Thursday, 27 December 2007

FLEECING EACH OTHER

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Whatever happened to that age-old gem of wisdom that we always spat out when we realised someone was about to take advantage of us as youngsters in playgrounds in Kitwe: takuli kuliilana amasuku pamutwe guys in Bemba.
In the Zambian society today, ukuliilana amasuku unfortunately has become part of the national culture, and if anybody at any level for that matter, manages to eat fruit from someone else’s head, he assumes heroic status and the victim is deemed ukupwalala or sleepy.
A good example is the way former President Chiluba who is appearing in court for various offences allegedly committed while in office, is today seen as a victim rather than what he should be treated, as in The people Vs Chiluba.
Politicians in government, politicians outside government, senior civil servants, junior civil servants, private and parastatal company chief executives, junior employees, NGO leaders and just about everybody, including tuntemba owners, are fleecing and want to fleece everyone else.In short, crime in general and corruption in particular, is endemic in the nation. The dominant criminal element in society has impoverished everyone else to a point where being “clean” is considered abnormal.
When I was a student just over two decades ago, we used to band about statistics in Kalingalinga and M’tendere taverns that 95 percent of the nation’s wealth was in the hands of five percent of the population which was then associated with UNIP.
Two decades later and 17 years of the MMD in power, I am sure the statistics have shifted: 99 percent of the wealth is in the hands of only one percent of the population.
Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande himself admitted that it was difficult for the people of Zambia to appreciate that the economy was improving because they are impoverished in any case. How does one explain the fact that ministers, top civil servants and the privileged few are able to build mansions within a short time while everyone else cannot even afford a bag of mealie meal?
I do agree with one reader, MrK, who commented on last week’s column, Katumbi’s FRA Farce, that corruption was to blame for the malaise in the nation.”The problem is not just that Zambia does not have the systems in place. The problem is the political will to actually root out corruption, even at the ministerial level. ”Zambia is very rich (an estimated $47 billion worth of mineral reserves, and millions of hectares of unused arable land), but until there is the political will to develop the country, the majority of the people are going to continue to live on less than $1 per day. ”Everything is in place, the graduates, the land, labour and capital. But there must be the political will to change, upset the comfortable agreements that keep the majority poor, but keep the political elite and western corporations with most of the money. That is the direction change is going to come from.”
The biggest problem has been that Zambians have for the last four decades been told half truths and whole lies by those they have entrusted with the affairs of the state to an extent where they now believe the state of deprivation they are in is almost divine.
Look at how they are being dribbled in the case of Moses Katumbi, DRC Katanga governor who until a few weeks ago was a villain. Today he is a saint who never put his foot wrong and never “banned the transportation of copper concentrates to Zambia.”
Because some politician with vested interests justifies the reason why Katumbi’s case is not worth pursuing now, we should all believe it. Katumbi enjoys immunity because he is a senior government official of a neighbouring country.
At one time one Zambian minister was not able to travel to one European country because of his dealings in some unsavoury substances which had landed him in detention at home. Going by this example, there is no reason why Katumbi should go scot-free.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

KATUMBI FRA FARCE

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Chief Government spokesman Mike Mulongoti did a good job, or at least he thought he did, to explain to the nation why the state halted the case of alleged plunder Democratic Republic of Congo Katanga governor Moses Katumbi.
While Katumbi’s case generated a lot of interest in the past and at least claimed the scalp of one of the most experienced politicians in Zambia, that of former Information Minister Vernon Mwaanga for allegedly mishandling a special presidential assignment on the same matter, it is refusing to be buried.
Mulongoti who, ironically, took over from Mwaanga, in explaining government’s decision only succeeded in muddying the waters even more by revealing that there are no proper records of the transactions involving Katumbi at the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), of all places.
For all intents and purposes, Katumbi must have been a very big FRA client considering that the milling wing of Chani Fisheries bought huge supplies of maize whose mealie meal he sold at lower-than-market prices as an MMD campaign gimmick.
Before anyone asks what happened to Katumbi’s records at FRA, one wonders if this issue does not warrant a major audit at the institution which handles a lot of money buying crops from subsistence, emergent and even commercial farmers.
If documents of one of the biggest clients of a few years ago in the name of Katumbi, never mind his relationship with the former president who is himself facing cases of plunder, can go missing willy-nilly, then, God forbid, what else has gone missing.
Is it a coincidence then that the FRA is itself at the centre of the yet to be resolved, if resolved it will ever be, Carrington maize scandal in which the government paid a lot of money to some international conmen who never delivered even a grain on the nation’s doorstep?
I am not surprised that documents, especially Katumbi’s, can vanish in thin air, or even that record keeping at FRA is poor. It is at the same agency that the employees paid themselves huge amounts in gratuity when it was proposed that the agency would be transformed into a Crop Marketing Authority.
This issue was briefly raised but died a very quiet if wistful death probably to the convenience of some people in authority who could have benefited from the dubious arrangement.
The manner in which Katumbi’s case has been halted stinks, but the administration at FRA is definitely rotten if it does not keep proper records of big clients like Katumbi. Management probably doesn’t even know from whom the agency buys a bag of maize in Vubwi, Kalumwange or Kashinakaji. For all we care, they could be buying some of the maize from ghost farmers!
As the Americans say, the buck stops somewhere. Someone somewhere must know what really transpired in the years leading to 2001. First and foremost, former President Chiluba very much wanted a third term for reasons best known to him. When that failed, he was desperate to have a crony at State House.
At the time, he dumped even people like PF president Michael Sata to whom he is now clinging to for sympathy in preference for Levy Mwanawasa whom he woke up from slumber to take over the presidency. He sure regrets having made that decision seeing that he has spent most of his retirement years in and out of court.
Does the key to political engineering of that time lie at the FRA? Was the FRA another equivalent of the infamous ZAMTROP? Why are the records missing, or put simply, why is record keeping poor at the Agency?
From Mulongoti’s statement on the issue of Katumbi, we probably just saw a very small tip of a very big iceberg lying underneath. Can someone somewhere help in revealing the muck that is being swept under the carpet?
At the rate things are going in the nation, the people’s anti-corruption crusade which was hijacked by President Mwanawasa in 2002 has descended into an unsalvageable farce.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

THABO BRUISING A LESSON FOR AFRICA

The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader is a good sign for Africa, that democracy can prevail even in ruling parties across the continent used to leaders who grow roots in the seats of power. Not that Zuma is the best man for the eventual job of South African president, but Thabo Mbeki is to blame.
He should have, at the earliest possible time, gave a clear indication that he would leave at the end of his two term tenure. Others more capable than Zuma could have emerged to compete among themselves while Mbeki watched on the sidelines.
Mbeki should have followed the path left by his predecessor, Nelson Mandela, who gave up the presidency after only one term. Had Mandela wanted, he would have stayed on, Mugabe-style, even into his late 80s. After all he had the charisma as well as the love of the people he presided, not ruled, over. If anything, Mandela is still loved not only in South Africa but all over the world and everyone could have sympathised with him and granted him the favour of carrying on.
Yes, Mbeki is the intellectual who has presided over a strong South African economy, but he lost it politically by trying to cling on to power even by proxy as party president. The ANC rank and file would not have it and just pulled the rag from under his feet. That he has been given a bruising by Zuma, is in itself a vote of no confidence and one wonders how he is going to work in his executive capacity with the new team in the ruling party.
The most logical thing to do is to vacate the presidency and call for national elections so that Zuma can take over as state president as well.
Mbeki’s defeat should send serious signals to the rest of Africa where the likes of Bakili Muluzi still want to come back to power, the Mugabes still run unopposed at ZANU congresses and in Zambia, the ruling party is still flip-flopping on a possible successor. Zambia risks a Zuma-like take over with a possibly “undesirable” element likely to take over. Such is the sorry state in which the African continent is in politically.
The ANC, being the oldest political party on the continent, has shown the way to proper democracy for the rest of Africa.
Hamba Kahle, Thabo.

