The moment you are appointed or elected as a leader, you must immediately get ready to start solving problems. This is the one reason why we need leaders in our society, without problems, we wouldn’t need leaders to guide us through life. We don’t elect leaders so that they can live better lives than us. We want them to solve our problems.
The same can be said to those whom the President appoints to his Cabinet. A weak Head of State can do big things for citizens if he has a powerful Cabinet of credible individuals. When you are appointed to run a ministry, you must always consider it a challenge rather than a privilege. Will these people work according to people’s expectations? Let’s see.
Among all the reshuffles that President Edgar Lungu made last week, the appointment of Honourable Vincent Mwale as Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister stands out. We say this because the Ministry of Infrastructure is different from all other ministries. It accounts for almost two thirds of the debt that this country has contracted from China. It exposes government officials to the highest level of corruption. It is the most tempting ministry because it is run by some Chinese who have mastered the art of corruption.
In our view, the President made a wise decision by putting one of his few disciplined ministers in charge Infrastructure. Honourable Mwale is the closest that you can get to an honest, dignified and professional minister in this corrupt regime of the Patriotic Front. Yes, we said it! The Chipangali member of parliament is a very dignified minister respected by a majority of citizens, especially those who have had encounters with him. Honourable Mwale is honourable indeed and he is what every Head of State should want to have in his Cabinet.
In just an hour of the Cabinet reshuffle being published on Friday, hundreds of thousands took to social media to react. Majority of comments were on the dismissal of Mr Moses Mawere and the transfer of ‘Prof CBU’ and ‘Honourable Acquittal’. Not a single comment condemned the appointment of Vincent Mwale as Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development. This is a sign that people have a lot of confidence in this minister. Those who have worked with him say he is very strict and afraid of prison. He plays by the book.
In saying this, we are not trying to vouch for the minister or promising on his behalf that he will not disappoint. Our position on Mwale is simply a testimony of his past. This is one minister who doesn’t need anybody to launder him. Being a human being, he is obviously full of sin and he has definitely done some wrong things in the past. But in comparison to other individuals in President Lungu’s Cabinet, like the famous ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, Honourable Mwale is the game changer and the corrupt will scamper.
But we have a strong precautionary message for Honourable Mwale. What this means, Sir, is that you have the biggest challenge ahead, not a privilege. This is a very sensitive ministry which will test your honesty and professionalism. Corruption comes is so many various ways. Those who offer bribes nowadays don’t stop at giving you money, they also show you the various means in which you can launder it. This is why we were hearing in the famous court case that money was being sent straight from Bank of China into some lawyers’ bank account before being spent on procurement of some property. Nowadays you can actually own a lot of property without owning it on paper. If you get caught, there is always a way of bribing a magistrate and paying musicians to sing about your innocence.
Honourable Mwale, you have a huge task ahead of you. Temptations will follow you right to your bedroom. Some of the gifts you will receive, you won’t even know who sent them. Please don’t let us, your people, down. Prove to the citizens and the President that it is possible to develop national infrastructure without allowing corruption to flourish. When you realize that the bribe you are being offered has the blessings of State House, or if the President directly asks you to do something wrong, please thank him and step aside. If you don’t, your name will be soiled while his immunity will remain intact.
Look at ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’: we all know that he got involved in corruption with the blessings of Plot One, but whose name has been tarnished today? It’s his! The President is watching from a distance. This ministry will either make you or finish you, Honourable Mwale. The choice is yours.
We are also particularly impressed with the appointment of Honourable Brian Mushimba as Minister in charge of institutions of higher learning. Just like Honourable Mwale, Mr Brian Mushimba has the right public appeal for a person you want as your leader. Of course he has weaknesses, some of which have caused him public embarrassment in the past, but when it comes to public service, we find this man capable.
The biggest challenge that Prof Nkandu Luo had was her failure to engage the people she led into dialogue. Some of the university problems could have been resolved to through effective communication. This is one attribute that we find strongly in the former Minister of Communication. Honourable Mushimba is one of the most accessible ministers in President Lungu’s Cabinet and we are sure that lecturers and students will love this.
Honoruable Mushimba, consider this a challenge not a privilege. We welcome the social media post where you said opening Copperbelt University will be your priority, but go back and look at where things began. Universities were not getting funding. Prof Luo was rude and she never wanted to explain herself, but the truth is that she never withheld funding from her pocket, it was the Treasury that was not releasing money. This is the reality that you must be prepared to deal with. Where will you get the money from to keep the universities running, in the face of a national debt crisis?
One again, don’t get excited with this appointment. Instead, you must worry. What the president has done here is to wash his hands on Prof Luo. We all know they closed CBU together, but he has acted as if Prof Luo was the villain. That’s our humble leader for you.
Another great appointment that deserves mention is that of Sylvia Chalikosa as Minister of Works and Supply. We stand to be corrected, but she becomes the first female Works and Supply Minister in as many years as memory can reach. This ministry is also very sensitive because it is fertile for corruption. But we believe that many will agree with us when we say women in leadership are less corrupt compared to their male counterparts. Madam Chalikosa carries with her a very good reputation from the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit at the Office of the Vice-President. We pray and hope that she will grab this challenge with the dignity it deserves.
All in all, we feel President Lungu has put the right people in the most critical ministries. A new credible Minister of Finance, a reputable Minister of Infrastructure Development, respected Minister of Works and Supply and a listening Minister of Higher Education. You nailed it President Lungu, but stop controlling ministries from State House, let them do their jobs.