State House a disaster in waiting says former Press Aide

Filed under: Breaking News,Politics |

Former Presidential Press Aide has described the state of Zambia’s State House which houses the residence and offices of the President as a diseaster in waiting.

Dickson Jere who served as Aide to President Rupiah Banda revealed this when he added his voice on the current debate on the calls by Parliamentarians to construct another State House.

Jere served as Aide from 2008 to 2011.

Below is Jere’s article:

To build or not to build?

By Dickson Jere

Before I was appointed as a senior staff at State House, I had been there several times as a reporter to cover various presidential functions. But reporters were restricted to specific rooms. Not until when I worked there, I thought the place was lofty.

For starters, what we call State House today was in fact a residence of the British Governor. And so the design and all the accompaniment was that of a house and not offices. The offices were supposed to be where Cabinet Office is but our first President Kenneth David Kaunda, in his wisdom, decided that the Presidential residence and offices should be in one place – the decision I actually support.

Managing presidential assignments in that building is a nightmare. The place is just too small. By way of example, where the President conducts swearing-in ceremonies and receives credentials from newly accredited diplomats is a staff dining room not designed or planned for such solemn events. Each time there is such an event (at least in my time) staff will need to eat from their offices since the place would be turned around for the event of the day. We started using the dining room for such events during our time. Previously, cabinet room, which was in fact a banquet hall for the Governor, was the Multi-purpose hall for State House until they fixed a non-movable conference-table attached with desktop computers for cabinet meetings. So that hall can no longer be used for other meetings except for cabinet and other conference-like events.

In my time, I had difficulties in dealing with VVIP guests. The only toilets available for use were the ones at the entrance of the house, which were meant for all and sundry. In case we have a visiting President, one would take them inside the Presidential office if they were to use the bathroom – a very embarrassing situation! I and chief of protocol then, Bob Samakai, had to push for the construction of the VVIP toilets attached to the main building. We managed but as a temporal measure as the guests had to pass through offices-before getting to them.

Further, no one wants to go to State House to see the President and is totally exposed. But ours, we do not have waiting rooms. Everyone is put on the foyer as they wait to be called in to see the President. Sometimes VVIP mixes with ordinary people on the foyer. There is need to at least have three separate meeting rooms where guests can be put while they wait for their turn to see the Principal. President Michael Sata, as he then was, had to turn one of the offices downstairs into a waiting room for that very reason.

When the President wants to address the press, he either has to do it outside or on the foyer or indeed in the dining room. We do not have a press room for such. Outside events attracts events management companies that need to set up and we pay. Every good State House has a press room where press conferences take place. The room is specifically designed for the press with multi power points and sound system for the quality of voice… need say more on that?

Each successful President, with an exception of President Sata, used the small library downstairs as an official office. This means that State House has no official library for staff and policy analysts. The top office has been avoided for many reasons, including that the staircase is stiff. Current State House has no lift and so not convenient for the disabled who equally needs access to the President.

Ever visited State House during rainy season? I was shocked when I saw buckets in the corridors! The entire house is terribly leaking and the upper floor shakes when one is walking on it. Disaster in waiting!

Lastly, the place is just too tiny. Not all presidential staff can fit with comfort to work. In my time, some very senior officers shared office space while others kept shuttling offices depending on the assignment they had. Even where the President meets his counterpart, that room is designated as the First Lady’s Room. It was a second living-room for the Governors wife and her guests – so I was told. There is no quiet room for the President to meet his visiting counterpart on a one-on-one set up except that room.

And that State House cannot host a full state banquet that goes with a state-visit and hence most such events are held at hotels! A guest list for the state visit is usually 500 and above and that State House cannot accommodate such numbers except when a marquee is mounted outside at another expense.
So, think again when you debate the question – to build or not to build a new State House!



