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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Lies, damned lies and delusion: ‘adotolo’ Chomba and our culture of mediocrity

Columns Lies, damned lies and delusion: ‘adotolo’ Chomba and our culture of mediocrity

Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa taking some notes during a public discussion organized by the Oasis Forum in Lusaka on Tuesday evening
Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa taking some notes during a public discussion organized by the Oasis Forum in Lusaka on Tuesday evening

By Sishuwa Sishuwa

Last week, News Diggers published an exposé that accused the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Edward Chomba, of misleading the nation about his academic achievements. Chomba, who was first appointed to his position by President Edgar Lungu in November 2015 before he was kept in the role after the 2016 elections, had hitherto claimed that he holds two doctorate degrees from Oxford and Princeton universities. The two institutions have since dismissed Chomba’s assertions, explaining, upon inquiry, that they have no records of Chomba studying there. When confronted with this information, Chomba, who also describes himself as a Bishop, insisted that he was a graduate of both universities, confidently asserting “my learning institutions will never disclose any information to anybody without my consent. They will never do that. They will get consent from me. There is no person who is gonna go and try to get my information and they communicate without letting me know as an alumni.”

Chomba’s antics provoke a number of important questions that we should be interrogating as a society. Before discussing the wider ramifications of this case, however, it is important to consider Chomba’s assertion that Oxford and Princeton would never give out any information relating to whether or not a person attended the two institutions because they respect principles of anonymity. This argument is blatantly false and reveals Chomba’s limited legal knowledge and understanding of how genuine universities function. There is no principle of anonymity for basic facts about enrolment and graduation that govern universities, let alone the University of Oxford or Princeton. If Chomba had attended Oxford, for instance, he would know that the details of graduates are printed in the annual public records of the university showing the degree qualification obtained, the name of the Oxford college at which the graduating student studied and the candidate’s name. This Oxford tradition predates Chomba’s birth. The ‘highly educated’ Permanent Secretary obviously does not know this, since he neither attended nor graduated from Oxford. If he had, Chomba would have also known that the award of a doctorate at Oxford is preceded by the successful submission of a thesis that is subsequently accessible both in print and online through the university libraries and to which there is no anonymity in relation to the details of the author, the Oxford college they attended, and when they completed. No such records exist in Chomba’s case.

Most importantly, Chomba’s falsified academic qualifications and his subsequent response to the revelations that he is a cheat have wider implications.

First, they raise serious questions about the criteria on which Permanent Secretaries are appointed and the constitutionality of Chomba’s appointment. Article 184 of the Constitution, which provides for the appointment and functions of Permanent Secretaries, stipulates that “The President shall, on the advice of the Civil Service Commission, appoint a Permanent Secretary for a Province, ministry or department.” This means that the Civil Service Commission is responsible, at least on paper, for regulating recruitment to the civil service and ensuring that appointments are done on merit, adhere to the highest standards of professional ethics and integrity, and promote the values of honesty, objectivity and impartiality. However, the Constitution also places a similar obligation on the President. Article 259 (1) (a) states that “Where a person is empowered to make a nomination or an appointment to a public office, that person shall ensure that the person being nominated or appointed has the requisite qualification to discharge the functions of the office, as prescribed or specified in public office circulars or establishment registers’.

When the two cited clauses are read together, they suggest that both the Commission and President Lungu may have violated the Constitution by neglecting to carry out their legally assigned functions. What advice did the Commission give to President Lungu in relation to Chomba’s appointment as Permanent Secretary? Or perhaps the Commission was never consulted in the first place? Similarly, what ‘requisite qualification to discharge the functions of the office’ of Permanent Secretary did Lungu see or consider before he appointed Chomba to that position? Was it his supposed two doctorates that have turned out to be fabricated? Or perhaps both the Commission and the President disregarded the law for political expediency? It is worth remembering that Chomba came to national prominence in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election when he accused opposition United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema of being a Satanist and freemason. Unless evidence to the contrary is provided, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that it is that disparaging remark that earned Chomba his appointment to the coveted post following Lungu’s election.

Permanent Secretary is the highest technocratic position and the most important in any ministry because its holder is the overall head and controlling authority responsible, among other things, for advising the relevant minister and implementing the policies of government and the decisions of Cabinet. The effective execution of such duties requires competent, experienced and qualified professionals, not unqualified political cadres. It would therefore be important to get clarification from State House, Secretary to Cabinet Roland Msiska or the Civil Service Commission on how exactly Permanent Secretary Chomba was appointed and what considerations were taken into account.

