NICKY SHABOLYO, Pretoria
IT WAS one colourful event. The 250 capacity banquet hall, filled beyond the brim with ecstatic Zambians from every walk of life, was dressed up in fabric of Zambian national colours of green, red, orange and black with matching beams of light rising from around the corners in the hall. It was a scene only befitting the description of what takes place at such world renowned events as the Oscars or the Grammy Awards. Although he was not part of the actual awards ceremony, it was announced in the presence of President Edgar Lungu that there would be an awards presentation ceremony for some deserving Zambians resident in South Africa as well as some members of staff engaged from the South African community at a later stage in the programme. President Lungu was in South Africa for a State Visit at the invitation of his counterpart, President Jacob Zuma. President Lungu took time off upon arrival on 7th December, 2016 to meet Zambians resident in South Africa at a dinner hosted in his honour. The mood in the hall became even more lit up on hearing the announcement on the awards. Everyone was looking forward to seeing what these awards were all about.
When the time finally came; it became clear that another first had been recorded by the High Commission in Pretoria. It was the inaugural â€˜High Commissionerâ€™sâ€™ awards. It also served as the launch of the annual â€˜High Commissionerâ€™sâ€™ awards.
South Africa is one country with the largest number of Zambian citizens among those countries in which Zambia maintains diplomatic presence. It is not a hidden fact that a good number of these citizens migrated to South Africa to seek greener pasture. It is a fact also that a good number of these Zambians have turned out to be good â€˜ambassadorsâ€™. They have been responsible citizens who have flown the Zambian flag high. These are people who have assimilated in the South African community and hold key positions in important institutions of the land and are diligently giving their whole in contributing to the development of South Africa. They are working in the financial sector, health sector, education, energy; some are working for international organisations, while others are in the media industry, manufacturing and various other service industries.
As Zambiaâ€™s High Commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba put it at the event the awards were designed to appreciate and honour both staff and Zambians living in South Africa.
Mr Mwamba said the awards, which are now an annual feature on the High Commissionâ€™s calendar, were meant to recognise excellence in performance, outstanding performance as well as recognise good stories among Zambians in a country replete with stories of crime.
He noted that Zambians in the Diaspora contributed up to US$70 million annually to the Zambian economy and that there was need to encourage them to make even more contributions which would match the levels such as those of Ghanaians who contribute about US$1 billion annually.
The subsequent awards presentations have been earmarked to be held during independence anniversary celebrations.
There were two categories under which the recipients were awarded. In the category of â€˜Outstanding performance in respective fieldsâ€™, walking away with a certificate and R5, 000 each, the recipients of the inaugural awards were:
Pule M. Mutati who happens to be the Head of Clinical and Intervention Cardiology at Sefako Makhato University of Medical Sciences. He is responsible for clinical patient evaluation and cardiac management. He is the manager and practical overseer of all cardiac interventions referred from four provinces of South Africa. Dr. Mutati is senior lecturer in the departments of Cardiology and Internal Medicine with a scope involving post graduate teaching and supervision incorporating departments of Cardiology, Cardio Thoracic and Internal Medicine. He is a visiting lecturer for post graduate students in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pretoria.
Dr Mutati holds post graduate qualifications in specialist physician and is currently fellow in cardiology.
He has been involved in research where he has been principal investigator in international and local cardiac research. He is a director at Rasslouw Private Hospital Development which is part of the Netcare group of hospitals.
Kelly Kalumba is a Zambian architect based in South Africa. He is a renowned professional whose fame, resulting from some landmark architectural works, goes beyond the borders of the continent. Kalumba has, since 2003, been Senior Partner at Louis Karol Architects in charge of the Johannesburg office and taking care of projects on the continent, including the re-development of Society House on Lusakaâ€™s Cairo Road.
He has been a project architect for well-known structures such as the V and A Waterfront Shopping Mall in Cape Town; the 2010 World Cup Stadium in Cape Town; Gautrain train stations at Midrand, Centurion and Pretoria, and Nkwashi Mixed Youth Development on Leopards Hill road in Lusaka where 10, 000 houses, a university, international boarding school, retail and office park are being constructed.
