Fallen To Rise Again? Emmanuel Mwamba & His Future In Zambian Democracy
Munshya wa Munshya
From the instant that little known Emmanuel Mwamba was appointed President Frederick Chiluba’s personal assistant he became an instant sensation. The man would be seen defending and in many cases travailing for his boss. Chiluba had so much confidence in Mwamba that on several occasions, Chiluba deferred to Mwamba in many press appearances. Nothing should prepare a person for the growing burdens of leadership than serving a boss like Chiluba who was facing serious anguish from the barrage of prosecutions from the Mwanawasa government. Emmanuel Mwamba was ever in the company of Chiluba. He became a known staple at the magistrate’s court complex. In those instances when Chiluba was evacuated to South Africa for medical treatment, it was he by his side. In many ways, Chiluba’s problems became Emmanuel’s.
When in 2005, Chiluba became a sympathizer of the opposition Patriotic Front, Mwamba changed with him. In fact, with him in toll, Chiluba arrived at the Lusaka Airport from one of his many medical trips abroad and raised the fist in the air, in clear support of Sata. It all seemed certain that the 2001 dribbling had been laid aside. Chiluba and Sata had made up. And for the 2006 elections, Chiluba had made no qualms about whom he was going to back. Where Chiluba went, Emmanuel Mwamba would go also. Perhaps it was at this time, that the Patriotic Front party and Sata might have noticed the brilliance and loyalty of one Mwamba. It was only after Sata had won the 2011 elections that he would bring Emmanuel closer and appoint him Permanent Secretary.
It was this appointment Emmanuel had embraced with vigor. In Kasama, Emmanuel Mwamba hit the ground hard and started to work for his new boss, Michael Sata. If there were any doubts about where he stood, it was all settled. He was a supporter of the agenda of the PF government. He would use the name recognition and whatever little politics he learnt from the time he served Frederick Chiluba. Pressure was no problem: he had endured more difficult times serving an ever persecuted and prosecuted Chiluba. Before, he is finally fired; Emmanuel Mwamba would serve as Permanent Secretary in about 4 other ministries. But it is his last stint at the Information Ministry that raised issues. This stint exposed both his immaturity and lack of judgment. But it also exposed an opportunity for him. And for that he has been punished quite severely for it. But Emmanuel still has a lot going for him, and in many instances he could still rise again. The thing is, he has to learn from what went on and then he must quickly recast and redefine this disappointment in ways that help him and the nation he obviously loves.
Emmanuel made some mistakes at Information. Instead of deferring politics to his principal and superior, Mwansa Kapeya, Mwamba started to champion political battles that are beyond the scope of his duties. He made decisions that are for the most part absurd. A permanent secretary should never make these decisions. Realizing that there was corruption at the Ministry, Mwamba went on to expose it and in fact went ahead to report his predecessor to the investigative agencies. There is nothing wrong with the fight against corruption. In fact, I would support Mwamba anytime he wants to fight it. The problem with the approach he took is that without political support from his principal and indeed from President Sata, there was nothing much Mwamba could achieve. His passion became his snare. He had laid for himself a trap that was just waiting to clamp once it had caught its prey. And the prey was Emmanuel himself. Let Zambia make no mistake. The fight against corruption cannot be imitated in any factory from China. In fact, regardless of how many Permanent Secretaries we have, if Michael Sata is not committed to fighting corruption, there is nothing mere secretaries could do on a global scale. As evidenced this week, corruption in the PF runs very deep. It infects the browning grounds of State House down to the core of the very structures that have made this mammoth monster we now call the ruling party.
Mwamba then got involved in an unnecessary political battle between GBM and Wynter Kabimba. It should never be the duty of any civil servant to be involved in political battles in this manner. Kabimba, as a minister in the PF government, was a defacto superior and supervisor of Mwamba. It was very unwise for Mwamba to appear to publicly undermine Kabimba. In the Zambian system of governance, the civil service is supervised and is amenable to the policies of politicians. Civil servants should not grow brains to begin undermining politicians. Politicians play a very important role in our governance and this is the reason why we vote for them. And in fact, this is the reason why it is our responsibility to remove them through political means. A civil servant like Mwamba had no power to join political nemesis who wanted Wynter removed. Now make no mistake about it. Wynter needed to go. But this was the decision that was supposed to be taken by the people through political means such as the use of cadres to do peaceful protests. This was not going to be done in a boardroom of a Permanent Secretary under taxpayers’ funding. In Zambia ordinary citizens hire and fire politicians. And in this role, we require no direct and unambiguous help from civil servants.
It is not that Mwamba achieved nothing at Information Ministry. In fact he achieved a lot. Within weeks, the ministry was headed the right direction except for a few mishaps as explained above. But clearly, President Sata went into a tantrum on Monday and the rest is history. With a leader in State House who throws a party of tantrums like what the nation saw on Monday, Zambia has a long way to go. Sata has failed to govern. And when you fail to govern throwing tantrums becomes a setting you default to. Such behaviour is dishonorable to say the least. It seems like; Sata is his presidency’s worst enemy. And Emmanuel had to just face the blunt of an out control emotive presidential tantrums. Many mistakes Emmanuel made, but firing he did not deserve.
That being the case, Emmanuel is no more in the PF government. President Sata has bizarrely called it “retirement in national interest.” Having made these mistakes, Emmanuel can redeem himself yet again. He is a hardworking man and we have all seen that.
Mwamba must now reflect deeply, learn from mistakes and move on. Since it is politics he seems to be interested in, it is to politics he should go. For his part, Sata said he is ready to meet Mwamba in politics. And the UPND could be the best place to start from. Hichilema needs a person like Mwamba in his party. Mwamba is experienced, is young and can help deal with public relations adversity in the UPND. And of course should be added one quality: Mwamba is Bemba. A kind of chatty Bemba that Hichilema might need to further supplement the current UPND firebrand.
As we put it in Milenge, ica kukonka ulubilo, nobe ucikonke ulubilo. I am very sure this is not the last time we have heard of Mwamba. And I just hope that the next time he speaks; it will be for Hichilema and the growing political fortunes of the UPND.