He had a spell in the glory of political power, remote controlling heads of state and also lived under their wrath – a target of ridicule and hate. He had the political privilege of wining and dining with political royalty but had also fallen to political bottom pit. However anyone wants to remember him, he could sometimes be very annoying to the public for his crude political remarks. He was very easily a journalist’s dream source for colourful quotes. Many never understood that he did so in the fierce defence of his political convictions.
As Information Minister, once government had taken a position, he could defend it to the point of irritation. Many in the media fraternity have still never forgiven him for the long delayed Freedom of Information Bill with which its procrastination he forcefully defended as a minister. He was quite always in the frontline defending the government position. He was never one to shun public appearances. Not one journalist in Zambia can ever accuse Mulongoti of turning down an interview no matter the subject. Heads of state he served relied on his courageous and informed oratory to propagate the government position anywhere and anytime. But then, Mulongoti was not always a puppet to government positions. If he had a contrary view, he never shied from stating it publicly, if need arose. All the Heads of State he served were on the receiving end of his sharp tongue.
Under Frederick Chiluba, he joined the group of ministers that gave up their positions in protest of Chiluba’s ill-conceived Third Term bid. Mulongoti had come a long way in politics of principle, having also been part of the 1991 revolution that brought Multi-Party politics to Zambia. Mulongoti joined the Forum for Democracy and Development led by General Christon Sifapi Tembo that put up a credible fight in the 2001 general elections. With FDD fizzling out, Mulongoti was invited back to the MMD under Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, serving as Information Minister.
When Rupiah Banda took over, Mulongoti became disillusioned with the manner things were running and voiced his concerns. His vitriol attacks on a government he was serving is testimony of his own free mind. He may have been one of the foretellers of the fall of President Banda. President Banda fired him and Mulongoti found a new home under Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front that he helped win the 2011 elections with additional voice power.
Even in the PF, his sharp tongue proved his Achilles heel as he never got any reward for his political contribution to the opposition party’s ascendancy to power. Once it became clear that there was no way to the top in the PF, he eventually founded his own People’s Party that served as his platform for political visibility. It never really took root in the political structure but his voice was always there to guarantee him media space. Eventually, he took pride in taking political pot-shots at the establishment seemingly aware of how near his end may have been. To his death, Mulongoti lived a life of political candidness. He may have come short on some of his decisions but his no-fear mentality is a quality Zambian politics will miss. Go well Mike, you ran your race!