President Edgar Lungu has appointed former first lady Dr Christine Kaseba as Zambia’s new Ambassador to France, taking over from Humphrey Chibanda who was recalled in January.
According to impeccable government sources, Dr Kaseba will be sworn in today, along with new appointees at the Policy Analysis & Coordination (PAC) Division at Cabinet Office.
“The President finally offered Dr Kaseba a job and she accepted. So she will be going to France as Ambassador. The only thing is that there is a feeling within the ranks that, perhaps H.E (His Excellency) should have nominated her as member of parliament and appointed her minister. That position she has accepted is at Director level, so she will be reporting to the Permanent Secretary ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can imagine, those people at State House who worked with her, the president’s advisors, Kaizer [Zulu], Amos [Chanda] and the like will be her bosses now. Maybe this is okay for any other former first lady, but for a person like Dr Kaseba, this is kind of awkward,” said the source.
“When you look around, you find that not only is she highly qualified, but she is also technically a very senior member of the PF by default. She is equally the founder of PF and she did a lot during the time when president (Michael) Sata was unwell in State House. So this appointment may be seen as degrading to some extent, but the fact that she accepted herself, it means she is happy. At the end of the day it’s one party we are serving, but the President stands to win on this one and she has downgraded herself.
After president Sata died, Dr Kaseba attempted to succeed him, but her bid to be adopted party candidate sparked differences with the President Lungu-led faction. The PF mobilised a smear campaign against her for being opportunistic over the death of her husband. They composed songs to ridicule her before nicknaming her “Mukamfwila” (the widow).
After Dr Kaseba succumbed to pressure and tactfully withdrew from the party presidential race, she was faced with a new wave of hostile treatment by the President Lungu regime as she was evicted from the government-rented apartment in Kabulonga.
She then retreated to her mother’s small house in Libala township, prompting opposition UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo to rise on a point of order in Parliament, and ask why the government had failed to pay rentals for the former first lady.
Secretary to the Cabinet then accused Dr Kaseba of turning down a houses in Lusaka’s upmarket suburbs which government had secured for her.
At the last memorial service for the late Sata, Dr Kaseba moved a few to tears as complained that she was being accused of hiding ill-begotten wealth.
“Brothers and sisters, the man I called my husband never focused on personal enrichment of material possession. The family has been accused of hiding perceived wealth that comes with the Presidency but to those that knew MCS, they will testify that Michael Sata was a man who never believed in personal gain. He focused on working for the good of the country and the people he loved so much. I remember how in his last days he refused to eat food when many Zambians were going hungry, he had many dreams to do but his plans where in his God’s plans (…breaks into tears).”
“He was called many names, some derogatory and some lovingly. Many of you would agree with me that Michael Sata remained true to himself. He even refused to change his cell phone number because he believed that it was the same number that propelled him to the presidency and he needed his people to get hold of him easily. He even refused to change a ka Nokia 3310,” Kaseba said.
Although she has never been a member of the UPND, in 2016, it was heavily speculated that she would be chosen as Hakainde Hichilema’s running mate, a move that was reportedly instigated by Sata’s vice-president Guy Scott. On the other hand, Dr Kaseba was seen as a potential counter running mate for President Lungu, but the existing hostile relationship saw the PF candidate settling for Inonge Wina while Hichilema chose Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba.
Kaseba is a long-time physician and surgeon, specializing in gynecology and obstetrics, at University Teaching Hospital.