Teacher, diplomat Simon Mwamba, 91

Simon Mwamba.

The death took place in Zambia on Sept. 6 of Simon Mwamba, the father of Irish Echo sports writer Jay Mwamba.

Educator, diplomat and civil servant Simon James Musonda Mwamba was born in Chipili, Luapula Province, on Jan. 28, 1927. He was the second of 11 children born to James Musonda Mwamba and Margaret Kasamba Mwamba. Just seven of the 11 survived childhood.

The son of an Anglican catechist, Mwamba was steeped in the Anglican tradition from a young age. He completed his primary education at Chipili Mission and later joined what would be the first generation of independent Zambia’s leaders as an alumnus of the elite Munali Secondary School in Lusaka.

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He later graduated from Chalimbana Teacher Training College – now Chalimbana University – which in the 1950s was affiliated to the University of Salisbury.

In pursuit of further education, Mwamba would also study at the University of Southampton in the UK and a branch of Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Mwamba began his professional career as an educator in familiar environs: faith-based schools. He taught at Msoro Mission, next to St. Luke’s Anglican Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Zambia dating back to 1910; at Chipili Mission and at St. Mark’s Mission in Mapanza.

He was described in a tribute by his seven surviving children (one daughter, Mildred, predeceased him) as a “stern, meticulous and outstanding teacher who won the respect of generations of students.”

Mwamba’s work earned him a notable promotion in the mid-1960s: he was appointed headmaster of Kenneth Kaunda Secondary School in Chinsali, which he opened in an unforgettable ceremony graced by the school’s namesake, the first President of Zambia, who is now 94.

His next career move was to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lusaka and he was subsequently appointed to the diplomatic service as the de facto number 2 at the Zambian Embassy in Washington, DC. There he served under four ambassadors and was instrumental in the purchase of a new chancery for the mission. A personal highlight of his tenure was being accorded honorary citizenship of Lincoln, the state capital of Nebraska.

At the end of his foreign-service stint, Mwamba returned to Lusaka and was assigned to the Ministry of Home Affairs at a turbulent time in Southern Africa. He traveled to the border regions with Angola still under Portuguese colonial rule, facilitating care for refugees.

He later worked for the Ministry of Mines. There he traveled widely to other copper producing nations that were members of the copper cartel CIPEC.

The crowning moment of his civil service career was being named director of the Mechanical Services Department (MSD) in the late 1970s.

There Mwamba was in charge of all government vehicles and transportation nationwide. He retired from the position in 1987, a year after the tragic death of his wife, Mildred Dorcas Lukwesa Mwamba, in a car accident on her way to her mother’s funeral.

His children said: “As a father, and later Grandpa, Daddy was the anchor of a large family. His greatest gifts to us were not only an indomitable faith and belief in God, but also the drive to educate ourselves. As an educator who valued education, he sent his children to the best schools, hoping that would light a fire underneath them.”

They continued: “Although his life-long reputation as a stern and strict man had mellowed in his old age, Daddy always cared for people, especially family.”

Mwamba was a voracious reader with a very large collection of books in various genres and had eclectic musical tastes. One of his sons said that in his last weeks he often listened with him to Jim Reeves’s greatest hits, a particular favorite.

He is survived also by his siblings Molly, Peter and Josephine and extended family.