Poverty and principles: the case of Ngande Mwanajiti

Poverty and principles: the case of Ngande Mwanajiti

Mwanajiti with his friend Frank Bwalya and funder Siamunene

Mwanajiti with his friend Frank Bwalya and funder Siamunene

Listening to Ngande Mwanajiti denounce the Grand Coalition on the Constitution, one cannot help but shed tears for mother Zambia. Was that really Mwanajiti accusing NGOs of trying to usurp the power of government or parliament? Certainly that was not the Ngande Mwanajiti we know. That fool who was waffling can’t be the man most of us grew up admiring and looking up to. The Mwanajiti who was speaking a few days ago is not the human rights defender we know. That must be a ghost or something. The real Mwanjiti must be dead.

Maybe some of the young people do not know whom we are talking about. Indeed most young people who saw Mwanjiti on TV or heard him on radio might have wondered who the confused, rambling  PF dude was.

In most of the 1990s, Mwanajiti was running an NGO called African Network of Human Rights Organizations (Afronet Zambia). It was certainly one of the most influential NGOs in Zambia. Together with Emily Sikazwe’s women for Change, Afronet could make government officials tremble. When Mwanajiti spoke, government listened. Mwanajiti was respected by the public and feared by the government of Fredrick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa. Mwanajiti determined who received donor funding in Zambia. Donors consulted him before they funded other people. He was a don and NGO king. He was consulted by the World Bank, EU and other international organisations. His opinion was revered by donors and ambassadors. Afronet was the most heavily funded NGO in Zambia, receiving upto Euros 350, 000 from one donor each year. It had many donors. Mwanajiti was earning more than a government minister. Even though he was a simple librarian by profession, he met ambassadors accredited to Zambia before they even presented credentials to the President. He later obtained a law degree through night school at UNZA. Today, Mwanajiti has reduced himself to the level of Frank Bwalya. Not just has be reduced himself to the level of Frank Bwalya, he has made Bwalya his personal and political friend. See the photos.

But what happened? How did Mwanajiti fall from such grace; from dining with ambassadors to spending most of his time with the likes of Frank Bwalya, from vetting applications for funding to being arrested for stealing public funds, from writing human rights reports to fighting the civil society?

His true personality came out. Due to abuse and failure to account, donors ditched him.

In 2003, Hivos (a donor organisation) evaluated Afronet. The evaluation of AFRONET was commissioned by HIVOS but many donors that supported AFRONET shared the report. This report led to the downfall of Afronet and Mwanajiti as it brought out glaring financial irregularities. Mwanajiti was forced to refund some of the donors (We have documented evidence). It was his end and that of Afronet and his Monitor Newspaper.

From there, Mwanjiti attempted to start other NGOs but no donor was willing to fund him.

He attempted to work with Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND as consultant but with the main aim of raising money to maintain his opulent life style. Now, you can probably cheat HH on other things but certainly not on money matters. Mwanajiti left in frustration. He found a desperate Rupiah Banda willing to spend on any crook who could help him fight Michael Sata’s PF in 2011. Mwanajiti partnered with all sort of lowlifes to fight Sata on behalf of Rupiah Banda. As you are reading this, Mwanjiti is facing a criminal case of diverting K195 million from government coffers to run an anti- Sata newspaper called the Zambian.

This is the man who a few days ago held a press conference to fight the grand coalition. The man has a criminal case on his head and he is broke. The PF loves such desperados. They will use him to the maximum. Mwanajiti does not believe in what he was talking about the other day. That we know for sure. We know who Mwanajiti is or was. But even a person like Mwanajiti cannot withstand hunger. He has to pay rent and feed. The only way he can do that under the prevailing circumstances is to do as PF directs. That is why a few weeks ago he was forced to go and campaign for PF in some rural areas in Sinazongwe with Frank Bwalya after being paid a few coins by Richwell Siamunene.

This is the type of shame poverty can bring. It can reduce a noble man to a beggar, a cadre and weapon for the paymaster. Where are Mwanajiti’s friends in the NGO world? Can’t someone come to the aid of this once great man and save him from the embarrassment the PF is putting him to?

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