Friday, 14 December 2007

NIXON BANDA’S SMALL FEET

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Fitting into the large boots of the late Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director-general Justice Robert Kapembwa was going to be difficult for anyone not least, Nixon Banda. Barely three years after he took over there are serious allegations of impropriety flying against him.
Kapembwa, a Supreme Court judge, was too squeaky clean a man he did not want a smudge of ink, let alone wrong spellings, on documents that landed on his desk. New officers were warned to be careful because he was “fastidious”.
He was a man who was rarely in the news during his tenure from circa 1987 up to his death in 2003, on matters of operation even less so, if ever, on his private life. The man who was instead always in the news was British-born Douglas Paul Russell, simply known as Paul Russell, who was director of operations. The mere mention of his name made civil servants quake in their boots if they were prone to corruption.
Those who did not know the operational structure of the ACC actually thought Russell was the overall boss and were surprised to learn that there was someone else, a Zambian, at the helm. They would ask why they never heard of him.
But typical of the man, the only time junior officers met him was at the end of an induction course when he would hand them with certificates.
There were very few junior officers that could walk into his office to discuss very important operational matters such as seeking authority for an urgent investigation that probably required a search warrant which would otherwise take long through the normal channels.
Junior officers could go for weeks on end without seeing Justice Kapembwa. They would only know about his presence because of his car parked on the usual spot next to his office. His health, however, started falling and he lost sight in one eye and the rest, as they say, is history.
He commanded so much respect both in life and in death such that at his valediction at the Supreme Court and at his funeral service at St. Paul’s UCZ in Kabwata as well as the actual burial, the people who were there read like a Who-Is-Who of Zambian society.
I must admit that I do not know much about Banda, or Nix B as officers call him, to say anything meaningful about him apart from scraps of information from those he works with.
I, however, have read a lot more newspaper statements from him about investigations, pending arrests and on his public forum appearances in the last three years than I ever did about Justice Kapembwa as head of ACC on similar issues.
Officers who served at the ACC in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that the word “standards” never left their lips before they did anything official or personal. An officer who conducted himself “against the purpose for which the ACC was established” was never dealt with lightly. The door was always waiting even at the mere whiff of scandal.
Whatever is happening at the ACC does not bode well for government’s much vaunted fight against corruption, for it is the very heart of the fight that is getting infected. Matters are not made any better with the recent events at DEC where the top brass have been arrested for impropriety.
Maybe our defence and security services need a major shake up at all levels if the rumours at the ACC, the arrest of DEC chief Ryan Chitoba, court appearances of former army and airforce commanders and even the conviction of former ZNS commander General Funjika for abuse of office, are anything to go by.
I do agree though, with the Law Association of Zambia’s demand that Banda should not step down but a tribunal be set up to verify the allegations. If he is cleared, well and good, he should continue signing those ACC 3s against others otherwise one should be opened against him, chapwa!

Friday, 7 December 2007

“EX-MMD 22 PART OF IT”

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Following PF president, Michael Sata’s initial e-mail to me accusing me of supporting the Chinese “invasion” of Zambia, he wrote another one (reproduced below) after I sent him copies of my past articles on China.
“Thank you for your e-mail. When I wrote to you as an emerging writer, I was drawing your attention to your misplacement of facts and confusing Chinese issue with my perceived wrong doing.
“Every organisation has its rules which must be obeyed by the people who subscribe to those rules. Your attribution to the 22 who were expelled for offending the (MMD) party constitution has nothing to do with our current focus on the Chinese saga.
“The point which you missed (in the article entitled Sata’s Political Swansong a few weeks ago) Michael Sata was not MMD, Michael Sata was not the NEC. You picked on the 22 ignoring other people who were disciplined before them, for example, when B.Y. Mwila was disciplined or expelled your 22 were very much in the NEC, when Princess Nakatindi Wina was expelled your 22 were very much in the NEC and contributed to the expulsion of B.Y. Mwila, Princess Nakatindi and others.
“When Emmanuel Kasonde, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, (and) Baldwin Nkumbula were disciplined, your 22 were much, much intact in the NEC and contributed to their expulsion.
“Yourself as a writer and sometimes the Post Newspaper have brought the Chawama saga [sic] I left government 7 years ago. If what you have been projecting had some truth why has the law never visited me?
“As a writer, do not digress unless you have to, but if you are digressing to divert the attention from the subject on the floor you are bound to be misunderstood. I am not afraid of being criticised but there must be some truth in the criticism.
“As poverty has hit the country so badly you cannot blame people if they accuse you of making talk time divert your thinking, your intellect and your professional capacity. Once again thank you for your response. M. C. Sata.”

I think this is the first time the PF leader has spoken with some candidness about the expulsions in the MMD before Mwanawasa took over as president. One would have loved it though if he spoke more about how the MMD was run at the time and what really transpired when Mwila was forced out and later how Generals Tembo, Miyanda and others were expelled at a crucial point when a new party president was to be elected.
What the people who were in the MMD at the time now aspiring for the republican presidency need to do is to speak out in the manner of the South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
By remaining silent, they will all be painted with the same tainted brush with which former President Chiluba has been painted with as a “political engineer”. If anything, they were complicit to the “engineering” by not speaking out against Chiluba’s anti-democratic manoeuvres before they were squeezed out themselves.
The only ones that can be absolved are those that saw through Chiluba from the beginning and broke away from the MMD such as the late Nkumbula, Mulemba, Arthur Wina and others who went on to form the short-lived National Party. Unfortunately then as now, Zambians could not discern genuine leadership from a leadership driven by chicanery and selfishness.
What can be deduced from Sata’s response above is that what the nation needs is a crop of new leaders who are not tainted with past political misdeeds that have left the country in a political and economic meltdown.
If these people including Sata as then MMD national secretary, and others who served at the highest level of both the party and government, could not defend the basic tenets of democracy looking at the expulsion of Mwila for declaring interest in the MMD presidency as an example, how can they be trusted once elected, to uphold the same tenets they assaulted not too long ago?

Friday, 30 November 2007

‘COBRA’ SATA SPITS VENOM

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Last Friday I received the following letter from PF president Michael Sata reacting to my recent article, “Sata’s Political Swansong”:
“I read your article five times looking for anything wrong I said in Harvard about your Chinese friends. To my disappointment, the entire article is to divert attention from the focus on your Chinese friends to personalise attack on Michael Sata.
“You are relatively intelligent you can manufacture another page to undress me. But for Zambia’s sake your Chinese friends can never be defended no matter how much talk time they give you. You are a Zambian learn to defend Zambia instead of becoming Editor-in-Chief for the Pekin or is it Beijing Daily.
“Remember, Comrade Ndhlovu, I shall leave the political arena just as you shall leave the Media arena. In spite of our past mistakes you should emulate Freedom Fighters and compliment [sic] our forefathers who had no education but the will to fight to prepare Zambia for you, young men.
“One thing surprising, it is the Zambians in government and the Media like yourself defending the Chinese invasion of Zambia, why can’t the Chinese defend themselves and make the comparisons or observations you have made in your column[?] Comrade Ndhlovu may I please have a copy of your contribution to the Chinese Media in praise of their invasion of Zambia.
“Thank you for your sentiments, but remember you only have one Zambia. Anyway, privileged people like you may have some room in China when Zambia has been completely overrun by your Chinese friends.
“The more you defend them, the more encouragement you give me to attack the Chinese all over the world. For your information in the last two weeks I have spoken on the Japanese and Swedish televisions, two days ago I was on the BBC.
Good luck and have more talk time from the Chinese Ambassador. (Signed) M.C. Sata.”
In 1983, when I just finished Form Five at Kitwe Boys’ Secondary School, one fellow we lived with in Kwacha, Jim who only had one arm, wanted to draft me into UNIP. He was ready to push me for scholarships and stuff like that, but even as politically unconscious as I was then, I sensed something was wrong with the system then and I refused.
Several years later, when it was fashionable among State Media journalists to support former President Chiluba’s third term attempt for which Sata was in the forefront as MMD National Secretary and Minister without Portfolio, I refused to join the bandwagon.
My refusal to sing the third term chorus meant that I gave away the “benefits” that went with it -- brown envelopes, cars and houses which some journalists directly benefited from that political lunacy.
As for the Chinese Ambassador buying me talk time, I must hasten to say that I do not even know his name, nor can I tell the difference between him and the director of Baoxing Company in Ndola whose directors are in the coolers for copper theft.
As much as I have my own weaknesses, receiving money from sources has never been one of them. I have bought sources beer in an environment where it is the other way round, and lent some of them money (I won’t mention names) such that I have no need to get money or talk time from the Chinese Ambassador.
I am sure the Chinese government auditor’s office would query the man if it was discovered that he gave me money equivalent to how much I personally use for my talk time per month.
Without necessarily dragging the National Mirror in the issue, the amount of money the newspaper pays me for the column is far less than it costs me in terms of time, phones and the internet to transmit the column. What drives me is the passion to make a difference.
Lastly, Sata should know that I am one of the few journalists who have been consistently critical of the Chinese invasion of Zambia and Africa at large if only he can go back to my previous articles.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

