The President was furious!
He called for an urgent meeting with his staff at State House.
“Who applied for this land for me?” He asked.
Unknown to him, his name was appearing on the top-list of the successful applicants who were granted farmland in the newly created 110,000 hectares Nansanga farming-block in Serenje area of Central Province. But he never applied for that piece of land!
”Who put my name on the list?” He asked once again, in one of the rare moments that President Rupiah Bwezani Banda was vividly upset.
It turned out that one of the State House senior staff applied for the land on behalf of the President without obtaining permission from him. In the wisdom of the aide, the President who was a farmer needed more land to grow his cattle ranching business, which he had been doing even before the presidency. But the staff also included his name and few others on the list of beneficiaries.
“This is unfair! I did not come here to acquire land. Think about ordinary Zambians,” President Banda lectured and reminded all present that working in State House was the highest privilege one can get from his country and therefore sharing land should never be part of that rare privilege.
”You are abusing this privilege,” he retorted.
“Imagine if President Kaunda (first President) behaved like this and shared the land, what would have remained in 27 years?” the President continued with the lecture.
The meeting was very tense.
Another aide alerted the President to the fact that Fred Mmembe, editor of The Post newspaper, which was persistently attacking him and his government was also on the list of beneficiaries for the same land.
The President grabbed the list again to check if it was indeed true that his perceived nemesis was on the now infamous list. You see, in Zambia land is vested in the President on behalf of Zambians and therefore can make decisions on its usage and beneficiaries.
“Yes alipo (he is there),” the President talked to himself as he scanned the list before he dropped it on the side table of his sofa.
”But is he not Zambian?” the President asked, referring to Mmembe.
We all went quiet as we did not know what the question was intended for.
”Remove my name, remove all state house staff and keep Mmembe on the list. Insulting me does not make him less Zambian,” President Banda said to the amusement of all present.
“I am President for all Zambians including those insulting me,” President Banda said.
That is how President Banda handed back his farmland in Nansanga and some State House staff lost theirs too! And Fred Mmembe got his!
But the lecture series continued through-out our State House days. When you opt to work in government, never do business with government agencies. Don’t lease government property for personal gains, don’t supply goods to government agencies or influence public tenders in your favour. The ending is always bad! We were warned.