Second, Chomba’s case embodies the worst tendencies in contemporary Zambia or what is messed up about this country: the culture of lying. Such is the magnitude of this problem across the social strata that even men of God, a consecrated Bishop for that matter, are now perpetrators or culprits. Chomba knows what he is doing and is aware that it is wrong both legally and morally. Yet he does it all the same because it is profitable to lie. His deliberate decision to fabricate his higher record of education suggests that he is embarrassed about his possibly low level of formal education and is attempting to cover it up. The man of God’s flimsy explanation for why Oxford and Princeton would deny that he was their student points to his total disregard for the truth. The absolute confidence with which Chomba attempted to cover up his fabrications even after he was clearly exposed suggests that he is such a self-deluded and compulsive liar that he now believes, as a matter of conviction, his own lie that he successfully completed two doctorates at Oxford and Princeton, and gets aggrieved when anyone questions his illusions. If Chomba had any shred of decency, he would apologise to the people he misled, resign and embark on a period of quiet contemplation, out of the public eye.

I however imagine that Chomba does not care that he has been caught lying because he is confident that there will be no sanctions for his fraudulent behaviour. He knows that we are a society that rewards mediocrity, liars, cheats, criminals and people of questionable character. He is, in this case, simply our leader par excellence or symptomatic of a wider problem: a people that has become accustomed to lies and whose public leaders are consequently never called to account because they reflect our actual flaws or behaviour. Those with integrity, who abhor corruption, are principled and seek achievement or upward mobility through meritocracy, are derided and frowned upon. This damaging attitude accounts for the growing and frightening levels of mediocrity, corruption and the incompetence that permeate public institutions, including the civil service.

What I am curious about is when and why people like Bishop Chomba started lying about their qualifications and grand lies for that matter? What informed his choice of Oxford and Princeton? Is it because they are elitist and top ranked institutions? What kind of credibility was Chomba trying to gain? When he started fabricating his educational credentials, whenever that was, who was he trying to con?  It would appear that by peddling the kind of degraded and ingratiating Christianity that has become a norm in Zambia – that of status, power, money and privilege rather than of humility and service to others – Bishop Chomba, like many other snake oil salesmen, must have reasoned or decided that he had to distinguish himself from the other charlatans. Why our society has been accepting and even celebratory of these obvious tales requires in-depth examination.

I call on President Lungu to maintain some standard of honesty in his government by asking Chomba to produce certificates of his alleged doctoral qualifications – and if he cannot, dismiss him. If it is established that Chomba has fake academic certificates, then he has potentially committed a criminal offense for which he is liable to prosecution under section 352 of the penal code, which deals with uttering false documents or obtaining pecuniary advantage by false pretences. The rest of us should learn from this shameful example of a supposed man of God: that instead of lying or exaggerating our academic qualifications to obtain a job or any other favour, we should strive to legitimately obtain required academic qualifications and create a climate where real achievements are valued more highly than invented ones. We must also lobby Parliament to enact legislation that criminalises the falsification of one’s academic credentials.

Third, Chomba’s lies underscore the need for the government to audit the educational qualifications of workers in the public sector and to sack and prosecute those found wanting. For a long time, we have complained about the ineffectiveness and poor performance of the civil service. Chomba’s ludicrous fabrications about his academic qualifications, which go beyond a case of dishonesty and an-out-of control ego, point to a possible root cause and raise the question: who else is lying and at what level? For Chomba, he has used these fictional qualifications to claim a prestigious job in the public service, one that is very crucial to the effective functioning of any ministry. It is outrageous that we have suitably qualified and well educated Zambians out of work when a shameless fraud like Chomba occupies such a prominent position with possibly better skilled and genuinely educated professionals serving under his command.

The sad reality, however, is that Chomba is not the only one. Although his case is perhaps the most blatant example of inflating one’s educational qualifications, he is potentially emblematic of tens of thousands of Zambians who have obtained jobs in the formal sector, jobs that are few and far between, using non-existent or fake academic qualifications. When ill-qualified and dishonest individuals obtain jobs that they cannot competently perform over legitimately qualified fellow nationals, it is Zambia as a whole that suffers, underlining the need to run proper checks on the qualifications of all employees and take decisive action against those found cheating genuine learners and employers.


  1. I say this again, if Chileshe, a junior diplomat was fired for divorcing his wife, let President Lungu go ahead and fire this imposter.

    • @ The Chosen One, you are asking for the impossible, this a president who has a problem making right decisions. Half the permanent secretaries are not qualified and that is why Sishuwa’s write up calls for more debate, is there just complete breakdown in the process of appointing a PS? What role does Cabinet Office have on this?