ZAMBIA CAN DO BETTER

By Gershom Ndhlovu

This week I reproduce some of the reactions I received on the article “Undermining Zambia” and the exchange that took place between the readers.
Nice E wrote: “I couldn't agree more with your observation. Much as the "Undermining Zambia" reports, as well as Mr Michael Sata’s recent presentation on China are factual, it seems there's an increasing and worrying trend for Zambians in general to cry out to or blame foreigners for their problems at home.
Just like Mr Sata, Edith Nawakwi and Co. are dissociating themselves from their incompetent and mostly corrupt practices that led to this situation in the first place. These people were at the helm of a corrupt government not long ago that refused to sell the mines for a song but later sold them for far less! Shouldn't Zambians have put pressure on their own government for answers?Fact is, it is much easier for Zambians and NGOs to pressurise foreign companies originating from democratic countries, than it is to pressurise the Zambian government itself! I am yet to see a petition to the Zambian government for any of the genuine grievances people have against the government.On the issue of crying to foreigners, not long ago Zambian authorities and NGOs lobbied the G8 night and day for debt cancellation. I won't go into how Zambia got into this debt in the first place, but the amount of energy that was put into this debt cancellation lobbying was unprecedented, which was a good thing. However, I would just like to see the same sort of effort go into fighting corruption and issues of governance as well.Let us remember that the ultimate responsibility to develop the lives of a country's citizens lies NOT with NGOs, but with the respective government. And as one saying goes, a nation gets the leadership it deserves!”
Another reader signing himself as MrK wrote: “I would like to make a few comments. 1) The 3%. It is a little more than the 0.6%, but it is still ridiculously low and won't make much of a difference. Considering that their gross profit margins are around 60% (as in case of Equinox), 3% is not a big deal. Now, if that was 30%, it would still leave the mining companies with half of the profits. It would also be helpful if the mining companies were obligated to get a minimum number of workers locally, and the same for suppliers. That way, most of their 40% in costs could be spent locally and would stimulate the economy. 2) The environmental and labour conditions should go without question. 3) Sue the IMF for loss of income. Thinking of the billions of dollars that have been lost, they should take some of the billions of dollars in gold and compensate Zambia for the terrible advice and coercion they exercised toward the then government of Zambia. 4) Gershom, what do you make of all the claims that these agreements cannot be renegotiated? Who are the people making these claims?”
Nice E writes in support of bringing back "Zambianisation", as in putting quota limits on jobs going to foreigners, a practice which Middle Eastern countries are good at.On suing the IMF, he thinks that that is a very long shot, realistically a non-starter. “Zambia would probably lose more in that lawsuit. Claiming 'coercion' is one thing, while proving it would be quite another. I partly blame the "yes bwana" mentality. People are more likely to take the advice of IMF 'interns' than local experts.”
He suggests making public the terms of these deals.
MrK also responds saying,
“There should be not only complete openness about the mining agreements, but also about the present renegotiation process. If you've read Magande and Shakafuswa's recent comments in The Post, they are now relying on a Norwegian delegation to do the negotiations for them. I hope the government understands that if they come up with another boondoggle, no one is going to accept the outcome of this 'renogotiation'."

Friday, 16 November 2007

WRONG TOURISM MENU

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Blame it on lack of specialization by journalists or on lodge owners who do not have local television channels on their menu as a parliamentary select committee chaired by Bangweulu MP Peter Machungwa observed, but the poor promotion of tourism lies elsewhere.
The parliamentary committee should have directed the finger of blame for the poor response to the “Visit Zambia” campaign at the Zambia National Tourist Board, the Tour Association of Zambia and those who are associated with tourism business generally, including the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources.
Even if the journalists churned out brilliant news stories or features about Zambia for local papers, or lodge owners showed ZNBC TV 25 hours a day, the current approach by those charged with the task of promoting tourism would still yield just a marginal rate of tourists visiting Zambia compared to millions visiting destinations such as Kenya.
One often hears that tourism representatives have attended a tourism fair in this or that country where several people made inquiries, or that a tourist organization has entered into a deal with British Airways, or such rigmarole but whether they manage to woo significant numbers of people to visit Zambia is something else.
What Zambia lacks is a presence on the high streets of developed countries through existing travel agencies. Someone walking into offices of such travel agents as First Choice, Going Places or Thomas Cook in Britain will find literature and promotional tour packages to countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, Egypt and South Africa, but never on Zambia.
I do not believe that what we have on offer as a nation is less glamorous than those countries. We have in our country one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Musi-oa-Tunya, for heaven’s sake.
Someone may enter into an arrangement with British Airways, but don’t forget that this airline goes to a thousand-and-one destinations all over the world such that concentrating on marketing a destination such as Zambia is least of their worries. Equally on the minus side, is that British Airways has no high street presence per se. Most ordinary British people who go for holidays seek bargains on the high street through travel agents like First Choice, Going Places or, indeed, Thomas Cook and many others.
Placing a few old magazines on Zambia in Zambian embassies and high commissions is equally meaningless because the people who have business with them have probably already made up their minds about going to Zambia anyway.
What Zambia needs is a sustained advertising campaign in collaboration with established travel agents in newspapers, on TV, the internet. The sale of booklets on Zambia in bookshops of developed countries would also help.
Attracting tourists from Britain for instance, should not be underrated because going on holiday abroad is big business there. People save for years just for them to go to a dream destination at least once in their life time.
A casual chat with a Briton on Zambia’s tourist attractions such as the Victoria Falls, the Kafue and South Luangwa national parks, etc, generates so much interest one wonders what a sustained campaign would do. I suspect that our marketers in the tourism sector have misunderstood the type of people who go for holidays. Forget about the rich, it is the ordinary people who go for holidays. It is the same people who will recommend a place to others by word of mouth.
It is to these people that our tourism marketers should target their campaigns usually at the beginning of the year, the rationale being that someone will make up their mind about where they would be going in the summer at the height of winter when it is very cold, dark and wet.
Promoting tourism should not be how big the funding for subsistence allowances or per diems is but rather on the impact that the campaigns are and they need to be directed at the right audience.

Friday, 9 November 2007

"UNDERMINING ZAMBIA"

By Gershom Ndhlovu

As most Zambians with internet access may be aware, a document entitled “Undermining Zambia” is doing the rounds on the web regarding the activities of privatised mines.
In it, former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi admits that the government was arm-twisted into selling the mines by the IMF.
Christian Aid, one of the report’s authors, has drafted a letter for members of the public to send to the owners of KCM to change the way they operate.
In the introduction to the letter which Christian Aid urges people to e-mail to UK-based Vedanta Resources, it says Zambia’s copper riches, ought to be helping lift people out of poverty. Yet it (Zambia) remains one of the poorest countries on earth, while foreign companies reap the benefits instead.
Below is the template of the letter which can be accessed at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/stoppoverty/powercorruption/actions/zambia.aspx.
“Dear Mr Dhanpal Jhaveri,
As the majority-owner of KCM - Zambia’s largest copper company - Vedanta Resources has an important role to play in the economic and social wellbeing of one of the poorest countries on earth.
I would urge you to read and implement the recommendations of the recent report Undermining Development? published by SCIAF, ACTSA and Christian Aid, and supported by a wide range of Zambian organisations, that will improve staff conditions and allow the Zambian government to improve the country’s infrastructure, thus making a real difference to the lives of people gripped by poverty. On contract renegotiation:
 Pay a fairer, increased amount of revenue to the Zambian government. As part of this, pay mineral royalties of at least 3%.
 Make public the amounts paid to the Zambian government and all documents related to the development agreements. On the environment / local communities:
 Keep pollutant levels within World Health Organisation guidelines
 Publish details of pollutant levels from KCM activities. On working conditions:
 Pay KCM employees and sub-contracted workers a wage that is sufficient to support a family, and sufficient to provide a pension that can support them after retirement.
 Improve terms, conditions and health & safety for KCM employees and sub-contracted workers and ensure that these are implemented by contract firms.
Look forward to hearing from you.”
UK-based Zambian economist, Chola Mukanga, writing on his New Zambia blog, like many other Zambians, is not impressed with Nawakwi’s excuse on the whole mining privatisation process.
Writes Mukanga: “Edith Nawakwi, trying to shift the blame to the IMF, but only succeeding in making herself sound incompetent.
“The 'devil made me do it' has never got anyone off a crime. For indeed it appears that we came under pressure from young graduates at the IMF and World Bank who spent one week in Zambia and flashed a few models on the table and we crumbled.”
Meanwhile in neighbouring DR Congo, Bloomberg reports that a government panel in that country will recommend 61 of the nation’s agreements with mining companies, including Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, be renegotiated or cancelled, the group’s chairman said.The commission will recommend that 38 contracts be changed, including those of Freeport and Nikanor plc, Alexis Mikandji, chairman of the commission for the review of mining contracts, said recently.
The panel also recommends that 23 contracts should be cancelled altogether.
The DRC, which has about 10% of the world’s copper reserves and a third of its cobalt, established the panel in April to review all mining deals, with the aim of amending those deemed unfair to the state.
It is a shame, really, that citizens of resource rich countries like Zambia and its neighbour, DR Congo should wallow in poverty and underdevelopment at the expense of investors and local politicians who do not give a hoot about them.
At least Congolese president Joseph Kabila is moving in the right direction in the way mineral resources are exploited in his country.
Zambia, with the same mineral composition as DRC, should do the same as a matter of urgency. Mistakes have been made in the past, but that does not mean they cannot be corrected.

