Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Can Pilato fly a plane?


By Sakwiba Sikota

This week I looked at my old picture albums and came across two interesting photographs.

Both photographs were from the early eighties.

One was me with Captains Charles Musenge, Brian Mabula, and late Captain Waluka Mukuni at some party. These three friends of mine were some of the earliest commercial pilots Zambia Airways had.

The other photograph was of me during my lecturing stint at the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA). I was with a group of my students whom I was lecturing on the civil service code and it’s regulations.

The picture with the pilots interested me because I always used to marvel at the skill and prowess of my three friends. I even remember being on a flight one day and realizing that my Freind Captain Charles Musenge was flying me when he came on the on flight telecom to make a cabin announcement and identified himself as the pilot. The other passengers looked at me oddly when I excitedly was telling all and sundry that the pilot flying the plane was my freind. I felt safe.

The picture with my then students, whom I had lectured on the Civil Service Code and the public service Rules, interested me because quite a number of them had gone on to become senior civil servants and some even rose to the lofty position of permanent secretary.

They managed to rise to these high heights and perform duties of ‘Controlling Officers’ because the Public Service Rules (PSR) they had been lectured on provide standard operating procedures and policy statement that regulate work and the condition of service in the public sector.

PSR is designed as work guide and manuals for bureaucratic culture among public service employees.

As a result of my knowledge about what real pilots do, I do not appreciate Former President Barack Obama’s jokes about pilots.

Last year Obama joked about Herschel Walker, the Republican Party nominee for the Senate seat runoff in Georgia, using a “thought experiment” highlighting the Republican candidate’s lack of ability or experience for the political role.

At a campaign rally for Walker’s Democratic rival, Obama acknowledged that Walker was “a heck of a football player” and “amazing, one of the best running backs of all time.”

Obama however argued that Walker’s prowess as a football player didn’t make Walker the best person to represent Georgia.

Obama imagined people seeing Walker in the airport or hospital and allowing him to fly the airplane or do surgery because of his success on the football field.

In Zambia we all know that Chama “Pilato” Fumba recently got awarded the President’s Insignia for Bravery on account of tremendous heck of prowess in combining governance matters in his music using vernacular language helping to shape the political discourse of the nation and country.

As his music was widely accepted among the people affected by poor governance especially the youth, his fight for justice good governance and better living conditions for the poor through his music has gotten him special recognition as now a Permanent Secretary. This position requires one to be the ‘Controlling Officer’ and to follow civil service regulations for fear of having a charge from the Anti Corruption Commission of willful failure to follow laid down procurement procedures and guidelines contrary to section 34 of the Anti-Corruption Act.

When I think of Pilato’s appointment, Obama’s words keep on playing back in the recess of my mind, “Herschel Walker was a heck of a football player… does that make him the best person to represent you?… let’s say you’re at the airport and you see Walker and you say, Hey, there’s Herschel, He is winner man. Let’s have him fly the plane!”

Do not mistake Pilato as being a misspelling that needs the “a” to be dropped and the “o” moved to where the”a” was. Make no mistake, Permanent Secretary Pilato is what he is.

Seeing that Pilato is a heck of a musician, if not the best Zambian musician of all time, I would like to do a “little thought experiment” though and ask, “Can Pilato fly a plane?”.


  1. I must admit that I have failed to follow your line of thought. However, and without taking anything away from Pilato, I don’t support the appointment of people to key positions in the civil service that aren’t civil servants. Let’s cultivate a culture of promoting from within the ranks and file. Such appointments pity appointees as outsiders and may be misconstrued. Apart from that, why should a person be recalled from retirement to head an institution? Under LPM we had Zunga Siakalima and now there’s Remmy Kajoba. aren’t there others in the service that could’ve replaced Kanganja? It’ll motivate junior officers to do better if we develop the culture of promoting from within.

  2. Very useless article. Frm an aged and never satisfied clique of political stooges who are parasites on govt resources…giv chance to others mr sikota. U hv eaten enough frm state money..