    • Chomba, Kaiser seems to be topping list of unwanted.
      I couldn’t drink in same bar with those two.
      Maybe Kaiser is better because he is just violent, not Chomba amano ububi.

    • Dr Chomba cannot be fired because he is the only one who can pronounce Water as WORA whatever that means. so until some one can say WORA instead of Wota, then he stays lol

  2. Your point was still going to be made without dragging Zambia as whole to say we celebrate mediocrity or accept liars! Teachers who were caught in this vice have recently been fired and maybe prosecuted soon. That Masumba guy who was caught in this web was prosecuted and convicted. So NO Zambia does not cordon cheaters or forgers, just like any society even the most developed one, criminals are there who slip through the system.
    Your points are were articulated and i hope the powers that be will act accordingly!

  3. This is lungu and pf….liers…..lungu the only leader who fails to give a free press conference because he fears his own his lies….

    In the wake of lungu also unable to account for his early childhood , I don’t think lungu will do anything.

    • Wasn’t Musumba not Upnd? And wasn’t he only reported after accepting a position in PF government. Like someone has said here Chomba is just one of many Zambians masquerading as graduates. I worked with a geologist at Nkana who never knew anybody from Unza where he claimed he studied. He left as soon as he realized that people had gotten wise to his masquerade.

    • Masumba was MMD. He was forgiven by the PF for the forging a certificate and went on to stand on PF ticket but lost

  4. Why are people ashamed to State who they really are? If you read some CVs of job seekers you would wonder why Zambia is still struggling. Recently the National Road Fund Agency sought to employ road toll collectors, amongst the applicants were chartered accountants with ACCA, CIMA, etc. Try to interview these people you’ll notice that even Freedom Sikazwe is better. Come soon and redeem us, Bwana Yesu!

    • I just disagree with you on Freedom Sikazwe, I don’t think I am happy with my tax paying Freedom Sikazwe’s salary, you cant have a guy who is laughing all the time. I have never seen him serious with work. He has now gone to Angola with the President, to do what mwebanthu sure.

    • The president will not get rid of PF dead wood like Freedom Sikazwe,Amos Chanda Kaiser Zulu Kampyongo Chitotela and Kapata so the only way of getting rid of them is by getting rid of the president himself

  5. Shua sure you know what to do. ..we did to Masumba. ..report him to the police or the courts of law. There’s nothing president Lungu will do about it if you report this case. In fact instead of treating us to this long article you should have taken this guy to court or police.

  6. I saw this from Chomba’s exaggerated foreign accent, I knew we had a problem on our hand. There are many shameless liars who have got jobs that way. Even when Chomba said he was in charge of walter (as he pronounces it) in some states in America, it needs to be investigated further.

  7. Sishuwa’s article begs the question, what are the Anti-Corruption Commission, Inspector General of Police and Director of Public Prosecutions going to do about this? #ZambiaIsWatching

    • Not if you report this to the police. People will know what’s going on. Leaving everything to the president will not solve this problem.

    • Ba Ndanje, the way things in PF, your party, is :
      i. Report Lungu connected person to the police
      ii. Police inform State House and wait for the way forward
      iii. Kaizer Zulu informs the police to sit down and shut up.
      iv. Lungu walks in on Kaizer and asks what is happening?
      v. Kaizer tells Lungu everything is fine and people still love him
      vi. Lungu grins ‘It’s because am humble ayi Kaizer?”
      vii. “Yes Edgar, you are the humblest. Here, have a drink and take a nap, I will handle whatever meetings come”

    • Dude love that makes you a coward. Do right thing and you’ll be remembered as a hero. If see a problem even before you attempt then you’ll never solve anything. Those who got independence risked their necks so did we who fought the one party state. …we knew there was a chance that we would be reported and consequently lose our jobs. We surrendered our Unip cards at Freedom Park in Kitwe. ..on Monday the party chairman at work politely asked some of us to come with our Unip cards after lunch. We never reported back to him and when he persisted I told to leave me alone and he never bothered me again.

    • Ndanje I think the majority of us have learned from precedents. Kaizer Zulu assaulted a cop. She reported the matter and somehow nothing happened. Max Chongu exchanged fire with police in Petauke during the elections. Went to jail for less than a month and he is now out there jumping up and down. Davies Chama shot someone in the bum in Lstone and the police arrested the guy who was shot. A woman was stripped naked by PF cadres in front of the Vice President and police, no one was arrested So please mudala, spare me the rhetoric. Your little dictator Lungu has changed the landscape of what has always been percieved to be the norm to something very very sick. And all you who defend him and his govt must be ashamed of yourselves.

