From Cabinet minister to chief

SENIOR Chief Puta with Dr Kalumba at Builile agrarian traditional ceremony of the Buile people of Nchelenge.

HOW do you adjust from being a Cabinet minister to life as a traditional leader in a rural outpost? Or, more pointedly, how do you move from being a health minister, foreign minister, tourism minister and finance minister to become a sub-chief?

Dr Katele Kalumba can answer that.
The elders under senior chief Puta of the Buile people of Chienge resolved to appoint Dr Kalumba to take over the reign of his grandmother, bana Mfumu Nantende Walushiba, as a traditional leader.
They decided to create a sub chiefdom by subdividing Kwapa Chiefdom into two. The new sub-chiefdom, Nantende Walushiba, is headed by Dr Kalumba.
The former Cabinet minister, who specialises in public health, accepted his new role as a sub-chief Nantende Walushiba two years ago. He superintends over seven big villages under his realm. Initially, he was installed as senior village headman Nantende Walushiba over 10 years ago.
He has seamlessly reconciled some of his western cultural influences with the village life.
He moved to the village after resigning as minister of finance, the man who holds the country’s purse strings. But he was also member of Parliament for Chienge from 1991 until 2006.
In a way, therefore, settling in Chienge was like going back home.
At the centre of all this is a deep desire to see Chienge develop.
For instance, during his time as MP, he spearheaded the electrification of the area by ZESCO. And through his active interactions, the Road Development Agency (RDA) announced that it will would tar a stretch of 92 kilometres of road from Nchelenge through Chienge to Kaputa district.
“My leadership here has largely been to provide different models of daily chores such as rice farming, cattle farming, and vegetable growing,” he shares. “Knowledge of public life has also helped out in modelling my home village in a very productive settlement. They didn’t want to see me just sit here, and so I decided to stay and contribute positively.”
Nantende Walushiba is a very senior official in the traditional hierarchy who is duty-bound to provide an advisory role in many aspects of leadership, both on the Zambian side and across in Mpweto in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“In our royal meetings, I have a special position which helps the senior chief manage some of the intricate issues with the chiefdom,” he says. “So it is an active position. When chiefs are in conflict, here on the Zambian side or the in DRC, I am the one to mediate and when people have small complaints, I also help to resolve them.”
Dr Kalumba has had to assimilate the traditional ways of reasoning where context takes precedence rather than a structural thought process.
“The elders, when resolving problems, often, they like to apply their wisdom contextually, [using] historical precedence, age issues, authority issues and body language and connotations,” he says.
But he admits that it is not easy to manage traditional counsel as one has to be very careful and recognise important elders who are considered as think tanks in the traditional set-up.
Inclusiveness in his role pans out as very cardinal during conflict resolution and decision-making among elders and people of influence among the many villagers senior chief Puta superintends.
“I find that my new role has a different way of churning out issues; deadlines are important but you have to teach them how to apply themselves and time management,” he says.
The USAID [The United States Agency for International Development, which was founded by John F. Kennedy to be the US government’s agency to be primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid] and SHARe Zambia have played very important roles in supporting the strategic management plan of Chienge district in the last four years.
Dr Kalumba further said his team was working very hard to meet its target of setting up a local radio station, Lushiba FM.
The chiefdom has also given the University of Zambia land to develop their School of Aqua Culture Research Centre on the beach front.
“We have spoken to ZICTA [Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority] and IBA [Independent Broadcasting Authority], we are just waiting on a frequency. Our aim to reach out to all corners of this community information is power. We also want to strengthen our education system by giving land to UNZA,” he says.
The community is now actively involved in lobbying for new investment. It has already built a welfare hall for general purpose use and is currently working on constructing a library.
The Nantende Walushiba is of the monkey clan aba-nsa and keeps the genealogy history of all generations. He has intentions of setting up a museum in his village.
“The elders have bought into the idea of building cultural archives, historical arte facts, folk tales, literature and our ways of life. We honestly have to apply ourselves rather than allowing anthologists from outside to tell our history, it’s unacceptable,” Dr Kalumba says.
Sub-chief Nantende Walushiba is also at the centre of coronation of traditional leaders as one of his major roles.
But Dr Kalumba as a person is a man of many faces.
Away from being a public health specialist, he is also a musician having released seven albums so far.
In music circles, he is called Kaka Wesu.
His first album was “Tears for Gabon,” an instrumental which was recorded along with ‘Sir’ Jones Kabanga in honour of the fallen Zambia national football team, which perished off the cost of Gabon enroute for a World Cup qualifier match in 1993. His last album is “Chiyongoli”.
His music is a mish mash of jazz, kalindula and ballads sung in English, Bemba, Silozi, Lunda and Namwaanga.
The inspiration behind his music is his grandfather chief Mpweto, who played banjo. But he was also encouraged by his Canadian teacher, a Mr Ferguson, while at Mwense Secondary School.
