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Go well gogo Jonas Alec Chirwa

A DARK cloud hang over the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) family on July 5 this year as the cold hand of death struck  its leader Alec Jonas Chirwa, the chairperson of the board of directors, and a hero of the family on Hero’s Day.
He was put to rest in Lusaka on Thursday last week. Former President Kenneth Kaunda, Chief Justice Irene Mambilimba and Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda led mourners to pay their last respects to a man we came to understand as an outstanding and unsung hero of the labour movement who provided visionary leadership to our institution.
This columnist will do no justice if today’s article does not focus on bidding farewell to a man, who followed all the weekly articles on the operations of WCFCB published in the Zambia Daily Mail.
Esteemed readers may wish to know that our late chairperson was more of a father figure to the columnist and it came as no surprise when two of our board members, Betty Mtambo and Sepiso Kabalamyana, amidst sobs, also confessed during the burial procession that they had lost a father in Alec Jonas Chirwa.
The WCFCB, an institution which was virtually unknown, whose mandate is unclear to many people, even now rose from slumber, if preferred, from dormancy to a dominant position within the pensions and social security sector, during the period Mr Chirwa served as its chairperson.
It is during his time that, for the first time in the history of the institution, audited accounts which hitherto were behind by more than three years, were updated to 2014 and an audit of 2015 is underway.
It was during his time that, for the first time, all monthly pension payments were indexed to the inflation rate, it was during his time that monthly pensions were adjusted upwards by 30 percent, and it was during his time that assessment rates were reviewed to match accident experience in industry.
As if that is not enough, it was during his time that WCFCB through a private public partnership delivered to the residents of Ndola a modern shopping mall at Kafubu and it was during his time that the first customer service centre was opened in Lusaka.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that for the three years commencing 2012 with Mr Chirwa at the helm of WCFCB as its chairperson, the institution has consistently been recognised as the best social security scheme at the trade fair except this year when the first prize was awarded to our sister institution the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA).
If the memories are still fresh, readers will recall that WCFCB scooped the second best overall award and best non banking financial institution at the recently held Zambia international trade fair in Ndola.
It was humbling to receive several dignitaries at the stand, who came to understand what had happened to WCFCB that it was able to rise above expectations and scoop a special prize. This is one event that Mr Chirwa would have loved to witness but as fate would have it, he left a prize that we are all going to remember him for, at least for some time to come.
As permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Trevor Kaunda said during the funeral procession that Mr Chirwa observed principles of good governance and consulted widely with his fellow members of the board and the commissioner in the formulation and implementation of policies.
We feel that all the successes attributed to his leadership came as a result of his adherence to principles and firm belief in consultation processes.
Well, we follow advice rendered by the Minister of Labour and Social Security not to mourn but rather celebrate the life of a gallant son of Zambia, who served with distinction. He was described as a student of life, a man who sacrificed for the wellbeing of others, and we agree.
As for me, I shall keep memories of the time when we travelled together to attend the World Forum on Social Security in Qatar in 2013 and later in 2014 to Dubai to attend a course on leadership and communication, which exposed us to very interesting leadership skills.
Whether he had a premonition or not, I will not understand but he told me, we had to travel to Dubai in December 2014 or it would never be possible. He concluded by saying: “Young man, you never know what happens in this life.”
Go well old man, it is true you never know what happens in this life.
Rest in peace gogo Chirwa
The author is Corporate Affairs and Customer Services Manager at Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board