Wilson Kalumba: A unique mind gone

COUNCILLORS line up outside the Mayor’s Parlour as the body of Mr Kalumba leaves Lusaka Civic Centre. PICTURE: CHANDA MWENYA

FORMER Lusaka mayor Fisho Mwale was Wilson Chisala Kalumba’s opponent in the 2016 mayoral elections for Lusaka City.After Mr Kalumba’s death filtered in on Tuesday, Mr Mwale said: “Rest in peace cousin, gone too soon for the people of Lusaka to know what a brilliant mind you had.”
As Lusaka residents voted for their executive mayor in the August 2016 elections, of all the major contenders, one can safely say Mr Kalumba was among the least known to the average person.
This was so despite the fact that he was the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) mayoral candidate in the election.
Mr Kalumba had come up against Mr Mwale, former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa and Zambia Amateur Athletics Association (ZAAA) president Elias Mpondela among others.
A relatively quiet person, particularly for someone wanting to hold or holding public office, some quarters thought that he won largely because of the party he stood on rather than his own personal credentials.
But there is certainly some reason why he was adopted by the PF. Like Mr Mwale said, he had a brilliant mind.
Most residents will remember him for proposing cremation as a way of dealing with the lack of burial space in the city as well as the introduction of tax on airtime to go towards waste management.
But those were just few of the many ideas he had.
On his way to the civic centre, he promised a number of initiatives that he intended to implement for Lusaka.
These included an efficient and clean public transport system; construction of affordable housing units; issuing municipal bonds to raise long-term finance for capital projects; and constructing new markets and sporting facilities in the communities among others.
For Mr Kalumba, the housing crisis was the single biggest barrier to prosperity, growth and fairness that Lusaka faced. He believed that the city’s shortage of decent and affordable homes was causing real misery to thousands of residents, and damaging Lusaka’s competitiveness.
In order to improve housing, he wanted the council to focus on developing high-rise apartments to cater for young families and the working class.
“As I realise that land for such use may be in short supply, the council may have to re-designate some of the land it already owns and bring down any structures on such land to pave way for the construction of modern high-rise apartments,” he said in his manifesto.
Mr Kalumba was also concerned at the fact that more than 80 percent of Lusaka residents do not have access to clean running water, and to that effect, he wanted to attract public private partnerships (PPPs) to invest in taking piped water to areas with no running water.
“Lusaka is one of the most polluted cities. Too many of our families and friends are suffering from Lusaka’s filthy solid waste, and we need to act now. I will introduce mandatory trash bins separating biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable, ban rubbish pits in residential areas,” he said.
“I will also introduce a special tax on glass and plastic bottles to specifically raise funds required to deal with the collection and disposal of plastic and glass bottles. Working with relevant stakeholders such as businesses and consumer associations and regulators, the council will also promote PPP to set up plastic and glass recycling plants.
“I will improve drainage systems in communities by upgrading them to concrete; make sure that all the rubbish and soil removed from drainages are properly disposed of rather than being piled by the road side. There shall be all-year round cleaning of the drainage.”
Mr Kalumba certainly had the experience to go with the position he occupied.
A qualified Chartered Accountant under the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) following his studies at Emile Wolf College in London, he was also a Fellow Member of the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA). He later on obtained his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, United Kingdom. He was also a Certified Forensic Accountant, a specialised designation awarded by the American College of Forensic Examiners in the United States.
In addition, he held a Leadership Development Programme in Strategic Financial Analysis for Business Evaluation from Harvard Business School at Harvard University. Other certifications include being Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration, Zambia Branch and also being a Certified Credit Rating Analyst by Moody’s.
He had over 24 years work experience, most of which was with Bank of Zambia, where he worked for 18 years before leaving to start a new venture in 2014.
He was the Deputy Director in the Bank Supervision Department, where he was responsible for assessing the financial performance and condition of commercial banks and the banking industry thereby contributing to safeguarding people’s money in the banks by ensuring that banks remained financially sound and safe.
He therefore had deep insights for high financial performance benchmarks with a flair for problem solving covering complex issues. These include assessing proposed financial products with the overall aim of ensuring customer protection. In his day to day duties, he led a highly qualified, motivated and engaged team of professionals.
In addition, Mr Kalumba represented BoZ on outside bodies such as appointment by Cabinet Office to chair the Contingency Planning Committee charged with the responsibility of designing the country’s financial sector contingency plan. He also represented the central bank as member of the Licensing Committee of the Securities and Exchange Commission and as chair of SME [Small and Medium Enterprise] Committee at ZICA.
For seven years, between 2001 and 2009, Mr Kalumba was based at the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA, serving appointments by the United Nations Secretary Generals Mr Kofi Anan and Ban Ki-moon then, as a Financial and Economic Sanctions Expert where he was responsible for monitoring the implementation of sanctions against identified targets.
This appointment took him around the world to engage with national authorities in order to assess effectiveness of national measures and in the process he developed diplomatic skills to handle sensitive matters with national governments.
During his tenure at the UN, Mr Kalumba developed a strong international network of heads of government departments and institutions in several countries, and locally, the network extended to chief executive officers and senior management of banks, private companies and government departments.
Mr Kalumba had started his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a renowned global auditing firm in 1990, but after one year, he moved to another auditing firm, Coopers & Lybrand which he also later left to join the Bank of Zambia in 1992.
He was founder and Chief Executive Officer of Credit Rating Agency Limited (CRA), Zambia’s first ever credit rating company, which rates the credit worthiness of banks, non-corporate, insurance companies, SMEs and Governments. His responsibilities included among others, to provide overall leadership and direction to this young company which is the only one of its kind in Zambia where he was also responsible for business development and customer acquisition, developing and implementing the company’s strategic plan.
He certainly had a plan for Lusaka.
“It is such a big blow for the [Lusaka City] council. He was a very humble person, very accommodating and a very good teacher and for us here, it is a big gap, he had such a brilliant mind. He was always thinking outside the box. Everyone here was his friend,” Lusaka deputy mayor Chilando Chitangala said.
“Yes, he might have not been a politician, loud and so on, but he was a very good administrator and manager.”
The deputy mayor said Mr Kalumba would usually bring up proposals which could be criticised, but that in the end, his unique ideas would be taken on board.
“Now, so many people have realised that his ideas were good. In that way you would see that the person was thinking outside the box and always wanted to convince people that this is the way to go,” she said.
“For example, just before cholera [outbreak], I remember him talking about having public toilets all over and everybody was like ‘why talk about public toilets instead of talking about something else’, but this is what we are talking about today. To fight cholera we are going to put up public toilets in places where there is [human] traffic, we realise that that is one of the things that we need.”
PF deputy national secretary Mumbi Phiri knew Mr Kalumba in Mufulira, where they grew up together.
“Having been a technocrat, he was not talking too much but he made things move on the ground,” Ms Phiri said.
“I knew Mr Kalumba when we were growing up in Mufulira in an area called Kamuchanga together with Brian Mushimba [Minister of Transport and Communications], Mumba Kapumpa [State Counsel and former ambassador to South Korea], those were my seniors.”
The public perception was that Mr Kalumba, who died on Tuesday at the age of 54 in the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, was not visible enough for someone occupying the position of mayor.
There was a time he was captured sleeping during a public function. What followed were online postings of people pretending to be asleep on duty. They called it the mayor challenge.
But little did the public know that the mayor was battling sickness. It was only after his death was announced by Minister of Local Government Vincent Mwale that the public got to appreciate the effort the mayor put in his job.
The effort was certainly there.

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