Friday, 2 November 2007

SATA'S POLITICAL SWANSONG

By Gershom Ndhlovu

PF president Michael Sata’s recent presentation on China at Harvard University in the United States has been doing the rounds on the internet among Zambians. Below is a reaction I received from one of my friends, Evans Chisanga, to whom I had forwarded the document:
“Well, well, well. It is very interesting to hear Sata describing Chinese investment in Africa as ‘a risk to consolidation of democracy and a culture of respect for human rights, because China does not subscribe to these values.’
Surely the Michael Sata we know has in the past himself exhibited little tolerance to dissenting views, especially when he was in power both in KK's one party authoritarian regime and FTJ's tyrannical MMD. And you may recall how he cleverly switched between the two camps. Speaking of democratic values, lest we forget, it was he that edged on FTJ during his failed 3rd term bid for Sata's own interests!“On Zambia's background he rightfully points out that, ‘After 8 years of multi-party democratic rule, the country descended into a One Party Socialist State , and changed for the worse, from one of the most promising middle-income African countries in the early 1970s, to one of the poorest in the world by the late 1980s.’ “Spot on, well said. But hang on a minute, was Michael Sata not part and parcel of this rot?“That pretty much sums up Sata's fight with the Chinese. He does have a legitimate point, but his arguments are deeply flawed and he is clearly attempting to delete his name from the ugly chapters of Zambia's history and Zambians should NOT allow it!”
I totally agree with Evans, the PF president is clearly tainted in terms of his past political actions and he needs many cycles in the washing machine to rid himself of the ghost from the past.
For those of us who worked in the government media at the height of Sata’s political zenith, we know how manipulative he was among a cabal of journalists he worked in cahoots with and, equally strange, the same journalists who worshipped “BaSata” have so turned against him it is unbelievable.
At the height of the third term debate, Sata as MMD national secretary had the power to stop the debate which he knew was going nowhere except that with Republican Vice President then, General Tembo and MMD vice president General Miyanda and the group of 22 out of the way, the Republican presidency was definitely his.
His it was, except he did not know “Bashi Helen’s” ideas. Little did he know that Frederick Chiluba would live up to his “political engineering” tag, who dribbled him all the way to Kudu Road where Levy Mwanawasa was awakened to be handed the presidency on a silver, or is it copper, platter.
A few weeks before that, Sata had vowed never to leave the MMD under any circumstances. He jumped ship the moment then MMD information and publicity secretary Vernon Mwaanga “unveiled” Mwanawasa as the MMD presidential candidate in August or September of 2001.
If Sata had been a principled politician in his capacity as MMD national secretary, he should have objected to the expulsion of Tembo, Miyanda, Nawakwi and others whose only crime was to oppose Chiluba’s third term attempt. He obviously rubbed his palms with glee at the prospect of the presidency falling into his lap.
He had told these same journalists that he was tired of “escorting” his friends into State House and it was now time for him to be escorted there.
It is the same Sata that created the likes of William “Tekere” Banda who today is his nemesis working with Mwanawasa. It is the same Sata that unleashed MMD thugs to beat up opposition members and journalists during a by-election in Chawama.
Sata must accept the fact that he has run his political race and it has come to an end. It is high time he left the political stage to lick his wounds.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

TO KNEEL OR NOT TO KNEEL?

By Gershom Ndhlovu

The issue of senior government officials kneeling before the president has dominated the press in the last few months from the time when Southern Province Minister Joseph Mulyata was pictured down on his haunches shortly after it emerged that he had dubiously helped the release of an impounded bus belonging to another politician.

Not too long after that, Defence Minister George Mpombo was also pictured on his knees talking to President Mwanawasa and just over a week ago, he was captured again kneeling before the president.

This is quite interesting in the sense that Mpombo deals with Generals at his ministry and I just wonder how they approach him as minister in charge of the defence ministry if he, himself approaches the President like that. I hope he does not demand these men and women grovel before him.

Just before local government elections in 1999, former President Chiluba addressed a rally in Luanshya at the height of tensions between the late Cameron Pwele-led MUZ Roan Branch and Binani Group's RAMCOZ management over miners’ ZCCM benefits and when the presidential entourage retired to the Director's Lodge, I witnessed something that shocked me. One senior politician and businessman, who was a minister at the time, knelt before Chiluba who sat on the left side of a three-seater sofa to whisper something, apparently to tell him he was leaving to go and attend to other matters somewhere.

All this reminds me of a joke, malicious I hope, that had been going round among journalists about how another top government official who was then a minister, was found kneeling before President Chiluba in his office at State House in the company of two other politicians from the province where this man hails. The joke, if it is one, says Chiluba had deliberately ordered the removal of chairs from his office.

Contrast this culture of kneeling before our presidents to what we see on BBC TV of how the youthful British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, 37, appears very relaxed and confident in the company of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 57. You get the feeling that the two are equals in the service of their nation, forgetting that Brown can easily terminate the young man's job.

But if you think of our Mpombo for instance and you go back to his days in Ndola where he was almost down and out, pounding the streets of the city in a sorry state for a man who had been Ndola Rural governor and MP under UNIP, you get the impression that he badly needs the job he holds and can do anything to keep it and kneeling before the appointing authority is but a small matter.

Although I do not know much about Mulyata’s background, seeing him bruising his knees like that gives one the impression that he badly needs the job and to show that he is sorry for his "transgressions", he can even swallow his pride.

If the pictures of Mpombo and Mulyata on their haunches are anything to go by, one wonders what goes on behind the scenes when ministers, permanent secretaries, chief executives of parastatal and private companies and other officials are summoned to the inner sanctums of State House. This is not withstanding the fact that the environment there is quite intimidating even for an ordinary visitor who has to go through various security check points manned by mean-looking geezers.

Unfortunately, kneeling is one culture that has permeated our social fabric such that whoever has little power over another person wants to be worshipped like a god or goddess by showing them respect that turns out to be out of proportion by any means.

Or is it a case of heads of state wanting to be treated like royalty? The president of Zambia is not a Paramount Chief like the Litunga or Mpezeni before whom subjects should kneel. For heaven’s sake, we are not a monarch but a Republic.

Friday, 19 October 2007

CHANGING COLOURS

By Gershom Ndhlovu

“During my years of practice, many of my clients were mostly those fighting for their fundamental human rights, a fact that was very dangerous during this time of Zambia’s history. People were being detained for expressing themselves. And for or not associating with certain individuals, friends and relatives,” President Mwanawasa is quoted as having said when he received his honorary Doctorate of Laws degree at Harding University recently.
He is also quoted as having said that people were detained on flimsy grounds and that he could not withstand the injustice that prevailed then.

For a man projecting such profound and noble principles, it is strange that he should now threaten to do exactly the same things against those opposing his dubious National Constitution Council (NCC) in the constitution amendment process. Stranger still, one of his trusted lieutenants, MMD national chairman Michael Mabenga, using language akin to that of the Second Republic, is now labelling those who, and rightly so, think that the NCC Act is a bad piece of legislation, as aliens.

Mwanawasa as a lawyer who even defended treason suspects in the past, but as someone now in a privileged position of Republican President, should be able to see and detect the signs that bring about dissension in the nation such as the enactment of bad laws which bring about widespread dissatisfaction among citizens.

He should not be cheated by those supporting the NCC now as being in genuine support of it, but rather just after the money for sitting on it and in some cases, for publicly supporting it.

Most of the people in the forefront of supporting the NCC are exactly the same lot that supported former President Chiluba's myopic and unconstitutional third term attempt. All they have done is change the names of their NGOs and sing aloud in support of Mwanawasa. A few years from now, the same people will, chameleon-like, change their colours to demonise the good old Dr Levy Mwanawasa for "misleading" them in the amendment of the "unsuitable" constitution when he will be living in isolation and supporting an opposition party if the MMD will still be in power.

But maybe these are the consequences of poverty which makes the ingenious survive by the use of their sweet tongues to mislead gullible leaders.

One does not need the memory of an elephant to remember that these same people frustrated the well-meaning citizens who fought to block Chiluba's manoeuvres and today are frustrating those that want the constitution to be amended in an inclusive and transparent manner. Their statements engender such a strong sense of deja vu as to transport one back in time to six-seven years back. And yet no one has seen through these people who are in essence, gold diggers.

Principled Zambians ganged up against President Kaunda and forced him to amend the law to allow multi-party democracy and the same Zambians resisted President Chiluba's attempt to go for a third term of office. I am sure that the same Zambians will triumph against the forces that are trying to pull wool over their eyes in the constitution making process. Tragedy though, is that President Mwanawasa, Justice Minister George Kunda & Co. may push through the document, but it will obviously be re-written just a few short years from now.

I admire Father Frank Bwalya for his principled stand to quit the chairmanship of Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambian Chapter over the same issue which is seemingly tearing apart similar organizations over who should sit on the NCC and who shouldn't when they should know better about how dubious and shambolic the whole process is. But again, it is the question of allowances to be earned from it.

For lawyers and their spoiled votes at one of their LAZ meetings to vote for NCC participation, what do you expect when ZIALE had to cancel a practising qualifying exam because of "leaky"?

