By Margaret Mangani
DURING his inaugural Press conference on November 14, at which he named his Cabinet, newly-elected President Rupiah Banda kept all who attended the function at State House guessing as to who would be named vice-president.
Only Mr Banda knew who his successor as vice-president would be. For others, it was still a mystery. There was so much speculation regarding the position in the newly constituted Cabinet.
Some organisations were even suggesting that the position should go to a female for a change as a way of maintaining gender equality in the Government.
Strangely though, others were supporting the idea that the opposition should have been considered in a spirit of power-sharing.
Such was the debate that went on before the veil was lifted.
Alas! All that was never to be; it was just wishful thinking.
The prerogative of appointing members of Cabinet lies solely with the head of State.
He knows what is best for the Government.
Of course, some known names of politicians were on people’s lips as they were being floated around as possible candidates.
But when the moment of reckoning came, when President Banda broke the news of the day, the one who got it was far from those on the people’s lists.
This was evident when George Kunda’s name was announced.
All heads turned and mouths were agape as if in a state of shock.
What! George Kunda for vice president as well as Minister of Justice?
No! Perhaps it was a mistake.
But it was real. President Banda had just conferred Kunda with a dual honour.
And when the cameras zoomed closer on him in the audience where he sat humbly listening to the proceedings, his reaction was as cool as a cucumber.
While other excited members of Cabinet openly expressed their joy on being appointed, Mr Kunda simply nodded his head in approval accompanied with a grin.
It was amazing that the second top most job of the Government had landed on Mr Kunda.
Son of Jackson Kunda and Eginala Mwelwa, Mr Kunda was born on February 26, 1956 in Luanshya,
His parents, who are quite advanced in age, hail from Serenje’s Mashimani Village where they still live.
Mr Kunda is the first born in a family of nine.
It was once a balanced family of 10 – five brothers and five sisters but, unfortunately, one brother died.
Mr Kunda is married to Irene, a fellow lawyer and runs the family’s legal firm, George Kunda and Company in Lusaka.
The couple met at the University of Zambia (Unza) while Mr Kunda was studying law and now have six children.
Howard is a businessman in Ndola married to lawyer Anne Grey.
The second is Georgina, currently studying in Canada, followed by Marion who is married to singer Wilson Lungu, popularly known as Wile.
George Jnr is pursuing accountancy studies.
Godfrey is the only child who has followed the parents’ footsteps- studying law while the last child, Chiluba, is in grade 12.
The Kundas also have seven grand children.
Mr Kunda did his primary school education at Fisansa in Luanshya’s Roan township and then went to Mpatamatu primary school where some of his senior schoolmates were Dr Joseph Temba, Dr Kalombo Mwansa and the late Lagos Nyembere.
He then qualified to Mpatamatu Secondary School where he was influenced to study law after he came into contact with a few lawyers.
He admired their smartness and big briefcase.
In 1975, he went for the mandatory military training offered by the Zambia National Service (ZNS) in Ndola and later Solwezi for the production unit.
After that, he went to Unza to fulfil his dream of studying law.
After being admitted to the bar, he worked for the then Luanshya District Council as a solicitor advocate.
He then joined Niranjan Patel and Company and later worked for Cave Malik before he resigned with a view to establishing his own private firm, George Kunda and Company, in 1991.
It was during that time that he was inspired to join politics to serve the Zambian people as he felt obliged to offer himself and contribute to national development.
It is common that the legal profession is associated with wealth and prestige but Mr Kunda decided to venture into politics with a desire to serving the nation.
Mr Kunda can aptly be described as hard working, honest a perfectionist at his work, and leaving nothing to chance.
Those are his wise words passed on to the upcoming lawyers in the legal fraternity.
Mr Kunda emphasises on mutual respect, punctuality and efficiency as some of the virtues of a good advocate that can lead one to scoring many positive strides in life’s long journey.
Lawyer Eric Silwamba who first met Mr Kunda in Ndola in 1985 while he was working for Ellis and Company had this to say .
“I came to know him as a thorough and conscientious legal practitioner. A stickler for detail. A typical example is the last presidential election petition. He kept a meticulous record of all the court proceedings, which he had personally typed. During our Ndola days, It was always a pleasurable challenge to meet him on the other side in court.
” I remember with fond memories an election petition involving a councillorship in the Kabushi parliamentary constituency. This was during the one party state,” he said.
Mr Kunda describes his new appointment as a big challenge and assures the nation that he has already settled down to work, as that is what is demanded of him.
Why was there a pose at the mention of his name?
The answer is simple.
