The Depth of My Footprints

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Late John Soko relatives paying tributes during ceremony commemorating 25 years of the Gabon Air disaster

By Ng’andu Peter Magande

“In April 1993, the ZANACO gave an advance to the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) for the national team’s trip to Mozambique. While the team was away, FAZ Chairman Michael Mwape came to see me and asked for some further financial assistance for the team’s trip to Senegal in West Africa. I demanded that they must first pay back the money they’d borrowed before we could consider another advance. From his passionate and detailed explanation, there was not enough time, as the team was just passing through Zambia on their way to West Africa.

As an ardent supporter of the national football team and as I had consulted my chairman on the first request, which was approved, I approved another advance. The team connected through Lusaka, where more players and officials including FAZ Chairman Mwape joined on the journey to Senegal via Gabon by a Zambia Air Force military plane.

A few days later on 27 April 1993, I left for the USA at the invitation of the NCR Corporation, the suppliers of computers to our bank. On our first day, we had to leave Washington DC very early in the morning for a visit to one of the computer warehousing facilities. As we were having our early breakfast, one of our hosts came over to me and whispered that the plane carrying the Zambia National Team had crashed in West Africa. He continued to say that from the reports received, all on board had perished.

I could not hold back my tears as I dropped my utensils and started sobbing publicly.

We abandoned our breakfast and I retired to my room with a sense of guilt. I concluded that it was our bank’s financial assistance that enabled the team to undertake the fateful journey. I vividly recalled my conversation with FAZ Chairman Mwape, as he’d pleaded with me that without our financial support the team would not make it to Senegal for the match. He was not aware that even with our bank’s financial assistance, the match was not going to be played.

We cancelled the day’s tour programme and the delegation remained at the hotel in mourning for the sporting heroes. As I was now on hypertension treatment, I prescribed to myself another dose of medicine after six hours due to the sad news. Our three weeks’ trip, both in the USA and Scotland was a sorrowful one as we had to answer many questions, everywhere we went, about the accident from so many people, who spoke highly of the departed football players.

On our return to Zambia, I brought the matter of the FAZ advance to our board with a recommendation to have the amounts for the two trips written off. The situation was that the cash drowned with the footballers and no one alive was to be held accountable. The board accepted my recommendation, although the chairman made some comments apportioning some blame on my management.

I visited the accident site and was informed that no salvaging work was ever undertaken by the Zambian Government and the plane wreckage was still at the bottom of the deep ocean.

A few weeks later, the Zambian Government requested the bank for a loan to be used for the salvaging of the ZAF plane off the coast of Gabon. As I was aware that the Zambian Government had no capacity to undertake such a task, I requested for a copy of a contract signed with an organization that was competent in salvaging operations. I insisted on such documentation in view of the large loan amount requested. When no such documentation was presented, I declined to take the government’s request to the Board. This raised a lot of resentment against me within the Government circles.

I learnt later that the loan was approved by the ZANACO Board, a few weeks after I had left the bank. During a trip to Gabon in 1997, I visited the accident site and was informed that no salvaging work was ever undertaken by the Zambian Government and the plane wreckage was still at the bottom of the deep ocean.

The report on the plane accident has not been released to the chagrin of the living relatives of the accident victims. Consultations on the compensation to the thirty affected families were protracted and only concluded and the families paid in 2004 after I became Minister of Finance in President Mwanawasa’s administration.

After our trip to the USA and Scotland in 1993, I was eager and confident to implement the computerization of the bank. We had become acquainted with the latest equipment, which we were shown during our tour of the NCR installations in Dundee, the “City of Discovery” and the home of the first automated teller machine (ATM) in 1967.

One of the computerization milestones achieved by my management was the installation of the first ATM in Zambia’s banking industry. I recall the exuberant mood of the ZANACO staff and guests, as the ATM, dubbed ‘ZANACO 24’, located at the entrance to the head office building, was inaugurated.

The bank’s popularity rose resulting in an increased clientele and the bank’s profit before taxation, which went up from K1,884 million for the year ended March 1992 to K4,072 million for the year ended March 1994.”

The Author was Zambia’s Finance Minister under the Administration of the Late President Patrick Levy Mwanawasa

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27 COMMENTS

    • Magande is old stock.

      He is past his sell by date.

      He had no charisma for me and he doesn’t have any legacy to point back to.

      My humble advise is for him to stop wanting one more ‘ last shot’ we had moved on and so should you.

      Thanks

      BB2014,2016

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    • Chiluba is a thief.. We did the money gotten from privatisation of government parastatal go

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    • Zambians we love loans but when it comes to paying back ..it becomes an issue; why should ZANACO write off the loan because its FAZ, you write off the loan and they will simply go for another loan…its no wonder FAZ is still not financially sound and was relying on govt. People were very quick to used tragedy to profit themselves corruptly.

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    • This is why it’s important for public officials to write memiors. The power they wield is in the name of taxpayers/ ordinary citizens. Only a politician who recognizes this can do it and this is who Magande is. Does the PF govt have memior-writing person, even one? It’s possible but I put a low probability on it.

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  1. The piece makes excellent material for a memoir. Thanks.
    It is sad that overtime, we have steadily become a nation of thieves. Stealing even during mourning. What a shame!

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  2. The story does not end well. Is there something that was left out? Nice read though, imagine nakumalilo kwiba.

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    • Yes if the plane is still at the bottom on the sea then most of those coffins were filled will stones and weights

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  3. Nice piece but I fail to understand the writer’s intention or what conclusion the reader must come to.

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  4. Had the Post not poked its ugly nose in the system Magande would have succeeded Mwanawasa. But because Mmembe and Maureen acted carelessly, Rupiah got alerted and acted swiftly.

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    • upnd should adopt magande and they have my vote! he is more mature than any presidential candidate alive today!!!

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    • Both LPM and Magande were good professionals in their non-political lives. It showed when they had the privilege to serve at political level. LPM left a will to prevent bickering in his family. Some died intestate despite clear failing health leaving their families to bicker over the estate.

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  5. People like Magande are professionals not these ministers of today who were Katondo Street Currency Traders and G12 School leavers.

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  6. we have really moved backwards in huge strides as a country. from people like Magande to the Lusambos and Lungus! What a shame.

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  7. If the wreckage is still at the bottom of the sea, how did Gabon govt and the other company come with the report that pilot fatigue and the plane was not airworthy? Magande has some explanation to do. Where zed govt get the partial report released by Mwanawasa govt?

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  8. That time Mushota, was not even in diapers, she can’t understand any anything of substance. That PHD, is garbage, if at all it exists

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  9. lands for sale in chisamba district some 80km away from Lusaka in chipembi area contact 0979440154, watsap 0963088322

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