By Ng’andu Peter Magande
“With so many interest groups to accommodate, it took some time for President Chiluba to complete the formation of his new administration after the October 1991 elections. Many of my associates visited Government House on Leopards Hill Road, opposite the Chrismar Hotel, where President Chiluba was camped, to solicit and lobby for jobs. A good number of them were appointed to various positions in both the government and the parastatal institutions.
When finally completed, the FTJ Cabinet of twenty-three included fourteen young ministers with doctor of philosophy degrees in various academic disciplines. Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika and Baldwin Nkumbula, the sons of the fathers of the independence struggle, were amongst those appointed to ministerial positions.
The youthful ministers were joined by old timers who included Michael Chilufya Sata, Guy Scott, Simon Zukas, Ludwig Sondashi, Andrew Kashita, Humphrey Mulemba, General Godfrey Miyanda, General Christon Tembo, and Emmanuel Kasonde. This team gave high hopes to the Zambian people that the country would be led on the right path to develop rapidly and banish the widespread poverty. President Chiluba had whipped up the emotions of the suffering Zambians with his eloquent speeches during the campaigns and at his swearing-in ceremony.
At his first press conference, he demonstrated and publicly stated his resolve to be a working president by standing throughout the long press conference. At the second press conference after ninety days, when asked why the working president was seated for most of the time, he replied that, “I did not know how sweet this chair was,” while pointing to his seat. The presidential joke was not in good taste for the majority poor Zambians, who were still waiting for rewards for their sacrifice.
My intimate conversations with most of the new ministers and after observing their enthusiasm and mannerisms, generated personal misgivings on the capability of the new team to carry out a shared vision for Zambia. In fact, as I discussed the change of guards with many of the younger ministers, I openly prophesied that Zambia’s economic and social development would stagnate and only be revived after a decade.
On a day in November 1991, I was asked by Mrs Flavia Musakanya to get to Government House to see Valentine Musakanya. Chiluba had asked Valentine Musakanya, the first head of the civil service after Zambia’s independence, to help in setting up a working public service, as he was very knowledgeable of public administration. As I drove to my assignment, Mrs Musakanya reminded me by telephone, of our earlier conversations at Lima Bank and persuaded me to accept one of the two posts she had mentioned to me. At Government House, I met an officer who asked who I was and whom I wanted to see. When I told him my name and that I wanted to see Mr Musakanya, the officer asked me to follow him.
As he opened a door to a room, I came face-to-face with President Chiluba, who warmly gestured that I take a seat opposite him. I had met Chiluba only once in Livingstone in the seventies when he was attending a trade union conference. After a few pleasantries, he offered me a job as managing director of the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO). This was totally different from the positions I had discussed with some of the MMD founding members.
At the mention of the bank, I twitched. This forced the president to explain that this would be only for six months, and that he will give me a more senior appointment. He directed me to report to the Government House the following morning to be taken to the bank. Some of the people I consulted on the matter, late that night, doubted the genuineness of the consultations they’d had with the president and advised me to turn down the appointment.
As I did not know President Chiluba well, I was prepared to trust his word and take a gamble. The following day, I did as instructed and went to Government House, where I found Lawrence Bwalya, who had been my workmate at the INDECO head office. We were picked up in one car by the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Nzunga Syakalima, for a drive to Cairo Road, the central business district of Lusaka City.
On our way, the IG diverted to his office and while he left us in the car, I asked Bwalya to which institution he was being taken. He totally surprised me by answering in a disinterested voice that he did not know. I wondered why someone who had been my workmate at INDECO was not prepared to have a conversation on our strange happenstance, since I had no powers to overturn his stroke of fortune.
The Inspector General of Police and Lawrence Bwalya left me in the vehicle as they went into ZIMCO House. After a short while, the IG came back and informed me that Bwalya was the new Director General of ZIMCO, one of the biggest parastatal in Sub Saharan Africa. We then drove across to the ZANACO head office, which was within the same square.
At the reception, we asked for the floor number of the office of the MD as both of us had never been to the new building. We got into the executive lift up to the executive floor. The IG informed the MD’s personal assistant that we wanted to see the MD. She went into the office to alert the MD of our presence and came back to usher us into the office.
Mr Friday Chakanga Ndlovu, the MD for ZANACO, who seemed surprised to see us, beckoned us to take seats, a distance away from his desk. I guessed that this was for him to finish off whatever he was working on, before engaging us in conversation. I took a seat while the IG moved towards the MD’s desk and after a salute, he informed Ndlovu that I was the new MD and instructed him to leave the office immediately.
Ndlovu was asked for the keys to the office and company car. As I had by then been asked by the IG to move nearer to the executive desk, I received the bunch of keys. As he walked out, I recalled my time with him, as my senior at UNZA in the sixties, when we shared unwelcome headaches over some mathematical equations. At the time, neither of us had imagined that we would be pitted against each other as pawns in a game of political supremacy between KK and FTJ.
In the civil service, to which I had belonged for a long time, civil servants dealt with one another with civility and gave each other time to prepare handing-over notes for the system to continue smoothly. It was only at the political level that the changes were effected immediately after the president’s announcements.
Elijah Mudenda, a former Prime Minister and my trusted mentor confided in me on how he was stranded when he was dropped. Another outgoing Prime Minister was abandoned at Mulungushi Conference Centre by the official escort.
After I settled down in the office, I summoned the personal secretary to introduce myself to her and to give her a bit of explanation as to the course of events. After being shown around the large office and the adjoining boardroom, I asked the company secretary (CS), George Mwambazi, to come to my office. I repeated the story of what had happened and directed him to ensure that all the bank’s assets were guarded and secured.
I then requested the personal secretary to summon all the directors into my office. Their quick response in coming to my office gave me the impression that everyone was already aware of the happenings in the building. The management team consisted of my former classmate, Winston Chikwanda, Timothy Daka, Lloyd Chongo, William Holman, Tom Kapapa, George Mwambazi, and E. P. Xavier.
I learnt that at INDECO Head Office, Managing Director Mwene Mwinga was told to leave the office by an unknown person in a security uniform, without anyone to take over. Using his own initiative, the MD summoned Stanley Tamele, one of the executive directors to rush to the MD’s office to take over the office. Instead of being thankful to the ousted MD for handing over the office to him, which was a promotion, the new MD exhibited great antagonism towards his benefactor.
His immediate action was to disconnect the relay that connected the wireless telephone receiver at Mwinga’s residence. As I was close to both of them, I tried to reconcile the two, but my efforts failed. In a good number of government institutions, including ministries, there were personal conflicts between the old and new administrators. Some ministers did not even trust the old and experienced personal secretaries and resorted to opening mail. In many instances, the new supervisors were genuinely ignorant of government procedures and systems, as they had never worked in the government”, from “The Depth of My Footprints”.