I have just realised that George Mpombo has been missing from national public life because he is a Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria. From Defence Minister to Deputy High Commissioner? Wow! That is a bit of a down grade! I suppose a job is a job. The more important point is that Mr Mpombo is a good example of a what I call "cadre diplomats". He is there because he is desperate for a job. Giving jobs to cadres is a form of nepotism.
Nepotism is the favouritism granted to relatives or friends, without regard to their merit (tribalism, partism, regionalism and other isms also fall within the scope). Nepotism is a form of corruption - but one that does not involve money unlike bribery or grand theft. But we must not underestimate it. In many ways nepotism is worse than other forms of corruption for three reasons.
First, it can give rise to worse evils. Nepotism in Zambia has led to dangerous partism, regionalism and tribalism - forces that now threaten to tear Zambia’s nationhood apart. There's increasing cadre mentality and tribalism in our country which is leading to violence and many other despicable evils. Nepotism unchecked therefore is an existential threat to the State of Zambia.
Secondly, nepotism substantially weakens lines of authority and promotes incompetent people over those who are better qualified, inevitably turning the institutions of government into personal toys. Mr Mpombo is so desperate for his job, that paradoxically he is not able to perform without thinking PF in his head. He is in effect a tool for someone else (at tax payers' expense).
Finally, it does not just misallocate resources but it also inevitably discriminates against capable individuals, in favour of less competent family, party or tribal relations.
Unfortunately, its ‘quiet’ nature also makes it much more challenging to tackle. We must all work hard to stamp out the ugly head of nepotism especially from the public service. Party cadres should not occupy key position such as embassies or top government boards.
This problem of course did not start with PF. One remembers President Banda pleading for funding from a supposedly non-partisan Foreign Service. A clear abuse of office at the time. The MMD had turned the foreign service into a funding pot for their re-election campaign. It was a cash cow. Any plea for a rational "foreign relations policy" was lost on deaf ears. Was it any surprise that we continued to see a plethora of embassies, without a strong business case?
Sadly with the likes of Mpombo in foreign service now, we are seeing more of the same in this area. It is not good enough to say that the last party did it, so we are doing it. Each generation must always seek to better those who went before it rather than merely duplicate mediocrity.