Friday, 12 October 2007

PRESIDENTIAL HONORARY DEGREES

By Gershom Ndhlovu

"It seems Zambian presidents have become obsessed with being conferred a doctorate. It all started with Dr Kaunda (admittedly it was in fashion then), Dr Chiluba followed suit. And now the incumbent President has been conferred with a doctorate," wrote one Thomas Zulu in The Post last Saturday.

Indeed, in less than a decade, two of Zambia's leaders have been conferred with Doctorates honoris causa, as they say in the world of academia. Looking at the articles that have been written about President Mwanawasa's Doctorate of Laws, never mind the two former presidents Kaunda and Chiluba, no one has explained the difference between an honorary degree and the more respectable earned doctorate degree.

According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, an honorary degree or a degree honoris causa (Latin: 'for the sake of the honour') is an academic degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements (such as matriculation, residence, study and the passing of examinations). The degree itself is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master’s degree, and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the institution in question.

Usually, the online encyclopaedia says, the degree is conferred as a way of honouring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field, or to society in general. The university often derives benefits by association with the person in question.

Not that anybody should begrudge someone so honoured, but at the rate this honour is being dished out especially to Zambia's heads of state, will reduce it to a meaningless and laughable one. Chiluba was awarded his by the University of Malawi not too long after his friend, the former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi was honoured by some university.

On the other hand, Dr Kaunda was in the distant past, awarded Honorary Doctorates of Law from the Universities of Fordham, Dublin, Wales, Windsor (Canada), Sussex, York and Chile. In addition he received honorary degrees from Humboldt State University, California and University of Zambia

But what are Harding University’s credentials? It describes itself as a private Christian institution of higher education committed to the tradition of the liberal arts and sciences. It is composed of a College of Arts and Humanities, a College of Bible and Religion, a College of Business Administration, a College of Education, a College of Nursing, a College of Sciences; and graduate programs in business, education, marriage and family therapy, physician assistant studies, and religion.

The university, according to its website, serves a diverse, coeducational student body from across the United States and around the world, although the primary constituency for students and financial support is the fellowship of the churches of Christ.

Going by these credentials, Harding University is definitely not one of the Ivy League universities, neither is it very well known such that even as Form Fives in the early 1980s, those we used to call "UNZA suspects", that is, those who had the potential of being accepted to university, not an easy feat then, who knew most universities in America by name would never have dreamed of Harding University.

Somebody did mention to me just after President Mwanawasa was granted the accolade that Harding University has connections with a Christian-run educational establishment in Southern Province where it wants to open a university, but whether this is related to its decision to award him with an honorary Doctorate of Laws or not, is difficult to tell.

Now that it is becoming a trend for Plot One residents to be awarded degrees honoris causa, I am sure the next occupant, if he will not be a holder of an earned LLD or PhD, will also work hard to attract the eye of a generous uni for one.

Maybe this should be the time as a nation to start thinking of sending people to State House with already earned PhDs or LLDs so that they are not distracted with the acquisition of titles when in office.

Friday, 5 October 2007

BE REAL OVER MUGABE

By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is good for a poor Third World country standing up to the European Union and telling its leaders to stuff it, but to do so by closing ranks with the tyrannical Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe is surely something else. By doing so, Southern African Development Community SADC) leaders, and their chairman Dr Levy Mwanawasa in the forefront, are helping strangle that country’s millions of citizens who have to scrape a living.
The octogenarian leader of Zimbabwe is not any different from the Burmese ruler who is brutalising the people who are protesting against the military rulers. It is painful to see TV footage of Zimbabweans swimming across the crocodile-infested Limpopo, jumping electric fences into South Africa and facing police and civilian vigilantes who chase them like dogs across fields as they escape from the hunger and oppression unleashed by Mugabe’s regime.
Stories abound of how the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe buys foreign exchange on the parallel markets at very high rates which is then sold to Mugabe’s lackeys at the so-called official rate to enable them go shopping and send their children to school abroad and, basically, globe-trot when the people can’t even afford a plate of sadza on a daily basis.
Once a proud people, Zimbabweans have to daily trek across the border post between their country and Botswana at Ramokwebana and at Victoria Falls into Zambia, for menial jobs for a pittance, if only they can go back with a loaf of bread or a “Pamela” for their families.
In the face of all this, Mugabe’s top lieutenants can afford to charter whole Zimbabwe Airways planes to ferry guests to weddings and similar jaunts and when they do so, the fly the planes themselves.
What is going on in Zimbabwe is not any different from what is happening in Darfur in Sudan except that there it is the case of the Muslim Arab ruling class trying to annihilate the Christian and other non-Muslim Blacks and yet the African leaders acknowledge the existence of a problem there and are willing to send peace-keepers to that part of the continent.
Mugabe can stand on the UN lectern and accuse US president George Bush of having blood on his hands, but what about the blood of Zimbabweans oozing out of his own hands? What about the blood of the Zimbabweans whose bodies are encased in concrete and dumped in Lake Kariba by his notorious Central Intelligence Organisation for mere political dissension?
It is not that SADC leaders in particular and African leaders in general, and more so South African President Mbeki who prefers the so-called quiet diplomacy, are not aware about what is truly going on in the land of the Monomatapa.
Is this what Mbuya Nehanda fought for, is this what Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Parirenyatwa and all the bombing victims of the rebel Rhodesian regime died for at Chikumbi, Kavalamanja and elsewhere?
I don’t think so. If anything, I think all these people must be turning in their graves to think about what is going on in that country.
For a long time, African leaders through their club, the Organisation of African Unity tolerated coups and counter-coups; today the African Union tolerates tyrants like Mugabe and murderers like Sudan’s President Bashir and want to show us they are brave by challenging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has threatened to boycott the forthcoming EU/AU summit.
When things get worse in Zimbabwe, as they are bound to, the same leaders will turn round to accuse the West of letting the situation get out of hand like what happened during the Rwandan genocide over a decade ago and on Darfur now.
Going by Mugabe’s recalcitrance at the UN just over a week ago, no amount of dialogue will work with the old rag. He just needs to be strangled by economic sanctions that finished off his predecessor Ian Smith, until he wizens further.

Friday, 28 September 2007

LEVY, PLEASE LISTEN

By Gershom Ndhlovu

President Mwanawasa, Legal Affairs Minister George Kunda and the MMD in general should realise that their constitutional amendment exercise through the NCC is doomed right from the beginning. Credible players like the NGOCC, FFTUZ and now political parties like the PF have decided to shun the process.
Of course, the two lawyers at the top and their party will go ahead to amend the constitution but what they must remember is that in the next four years when there will be a change of guard, an MMD president or a president from another party for that matter, will start the process all over again.
President Mwanawasa's predecessor, Frederick Chiluba (is it not incredible that he has joined those opposing Levy?) amended the constitution in 1996 with which many people were thoroughly dissatisfied with, and it is the same constitution that Levy decided to overhaul when he came to power a few years later. Unfortunately, this is the same process causing unnecessary tension among interested parties such as civil society and opposition political parties.
Of course, there are some NGOs and church organisations with dubious credentials that appear, for a few crumbs, to endorse the machinations by the MMD government to manipulate the constitution making process. These organisations are given prominence by state-owned media which are themselves complicit in the manipulation, while the views of opposing organisations are left out.
This whole affair is not helped by Mwanawasa's capacity to belittle people opposing him, and surprisingly, not even the Willa Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission which he himself appointed, has escaped his verbal attacks in his justification for the setting up of the NCC. The Mung'omba commission itself was appointed amid controversy and a number of organisations declined to be part of it. From the foregoing, it is clear that the whole process has been fraught with controversy right from the beginning and what has been at the fore of this has been the mode of adopting the final document.
By pouring cold water on the Mung'omba CRC recommendations and subsequent setting up the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) leading to the passage of the NCC Bill and mandating members to go round the country to explain the process yet again, makes the whole exercise not only duplicitous but extremely expensive to the tax-payer who has had to bear the huge cost of the CRC. One would have thought that a one-off Constituent Assembly as recommended by the CRC, would have adequately served that purpose.
The groups shunning the NCC have a genuine fear of an in-built MMD majority which would render their voices in the whole exercise meaningless. It would also appear as though that Mwanawasa, Kunda and Co. have a predetermined document that they want to spring on the public through the same NCC.
President Mwanawasa, by pushing through the NCC in its proposed form, will squander a golden opportunity to bequeath the nation a people driven and well thought out constitution that could stand the so-called test of time. A few years from now, Mwanawasa, Kunda and those supporting the process now, will be the same people speaking out against the constitution they want to enact now when they realise the folly of having passed it.
I have said it before that it is important for our leaders to learn from history. It is pointless, like Mwanawasa and Kunda are doing now, to blame Chiluba and Kaunda for past constitutional iniquities. It is pointless for Kunda to pour venom on people like General Miyanda for speaking out against the current constitutional making process, for he together with Mwanawasa, will be judged even more harshly because they will have had an opportunity to avoid the perilous path they have chosen.
Everyone with a conscience should shun this process. Allowances that people will derive from it are nothing compared to the effects a faulty constitution will bear on the whole nation.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

