THE ENTRY AND EXIT OF JAMES NDAMBO – The dilemma of a Zambian philanthropist 

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As a scholar, published author and diplomat, the story of James Ndambo, to me myself personally, provides a great case study of one of the reasons African nations fail to succeed Ambassador Anthony Mukwita. 

In July this year, I wrote a missive on James Ndambo, a Gauteng based Zambian businessman who had stolen the headlines on all conventional and online media in Zambia and beyond back then.

As a diplomat and published author, I always, if I have knowledge, I feel others do not possess, try to share it in order to remove often scurrilous rumour and speculation off the desk, for those interested to read.

The Ndambo frenzy was one such topic I took keen interest in, as I have previously widely written about the Electric Vehicle phenomenon or the scourge of cancer and how Zambia could be a leader in conquering the silent killer. 

Because I was lucky to have personal knowledge of the humble businessman from way back in the early 90´s, the picture was easy to paint and when I did voila, eyes opened for many. 

Unravelling James Ndambo, the philanthropist

In one day, the legend of Ndambo was cracked wide open and the story I called, “The inspiration of James Ndambo” hit a total 260, 000 and was shared more than hundred thousand times across social media from my Facebook page. More than a quarter of a million people reached in one day. 

In Zambia presently, no newspaper sells more than 30,000 copies a day due to a combination of factors ranging from high cost of living to cash scarcity, as Zambians decide to buy either a loaf of bread or a tabloid newspaper they can read online. 

Did James Ndambo give Zambia hope when he hit the scene?

Ndambo was an ´overnight success´ and his star then was on the rise in Zambia, the reason for the Ndambo thirst, I have no scientific answer to it. 

But a pundit colleague told me, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is ´King´ while in the absence of water, people will drink sand.” 

The pundit said, “I will explain to you later, but my basic premise is that people respond to someone or something in reaction to the state of affairs affecting them such as high costs of food, lack of opportunity etc at the particular time.” 

She told me many Zambians reacted to voting out Super Ken in 1991 for a political rookie called FTJ because they just wanted change from the same old (27 years of KK) oppressive system of UNIP. 

Americans voted out Donald Trump and opted for ´Uncle´ Joe Biden because Trump pushed the envelope to extremes where women he didn’t like were called fat and ugly, immigrants were called rapists and drug dealers while white supremacists such as the ´Proud Boys´ were celebrated by his administration. 

So, what did the Ndambomania mean?

The Ndambo frenzy therefore was a real knee jerk reaction by many Zambians to the status quo (many exoerienced), a year after polls when they realised that fuel prices would continue rising after removal of subsidies and fertiliser prices would not drop. 

It is a natural human behaviour for people to start looking for alternative leadership when things don’t work, Ndambo, albeit he held his hand to his chest and voiced that he was NOT the Alternative would always remain a threat to other power brokers because of the love from the masses. 

Especially if there can only be one proverbial bull in the Kraal.

Remember everyone loves you until you become ´Competition. ´

Zambians saw him as an alternative according to analysts. 

What did Ndambo bring to the table?

From one moment of despair, Ndambo became a shining light on the much needed 

  • Education Scholarships for young girls and women local and abroad 
  • Prospects of greener pastures 
  • Beauty pageants were redefined because even women who were not ¥beautiful¥ and not young (16) contested and won brand new Mercedes Benz and BMW cars and cash including huge passenger buses for their communities such as the one Ms Dora Siliya the former Petauke legislator won for her hometown

The list of ´goodwill hunting´ from this philanthropist through his charity initiative “My Home Town” in Choma village, southern Zambia became an overnight success, he was willing to spread his love and wealth all over the country. 

Under normal circumstances in my view as a former Ambassador, former CEO, and published author, if someone came up with a working formular for poverty reduction, it must be embraced. 

But alas the walls Ndambo built his charity story on came tumbling down, they didn’t even make a sound!

Between the period of July and now, the Ndambo house went mute, and the gift stopped giving, the lights went out. 

We will probably never know why because we are not privy to the inside story. 

The Flight of James Ndambo

What we know for sure is that James Ndambo had reached into his deep pockets and selflessly decided to help empower Zambians with plans to uplift themselves out of the chronic poverty rut experienced by many today.

His sincere attempt failed flat on its face or was systematically curtailed, so he packed his bags of charity and generosity and took it far away from Zambia to the west African nation of Ghana, a country whose GDP or total national wealth is about US$ 78 billion according to official stats, as Zambia trails at a measly US$20 billion. ´Santa ain´t coming home this Christmas´. 

James Ndambo´s story is not much different from that of the biblical Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but emerges later through the grace of God as a “Don” in wealthy Egypt miles away from home.

Joseph in Egypt was a rich man of means in charge of food when his brothers needed only meagre supplies of grain to survive in their famished homeland. 

As a scholar, published author and diplomat, the story of James Ndambo, to me myself personally, provides a great case study of one of the reasons African nations fail to succeed but until the day I can write an exhaustive thesis on this, my two ngwee ends here. 

Ghana, however, in my conclusion has a lot to gain from this Zambian born Samaritan, Ghana´s gain, Zambia´s loss. Blessed is the hand that giveth than the one that taketh. 

I am also certain that God will continue blessing James Ndambo as he continues to uplift many from poverty just because he can when he could have chattered a private jet to Ibiza. 

Oh, snap James Ndambo already owns several luxurious private jets, he doesn’t need to charter one. 

But will he return to Zambia one day? 

Amb. Anthony Mukwita

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