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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dickson Jere supports construction of a new State House

General News Dickson Jere supports construction of a new State House

Artist impression of the New State House that was to be built
Artist impression of the New State House that was to be built under the MMD proposal but was scrapped by the PF Government

Former State House Special Assistant for Press and public Relations Dickson Jere said the current State House is not fit for a president.

Mr Jere who served under former President Rupiah Banda said that the current State House was designed as a Governor’s House to accommodate the then Governor of Lusaka.

He said the current State House cannot host a full state banquet that goes with a state-visit and hence most such events are held at hotels.

He said a guest list for the state visit is usually 500 and above and that State House cannot accommodate such numbers except when a marquee is mounted outside at another expense.

Mr Jere said those opposed to the construction of a new State House should think again when they debate the issue.

In October 2011, then President Michael Sata cancelled a contract to build a new State House which was supposed to be constructed by Chinese company, Shanghai Construction Group.

The late President Sata said the country’s current State House was more than adequate and wondered why former President Banda had decided to embark on an expensive venture of building another State House.

Below is Mr Jere’s full statement posted on his Facebook page

To build or not to build?

By Dickson Jere

Before I was appointed as a senior staff at State House, I had been there several times as a reporter to cover various presidential functions. But reporters were restricted to specific rooms. Not until when I worked there, I thought the place was lofty.

For starters, what we call State House today was in fact a residence of the British Governor. And so the design and all the accompaniment was that of a house and not offices. The offices were supposed to be where Cabinet Office is but our first President Kenneth David Kaunda, in his wisdom, decided that the Presidential residence and offices should be in one place – the decision I actually support.

Managing presidential assignments in that building is a nightmare. The place is just too small. By way of example, where the President conducts swearing-in ceremonies and receives credentials from newly accredited diplomats is a staff dining room not designed or planned for such solemn events.

Each time there is such an event (at least in my time) staff will need to eat from their offices since the place would be turned around for the event of the day. We started using the dining room for such events during our time.

Previously, cabinet room, which was in fact a banquet hall for the Governor, was the Multi-purpose hall for State House until they fixed a non-movable conference-table attached with desktop computers for cabinet meetings. So that hall can no longer be used for other meetings except for cabinet and other conference-like events.

In my time, I had difficulties in dealing with VVIP guests. The only toilets available for use were the ones at the entrance of the house, which were meant for all and sundry. In case we have a visiting President, one would take them inside the Presidential office if they were to use the bathroom – a very embarrassing situation! I and chief of protocol then, Bob Samakai, had to push for the construction of the VVIP toilets attached to the main building. We managed but as a temporal measure as the guests had to pass through offices-before getting to them.

Further, no one wants to go to State House to see the President and is totally exposed. But ours, we do not have waiting rooms. Everyone is put on the foyer as they wait to be called in to see the President. Sometimes VVIP mixes with ordinary people on the foyer.

There is need to at least have three separate meeting rooms where guests can be put while they wait for their turn to see the Principal. President Michael Sata, as he then was, had to turn one of the offices downstairs into a waiting room for that very reason.

When the President wants to address the press, he either has to do it outside or on the foyer or indeed in the dining room. We do not have a press room for such. Outside events attracts events management companies that need to set up and we pay. Every good State House has a press room where press conferences take place. The room is specifically designed for the press with multi power points and sound system for the quality of voice… need say more on that?

Each successful President, with an exception of President Sata, uses the small library downstairs as an official office. This means that State House has no official library for staff and policy analysts.

The top office has been avoided for many reasons, including that the staircase is stiff. Current State House has no lift and so not convenient for the disabled who equally needs access to the President.

Ever visited State House during rainy season? I was shocked when I saw buckets on the corridors! The entire house is terribly leaking and the upper floor shakes when one is walking on it. Disaster in waiting!

Lastly, the place is just too tiny. Not all presidential staff can fit with comfort to work. In my time, some very senior officers shared office space while others kept shuttling offices depending on the assignment they had.

Even where the President meets his counterpart, that room is designated as the First Lady’s Room. It was a second living-room for the Governor’s wife and her guests – so I was told. There is no quiet room for the President to meet his visiting counterpart on a one-on-one set up except that room.

And that State House cannot host a full state banquet that goes with a state-visit and hence most such events are held at hotels! A guest list for the state visit is usually 500 and above and that State House cannot accommodate such numbers except when a marquee is mounted outside at another expense.

So, think again when you debate the question – to build or not to build a new State House!

40 COMMENTS

    • This is only going to benefit one family. No we don’t need it. Let’s avoid putting attractive things to presidency so that people stops dreaming of that position and also thinking of staying in that position longer. Let the presidency be a risk of one’s life. Only people who are genuine servants of the nation should admire that office. No wonder we have people like hh who is now sponsoring arsonists just for him to become president. When state is becomes a death trap the better.

    • I will only support the construction of a new State House if the government also agrees to change the melody of our national anthem. Why should our national anthem sound like the South African one? I know Zambia got independence before RSA did, but people think its Zambia that copied the national anthem tune from SA.

