THE main auditorium of the Mulungushi International Conference Center old wing was yesterday filled to the brim as scores of mourners including President Hakainde Hichilema gathered to pay their last respects to Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha, a soldier who in his heyday rose through the ranks to become Zambia Air Force (ZAF) Commander.
Lt General Shikapwasha who was ZAF Commander from 1991 to 1997 died unexpectedly aged 76 last Monday, hours after his wife, Jane Lusengo destroyed his vital organs using a double barrel shortgun following a marital dispute.
Although there has been no confirmation as to what may have led to the shooting, rumours from close family members have suggested a romantic WhatsApp message from a mistress of the former lawmaker of Keembe Constituency may have enraged his wife of more than 40 years to the point of pulling the trigger on him.
On Thursday, police announced that they had arrested Jane and charged her with the murder of her husband.
With Jane in police custody awaiting her day in Court, scores thronged the Mulungushi International Conference Center to bid Lt General Shikapwasha their final goodbye.
Being a state funeral presided over by members of Zambia Defense Force, the event was as sombre as it was colourful.
As slow-marching soldiers ushered in the casket containing Lt General Shikapwasha’s remains shoulder high, the atmosphere became ripe with grief as family members let out loud wails of sorrow.
In moving tributes, Lt General Shikapwasha who was one of president Kenneth Kaunda’s trusted pilots from 1974 to 1984 was described in different ways by different people – his family members said he was a family unifier while others spoke of his dedication to service as a soldier and minister.
President Hichilema hailed Lt General for commitment to duty.
“General demonstrated what it means to serve the nation. Many of us are pretentious that we serve the nation but really we have other agendas behind serving public offices. We learn from him that when we decide to serve the public we should do it with all our hearts without any hidden motives for personal gain,” President Hichilema said.
“When we serve the public as he (gen Shikapwasha) did our own personal interest will be taken care of. His diligence commitment to duty love for the people of Zambia not just the people of Chibombo or Central province , the people of Lusaka or Southern province no but the country, another lesson we should learn.”
He said dedication to duty is significant regardless of the portfolio one serves in.
The Head of State urged Zambians to emulate Lt General Shikapwasha’s drive for tough grind.
“We as Zambians must believe in things. We must believe in hard work. Alot of our citizens don’t want to work but they want to live well that is a contradiction. We learn from him( Lt Gen Shikapwasha) one of his children here said he taught them to work hard and he who doesn’t want to work should not eat,” President Hichilema said.
“General believed that we may serve in different roles at a particular time but these all come together in a matrix which is one consolidated service.
The President beseeched the family members to mourn the former minister of information and broadcasting with decorum, and discouraged pitched battles after Lt General Shikapwasha was entombed.
“We ask that we mourn general Shikapwasha in peace, in dignity. I know it can be emotional after this service pulling out anger against each other, with small groups converging and ganging against another group within the family,” he advised.
“Please don’t misunderstand us we are injured we feel the way you feel you may have heavier hearts than us but this is the time for us to mourn general in a dignified way despite the circumstances of his death.”
President Hichilema advised family members not not take matters in their hands but allow due process of the law to take its course.
“The rest let the systems take their own course. Let the legal process take their course.
That’s why we go to court so that we don’t take the law in our own hands. That’s why we set up these institutions. Let us mourn gen Shikapwasha in dignity despite our heavy hearts that’s my request,”He emphasised.
He urged Senior family members to continue supervising the late Shikapwasha’s children and grandchildren regardless of the age.
“The role parenting does not diminish because the children have grown up. Children parents will always be there although one of them is gone,” said President Hichilema.
“We really respected and I will continue to respect your dad. Am seated next to one of his sons(Tivo) there I was whispering a few words to him to encourage him to be strong to remain strong under these difficult times.”
And speaking on behalf of ZAF, Brigadier General Reuben Mwansa said Lt Gen Shikapwasha’s hard work, loyalty and dedication duty was inspiring to both juniors and his colleagues.
Brigadier General Mwansa said the Lt Shikapwasha Shikapwasha was a meticulous officer who was accommodating and the service will benefit from the attributes he possessed.
General Shikapwasha’s children epitomised him as a champion who never hid his drive and passion to serve the country.
“Dad was a man that took pride in bringing family together. He always wanted the very best for us. He was never scared to let’s us fly he always encouraged us to find our paths whilst being true to ourselves,” said Tivo.
“So many people called our dad, dad in many ways we shared him in love with others that cherished him for his selfless nature. His family extended from biological to spiritual children.”
His daughter, Tracy remembered him for his biblical teachings about placing Christ at the centre of their lives.
“I watched you struggle with your own demons in private while leading others to overcome theirs on the journey to Christ. I will forever hold close that I do not have to be perfect for God to use me,” she said.
Former First Lady Maureen Mwanasa on behalf of the family saluted the late Shikapwasha for his acts of kindness.
“As a former minister he exhibited exceptional leadership skills to dedicating himself to the wellbeing of Zambian people and tirelessly working towards improving their lives,”
“We cannot overlook the immeasurable loss that his passing has brought upon us as a family. Our brother cherished and valued the bond of kinship. His presence always brought us warmth laughter and an overwhelming sense of love to family gatherings. His absence will undoubtedly leave an irreplaceable void in our lives. He will be missed for the care and attention he showered upon us.”
Raymond Chisala who was the late general’s personal assistant reverend at Jesus is life Church which he founded after his retirement, promised to sustain his vision.
“He (Gen Shikapwasha) left us with Isiah 49 :15 and 16 to meditate with. He said as pastors your first ministry is to your family. He said whatever happens to me this vision cannot die.
The foundation is not merely above the brick and motor but a testament of love and compassion that he invested in us. He said a vision cannot die we will uphold his vision and keep running with it,” said
Lt Gen Shikapwasha is survived by his wife Jane and 14 children and several grandchildren.
By Mwaka Ndawa
kalemba January 22, 2024.