reminded both Kenneth Kaunda and Frederick Chiluba of when they considered their political ends had come and it was time to bow out gracefully.
For a while, it seemed that Chiluba had chosen to ignore the message and a gracious exit was the last thing on his mind.
Skillful Street fighter
Just as much as he knows his way around the ring, he is a skillful street-fighter as well. In an effort to secure his third tenure, he resorted to below-the-belt tactics that included sidelining his opponents, engineering their non-appearance at a crucial party conference for prospective office bearers' registration and various other forms of political skulduggery. He expelled his Vice-President Chrisron Tembo and eight of his cabinet ministers in defiance of a high court order.
Scores of MPs resigned in protest. His opponents responded with a couple of round-houses themselves - such as starring impeachment proceedings and threatening a polls boycott.
If Frederick Chiluba is to be remembered in the history books, it will probably not be so much for his performance as Zambia's second popularly elected President and the way he came in after crushing Kaunda at the polls in 1991, but for the way he went out kicking and shouting. As one Zambian businessman told me on the telephone: "He didn't realise that the party was over and that it was time for him to go home, so we had to throw him out instead."
Chiluba will disagree with that sentiment, as much as it is held by many of his countrymen, and will aver that before retiring in dignity, he had simply weighed his options in what he considered to be best for the country. That may well be so. Chiluba will leave State...