Saturday, July 2, 2011, 7:21 Second Lead, The african By Hilal K. Sued This continent will never abandon its being showcase as a butt of all the jokes. It has become an ostentatious – or could we say brazen showground where lead players travel great lengths to reveal their suspect credentials. Last week several African leaders joined Zambians in putting to rest Frederick Chiluba, the country's first democratically elected president who died on June 18, at his Lusaka residence. Chiluba whose legacy after his decade-long rule was spoiled by a seven-year corruption trial was buried next to his handpicked successor, Levy Mwanawasa – the man who later brought the corruption charges against him. I admit that it's inappropriate and undignified to comment negatively about a person who has just died. After all this column is all about what happens inside our borders, so the burial in Zambia Chiluba's is only being mentioned as an overture to my key theme – the person who represented Tanzania in that burial – former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa – and particularly what he had said. Mkapa urged Zambians to uphold commitment to unity and fair justice shown by the former president Frederick Chiluba. He said he was saddened by the death of Chiluba, who he claimed was a close friend of his and the Tanzanian people. Unity? – perhaps, but fair justice? Certainly NO! What amazes me is that Mkapa wanted Zambians to uphold these noble values while he was not known to have upheld them himself during his own two decades he led Tanzania. Sages down history have said that the most miserable thing about human nature is that a man may guide others into the path of salvation, without walking in it himself; that he may be a pilot, and yet a castaway. In other words that which we call sin in some people is experiment for others. But that is how the world grinds along, even though in this continent, the grinding is chipping away its development potential, its political and social body politic and by extension, the foundations that hold together its peace and stability. One can easily discern one great difference between the two men – Mkapa and Chiluba. The deceased belonged to the newest breed of African leaders – the true defenders of the presidential palaces. Towards the end of his two presidential terms, Chiluba tried, unsuccessfully to amend the Constitution to extend term limit. Mkapa didn't even think about doing that – there was no need for him to do that. In Tanzania this deficiency is mitigated by the aptly entrenched system of high level protection in the ruling party (CCM). An incumbent president is not supposed to take legal action against his predecessor on any crimes committed while in office – the most familiar of which you know which. In Zambia that is exactly what happened – Chiluba's successor (from the same political party and above all handpicked by him) Levy Mwanawasa immediately moved to haul him to court over corruption. So the fear for Chiluba wanting to extend term limit was explicable. But that is not the end of my point of dragging Mkapa into my column – after all it's not the first time. As my readers would recall, I once penned an article on why in 2007 Mkapa was left out as recipient of the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Award for Leadership Excellence. Jakaya Kikwete, though not handpicked by Mkapa – stoutly objected to calls, both strong and valid to haul his predecessor to courts. However there are so many reasons for that as is widely suspected – that much of the graft accusations could also touch JK as well. Mid 2006, that is, six months into his presidency, JK addressed the public through a forum with editors from country's media. He was asked for his comments on reports that his immediate predecessor, Benjamin Mkapa and his wife started a business firm and engaged themselves in business transactions whilst still in office. The questioner said his worry was that Mkapa could have used his position for personal gain when conducting his business. Kikwete astounded the journalists when he replied that even though there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by his predecessor on that issue, the whole idea of moving against past presidents for crimes they might have committed while in office sometimes drives some of them to make amendments to constitution to prolong term limits. That response was surely unacceptable as it was flawed, especially when it was spelled out publicly by the person holding the highest office in the land, and chiefly for the reasons given. That is one big proof in the so called ‘protection' racket in the ruling party's top leadership. But there is currently one nagging issue about this arrangement, which will surely come to an end once another party takes over the country's reins. It's the fraud case facing Tanzania's former Ambassador to Italy, Prof Costa Mahalu. It was the first ever major fraud case under JK's administration and there are reasons to believe that JK was enthusiastic on the case landing to courts. At a press conference on media issues he hailed one newspaper for having reported on the impending fraud case, saying that was how investigative reporting should be. That paper was the newly launched THIS DAY and the story was about Pro Mahalu's fraud issue. Was it hard to read between the lines? But a few weeks ago it was reported in newspapers that Mkapa, JK's predecessor at the State House, wanted to be one of Mahalu's defence witnesses. An interpretation of that is anyone's guess, but one is that it is a declaration of war. The man who five years ago JK protected to the hilt by warding off calls for his prosecution, should now have the cheek to challenge his administration in a major case he appeared to have an interest? There something that doesn't add up there. But back to what Mkapa told the Zambians – to uphold commitment to unity and fair justice. The statement is in great contrast to what he stood for himself during the ten years as president. How can he urge them to uphold these virtues whilst he practiced differently at home? As a defender of the State House, malpractices during elections was a pastime and this happened two times under his presidency, and no doubt under his direction, even though the official spin afterwards shifted the blame to the opposition. I ask, was there any difference between what happened in Kenya late 2007 under Mwai Kibaki's administration and what took place in Zanzibar in 2000 and 2005? In fact in Zanzibar it was even worse because the process of vote rigging started with the voter registration exercise while in Kenya it was plain daylight robbery – the way a masked gun-brandishing bank robber would order a scared teller: "Hand it over, will you? in large bills." Yet, Mkapa was involved in the mediation process of Kenya's political standoff that arose from stolen elections – the very practice he was himself accustomed to – from ‘the giving end' standpoint rather than ‘the receiving end.' I could have meant no other credible mediators were available, or that he wanted to divert media attention from BoT and other scams that took place during his twilight months of his administration and which later crept into public domain. Mkapa was arbitrating a political crisis of another country, while a similar crisis at home that erupted at the dawn of his administration (from Zanzibar's 1995 polls) remained unsolved up to the time he quit office! In the ten years Mkapa was at the helms of his country he failed to accomplish even the simplest task – erase political scars in that part of the Union, the scars that are always carrying the ingredients for an eruption of a bigger conflict. He was never seen to be serious in pressing for truth and reconciliation that would have brought harmony to that part of the Union. In that his ten years at the helms went down the drain. Even at election times he appeared to be fond of fanning the unending crisis. In the aftermath of 2000 elections his troops gunned down scores of peaceful demonstrators in Pemba. The deceased's main sin was their demand for justice in democracy – the very principles he urged the Zambians to uphold and which hardly required the use of live bullets. As earlier pointed out, the official spin was put into high gear – the demonstrators had carried weapons – i.e. stones and sticks.