It is because this is the man who has served Zambia, first as Minister of Legal Affairs. when the late president Levy Mwanawasa appointed him at the age 45 in 2002.
Within the same year he was conferred with the highest honour of the land as state counsel by virtue of his appointment as Legal Affairs minister.
Previously, he held the position of Law Association of Zambia president from 1996 to 2000.
Mr Kunda refers to this period as the best moment of his lifetime as he was elected for two terms consecutively scooping the chairmanship with a landslide victory in a highly competitive race.
“As LAZ president, I was committed to it such that I thought that it was the highest achievement that I had scored in life. I was the longest-serving president, having been unanimously elected consecutively,” he said.
Mr Kunda has also experienced the dark side of his politicial career and he cites the serious accusations levelled against him and the Mwanawasa Government as the most trying time but he could not stand up to defend himself in the midst of all that even when he knew deep down that he was innocent.
“I was bound by the leadership ethics as well as the oath of secrecy not to divulge information that may jeopardise State security. As a lawyer representing the State as my client, my hands were tied I had to protect its interests and that is what we were taught at the law school,” he said.
It is not his first time to handle dual responsibilities in the Government.
He previously held the position minister of Justice as well as that of Attorney-General, an action that triggered a lot of controversy in certain circles.
Mr Kunda recalls that period as the most challenging time of his political career because the Government had to tackle the issue of the Constitutional Review Commission, the presidential petition, the removal of the immunity for former president Frederick Chiluba and the impeachment bid on Dr Mwanawasa.
“I contributed greatly to ensure that there was good governance, peace and order and I rendered the necessary legal advice,” he said.
Nevertheless, he served in the same portfolio diligently while serving in the National Assembly as a nominated member of Parliament until 2006.
That year, Dr Mwanawasa decided that the two portfolios be separated, and that saw him appoint Mr Mumba Mulila as Attorney-General while Mr Kunda retained his position as minister of Justice.
Mr Kunda then stood for parliamentary elections in Muchinga constituency in Serenje and won with a landslide victory.
Again, he was appointed to serve as minister of Justice, this time with added responsibility.
” I wanted to go back to identify myself with my roots where I come from. People were challenging me to stand because as a nominated member of Parliament (MP), I was not representing anybody.
“My interest in politics was growing. So I wanted to have a constituency that I could represent although some people doubted if I would make it. But I won those elections with a landslide victory,” he said.
Contrary to complaints that some MPs did not visit their constituencies regularly in order to acquaint themselves with the problems of the local people as well as monitor on-going developmental projects, Mr Kunda said he devotes time from his busy schedule to visit the constituency.
Sometimes, using his personal resources to be with his people, alleviating poverty levels as he considers Muchinga his second home.
His parents are resident there where he has built them a house.
Mr Kunda says his constituency is vast, making it difficult for him to touch all corners within a short time whenever he is touring because of other pressing national duties.
“I have done so much in my constituency. Schools have been constructed and several other projects. The MPs try their best to visit their constituencies. It’s only that national duties demand that they strike a compromise so that they also attend to other needs for them to maintain a balance,” Mr Kunda says.
Mr Kunda feels that he will accomplish his mission, having reached the peak of his political career as vice-president.
He will discharge his duties diligently without leaving a vacuum in the ministry of Justice as the role of dealing with policy issues will be adequately covered by new Deputy Minister, Todd Chilembo while he will be there to offer guidance.
With Mr Malila and Solicitor-General Dominic Sichinga, alongside Permanent Secretary Getrude Inambwae in place, this makes the ministry of Justice fully established.
He says, unlike in the past when the ministry of Justice lacked a deputy minister, now it has one .
Mr Kunda does not doubt that Mr Chilembo, a senior lawyer, will be able to handle the bulk of the policy work.
In his own words, President Banda said he was appointing Mr Kunda as one of the longest and most experienced Cabinet ministers in the MMD government and was confident that he would deliver to the best of his ability in his new appointment.
Humbly accepting the appointment, Mr Kunda assured the nation that he was ready to discharge his functions to the fullest.
A former soccer player during school days, having played as a member of Buseko Club in Luanshya with former Zambia coach Patrick Phiri, Ghost Mulenga, System Chilongo and Bernard Chanda, he is no longer active in sports.
But Mr Kunda enjoys listening to gospel music, Zambian music from John Chiti, his son-in law, Wile and rhumba.
Being Catholic, he sometimes goes to church on Sundays.
He plans to revert to his private law firm and offer consultancy services after retiring from active politics, of course with a rich curriculum vitae.
Copyright © 2008 The Times of Zambia. All rights reserved.