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Abdon Yezi’s moments with Sata

INDEED almost everyone has some memory of late President Michael Sata.
Having worked in the areas of good governance, decentralisation, election monitoring, political party strengthening, human rights and media development, there is no way Abdon Yezi may not have been able to come into contact with President Sata.
“I first met Michael Chilufya Sata in Monze district during the by-election in Moomba Constituency following the demise of former Minister of Lands and Natural resources Fitzpatrick Chuula in 1996.
“In that election, the late Mainza Chona was pitted against a Mr Moomba (who eventually won the seat on the MMD ticket). The late Ben Mwiinga was the campaign manager and Mr Sata, as Minister without Portfolio, came to join him in the campaign. The two were instrumental in coercing the locals not to vote for their own son, Mainza Chona,” Mr Yezi, the team leader at Yezi Consulting and Associates, says.
At that time, he was leading the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) monitoring efforts in the constituency, and it occurred that there were alleged malpractices that were going on, which the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) felt his organisation was best positioned to follow on.
Mr Sata went to lodge  a complaint about electoral malpractices by the United National Independence Party (UNIP) in an area called Nadongo. The UNIP campaign was being led by former Prime Minister Malimba Masheke.
After receiving the complaint, Mr Yezi and his team headed to Nadongo – which was located in the remote eastern side of Monze.
“Very remote it was. Ironically, the only story we found on the ground was a visit by the then First Lady, Vera Chiluba, who had gone to the area by chopper to offer errands of mercy while she ran the Hope Foundation.
“A day after, we had a meeting with Mr Sata in which we informed him and other party officials from the MMD that the allegations were speculative but we would still keep a close eye on their complaint,” Mr Yezi remembers.
Years past, working with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA), Mr Yezi led a delegation to monitor what became the last by-election in Mporokoso, Northern Province, before the 2011 elections.
With the NDIIA Zambia Party Programme, Mr Yezi planned and implemented a poll-watch programme, where he worked mainly with three major political parties to plan, recruit, train and deploy approximately 60,000 polling agents during the September 2011 general elections.
He met with Mr Sata as he campaigned in the constituency, and in particular at Chalabesa School.
“It is an old school which stood for more than 50 years then, and was rightly a subject of discussion in his campaign. I remember how he made Maynard Misapa [formerly a deputy minister in the MMD, but who had resigned and was re-contesting his seat on the PF ticket] to kneel down and apologise to his constituents for not taking care of them while in MMD,” he says.
But little did he know that after the campaigns, the man who was later going to become President of the republic would be his neighbour in the quarters at Mporokoso Catholic Church.
“We ate on the same table with him and my colleague Reed Slack – with whom we instrumentally coordinated the political party programme. During three of those meetings, he shared with us his vision for Zambia, which today I see as I traverse this beautiful and promising country.
“He was also not short of counsel for us as a younger generation. What was striking to all of us was his humility, simplicity and in many instances the unexpected jokes that made everyone at ease,” says Mr Yezi, who has been involved in consultancy work since 2007, working with different local and international consulting firms in the area of development strategies and evaluations of ongoing interventions.
Mr Yezi remembers one morning when they all waited to allow for Mr Sata to go and take a warm bath first, as their show of respect. When he found them with bath towels wrapped around and asked whether they had bathed already or not, they looked at each other failing to inform him that they had not bathed yet.
“Before long, he was busy instructing us to go and take baths before him. He pointed at me, and in his sometimes witty comments he said: ‘Iwe ka Mpezeni, go and take a bath. More Bemba women may want to follow you here. Don’t forget that your kinsman – referring to former President Rupiah Banda – managed to get his first wife from here [Mporokoso]. You could do the same,” he says.
“He is a man we discussed more often in the office looking at his possibilities and impossibilities as an opposition leader and eventually in State House. One of our points of reference to him, which became a name code, was ‘Mwebantu’ – a phrase he commonly used in his campaigns! May his soul rest in peace.
“He was resolute in his own capacity, and provided hope that things would improve for this country. Well, he has planted the seed, and we need to tender it further as Zambians, beyond the political leadership of this country.”