UPND secretary-general Winston Chibwe has denied he ever said the body of the late veteran politician Ben Mwila would be exhumed once his party came into office if he was buried at Lusaka’s Embassy Park as earlier announced.
Mr Chibwe has, however, admitted questioning Government’s alleged earlier intention to bury the late veteran politician at Embassy Park in Lusaka, which is supposed to be preserved for state presidents only.
Embassy Park, near Cabinet Office in Lusaka’s Longacres, is the burial site of late former Presidents Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Chibwe said he merely questioned the logic and sense of earlier reports stating that Mr Mwila would be buried on the site reserved for former and sitting presidents only.
Mr Chibwe, who laughed at reports that he threatened to exhume Mr Mwila’s body once the UPND came to power said: “No no no … I never said such a thing. Where would I get the powers to exhume someone? I was merely questioning the logic behind the statements.”
A taped interview, however, has Mr Chibwe saying Mr Mwila’s body would be exhumed once the UPND assumed power because Embassy Park is meant for former presidents.
“We don’t understand the criteria being used to want to bury Mr BY Mwila (Ben Yorum Mwila) at that particular burial place,” Mr Chumbwe said on tape. “It would bring unnecessary wrangles and when government changes, the body can be exhumed.”
Media statements had been circulating that Mr Mwila, former Minister of Defence in the Chiluba administration would be buried at the Embassy Park.
However, Cabinet has clarified that Mr Mwila, who died on August 17, aged 70, would be buried at Leopards Hill Memorial Park in Lusaka today.
President Sata declared three days of mourning, in honour of Mr Mwila, that end today as more messages of condolence keeping pouring with the latest coming from Zambia’s high commissioner to Nigeria Bizwayo Nkunika who shared a jail cell with him in 1988.
“He was always so strong when we were in jail,” Col Nkunika said via a phone interview from Nigeria, “Mr BY Mwila was with us in jail for six months before he was released and even when his mother died while we remained in jail he remained strong…a true General. May God bless him.”
Meanwhile, family spokesperson Ary Mumba said in Lusaka yesterday that the funeral service for Mr Mwila will be held at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus starting at 09:40 hours.
He said all senior Government and political leaders are expected to be seated at 10:00 hours.
Major Mumba said Mr Mwila’s body will arrive at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus at 11:00 hours.
And UPND president Hakainde Hichilema has described the death of Mr Mwila as devastating and tragic.
Mr Hichilema, who visited the funeral house in the company of senior party members yesterday, said the nation has been robbed of a gallant leader who contributed immensely to the growth of Zambian politics.
“He has gone at a time when he was needed most to help in nation building. He was a hero who helped to grow Zambian politics,” he said.
Mr Hichilema urged Zambians to remain united.