Others include Essex College in the United Kingdom; Crown Street up-market residential apartments in Glasgow, Scotland; extension to the Birmingham International Airport; Seacon up-market residential apartments on the River Thames in London; Eco Towers (office development) in Accra, Ghana; Intercontinental Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport; Jabi Lake Mixed Youth Development (offices and hotel with residential complex) in Abuja, Nigeria, and Onomo Hotel in Free Town, Sierra Leone.
He was in November this year voted as one of the best architects in South Africa when he emerged 2016 second best architect in South Africa after being conferred with the honour by the South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA). This was out of the initial 2, 500 nominees that were picked.
Kalumba has just been elected president of the Zambia Institute of Architects.
Ferdinand Simaanya has exhibited great passion for the work he does as president of the Zambia Association in South Africa (ZASA) such that it is difficult to believe that the work he has continued to do is pro-bono. Under his watch, the data base of Zambians living in South Africa held by the association has grown from a paltry 256 in 2014 when he took over, to 5, 346.
ZASA has expanded to almost the entire country with 25 branches formed over the last one year. The association works closely with the High Commission in extending welfare care to needy Zambians in times of bereavement, destitution, repatriation, illness and various other emergency situations.
It is now apparent that without a ZASA that was as vibrant as the current one, a lot of vulnerable Zambians in South Africa would have been subjected to worse off suffering.
Chairperson of the Zambia-South Africa Business Forum (ZSABF), Charles Kalima was jointly awarded with two employees of the High Commission; Patricia Muyamwa, who is First Secretary in charge of tourism and Mande Kauseni, First Secretary for Economic and Trade. They each went away with a certificate and had to split the R5,000 prize money among themselves.
The three have shown exemplary dedication to the work of the ZSABF from the time the idea was mooted in September last year. They have been critical pillars in bringing about the successes that the business forum has managed to achieve. The three have sat through late night planning meetings just to ensure that events organised by the business forum go smoothly.
The second category of the awards was to staff engaged by the High Commission from among South African citizens. These were awarded for excellence in execution of duty and dedication to duty and each went away with a certificate and R5,000 each.
The first recipient in this category, Sibongile Nelly Skhosana, has served the High Commission for 21 years, having joined on 24th February 1995 when she worked from the residence of the first High Commissioner, Jack Kabinga (late). She literally single-handedly did all house chores.
When the second High Commissioner, Lt-Col. Bizwayo Nkunika, came in 1998, he did not take long to spot the excellence and dedication to duty in this employee and transferred her to the High Commission offices as a receptionist in January 2000.
She took interest and acquired knowledge of how all departments in the Mission operated and has now grown to becoming a strong link between the High Commission and other ministries in South Africa, a feat that has made her into being the most dependable locally engaged member of staff. She is usually the first one to arrive at the office and last to leave.
She is currently Personal Assistant to the Deputy High Commissioner.
Thomas Sethole was hired by the High Commission as Office Assistant on 16th March, 2007. He is one that is quickly earning himself the title of â€˜Zambian Immigration encyclopediaâ€™ because of his vast knowledge of the Zambian immigration laws.
Sethole has, right on his fingertips, all the information pertaining to procedures for application for passports, travel documents, and other Zambian immigration related documents.
He has also distinguished himself as an alert employee who, on a number of occasions, has helped thwart thefts by dangerous criminals coming after clientsâ€™ vehicles parked on the premises of the High Commission.
James Mtsweni is one of the longest serving locally engaged employees, having joined the Mission about 20 years ago, on 1st July, 1996.
On the evening of 20th November, 2016, he risked his life when he showed some rare bravery by speeding off as a horde of gun-wielding robbers attempted to get a Mission vehicle from him. The criminals had just ambushed a group of Zambian Government officials who had just arrived at their hotel to check in, beat them up and robbed them of all their valuables.
Joseph Mabunda works for a security firm that the Mission has hired. Just before midnight, on 15th August, 2016, Mabunda was approached by two unknown men claiming to be Zambian who demanded that he gives them the address for the residence of the Zambian High Commissioner, Mr Emmanuel Mwamba. The two men had come out of a vehicle which was left concealed at a distance in the darkness of the night. What they didnâ€™t realise was that our recipient had seen the vehicle arrive and the two men alight leaving behind their colleagues. Even on being threatened and verbally abused, this nominee stood his ground and refused to give the information they required until they gave up and left.
This was a case of some rare bravery without which would have ensued some unfortunate incidences.
NICKY SHABOLYO, Pretoria