GEN MALIMBA MASHEKE: ARMY LIFE IN BRIEF
General Malimba Masheke was born in Senanga on June 17, 1941.
Like other founding officers of the Zambia Army, Gen Masheke was among those who came in 1965 from the United Kingdom in particular to help build up the new army as an officer.
He trained at the famous Royal Military Academy, RMA, in Sandhurst, England, where Generals Kingsley Chinkuli, Benjamin Mibenge, and Dustan Kasote were the pioneers.
After a brief tour of duty in some subunits and units of the Army as a junior officer, General Masheke quickly rose in ranks, omitting the rank of Brigadier General (a one-star general) to become a two-star Major General.
As a Lieutenant Colonel, he founded the Military Intelligence and Security Branch, which oversaw aspects of strategic intelligence operations for the three services of the Army, Air Force, and Zambia National Service Commanders. Above this, he also provided security intelligence education to men and women in uniform for their protection against enemy infiltration and subversion. He headed this branch as a full colonel and later as a major general. In other words, he was the most powerful officer in the Defence Force, as he reported only directly to the respective three service commanders and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President.
From here, he was appointed Deputy Army Commander and Chief of Staff and doubled as the Chief of Defence Intelligence at the same time.
Throughout this time, he was a close ally of General Kingsley Chinkuli (in other words, like Siamese twins) in planning the development and growth of the Army into a formidable force. They planned the creation of the women’s corps, the creation of regional military commands, the training of regular forces of FRELIMO of Mozambique, the creation and deployment of the home guard, the opening up of several schools of various corps to equip many corps and branches, the creation of infantry brigades, and many more developments we see today in our Army.
Upon being appointed Army Commander, he relinquished the position of Chief of Defence Intelligence to his longtime loyal Air Force officer, Brigadier General Joseph Ngosa Chintomfwa.
Again, upon being appointed Army Chief, he was promoted Lieutenant General (3 stars) when the Zambia National Defence Force was disbanded.
There is one outstanding aspect about General Masheke, and this is his unquestionable loyalty and his commitment to hard work.
He spent several hours scanning several intelligence and security reports from various sources and engaging himself with questions about the liberation struggle for several unliberated countries in southern Africa. He was the right hand of General Chinkuli when he, Chinkuli, was Army Commander and commander of the Zambia National Defence Force.
Within military circles, General Masheke was affectionately known as J. Edgar Hoover, once the head of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI.
Another interesting piece also concerns his simplicity and his down-to-earth attitude. He was a teetotaler and rarely frequented officers messes, but he knew what was being talked about because he had extra ears and eyes. He rarely dressed in suits, and on several occasions he was wary of sitting in front seats, wanting to obscure his identity and appearance.
President Kenneth Kaunda had total trust and confidence in the man. He promoted him to full general, a four-star general, being only the second full general in the country, and appointed him Minister of Defence and Member of the Central Committee of the ruling United National Independence Party, UNIP. As Defence Minister, he was one of the most senior Cabinet ministers who could act as Secretary of State for Defence and Security, the position held by the Kaunda faithfuls or loyalists, like Honourable Grey Alexander Zulu, Mathias Mainza Chona, or Alex Shapi. With his strong intelligence background, he also became the chief spymaster of Kaunda when the need arose.
Towards the finishing line of the UNIP era, Kaunda again rewarded him as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Zambia, being a de facto number two in power, though there was the Secretary General of the Party who was norminally Deputy President of the Republic on paper.
I spent many working years with General Malimba as his staff officer, and I was one of those who greatly benefited from his vast experience and supervision.
After UNIP lost power, General Malimba Masheke went into retirement, joining the farming industry. I wish General a useful retirement and rest from those hectic years.
The author is a retired colonel in the Zambia Army.