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My Long Walk To 60

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My grand daughter, Natasha, kept on referring to me as ” Ba Shikulu “. Sometimes, I would not realise that she was calling me. It was a strange name for me, which throughout my life did not click to me that it was also my name. ” Ba Shikulu ” simply means grandparent.

I realised that I was getting old. As a typical Zambian man, I rarely pay attention to my birthday or indeed celebrate it. When someone reminded me about my birthday which falls on the 21st of December, I calculated my years, and came up with a psychological barrier figure of 60. Waaahh!

To reach 60 years is not easy in life. It is actually a blessing. How did I reach 60? On my birthday today, I look back in my past to trace my journey through life.

My mother, Nyamahongo Katoji Kashala Hongolo, told me that I was born in Balovale Hospital ( now Zambezi District Hospital) on 21st December 1960. We were fraternal twins, my twin sister being Tumba Joyce Charity Kakoma. As twins, my sister was given a traditional name of Tumba ( small piece of meat) and myself Chinyama ( big piece of meat). The white colonialists in the hospital gave us Christian names of Joy and Silas.

My father was James Kakoma Wahuna, the son of village headman Wahuna of Chief Chinyama in Zambezi West in the North Western Province. Ironically, some of my brothers use the surname of Wahuna while I and other brothers and sisters use our father’s middle name of Kakoma.

The name Kakoma literally means “the absolver” of problems of others but harshes his own ( kakoma milonga , akoma milonga yavakwavo, yenyi yaku twamaho). In Zambezi District, I’m commonly known as Wahuna rather than Kakoma.

I started school at Mwange Primary School in Zambezi District in 1970.

When my father died after being beaten by a snake, it ushered in a period of uncertainty and a dark future. I led a nomadic life as no one was prepared to look after us the orphans. I went to Kikombe Primary School in Solwezi thereafter Kabompo Aided School in Kabompo. My third born brother, Davison Wahuna quit School in form 2 and got employment in Zambezi in order to look after us.

I transferred to Zambezi Primary School where I completed my grade seven with distinction in every subject in 1975. I was selected to go to Solwezi Secondary School for boys where I got my form 3 certificate with distinction and proceeded to complete my form 5 ( division one) in 1981.

In 1982, I first enrolled at the Zambia Institute of Technology (ZIT) , now Copperbelt University to study for a diploma in accounts. After one term at ZIT, I was selected to go to the University of Zambia (UNZA) . As UNZA was not offering a Degree in Accountancy, I opted to study for a Degree in Economics and Business Administration.

While at UNZA, I met colleagues like Hakainde Hichilema, Sylvia Masebo, Michael Musonda , Kelvin Bwalya Fube, Muna Hantuba and many prominent personalities now in charge of business and politics in Zambia.

My perception about education and development was shaped at UNZA. As a poor child with no ability to pay school fees at UNZA, I benefitted from the policy of free education by Dr Kenneth Kaunda. I will forever fight for free education for all. Without free education, I would have been a nobody by now.

After graduating from the University of Zambia in 1986 with a Degree in Economics ( major) and Business Administration ( minor), I joined the Zambia Daily Mail as a Senior Business Reporter. The field of journalism was totally new to me but the Zambia Daily Mail was interested in an intellectual who would be analysing business and economic issues for the newspaper. I quickly adapted to my new field through on -the -job training and short courses.

I did a certificate in journalism from the International Institute of Journalism in Berlin, Germany followed by another certificate in journalism from the International Federation of Agricultural Journalism in the United Kingdom. I topped it up with a Certificate in Media Management Strategies from the Eastern and Southern African Institute (ESAMI) in Windhoek, Namibia.

As a young professional looking for greener pastures and career progression, I left the Zambia Daily Mail to join a private company called Handy Air Conditioning as a Marketing Manager in Lusaka. I did not stay long and left again to join the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as an Economist. Within one year, I left the Department of Fisheries in Chilanga where I was based to join the National Housing Authority (NHA) as an Economist in 1988.

The Zambia Daily Mail were missing my services and poached me from the NHA to offer me a position of Business Editor, which was a senior position of Head of Department.

I went back to the Zambia Daily Mail in 1990 and quickly rose through the ranks to become Deputy Managing Editor/ Company Secretary in 1995. In 1997, after a restructuring program at the company, I was appointed Managing Editor/ Chief Executive Officer of the Zambia Daily Mail.