THE GOVERNANCE INDEX

Check out the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. Zambia is ranked 19th which is not very encouraging for a country that pioneered multi-party democracy on the continent in 1990/1.
http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/index/index2.asp

Thursday, 20 September 2007

MULONGOTI MESSING MEDIA

By Gershom Ndhlovu

“Journalists at Times and Daily… have wives and children, they have jobs to protect, don’t forget that. Before they write anything against me, they will think, ‘what will the minister do? Will I be in the office tomorrow?’ These are worries that come but we expect them to be factual and to report truthfully. “They are not created to be critics of the government… If they think they want to exercise their freedom to write, they must apply for jobs where that freedom can be exercised. If you want to attack us don’t go to Daily Mail, I can assure you, the story will be killed,” Information Minister Mike Mulongoti is quoted to have said at a Post Newspaper function.
In 1990-1 when the word injunction gained currency in our everyday language, it was because the then Movement for Multi-Party Democracy pressure group interim committee’s legal eagle, Levy Mwanawasa filed and threatened to file more injunctions against the lopsided state-owned media which at the time, ignored the pressure group’s activities in favour of the ruling UNIP.
Strange as it may sound today, some of the senior civil servants and politicians now in government wore UNIP T-shirts as late as Election Day on 31 October 1991 and are today tightening the screws on the state-owned media in terms of covering the opposition and criticising the government.
It is very sad that Mulongoti, should, in this day and age, threaten state-owned media journalists with dismissal if they criticise the government even if its officials err in running the affairs of the nation and there are many errors in the governance of our beautiful country.
Is this the reason why government has been dragging its feet to legislate the Freedom of Information Bill which has dragged on for nearly a decade now?
From Mulongoti’s statement what immediately comes to mind is the case of his predecessor, Vernon Mwaanga, who misrepresented President Mwanawasa when he sent him as special envoy to Congo when he “assured” Katanga Province governor Moses Katumbi who is wanted in Zambia for alleged plunder that in fact it was the Zambian government that owed him money.
The state-owned print media tried by all means to cover up for Mwaanga, twisting facts and calling The Post all sorts of names for exposing “the mighty” VJ who was eventually swept aside with the overwhelming facts laid on the table by the private newspaper. Just recently, the MECOZ actually ruled that some state media houses made fools of themselves over the issue.
Only a few short years ago, the circulation of the two state-owned newspapers was pathetic to say the least, unless things have changed. I know for sure that one of the two government owned newspapers, if not both, sold less than 16,000 papers daily and the Sunday edition shot up to a measly 18,000 nation-wide.
With statements like Mulongoti’s, this is definitely driving circulation figures even lower as people do not want to read government gazette-sque publications that do not only lack analysis of issues, but do not give a voice to opposition politicians and critical NGOs.
One non-practising journalist friend, obviously disgusted after reading Mulongoti’s statement, wondered what excitement state media journalists derived when they woke up in the morning to report for work with such a millstone round their necks. I feel pity for former University of Zambia Mass Communication lecturer, Leonard Kantumoya who has left behind the freedom that obtains in the world of academia to operate in the realm where even a Kulima Tower MMD cadre dictates to you.
Well, maybe it pays to toe the MMD line especially now when a number of journalists have just been rewarded with appointments into the Diplomatic service. But, ultimately, it is the ordinary Zambian who places so much trust and faith in journalists whether from state or private media who is being short-changed by this kind of myopia in the approach to media issues.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Friday, 14 September 2007

KICK MUGABE OUT OF SADC

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Did the last SADC heads of state summit in Lusaka go as well as it has been portrayed? Maybe on other issues it did go as well as the media in the respective countries reported, but certainly, there are questions to be answered on why Zimbabwe President left Lusaka early if not, as foreign media are now saying, that he clashed with the new chairman, Levy Mwanawasa who wanted to table that country’s political and economic crisis during a closed session.
According to the online version of a South Africa newspaper, BusinessDay, quoting diplomats who attended the meeting, Mr Mwanawasa who chaired a session attempted to table for discussion the Zimbabwe crisis after South African President Thabo Mbeki submitted his report as the SADC appointed-mediator in which he said “there was progress in the talks although parties needed to intensify negotiations.”
Says BusinessDay: “"After Mbeki delivered his report to the summit, Mwanawasa, as the chair of the meeting, said there was an urgent need to discuss Zimbabwe because the situation there had become 'unacceptable'. Kikwete said there was no need to discuss it because talks were in progress and Mbeki concurred," a senior diplomat said.
"Kikwete then suggested Mugabe should be asked what he thought about Mwanawasa's proposal. When Mugabe was given the platform to speak he launched an angry tirade, attacking Mwanawasa left, right and centre before walking out in protest."The diplomat said Mugabe angrily asked: "Who are you, Mwanawasa? Who are you? Who do you think you are?""Mugabe also said he was aware of Mwanawasa's recent meetings with western intelligence agencies on Zimbabwe. He said he would 'not allow Mwanawasa to sell out Zimbabwe as he has done to Zambia'," the diplomat said,”
Mr Mwanawasa had earlier in the year referred to Zimbabwe as a “sinking titanic” when the regime in that country battered opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai leaving him with serious injuries for which he was hospitalised.
This is probably the incident that claimed the scalp of Zambia’s Foreign Minister Mundia Sikatana who has been outspoken on a number of issues on the continent such as the Darfur Crisis which he rightly labelled a racial issue and the Zimbabwean political and economic crisis.
The handling of the Zimbabwean crisis by Mbeki and Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete as chairman of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security is what brings into question the setting up of the SADC defence brigade as a laughable exercise because the standing army, if there is one, will not go any where it is needed because of issues of sovereignty that are brought in when it matters even when a purely political solution is needed.
Extrapolated at continental level, NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism or APRM, cannot work for similar reasons because paranoid leaders like Mugabe do not want to subject themselves to scrutiny by other well-meaning leaders like Mwanawasa in this case.
This is why Mugabe keeps on harassing Tsvangirai even for going round the shops to see what mayhem his government is causing not only for ordinary people, but businessmen as well who are forced to sell goods at sub-economic prices.
Leaders like Mbeki and Kikwete need to learn and understand that their approach of quiet diplomacy to issues like Zimbabwe will only entrench dictators like Mugabe and lead to further suffering of the already suffering Zimbabweans.
This is equally why it is next to impossible to bring African countries together for purposes of establishing a United States of Africa because of the different democratic values that different countries hold which they may not only want to impose on others but may not want to relinquish.
Ironically, it is leaders like Mugabe who are keen on establishing the U.S. of Africa and yet they do not want to subject themselves to the authority of a smaller entity like SADC for which they are voluntary members. May be it is time SADC considered the possibility of suspending Zimbabwe’s membership from the sub-regional body.

Friday, 7 September 2007

CHESS, A GAME MANY ZAMBIANS MISUNDERSTAND

By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is certainly not a spectator spot like football where you see 22 men chasing a piece of leather whose meat was eaten long ago, nor is it like boxing where to men or women like in the case of Esther Phiri, pummel each other to a bloody pulp and people cheer.
This is the game of chess in which two people facing each other, or with technology now between a person and a computer or on the internet, with someone anonymous halfway across the globe, try to mentally wear each other down by pushing pieces of different shapes across a board.
This is the game that is least understood in our townships where everyone is able to discuss English or Spanish football in addition to the local league, in great detail. I personally remember when I learnt to play chess after I completed Form Five in 1983 how, with a few of my friends like the late Charles Nzowa, we used to play the game in a local tavern in Kwacha while drinking Chibuku and people would ask “nga iyi draft muleteya ya shani (what sort of droughts are you playing)?”
Used to playing droughts, people were mesmerised how pieces like the Knight would jump over other pieces and Bishops would criss-cross the board. What equally mesmerised the people was how the opponent’s pieces were captured and the seriousness exhibited by the players. While others said those who played chess were intelligent or something to that effect, to many others it was just one of those not only boring games but also complicated and took too long to finish.
And yet this is the game through which Amon Simutowe has firmly put Zambia on the world map by reaching the lofty heights of Grandmaster which we could only dream about when we read chess books and came across names like the legendary Ruy Lopez and when names like Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi dominated newspaper pages.
We never thought then that a Zambian, let alone a sub-Saharan African, would attain such a status. Many of us abandoned chess even as a leisurely game we played on occasion.
According to one website, www.ishipress.com, FIDE, the World Chess Federation, first awarded the Grandmaster title in 1950 and a few weeks ago there were 565 chess players who held the title and a few more were expected to be added to the list after some meetings like the one in which Simutowe took part in Europe.
The website says, in addition, there were 5 players with the honorary grandmaster title, 102 players with the woman grandmaster title and one player with the honorary woman grandmaster title. All 673 players were on this list.
There were in addition six players in the world who held both the GM title and the WGM title, so there were a total of 108 players with the WGM title.
I would like to urge Simutowe to use his newly acquired status to popularize chess especially in Zambian schools where I know that sports like football are all but dead. Obviously, this will need resources which have been denied to Simutowe himself who complained a few weeks ago that he had to use his own resources to compete in tournaments on behalf of the country.
What the authorities ought to remember is that with chess, you do not need expensive infrastructure to play the game. All you need is the interest among players and a few chess sets to go round. Who knows, we could produce another Grandmaster after failing to bring honours in more popular sports like football.
And talking about football, allow me to pass my condolences to Chaswe Nsofwa’s family, the Zambia National Team as well as the football fraternity in general on the death of the footballer in Israel. Nsofwa’s death followed so soon after the death of Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta from cardiac arrest in very similar circumstances.
Like many other professions, soccer has its own hazards.