12 Responses to State House a disaster in waiting says former Press Aide

  1. I Concur with Mr Jere. We need a new State House. I think the argument of building or not building a new Presidential Palace has come at the right. I say so because I feel this debate must be married with Mr Mulusa’s debate of building a new Capital City of Zambia at Ngabwe. The question is, are we building this new State House in Lusaka and the a few years later build another one in Ngabwe, if Mr Mulusa’s project is approved by Cabinet? Here is my taking on this debate. I highly recommend that a new State House is built at a proposed new Capital City site at Ngabwe. Why do I say that? I say this because I witnessed the construction if Abuja as the new Capital City of the Federal Republic of Nigeria unde President Babanginda when I was a young Diplomatto Nigeria…..

    July 4, 2017 at 5:25 am

    • contd…..To hasten an urgent move of the capital from Lagos to Abuja, Nigeria started relocating the Head of State to Abuja, government ministries, Diplomatic Missions and other strategic institutions to the extent that everyone in the end realised how costly it was to travel to Abuja from Lagos each time they wanted something from an office that had already moved to Abuja. Therefore, the solution to that dilemma was for those particular institutions that had remained in Lagos to follow suit and relocate to the the new capital city. Mind you, Abuja international airport was just an airstrip that time, so to there, one would either fly there by the not so trusted Okada Airways or simply go there by road and drive for not less than 6 or 7 hours.

      July 4, 2017 at 5:45 am

      • Contd…..The moral of my experience is that, while I totally agree with building a new State House and a new Capital City, these two projects ought to go hand in hand at one place – Ngabwe. That way, the government will be able to cut on a lot of expenses because a lot of infrastructures will not be built by it (government) but by single entities like foreign governments through their embassies and high commissions etc. The government’s main duty would be supervision, to see to it that things are done accordingly in order to avoid the Lusaka messy!

        July 4, 2017 at 5:58 am

  2. Jere I respected you than the little boy Amos but the reasons you have given are not valid reasons for building another State House. What you have mentioned can be added to the current State House by keeping the old and modernising it at the back where we can add some double stories and still persevering what KK had built underground. All we need is good achitecture designers and good builders

    The Expart
    July 4, 2017 at 5:25 am

    • The problem with that is that we may end up with the same bill – $20 million (I thought about your proposal as well). Worse still, as you rightly pointed out, the security of our current State House was compromised by Chiluba.

      July 4, 2017 at 12:20 pm

  3. Why was State House not properly maintained yearly? If its small and inadequate 54 years after independence why not refurbish and extend it? Given the State of the Economy can the govt afford to build a $400million State House? With a Broke Treasury where will the money come from? We were told Zambia’s external Debt has ballooned to between $7.2 and 17.2 billion. Does Zambia have capacity to borrow and build such a unproductive Building? Can Zambia’s export earnings service and repay these debts including the Eurobonds that are maturing soon?IMF should not lend to Lungu’s wasteful govt. Besides lending money to Dictator and Sadist Lungu is to aid and abate his persecution of HH and thousands of his supporters languishing in Jail on political reasons.

    July 4, 2017 at 6:03 am

    • Please stop exaggerations – it is $20 million.

      July 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm

  4. The maintenance of all government and state properties is the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and Supply. The Ministry has all records and experts on maitenance. If you check the budgets for the past 30 years, State House has had a large budgetary allocations for repairs and maintenace. What was the money budgeted for repair and maintenance for the past 30 years used? The press secretary has no business telling the nation about buildings.

    July 4, 2017 at 4:36 pm

  5. Its understandable coming from a press aide to a wasteful,plunderous,timba-life regime of uncle Laban,we were lucky the reign was short otherwise kaya mwandi,present we’re a broke nation with an outstretched hand begging,honestly we don’t need it!

    The spectator
    July 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm

  6. It may be needful to have a new state house, but NOW is not the time. We should not borrow to build a state house.
    Until such a time as it shall be NECESSARY to build a new state house, my suggestion would be to:
    1. Reduce the number of people who work there to create room
    2. Take some departments to cabinet office building or to government building offices

    Our humble president will not mind sacrificing for the sake of national development

    July 5, 2017 at 3:28 am

  7. Good idear

    July 5, 2017 at 5:07 am


    u-20 fN
    July 5, 2017 at 2:07 pm

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