Yes, school.
Dr Kalumba was an ‘A’ student from primary school and stunned his teachers when he beat his entire intake and yet he was enlisted among average pupils when he went to Form One. He was later moved to the class with the best pupils although some teachers argued that his intelligence would pan out as an incentive to those in the average class. He was good, even teaching Form Five pupils while in Form Four.
“When I went back to Mwense, there was a problem because I had missed much of my school due to illness; so there was debate among teachers, some felt I must repeat but others advised that I just be given books and proceed,” he says.
“Initially, I wanted to do law or medicine but John Saxby, my grade teacher, advised me not to aim too high because I had been indisposed for a long time; so he advised me to go for social work, a subject I did not even understand at the time.”
Despite missing most of his Form Five class due to a cardiac disorder, he still managed to get into University of Zambia.
At UNZA, he recalls the dean of economics and the dean of social sciences being at logger heads as they were both interested in his academic performance and intelligence.
Dr Kalumba did his MSc [Master of Science] at Washington University after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship. He also went to the University of Toronto, Canada, for a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) under the department of community medicine.
Dr Kalumba, who was a World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant, remembers meeting former President Frederick Chiluba in Geneva, Switzerland, where they were both attending different conferences on labour and health-related matters.
“I met this dark figure on the street, and I tried greeting him in French, but, did not respond; so, I greeted him in English and subsequently discovered he was a Zambian trade union leader prior to the wind of change in 1990,” he says.
After having a meal together at Manora Restaurant, Dr Chiluba coerced him to join the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) back in Zambia and leave the United Nations job. This is he did.
“When we came back, my house was a strategic centre for mobilisation which culminated into the first Garden House meeting where Dr Donald Chanda coined the famous MMD slogan ‘The Hour Has Come.’ It was very vibrant and I made my father’s legacy proud, we managed to change government in 1991,” he says.
Dr Kalumba says he remains a very proud man today for single-handedly convincing Dr Chiluba not to go for a third term as President much to the chagrin of other senior politicians who had remained in the MMD after others went to form the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) and Heritage Party.
“Towards the end, while the debate was raging, Dr Chiluba called to me to State House to explain to some senior NEC members on why I felt the third term should not go ahead as planned,” he says.
“I used tough language to convince Dr Chiluba as he pondered on my remarks gazing in the ceiling with his eyes closed. When they opened; he asked his press aide, Richard Sakala, and Eric Silwamba [presidential affairs minister] to prepare a statement saying there will be no third term bid.”
But for most people, when they think of Katele Kalumba, the first thing that comes to mind is his alleged use of witchcraft and charms to elude the police at the time he was being sought to answer some corruption allegations.
There are all sorts of theories surrounding his case.
Contrary to wide belief, Dr Kalumba says he never used any witchcraft or magical tricks to elude the police dragnet.
“There was an onslaught on my farm… There were all sorts of media reports, local and on BBC. I was reported to be in Belgium, in Europe, to be here and there using a laptop to monitor police movements through witchcraft,” he told this writer at his home in Chienge recently.
“At that point I thought my life was in danger and I would not have been alive today. So I sought advice from my elders and so I had to take cover for three months in the bush and I survived miraculously.
“…It [Talk of some fetish that was connected to his laptop] was just someone’s imagination, there wasn’t anything of that sort, I was just in safe custody as I waited for matters to settle down.”
He says he spent three months somewhere in Lambwe Chomba’s settlement.
“I learned to survive for three months it was not easy but I had to go through that experience for my dear life,” he says.
Dr Kalumba says his close associates kept him informed on what government was planning against him. Dr Kalumba noted that he was kept abreast about all media statements from government and how the security wings were closing in on him.
He hatched a sneaky plan to move Chomba-Lambwe to Kaputa safely. It was not an easy undertaking because most police and special division officers were plain clothes individuals.
However, he took a risk and walked and in some places jumped on public transport. He then finally cycled to Kaputa police station, where he handed himself to a small group of heavily armed police officers. He says he approached them in a very diplomatic manner.
“They were kind enough not to carry out some specific instructions,” he says.
“Thanks to one young man, a police officer, a Mubanga, who leaned forward and grabbed me to halt me, he held me and stressed ‘please, quiet sir!’
“His colleagues were ready to shoot me, but because he was in front of me, he secured me safely and told his colleagues ‘let’s just take him alive he won’t escape for he’s just handed himself in’,” Dr Kalumba recalls.
He was airlifted to Lusaka by the Zambia Air Force military aircraft and was shocked at the media presence.
So much has happened since then, but for now, he is settled traditional leader.

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