Friday, 31 August 2007

HIV AND RITUALS

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Last week when I read a story of an 11 year-old who was defiled for over a year in a Ndola grave yard HIV/AIDS ritual in the online version of the Times, and that the woman who pushed the child into it was released by police while the girl ended up getting infected, I could not help feeling a sense of anger towards the police.
This case reminded me of one of my then 15 year-old niece who was defiled by a 29 year old man last year. The girl did not only fall pregnant, but she also contracted HIV/AIDS but the culprit is still roaming the streets and has obviously infected even more hapless girls and women he is able to lure into his nefarious lair.
At some point the police were demanding transport from the family for them to travel to travel to the area just outside one of the Copperbelt towns which could not be provided because of the financial circumstances the family is in. In the process, the case just fell through because those who were pushing it gave up.
There are obviously a lot of similar cases that do not go any where for reasons cited above and also ignorance of the law that many people find themselves in. There is also an element where families of victims enter into compromise deals with culprits.
A few weeks ago, I listened to Zambia Police’s Dr Solomon Jere on a Nyanja programme on ZNBC radio one streamed on the internet, on which he talked about the need to preserve evidence of a rape such as not disturbing the scene of the “ndendeule” as he called it, keeping torn pants if they are any and not bathing until a medical examination has been carried out.
This is very obvious but evidence as well as statements from sex crimes such as defilement, rape and incest should be treated rather differently because there could have been threats accompanying the act as well as the stigma attached to it that could have forced victims into silence for a long time.
We have stories of how victims were told they would be killed if they told anyone about the abuse especially that involving minors or in some instances they were promised or given sweets to but their silence.
Sex crime is not like one stealing a TV set which the police may find and present before court, there is also a psychological aspect should be taken into account.
The Zambian police and judiciary could learn a thing or two from their counterparts in the UK where culprits are jailed years after the offence was committed on the strength of a victim’s statement on the alleged abuse. There are of course safeguards against false statements to settle scores against people one does not like and the sanctions are equally harsh.
In this way, many sex offenders in the UK have been jailed and made to sign a sex offenders' register which proscribes from working with children and other vulnerable groups on their release from jail.
What is needed is also stiffening the punishment that culprits get on conviction to deter other would be offenders. The starting point should be making sex crime offences non-bailable if the case of the Ndola woman who subjected the poor girl to defilement is anything to go by.
And on the question of rituals to “cure” HIV/AIDS, every genuine traditional healer and any HIV/AIDS advocate will agree with me, the best rituals are abstinence in the first place, being faithful and the use of condoms. When these rituals fail, the next best ritual is taking ARVs. In fact, we should count ourselves lucky that these are now freely available unlike a few years ago when they were a preserve of the rich.
Anything else, such as the act of defiling children or virgins as a way of “chasing” HIV/AIDS demons like in the Ndola case, is as misplaced as it is illusory.

Friday, 24 August 2007

COMESA IS A BETTER OPTION

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Before Zambia chooses which regional organisation to stick to between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which has just had a successful summit in Lusaka, and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) whose headquarters are in the same city, it would be important to examine the objectives of the two bodies.
Some of the objectives of the 15 nation member SADC are to achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration; evolve common political values, systems and institutions and promote self-sustaining development on the basis of collective self-reliance, and the interdependence of Member States.
Others are to promote and maximise productive employment and utilisation of resources of the region and achieve sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment and achieve complementarity between national and regional strategies and programmes.
The following are some of the 19 member nation COMESA’s objectives: to attain sustainable growth and development of member states by promoting a more balanced and harmonious development of production and marketing structures and to promote joint development in all fields of economic activity and the joint adoption of macro-economic policies and programmes to raise the standard of living of its peoples and to foster closer relationship among member states.
Others are to co-operate in the creation of an enabling environment of foreign, cross-border and domestic investment including the joint promotion of research and adoption of science and technology and to contribute towards the establishment, progress and the realisation of the objectives of the African Economic Community.
The countries whose membership overlaps between the two regional bodies are Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Seychelles which has just been re-admitted to SADC.
On the other hand, COMESA has 19 member countries which include Libya, Egypt and Sudan, among others. Tanzania pulled out of COMESA sometime back to concentrate on its SADC membership.
Zambian President and current SADC chairman Levy Mwanawasa could not have put it any better.
"We have a big challenge as Zambia. We are members of COMESA and we host COMESA… We are also members of SADC and presently I am the chairman. So it becomes a very difficult problem for us to choose which organisation we should go to.”"But our priority should not be deciding to which regional body we should belong. Our problem must be to work hard to try and harmonise the decisions in both organisations so that if we have common customs union, perhaps in the end it will not be necessary to decide where we should belong… The economists will advise me."
It is indeed a difficult choice for Zambia which immensely contributed to the formation of the two regional groupings.
The case for sticking with COMESA cannot be overstated. First and foremost, we accommodate its headquarters from which we benefit in terms of employment opportunities it has created for our citizens, but also from the spending power of foreign nationals working at COMESA.
In the case of Zambia, if it came to choosing the regional body to stick with, COMESA would, in my view, be a better option because of its wider membership which stretches up to Libya and Egypt rather than on SADC which is obviously anchored on the stronger economy of South Africa.
In terms of the grassroots, ordinary Zambians would easily relate to COMESA whose “benefits” they are able to see by the trade going on at the “COMESA” market in Lusaka whether or not it has any official connection with the COMESA headquarters. The ease with which people are able to conduct small-scale cross-border trade makes it all the more attractive compared to the harassment they get from some SADC countries where they are treated like criminals.Or maybe, the smaller SADC should merge with the larger COMESA?

Friday, 17 August 2007

STRENGTHEN ENVIRONMENT LAWS

By Gershom Ndhlovu

“Thanks for bringing the spotlight on some for the forgotten dangers lurking in the Zambian environment,” wrote someone signing himself as Nice E on my blog.
“As you've rightly pointed out, the pollutants stretch right across the board, from asbestos to Zinc, with a bit of Lead, sulphur dioxide fumes, etc, in between. While these toxins are mainly under control in the West, they continue sending people to their early graves on a daily basis in places like Zambia. And nowadays, many unexplained or complicated ailments are simply dismissed as HIV-related.“You are right in suggesting that "in the spirit of Keep Zambia Clean issues such as these raised here are holistically addressed, laws and regulations strengthened and those that transgress them are punished.“However, to begin with GRZ seems to be in denial over past and present pollution from the mining industry in particular. For example, GRZ dismissed the report that placed the former mining (and glorious) town of Kabwe as being in the top 10 of most polluted places in the entire world!
“Also, GRZ did not act in a tough and decisive manner when fish in the Kafue River around Chingola died mysteriously and the local population's drinking water turned green. That's only sometime last year or there about. How can such criminal negligence go unpunished?”
Indeed, as a follow up to last week’s article, I did a bit of research in the dangers of the use of leaded paint which I suspect is very much in use in Zambia and the rest of Africa.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov, lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults.
“In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard foetal development even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, foetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.”“Because the early symptoms of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing. Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage,” says the CPSC document.
Recently, most countries in the West had to withdraw a particular type of toy imported from China from the shops because of excessive levels of lead in the paint on the product.
Unfortunately, these are issues which are never raised in our part of the world where anything goes. Unregulated products with unknown chemical make up easily enter the market and consumed with fatal consequences as is the case with leaded paint cited above.
It is not by accident that people in the West are healthy and safe from environmental hazards; it is simply because authorities there have strengthened laws, rules and regulations of how both corporate and individual citizens should conduct themselves and penalizing those that ignore them.
In the case of Zambia and the rest of Africa, self-interest by public servants and appeasement for those with economic interests has over the years led to a situation where health and safety issues are seriously compromised.
For instance, it is not by mere coincidence that Konkola Copper Mines was not prosecuted when it polluted the Kafue River in Chingola last year, but rather historical because Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines and Roan Copper Mines, the forerunners of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, were exempted by law from prosecution for pollution.
I would not be surprised if such a proviso still exists in our statute books giving mining companies licence to pollute.

