IN 1964 Vernon Mwaanga was appointed as Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom- London when he was reportedly only 21yrs of age.
This is a fact he has sold to his audiences when extolling virtues of why young people should be allowed to be involved in decision-making position despite their age.
Although his contemporaries think he was probably 26 years of age or older.
They cite Mwaanga’s own account which reveals that he attended Youth Conferences in 1957-in India, and Cairo -Egypt, 1961.
Could the United Independence Party (UNIP) have sent a Minor or an under age to such important conferences?
And could the colonial authority have issued a travel document or passport to a minor?!!!
So maybe the celebrated life of this Diplomat, Politician and Author is actually founded on a false narrative.
Anyway that’s an argument for another day.
In 1965 he was posted to Moscow as Ambassador.
In 1966 he was brought back and headed the Intelligence.
He was appointed to head the secret service institution as its Director General.
In 1968, he was appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations.
It’s during his tenure as Permanent Representative to the United Nations that he made a good name for himself.
Records at the UN show that he demonstrated remarkable leadership and participated in debates that promoted the Pan -Africa agenda.
Many African National Congress (ANC) veterans here in South Africa regard him highly and his tenure at the United Nations, they say pushed the liberation struggle agenda far better than any other African Ambassador.
His lawns of his Diplomatic Residence was home to many struggle students and leaders sipping away whisky and puffing smoke away (in their own words) as they planned and plotted on how to alienate the apartheid government from the rest of the World.
In 1972 Mwaanga was brought back to Zambia and was made Editor-in-Chief of the Times of Zambia ousting critical Editor to the UNIP regime Dunstan Kamana.
The paper was fully taken over by government in 1975.
Mwaanga took over the editorship of the paper at a critical period.
This was during the bitter period of transition and intense and forced political changes when the country was made to abandon the multi-party Democracy and changed to a one-party State.
Mwaanga was later made Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1973 and did remarkable things when he was touted as the youngest Cabinet Minister at age 28 (and again believing the theory of his contemporaries you might have to add 5yrs).
Later Mwaanga went into private practice joining controversial British businessman Tiny Rowland’s London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited (Lonrho).
But in September 1985, everything changed.
Sikota Wina, Princess Nakatindi, Vernon Mwaanga and a dozen businessmen, bankers and custom officials were arrested for peddling drugs-Mandrax.
Mandrax was a new synthetic drug made in mostly India and became highly popular in South Africa
Sikota and VJ renowned Diplomats were found to be at the centre of a cars-drugs-swap scandal involving Mandrax.
Luxury vehicles were brought from Apartheid South Africa while Mandrax tablets was brought in from Bombay(now Mumbai) and Lusaka provided as a market of exchange and swap for this new drug that was sought after in South Africa.
Mandrax was not illegal then in Zambia and was actually categorised as a sleeping pill.(that’s why their detention was under the Security Act and even if they were detained on other laws like smuggling conviction for smuggling was $25 fine! Something he could have paid).
Mandrax was later categorised and added in law as a psychotropic substance.
The trade in this drug was so lucrative( bought from Bombay for $4( a box of 1000pills) but reportedly sold for $450!.
The scandal started with the detention of Sikota Wina in India.
Before this case, Sikota Wina (and his spouse), was a respected founding member of this country and Statesman and like Vernon Mwaanga, a distinguished Diplomat.
Sikota was detained in India for over 5 months but was now on bail.
Kaunda had to waive off Sikota’s Diplomatic Immunity to facilitate this detention and prosecution.
Sikota jumped bail and made a new passport (carrying a false name -Hussein) and flew back home as a Muslim!
South Africa, todate has earned herself the unenviable status as the largest abuser of Mandrax in the World and statics show that the illegal substance remains a drug of choice or preference in largest parts of South Africa.
Maybe and partly due to the sophisticated but shameful role played by people like Vernon Mwaanga decades ago.
VJ is said to have bargained for his release by allegedly writing a confession!, hence the the prefix “self-confessed-drug-trafficker” that preceded his name just a few years ago, ironically in a paper that now gives him acres of space.
But VJ and Sikota reinvented themselves when they spoke against Kenneth Kaunda’s regime and bravely denounced his dictatorship.
They were later instrumental in the Garden Hotel Meeting organised in 1990 by two academics; Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika and Derrick Chitala.
The meeting formed the Movement for Multi-party Party Democracy (MMD) that later unseated the United Nations Independence Party (UNIP) that had been in power for 27years.
Sikota Wina and Vernon Mwaanga later became Cabinet Ministers in the new Frederick Chiluba government.
But by 1993, the Paris Club Meeting strongly demanded the dismissal of Sikota Wina, Princess Nakatindi Wina and Vernon Mwaanga because of their drug past.
The Paris Club is a group from creditor countries that afford heavily indebted countries to restructure and reschedule their debts and economies and be eligible to receive new foreign loans.
Beyond the lives of the proverbial cat, they bounced back!
But because of the 1985 drug episode, VJ’s past is eternally chequered.
But here is an honoured but simple trick VJ plays to give himself more lives than the proverbial Cat.
At every Election, VJ wants to make himself inextricably relevant by claiming to be an electoral expert and usually issues loud statements loaded with wild claims.
He makes attention-seeking declarations which the media unfortunately, laps, ravishes and keenly publishes.
This gives him a new shelf life that clearly expired, in my view, in September 1985 when his days at the famous Moon City Night Club and his lounging at 5 Star Hotels was rudely cut short.
He was caught selling illicit drugs and enriching himself from the dirty and illegal trade.
In terms of politics, he clearly expired in 1985!!!
So why do we bother giving him a new shelf life?
Haven’t we done ourselves enough harm by regularly forgiving him and rewarding him with even more lucrative opportunities to serve us in high public offices despite the 1985 scandal.
In 2014, he claimed to have retired from his public life and comments.
In my view VJ should help this country by genuinely retiring from public life and he should restrain himself from commenting on the country’s electoral process.
For VJ has become a by-word for electoral malpractice.
Hasn’t he undermined, soiled and robbed it enough of credibility and trust, with his regular antics?.
I hope with this simple advice, VJ may finally retire from retirement.
(The views expressed in this article are of the author Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba NOT Mwebantu)