      Well, kinda true cause the composer of the tune “Nkosi, sikelel’ iAfrika or Lord, bless Africa”, Enoch Sontonga, was South African, according to my political science lessons.

      The lyrics are marvelous, lets just change the tune. And yes, we do need a new State House.

    • I read twice. Even if they remove those Chinese permanent cabinet meeting expensive infrastructure, it won’t solve much.
      Disaster is the roof and upstairs design.
      Let Zambia Army & ZNS get to work!!!
      On behalf of opposition, let’s build the new thing.

    • Its funny how suddenly state house is dilapidated and not fit for purpose!
      Lungu has put a fish farm at the so called dilapidated building. Why not use that space for construction of a banqueting suite and as Dickson says new VVIP toilets?
      That list of 500 if you take out party cadres surely our state house can accommodate everyone.
      What next new parliament? New cabinet office? New ministerial houses?
      Already those useless MP want a new motel! When will Africans learn to maintain what they have and he content.
      Christian nation? Humble president? Its all bullsh!t.
      On this one I miss Sata!

    • Consider serving the people. They do not have enough trains to serve the 14m people electric train when will they start running in Zed????

  1. “….When the President wants to address the press, he either has to do it outside or on the foyer or indeed in the dining room. …”

    Corrupt lungu does not do press conferences for fear of being exposed……

    • @2 Spaka.. Please think beyond a person, and look at the reasons advanced! US$20 is not too much money for a country, I think even Sata realized after cancelling the contract that he should not cancelled it! We just lost time, the same with lower Kafue Gorge power station!!

    • Add something consructive not just about correcting grammar iwe koswe. If nothing of note keep quiet kabili.

    • A tribe turned political encouraging his mate to offer some serious insults than correcting grammar. You are a cursed tribe @spakalinyo.

    • @Spaka like lilo; How do you have the words “Constructive” and “Koswe” in the same sentence? When you go low, I will go high, I won’t stoop to the mediocre level of using derogatory words on any human being. Have a good day and God bless

  2. Dickson, see how your priorities are misplaced, you’re worried about hosting 500 guests for a state banquet meanwhile UTH has no beds and no medicine, Unza is struggling with its current Library and accommodation. On the other hand you have debt and are still borrowing.
    With your mentality, Africa will continue to be in poverty for eternity. Think please.

  3. First time i agree with you Spaka like lilo thats why ba koswe sibopunzila looking for grammar errors. nonsense

  4. Mr. Jere has just made the case for a complete makeover of the existing State House. A banqueting Hall here, a few waiting rooms there, a press room there and a new roof and ceilings here and there. As with 10 Downing Street or the White house, you build and extend around the existing structure. We have thousands of architects who can remodel the existing building to suit current requirements. No need the behemoth / monstrosity of a building that has been proposed. for Christ sakes we have more urgent developmental goals that need to be attained before we can afford the luxury of a new state house

    • Agree. The budget of the new state house is USD20m. I think it is realistic to estimate that all the required upgrades to address the various shortcomings of the current state house (build banqueting hall, press room, waiting rooms; repair roof and staircase) and similar other enhancements should not cost more than $5m. I may be wrong. That would be saving us $15m!. One of the benefits of renovating and expand as opposed to build a new one is what will we do with the current state house? The proposal fo turning it into a museum is not realistic, because it will still require significant upgrade/repairs to make it useable as a museum. I would also like to add that, unfortunately, Zambians do not appreciate infrastructure and amenities such as museums. The Lusaka museum leaves much to be…

  5. The rationale advanced by Dickson Jere does not stand for a number of reasons. Firstly, late president Michael Sata objected to it for very PATRIOTIC REASONS to uplift the painful poverty seen in the nation. Where was Dickson with his points?. Secondly, as stated that the White House of USA is even older than our state house. Every building goes through a decaying process with the passage of time and so repairs to it are inevitable.
    Down Street here in the UK where the prime ministers of Britain have done business for many decades is just along a street and you see No.10, no special grandeur associated with poor nations that tend to build mountain -like buildings as presidential houses. Remember our State house was built by the British so extentions and repairs to it would do in the…

  6. Mr. Dickson Jere was special assistant to RB and RB is the one who wanted to build a new State House which Sata cancelled. Its thus not a surprise to hear this from him.
    Sata’s arguments are still valid unless we see RB reloaded. Zambian people, blame yourselves. Its not right!

  7. Jere and RB wanted a new state house because they are afraid that KK left the place as a haunted place. Remember stories of a table breaking in between during kafupi. Remember the appearing of snake upstairs during Sata which was suspected on The Rainbow leader. State house is ok. It just needs good designers and renovations and extensions. Ask my good man KK and he will tell you what I have told you that State house is ok and does not need another one built.

  8. Remember RB bringing in sangomas from South Africa. Remember Sata bringing in Sangoma’s. Remember Lungu bringing in sangomas whom he disguised as consultants before he claimed that he was now a Christian. They all bring in sangomas who deceive them and fear to go out of state house remains. They will run again from Lungu’s new state house. These are the same people who claim that Lungu is dreaming of chief Mukuni on Mondays and Tuesdays. Witches will normally bring dreams of an innocent man to your dreams so that you hate the wrong person you are seeing. Lungu has many enemies but all his eyes are on HH and Mukuni as the cause for his dreams and troubles like fires.