Friday, 10 August 2007

DANGER IN STONE CRUSHING

By Gershom Ndhlovu

The health effects of small-scale stone crushing in Zambia have never been seriously addressed, Chitaku G. Mucheleng’anga reminded me after he read last week’s column, The Roof of Death.
“Your article on asbestos is very good and I would like you to also look at the other/various environmental issues such as silica dust from stone crushing, etc. Indeed asbestos is very dangerous especially in dust form. Groundnuts on an asbestos roof may be difficult to ascertain as the cause of Asbestosis since the mineral comes bound with cement except where/when it (sheet of asbestos) breaks, etc,” Mucheleng’anga wrote on my on-line version of the column. “Silicosis,” he said “results from inhalation of silica dust from any source especially stone quarrying and nothing much is being said or done about it especially in your country!”
Yes indeed, from the mid-1970s and early 1980s after local authorities abandoned large scale construction of houses and people started building their own houses mostly in uncontrolled locations in Lusaka such as Mandevu, Chaisa, Kanyama, Chawama and Chipata compounds, equally uncontrolled stone-crushing and sand quarrying in nearby streams boomed.
Environment effects of such activities are now very visible as the areas in which they were carried out (and still are) such as the area between Chinika and Zambia Breweries, the area east of Chawama and south of Kamwala are scarred with huge and unsightly pits and exposed stones which they keep crushing using crude methods of burning tyres on the rocks to soften them.
As the negative environmental and aesthetic effects were not enough, it is the health of those men, women and children that spend days on end, reducing boulders to 28mm stones for use in construction and the filling up of the lorries that ferry sand from Kabanana, Chikumbi and Mungule areas to the north of the capital city, by young men using shovels with no protection at all that should worry health and environmental authorities.
According to the website, www.lenntech.com, silicon concentrates in no particular organ of the body but is found mainly in connective tissues and skin. Silicon is non-toxic as the element and in all its natural forms, namely silica and silicates, which are the most abundant.
“Elemental silicon is an inert material, which appears to lack the property of causing fibrosis in lung tissue. However, slight pulmonary lesions have been reported in laboratory animals from intratracheal injections of silicon dust. Silicon dust has little adverse affect on lungs and does not appear to produce significant organic disease or toxic effects when exposures are kept beneath exposure limits. Silicon may cause chronic respiratory effects.
“Silicon crystalline irritates the skin and eyes on contact. Inhalation will cause irritation to the lungs and mucus membrane. Irritation to the eyes will cause watering and redness. Reddening, scaling, and itching are characteristics of skin inflammation,” the website says.
Minimal exposure is harmless, according to the above passage, but think of people that have been crushing stones and loading sand on lorries for years and because of their challenged economic status, also have poor access to medical facilities.
Unless things have changed a lot in the last few years, visiting some of our townships exposes one to people who are in chronically poor health from unknown causes.
It is not by accident that ZCCM, and I hope new investors, used to take its employees for regular medical check ups at the Occupation Health Centre in Kitwe which we used to call Silicosis. Those that failed the medical examinations were either retired or redeployed to areas where they were not exposed to dust.
I would like to suggest that in the spirit of Keep Zambia Clean issues such as these raised here are holistically addressed, laws and regulations strengthened and those that transgress them are punished. I have come to believe that developed countries are not only clean but also healthy because of the strict enforcement of the laws in all areas.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

THE ROOF OF DEATH

By Gershom Ndhlovu

When there was an explosion on a New York street a couple of weeks ago and the authorities ruled out terrorism, their immediate concern was whether there was asbestos in the debris that was strewn over a good portion of the affected area.
In the UK, there are adverts in the papers calling the attention of those who may have come into contact with asbestos at any time in their lives for treatment and, in most cases, for possible compensation.
There was a story in one of the UK papers how a child, now an adult, was infected with the effects of asbestos by merely sitting on her grandfather’s laps each time he knocked off from work where he worked with the product.
With the burgeoning building industry in Zambia where almost everybody is building a house, even on illegally obtained plots, the use of asbestos for roofing goes on without being checked by the authorities.
The problem, though, is that this is a product we have lived with for our roofing needs in the country for decades. I remember in the part of Kwacha in Kitwe where I grew up, almost all the houses except a few which had iron sheets, had asbestos roofs on which families dried groundnuts and maize from their fields in the winter months of May, June and July which were then removed for consumption later in the year. Incidentally, the story is similar in almost all parts of the country.
I also remember as young boys during the construction of Kwacha East township how we used to play with damaged asbestos sheets either as “shooting” targets with catapults or otherwise used to make play houses. The consequences of that innocent childhood activity of long ago are too ghastly to contemplate.
According to a BBC news report of February 8, 2003, asbestos diseases are caused by inhaling asbestos dust, a mineral commonly used in the construction industry until the 1970s. The main diseases caused by asbestos inhalation are asbestosis - the scarring of lung tissue, lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest and lungs) and pleural disease. Pleural disease includes calcification of the lungs and pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs).
“Over 3,000 people a year die of the disease in the UK and numbers are predicted to rise to 10,000 a year by 2020. Those infected are mainly builders, plumbers and shipyard workers, but teachers, children and nurses are believed to have been put at risk since asbestos was used in the construction of several schools and hospitals.
“Families of those who work with asbestos can also be infected if asbestos particles are brought into the home on clothes. It can take up to 40 years for symptoms to show,” says the BBC news report.
The main symptoms, according to the news report, include shortness of breath on exertion, a persistent cough, chest pain or tightening of the chest, nail abnormalities and thickening of the fingers and toes.
Is it any wonder then that a lot of older people and those of my generation now between 40 and 45 years have been dying like locusts in the last two decades, mostly from unknown diseases which have been difficult to diagnose at our local hospitals?
The victims are queried for TB and other ailments unrelated to asbestos which come out negative. Maybe this should call for a change of approach in the way medical examinations are done to include possible exposure to asbestos.
People building houses in Kamwala South and all over Lusaka, flock to hardware shops on Cha Cha Cha Road to buy asbestos in bulk. This is also the case all over the country and when the “project” is complete they celebrate not knowing that they have brought death in the home.Government should, as a matter of urgency, set up a policy on the future usage, and more importantly, the disposal, of asbestos.

Friday, 27 July 2007

ZCID ROLE DUBIOUS

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Is the role that the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) going on of sensitising people on the Constitution-making process not an expensive repeat of what the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission played when it went round the country to collect views from the people? What is it that the ZCID wants to tell us that we do not know?
One would think that what matters at this point is the question of implementing the recommendations of the CRC and one of the most important recommendations is the adoption of the constitution through a Constituent Assembly. What I do not understand is what aspects of the constitution which is yet to be enacted which we need to know that Dr Katele Kalumba and his spokesman Newton Ng’uni at ZCID will tell us about?
The Government through President Mwanawasa and his Justice Minister Mr George Kunda have been playing semantics with the people over the nomenclature of the assembly that is supposed to thrash out the final document. They have come up with the name Constitutional Council or whatever it is, rather than the Constituent Assembly proposed by the Mung’omba Commission.
The rationale of their semantic games is that it is only Parliament that can pass laws and no other body and certainly not the Constituent Assembly so desired by the petitioners to the CRC.
We have had four Constitutional Review Commissions in the history of our country since independence, namely the Mainza Chona commission, the Patrick Mvunga commission, the John Mwanakatwe commission and the Willa Mung’omba commission.
The last three have more or less come up with similar recommendations regarding the mode of adopting the constitution which is through a Constituent Assembly—a recommendation that our three presidents namely Dr Kaunda, Dr Chiluba and Mr Mwanawasa, a lawyer at that, seem to have been uncomfortable with.
Instead of playing on our minds about the constitution and wasting the much needed national resources on a futile exercise of “enlightening” us on the yet to be enacted constitution, Messrs Mwanawasa and Kunda should pave way for parliament to pass a law that would authorise a Constituent Assembly to thrash out the constitution which would then go before the nation for a referendum.
Although circumstances were different in South Africa and Namibia, coming from apartheid minority regimes, the two countries have in place some of the best constitutions on the continent because of the truly inclusive nature of the constitution-making process in those countries.
It is difficult to understand why Mr Mwanawasa, who indicated when he appointed the CRC that he would go by the people’s wishes, has suddenly changed his stance to now impose his personal wishes on the constitutional making process. As for the argument of cost, it may be costly now but whatever is attained now would pay off in the future. While the cost of trying to save now will still be felt when the next president will want to change the constitution and going through the same motions of appointing a CRC and start the process all over again.
The legal argument can be counted by what we have always heard: “Laws are made by man for man, and they can be changed by man for man” or something to that effect. Both Mr Mwanawasa and Mr Kunda have an opportunity to smoothen the process by making and amending laws that should make the whole process easy instead of dabbling in road maps that only complicate things.
And instead of just finalising the whole process, we have yet another group of political cronies going round to tell us about the constitution making process which is altogether unnecessary and a total waste of resources, unless of course it is not the taxpayer footing the bill for he has been fleeced before through meaningless undertakings like this.
For the political parties that are involved in the ZCID, they need to be serious on the stand they take on issues of the constitution on which they will be judged upon in the future instead of the yo-yo position shown by the UPND in the last few days.—gndhlovu@yahoo.com.