  3. A Permanent Secretary does not make policy. He executes government policy. If Pilato must promote arts, he should have been made Arts Minister or chief of entertainment association of Zambia if such an entity existed. Having said this, all PS posts in Zambia are nothing but sweets the appointing authorities have used to reward people. No, Pilato CAN fly a plane, it is not that difficult. A teenager stole a Cessna plane in Florida and went to the Carrib in it.

  4. Topically backyard mentality. Once a driver always a driver kind of. The current president of Ukraine was a comedian. Never in the army. Is he doing a good job as a president and commander in chief of the armed forces or not. Answer your the question and see how stupid you are with your comparisons.

  5. The answer to the question is lets wait and see if he will “fly the plane”. However, even if does, the other questions arises , Should these kind of appointment be acceptable? The answer is NO. I look forward to a civil service which is indeed civil with NO caderism mentality.

  6. In my thoughts is not flying a plane that is the question because he is currently flying it. The question is can he take it to its destination. That should have been the bone of contention.

  7. This is one typical example of our mediocrity in Zambia. We lack deeper understanding of things. The article articulates the point very clearly for those who can “Read” and that is the difference. I am not surprised that the so called internet gulu’s are at loss to understand the point in this very well written article.

  8. You people castigating SC Saki are missing the point. In psychology we say panning the pan. Put it simply, just because Chomba Fumba AKA Pilato just like all the disgruntled idolizing supporters, the real question my brother Saki has asked is, do you appoint inequalified people in very delicate positions because a PS is a technocrat and not a politician. Either way, fili uko tuleya. Removing seasoned qualified academicians for the sake of rewarding cadres or supporters, is very bad for any nation be it developed let alone undeveloped.

  9. Excuse me you all continuously singing or defending Pilato. If you have studied psychology or literature in English, the State Counsel Sakwiba or Saki to some of us, has just put up a question. Is it right to appoint cadres in technocrat positions in the name of rewarding them even when they have no experience in that field? I stand to be corrected. That was SC counsel Saki’s point ??

  10. There is a lot of sense on what your have written unless someone never took literature as a subject at secondary school with this poor reading culture we have now in this country , it will very difficult to understand. Pilato is not the right person for the job full stop.

  11. What I have noticed is a supporter for the ruling party in Zambia if not in Africa as a whole will support whatever the ruling party adopts, good or bad. Saki has raised a valid question about ”Pilato”.
    If we continue with such mentality as a country or Africa at large then we shall never develop. We can criticize each other, but let’s see sense in whatever is posted.

  12. The article is straight forward and yes I followed Obama on this narrative.
    True not Michael Jordan was a heck of a basketballer. Can or could he fly a plane though? Let’s stretch this narrative further now, shall we? Upnd pundits claimed that double h was a fine and remarkable businessman – I refer to him as a business crook though- but can he fly a plane? Okay okay okay he is the pilot already and question is, is he running the country well? Will koswe mumpoto pilato serve in that position well? Will we crush? For we are already in that plane? Time will tell although so far so bad with the business person. I think we will nose dive soon. Put on parachutes folks!

  13. Setting a very bad and awkward precedence fits a situation where a crook like pilato has become a PS for just being an effective cadre.
    Who among you folks will convince me Thorn in the Flesh – reloaded that Fumba isn’t a upnd cadre? Denying this is the same as denying that we still have cadres in the stations and markets and that we still have cadres disrupting radio programs.
    Devaluing the office of the PS is sickening. Technocrats are the only people who supposed to run such positions as controlling officers. Not a cadre in whatever form.

  14. Both politicians Obama and Sakwiba are being wily. They dont have an argument in their example. You dont have to be an expert in politics to become a politician. You just have to appeal to the crowd. If the crowd is foolish even a fool like Trump can be a politician and rise to the highest position. However, like someone points out here, PS is not a political post. Its a professional civil service post and thats where HH has blundered. Yes ba President, People arent appointed to the post of pilot or PS. They have to qualify. People can be appointed to the post of Minister but not to Doctor.

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