    • There was also that guy whose leg was broken at the ankle. The cops had to be restrained. It’s on video and nothing has happened to them.

  8. Lets get rid of these impostors and misfits masquerading as PHD holders. No wonder even the likes of Lusambo and Kambwili want to be called DOCTORS but in what that’s the question. Empty tins wantonly and without shame forging doctorates to get jobs in government. Cabinet office has been turned into a political circus, a political Politburo churning misfits into important government jobs there by jeopardizing service delivery. Its amazing that even the presidency is oblivious or is it negligent as to turn a blind eye to such mischief? Get rid of him now and prosecute him forthwith. If teachers could be fired what of this crook?

  9. There is need for a serious clean up in civil service. While it may be normal for politicians, but this Chomba issue needs further investigations

  10. While I appreciate the revelations Dr Shishuwa instead of dragging the president into this report this to relevant authorities other than wasting time to politise and drag Zambians at large on this matter.

  11. This Chomba is taking a page out of lungus book……..he does not have to deny or confirm anything.

    When people were asking lungu about his identity , he was insulting them with the resident PF rats on LT , so if Chomba insults you for questioning his credentials he has learned from lungu.

    • You see the moral bunkrupcy and corruption of lungu……..what was wrong with him just putting the record straight on his identity……now no one has to do that when questioned…..its all about leading by example……

      .monkey see monkey do applies …

    • Iwe this is a straight forward case just involve the police. It’s only when they fail to act that your complaint can be justified.

    • Ndanji

      Now there is selective rules and behaviours ? If lungu the leader refuses to answer questions about his identity or integrity , why should anyone else do so ?

    • I know how the police work. Just report the guy. The problem with us Zambians, we just want to avoid the police station at all costs. Second problem is we talk even before we’ve gathered enough evidence so we fail processed lest we end up on the defense. I’m not supporting Chomba and neither can I accuse him because I am privy to how he got his manila papers. That reminds me. …when professor Luo proposed that doctorates dubiously obtained should not be used, you jumped on her accusing her of targeting Kambwili and GBM. ..your Upnd to be specific.

    • Lungu is leading Zambia to a cesspit of moral bankruptcy……no country can expect normal development with a leader like lungu incharge….he can not a dress the nation on any concerns regarding him, his GRZ or anything where people can get clarity from him…..

      Iam an easterner like lungu says he is , but i put the intergrity of leadership and country before tribe, just a common crook that your lungu.

  12. I wish we had graduates who are inclined to invention than these who are only interested in politicking. With due respect to Dr Sure.

    • Hmmmm recommendations from a guy that supports a government that has zero strategic economic plan, a self confessed visionless president and a cabal of violent cadres. Mwati is that company you worked for still afloat shuwa??

  13. Zambians, for all of you doubting Ed Chomba, I have news for you. Ed did attend University as he’s always claimed. Now here’s the evidence that will shut all the doubting Thomas’s up!!
    Fact; Ed Chomba did attend University. It is the same University attended by a so called ka Mushota.
    It’s know as THE UNIVERSITY OF CLOUD CUCKOO LAND. All in their heads folk!

  14. Most likely he even faked the Bishop title. A Bishop cannot be so jelousy of juniors to the level of giving MDs in Water Utilities 3 months contracts. He lacks decency.
    In one meeting he claimed to have studied in Germany, and when one German present asked him at which University, again he failed to mention. He is a proper crook.

  15. Chomba to me is sly covering his faulty background. Sad for the engineers in the ministry being lead from this nitty wit with fake qualifications. Learning on the job such a technical ministry. Remove him with his fake accent, clown and a cheat. Some of us have suffered to get a proper degree. These fake doctorates are a menace. Those who have them what to show-off. It’s a shame. Expose all those who have them.

  16. It’s not Chomba only masquerading as a PhD holder. We now even have fake professors running universities. Pinalo Chifwanakeni was just a junior lecturer without a PhD at CBU but he is now a Professor and Vice Chancellor at UNLUS! What academic credential does Patrick Kalifungwa have to be called a professor and to run a university as a Vice Chancellor? There are so many other scandalous cases of fake academics in this country. If this scourge is not nipped in the bud soon, this country will collapse! Young Dr. Sishuwa should be commended for this expose, but as Ndanje Khakis has suggested let Sishuwa report this quack to the police. Thereafter other charlatans running fake universities should follow!

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