  9. Here is a statement from an insider who has fowarded valid points which none of us on this blog are aware about. The white house, 10 downing street were built for their respective leaders’ operations albeit two centuries back but ours was a RESIDENCE for a colonial governor. Sometimes we oppose the obvious for the sake of opposing; “…that money can be used for hospitals…” but what about the hospitals and schools that have been erected since 2011??? Chilenje and Matero clinics are now district hospitals, it is always convenient to switch off our memories when it suits us??? My take is if we are not comfortable with this, let us start engaging our area councilors so to seek audience with our mps and demand a convincing reason why this project must go ahead!!! Imagine a situation…

  10. …where there is a structural accident at state house and it becomes unusable, who would be the laughing stock of the world????

  11. Zambians are so vile! Someone spends time in State House and all he sees is ‘this house can’t host a banquet for 500 people! ”
    This place has no perfume in the toilets. Journalists can’t eat here. After his observations he offers a nincompoop solution: let’s build another state house.
    He can’t see if the president is not performing his job. Its up to us if this is what we will see as intellectual debate on our need for a new state house.
    This man was a press aid not an architect so why doesn’t he advise on the need for a free press to cover the president without fear or favour?

    • Does he have to be an architect to give a common sense view of the short-comings of the building? Do you need an architect to for his view that VVIPs need separate toilets or waiting rooms? He was not giving a technical opinion no one in his professional capacity as a journalist but as someone who had the first-hand experience of working daily in Statehouse and witnessing its short-comings. That said, it is not my opinion that we need a new first house. I would want for a start to hear that renovating and upgrading has been considered and rendered not feasible or not cost effective relative to building a new one before the latter position can be adopted.

    • Ba Bla Bla you sound like a blind PF muzungu wanga who just follows. Just because someone worked in state house doesnt mean he should focus on improving the luxuries needed there.
      From his relevant experience in the place there are more important things he can advise the nation about if he was interested in serving his nation and not serving himself.
      Having worked there doesn’t mean we should hear his arguments about keeping wildlife there. Was that his focus?

  12. Very stupid thinking, so this unthinkable borrowing is partly to put up a new state house. Jere you have lost your mind. And those supporting this frail course need brain implant.

  13. Let’s debate issues as proffesionals,when we insult we are not different from those who needs help (brain implant)

  14. Ati “Press conferences have to be done outside.” EL doesn’t do press conferences. He issues statement at KKIA on the runway before flying out. Kikiki…..

  15. How can our spend millions of dollars for such an undertaking when markets are burning because they are below human standard and most of our people live in homes meant for cattle how dare you play us for fools, my people let’s fight this useless idea till that contract is shredded.

  16. Using his favourite media elsewhere Chishimba Kambwili opposes New State House. It is clear that Kambwili has an axe to grind against President Lungu. If Kambwili claims that he was too close to President Sata, how come that he missed Ba Sata’s consent to build a new State House after his (Sata.s) earlier rejection of the Govt Plan under President RB Banda?

    This man has quarrelled with the Luanshya Mayor, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Copperbelt Minister and selectively attacks many PF leaders at will – as he conveniently spares the UPND. Mr.Kambwili is indeed fat but his body mass is loaded with malice. If Kambwili cannot stomach EC Lungu’s Presidency, he and Mwenya Musenge should just pluck up courage and openly join the destructive forces of UPND.

  17. I agree with Chimu. Please let’s debate issues and not individuals. We have a serious situation that needs seriousness to conquer. Zambia and its people must be first.
    And so my humble submission to this “new state house” debate is in form of questions:
    1. Do we really need a new state house? Is it in such a dilapidated state that it cannot be repaired cost effectively? Or has it become a serious security risk?
    2. If so, is it a priority now, considering current economic and social challenges that need financial resources which are limited at this particular moment?
    3. If it is needed, in what form in terms of size and how much can we spend? Can it be implemented in phases over say 5 years to make sure it does not strain the limited resources?
    4. And is it budgeted for in the…

  18. Good and successful leaders are always modest in their expenditure and they make sure the Lion’s share of the budget goes to the people. The issues raised in this article are minor things that can be added to the existing state house arrangement. All it requires is creativity and thinking outside the box for once. State house yard has ample space for such add ons. Have these guys seen how modest state houses are in some of the most progressive countries on the continent? Granted, it would be great to have the likes of the White House for state house in Zambia but the reality is we can’t afford that at the moment. We have just failed to organize National VCT events due to funding issues. That tells you a lot about our dire financial and debt situation. Is it really the quest for a better…

  19. Is it really the quest for a better state house or the president is haunted? There are reports and talk of some nightmares, some chief and some excrement turned into food. Could that be the pressing matter? Or is it the pressure from election campaign sponsors we are under pressure to pay through project doctoration? It remains to be seen. The truth always comes out in the end!

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