The Depth of My Footprints: My trip to US, UK with Chikwanda

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“In April 1979, Fred Kazunga of the Ministry of Finance, and I, accompanied Minister Chikwanda (ABC) on a whirlwind tour of the USA, Canada, Britain, and Belgium to solicit for funds for agricultural development in Zambia. During the trip, we discussed with officials of the USA State Department, World Bank and Africare in Washington, DC, the Canadian Government and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Ottawa, the European Union and the Belgium Government in Brussels, and Tate and Lyle Limited in London.
There were some memorable incidents on this trip for my personal reflection and development. After a busy day of discussions in Washington, DC, we went for dinner. The minister invited some of his friends and His Excellency Ambassador Puteho Ngonda to join us.

VJ Mwaanga

Amongst the minister’s friends who turned up was Vernon Johnstone Mwaanga, aka VJ, who was on a private visit to Washington DC. VJ and I had not met before. As the dinner progressed, the Minister turned to his friend and engaged in the following conversation.
Minister: VJ, do you know this youthful looking gentleman? while pointing at me.
VJ: No, mushaana. I don’t.
ABC: Mushaana. How can you not know your own people? This is Ng’andu, one of our young nationalists who are helping to revolutionise our agricultural industry. By the way, he is your Tonga tribesman and you should keep watch of such brains.
VJ: “Ndalumba kumuzyiba, oondela”, VJ addressed me.
By the end of the dinner, VJ knew me better and felt comfortable enough to address me as ‘oondela’, a typical Tonga term that means, ‘my guardian’. After the 1979 meeting in Washington DC, VJ included Joyce and I on the guest list for the lavish parties, he threw at his Roma house at the beginning of each year. At one of these parties, VJ introduced us to Hage Geingob, a Namibian freedom fighter, who became the first prime minister and later ascended to the presidency of the Republic of Namibia.

Zulu JB

While in Washington DC, we were also entertained by the family of Justin B. Zulu (JB), former economic advisor to President Kaunda and author of, “Zambian Humanism, some major spiritual and economic challenges, 1970”. JB had risen to the high position of Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We had an enjoyable meal and laughter during our dinner, as the minister and Zulu treated us to some intimate jokes as traditional cousins.
JB complained to ABC that he was at times embarrassed by people inferring that he was not a Zambian, as a country could not have only one bright citizen who could excel in such a competitive international environment. At the time, there were no other Zambians working for the IMF. In his comments, the minister consoled JB by saying that there were young people who will follow his path and he mentioned me. I was fortunate that apart from introducing me to the World Bank officials dealing with Zambia, Minister Chikwanda introduced me to JB and VJ, two important personalities in Zambia’s economic and political arena.
We were booked on a late flight from Washington DC to Toronto in Canada. While waiting for the evening flight, we camped at His Excellency Ambassador Ngonda’s residence, where we were well-looked after by the Ambassador’s family and workers. This was the beginning of my long and close association with Ambassador Ngonda and his family of Lungowe, Mwiya, Funa, and Mulako Mulala, his sister-in-law.
After our team’s meetings in Canada, we were waiting for the flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe at Toronto Airport, when a ground hostess informed us that there was no economy class seat for me. She suggested that we top up my ticket to get an upgrade to business class, where seats were available. Minister Chikwanda instead suggested to PS Kazunga that the two of them should downgrade from first to business class and the difference in price be used to cover the needed top up for my ticket. The variations were duly made and I was upgraded to business class without any additional cost.
In Brussels, Belgium, the team met officials of the Belgian Government, who offered assistance in livestock development. Our team had very productive discussions with the officers of the EEC (EU), who offered substantial grant financial assistance to unlock Zambia’s agricultural sector.
One evening as we were having dinner, I asked for a glass of fruit juice. The meal was delicious with some juicy and tender rump steak, which we were told was from neighbouring Botswana. The price for the meat dish was three times that of a beef dish in the cosy Makumbi Restaurant in Lusaka. When the waiter brought the bill, we were shocked that the price of fruit juice was four times that of alcoholic drinks. The reason given by the restaurant owner was that the fruits, including avocadoes for fruit cocktail were imported from Africa, but not from Zambia.
On some flights, we were served tasty cashew nuts from some African countries. At the time, the world price for cashew nuts was US $3,000 per tonne against that of copper at US $2,200 per tonne. The minister lamented that a few cashew nut trees would give Zambia more foreign exchange than copper at a much less capital cost.
At a restaurant by the Thames River, the management of Tate and Lyle, the sugar company, gave us a memorable send-off sumptuous lunch, which included an assortment of fresh fruits. Although this was off-season, we were informed that the mangoes for our dessert were in fact from Zambia and the manager encouraged us to develop the fruit-growing industry.
On the home-bound flight, the minister politely directed PS Kazunga to put me in business class as a reward for the work I had done on the trip and also to facilitate my writing the tour report. He jokingly stated that he did not want to lose the valuable information we’d collected should I have an uncomfortable flight.
We had a smooth flight until we ran into a heavy turbulence over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which caused the huge plane to suddenly drop some twenty metres. The rest of the flight was scary and this has remained my frightful flight through the hundreds of miles of flying. Luckily, we arrived safely in Lusaka and my elaborate tour report on the minister’s trip was ready within a few days.
All the foreign governments and institutions we visited were responsive. The minister’s trip resulted in the funding of a large number of projects in crop and livestock production and marketing. Where projects were already in the pipeline, funding was made available to start the new projects. In other cases, feasibility studies and research were funded. One would say that the ministry was put into cruising speed to get Zambia’s agriculture on the right footing.
An immediate trial export of the delicious Zambian avocadoes to Europe was made. Unfortunately, the fruits were too large to fit in the small glasses used for prawn cocktails. We were wrong to think that the larger the fruits, the more marketable they will be. Instructions were given to immediately start a breeding and selection programme of avocados fruits of the suitable market size.
Arrangements were made for the importation of fourteen thousand hybrid cashew nut seedlings from South America for the Western Province. As the cashew nut trees take five years to mature to produce fruit, this led to the establishment of the Zambia Cashew Company in 1985. In 1992, the cashew sector, based in the Western Province and on the imported trees, produced 155 tonnes of nuts. By 1995, production went down to 20 tonnes and the two cashew processing companies, namely Western Cashew Industries Limited and Barotse Cashew Company Limited, were forced to order raw cashew nuts, from Tanzania, for processing in order to sustain their businesses”, from “The Depth of My Footprints”.”

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One Response to The Depth of My Footprints: My trip to US, UK with Chikwanda

  1. What saddens me is that Chikwanda and his PS were flying first class when the country was broke and going round begging for money. After 1979, Chikwanda had a second bite at the cherry without getting any wiser. He has left a fiscal shambles which is keeping Margaret Mwanakatwe awake at night.

    Watch-out
    May 19, 2018 at 10:46 am
    Reply

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