At the Zambia Daily Mail, I had a formidable team of colleagues such as Patrick Fungamwango, Geoff Zulu, Patrick Nkama, James Mwambazi, Moses Walubita and Philip Chirwa . I also recruited some young turks like Amos Chanda, Isaac Chipampe, Evans Milimo, Mary Mbewe and Bestone Ng’onga who have become high profile journalism personalities in Zambia.

I can blow my own trumpet and say I was an Economist who taught journalists more about journalism. I recall introducing by-lines for every story and I was heavily opposed by my colleagues who argued that a by-line must be earned by a reporter. Today, it is now the norm to have a story attributed to a reporter. I also staked my neck to introduce colour printing of the newspaper and computerise the production of the paper.

I enjoyed my work as a journalist. It made me interact with all sorts of people in society; poor people, presidents, Queens , Kings, millionaires, lumpens and the like.

It helped me to shape my attitude towards people of all types. It also helped me to work with deadlines and under pressure. The most difficult pressure was from politicians but it helped to make me a politician.

At 40 years old, the politicians decided to terminate my contract at the Zambia Daily Mail in the year 2000.

I decided to go and be employed by my own people in Zambezi West Constituency as a Member of Parliament.

I stood on the United Party for National Development ( UPND) ticket in 2001 and won. I served for 13 years at the National Assembly of Zambia.

While at Parliament, I was a Member of the Committee on Information and Broadcasting Services, providing oversight on the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services and media institutions.

I was also a member of the Committee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, providing oversight over the Ministries of Defence, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and institutions under them.

I was a Member of the Standing Orders Committee ( responsible for managing the affairs of Parliament).

I was also the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Affairs, Energy and Labour in the Parliament of Zambia.

The Committee provided oversight over the Ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry, Labour Energy and Water , and institutions under them such as Bank of Zambia, Zambia Revenue Authority and Zesco.

The Speaker of the National Assembly nominated me to be a member of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States and European Union (EU) Parliament.

The ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly headquartered in Brussels, Belgium provides oversight over ACP-EU member States . While at the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly , I was a member of the Social and Environment Committee and Rapporteur of the Health Subcommittee.

I was so effective, knowledgeable and articulate as a Rapporteur of the Sub Committee on Health that fellow MPs thought that I was a medical doctor and kept referring to me as “Dr Kakoma”. The issues of Health in Africa and the Caribbean were on my finger tips.

In Africa, I was a member of the Parliamentary Forum on Peace for East and Southern Africa. I was the Regional Treasurer of the Parliamentary Forum, AMANI.

In Swahili language, AMANI means peace. The headquarters of AMANI was in Nairobi, Kenya. We were involved in conflict resolution especially in the Great Lakes Region. At one time, I remember nominating Hon Inonge Wina, now Zambia’s vice president, to go on a Women’s mission to try to resolve the conflict in Northern Uganda.

I equally recall running away from a restaurant in Mbujumbura, Burundi which was under attack by rebels.

In my journalistic and political career, I travelled to many countries and continents. I travelled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Tanzania, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Togo, Ghana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Finland, India, Russia, Belgium, United Kingdom, United States of America, Suriname, and Curaçao ((Atlantic Ocean Island).

I gained a lot of experiences in this world we live in.

In my representative role as Member of Parliament for Zambezi West Constituency, I enjoyed working with communities. I started and completed 29 community schools and six heath posts. I assisted 120 women clubs with ox-drawn ploughs.

There were many projects for which I left a legacy. I felt satisfied with my efforts to see women producing a lot of rice using the ploughs. I felt great to see children who could not originally read and write passing Grade 7 examinations from my community schools and proceeding to complete secondary school.

Since I joined politics, I have only served in UPND. Apart from serving as Member of Parliament, I have also served in the National Management Committee of the UPND as Chairman for Rural Development Committee, Chairman of Commerce and Industry, Presidential Spokesperson and Chairman for Information and Publicity.

I have been Party Spokesperson for 14 years, the longest serving Spokesperson in any political party in Zambia. I have been there for the party in good times and bad times. At times, I thought my life was going to be taken away by political enemies. For example, during one of the Mufumbwe by-elections, MMD thugs nearly killed me in my room.

I was brutalised and ended up in hospital. In Kitwe, PF thugs attacked me and Hakainde Hichilema with guns at Moba Hotel. The struggle continues.

Looking back in the past 60 years, I think I have run a good race. From a poor orphan to a Chief executive officer of a parastatal company, to a Member of Parliament and now a businessman involved in agriculture, education and environmental management, I think my children will take it up from there.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31