After a year of PF rule, I conducted extensive study and wrote an article titled “Michael Sata’s Family Forest Explained” in 2012. It can still be found at: https://zambianeye.com/michael-satas-family-forest-government-explained/.
In the same offering, I took the time to explicitly expose Mr. Sata’s selection of individuals for senior government positions, ranging from Cabinet ministers to State House aides, Defense chiefs, Permanent secretaries, Constitutional officers, heads of commissions and regulatory boards, CEOs of parastatal entities, and all the way up to Ambassadors and High Commissioners.
Before I could jump to any conclusions, I decided to delve into the archives and looked at similar appointments made by all of our former Presidents – Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Frederick Chiluba, Patrick Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda. My findings were shockingly sickening! Almost all the lofty positions were dominated by people from one particular region.
However, the article in question did not sit down well with those in authority; particularly one Edgar Lungu who saved as Home Affairs Minister at the time. I hadn’t seen a person that annoyed before on national TV.
“This is treason!” He bellowed as he banged his mahogany office desk with his clenched fist. “We know this is the work of UPND. I am now directing investigative wings of government to hunt down whoever is behind this article and bring them to book!”
I smiled as I watched these theatrics on ZNBC 19:00 hours main news. Seeing this, my wife and this other western colleague we were hosting wondered why I seemed pleased. I switched on my laptop and showed them the article that aroused so much controversy.
“So, you wrote this Uncle Bill….” the young man shrieked as he popped out his eyes in utter shock. “They can send you to jail…..”
In wee hours of the following day, I found my passport, placed it in one of the inner pockets of my coat and took off before the much-dreaded spies from the office of the president could come knocking. Destination? Anywhere where I could be safe for a while…..deep into the thickets perhaps.
“In case you see any strange looking fellows knocking on our door asking about my whereabouts, don’t hesitate to alert me so I can skip the border,” I had earlier intimated to my wife as I bid her farewell.
Fortunately, enough for me, the investigative wings failed to join the dots and link the article to me. Of course, this came as a relief to me as I knew I was dealing with a brutal regime which could have joyfully dumped me into the cooler and thrown away the keys on bogus charges!
Surprisingly, President Sata himself never made reference to my article apart from some comical remarks about balancing brains and not tribe!
As I kept wondering why Lungu so agitated about the article, it reminded of a passage in Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart where he writes that “An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.”
Was Lungu one of the architects of tribalism in PF? Seemingly so for how could he possibly take issue with such a straightforward matter?
When Lungu finally took over as President, we saw how he continued on the same trajectory of appointing people from one particular region to government position. He even took things to another level by allowing his senior government and party officials to take pleasure in denigrating and making tribal remarks against a certain ethnic grouping as he looked away!
Anyway, as President-elect his Excellency Hakainde Hichilema considers assembling his cabinet and of course appointing people to other senior government positions, we would appeal to him to avoid making the same mistakes as Lungu as posterity is going to judge him.
Mr. President Sir, please put together a team which is going to represent national character and further embolden our motto “One Zambia, One Nation!”