GENERAL Malimba Masheke yesterday observed that President Banda’s drastic decision to retire and replace all defence force commanders and their deputies at once has a connotation that there is a crisis.
Gen Masheke, who served as Zambia Army commander between 1980 and 1985 during Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s presidency, was commenting on President Banda’s retiring and replacement of Zambia Army commander Gen Isaac Chisuzi and his deputy Major General Eliad Mutwale, Zambia Air Force (ZAF) commander Lieutenant General Samuel Mapala and his deputy Major General Evans Chengeta and Zambia National Service (ZNS) commandant Major General Raphael Chisheta and his deputy Brig Gen Joseph Miti during a press briefing at State House on Wednesday.
However, Gen Masheke advised politicians and other stakeholders against politicising the portfolio changes in Zambia Army, ZAF and ZNS.
Asked about the implication of President Banda’s decision to retire the top brass at the same time, Gen Masheke said that would create an impression in the minds of the new office bearers that the whole office was rotten.
“You see, the problem with that is that of continuity. When you remove, normally those who are outside the command when such things happen they may think that the whole office was rotten and they want to come and sweep the house clean and you have a situation where they new office bearers even bring new friends to replace everything when there is no need to replace what is there,” Gen Masheke. “When you remove everybody from office at the same time, it means there is a crisis. It’s like there is a crisis, sweeping the place clean. That is the disadvantage or the connotation it would have. But the Commander-In-Chief is entitled depending on the information he has. It’s the first time now. We don’t know what information compelled him to do such a drastic thing. It’s a drastic change.”
Gen Masheke said the defence forces were a sensitive wing of government.
“In terms of changing them all together depends on what information the Commander-In-Chief compelled him to do so. Normally, you know the defence forces are very sensitive. The Commander-In-Chief when he is in action, you have to have knowledge because these are professional areas,” Gen Masheke said.
“In terms of the defence forces, it will be good not to politicise them because the consequences of politicising the defence force portfolios and ranks, I think are known. The other stakeholders should not politicise the defence forces. It will be better that way. There are enough areas where we can politick.”
During the press briefing on Wednesday morning, President Banda announced that he had promoted Zambia’s defence attache’ to Ethiopia Brig Gen Wisdom Mwansa Lopa to the rank of Major General and subsequently appointed him Army Commander. He said he had promoted retired ZAF Brig Gen Andrew Sakala to the rank of Major General and subsequently appointed him Air Force Commander and that he had promoted Zambia Army’s Brig Gen Sikota Anthony Yeta to the rank of Maj General and subsequently seconded him to ZNS as commandant.
President Banda also announced that he had promoted Colonel Vincent Mbaula Mukanda to the rank of Brig Gen and appointed him deputy Army Commander and chief of staff.
However, before the swearing in of the six new office bearers on Wednesday afternoon, President Banda clarified and upgraded their ranks. He said he had elevated Brig Gen Lopa to the rank of Lieutenant General, Brig Gen Sakala to rank of Lieutenant General, Brig Gen Yeta to the rank of Major General while Col Mukanda was promoted to the rank of Major General and Brig Gen Monta Chileshe was promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed him as deputy air commander. Brig Gen Lombe Nathan Mulenga maintained his rank but was promoted to the position of deputy commandant of ZNS.
President Banda urged the three commanders and their deputies to ensure that there was courteous handover of offices between them and their predecessors. He said the retired officers had not done anything wrong but they had reached retirement age.
“I want that you have proper hand over with each one of your predecessors,” said President Banda. “Please sit down with each one or your colleagues, do all that the armed forces do to respect your predecessors and see them off in good honours and be briefed about everything so that you can continue where they stopped.”