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Ex-Zambian president Rupiah Banda dies at 85

By AFP
Zambia Former President Rupiah Banda, Zambia's fourth leader since independence, served for three years from 2008.  By Joseph Mwenda (AFP/File)
SAT, 12 MAR 2022 LISTEN
Former President Rupiah Banda, Zambia's fourth leader since independence, served for three years from 2008. By Joseph Mwenda (AFP/File)

Zambia's former president Rupiah Banda died on Friday at the age of 85 after a long battle with colon cancer, his son Andrew told AFP.

"He is gone", Andrew Banda told an AFP correspondent in Lusaka.

The southern African country's fourth leader since independence from Britain served for three years from 2008 -- a term remembered for economic growth and corruption allegations.

Banda was vice-president when his predecessor Levy Mwanawasa unexpectedly succumbed to a stroke, propelling him into the top job.

But the veteran diplomat was defeated in 2011 elections, despite overseeing major economic growth during his tenure.

Zambia's economy expanded during Banda's brief presidency, mainly on the back of rising copper prices and a surge in Chinese investment.

He pursued a construction spree started under Mwanawasa, building much-needed roads, hospitals and schools.

Zambia recorded a 7.6 percent increase in growth for 2011, up from 6.4 percent the previous year, for which Banda took credit.

He had hoped the economic uptick would convince voters to keep him in power.

Most of Zambia's 17.9 million inhabitants, however, did not reap the benefits of mining and constructions booms.

Wealth accumulated in the hands of a few as corruption allegations surfaced, marring his reputation.

In September 2011, he was heavily defeated by opposition leader Michael Sata.

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