Monday, 2 March 2015

Is President Lungu’s Humble Mask Falling Off?

Is Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu morphing into a dictator that some of us feared on social media he would do once elected President? His statements from the time he was sworn in point to that unsavoury fact.
Three of the most stunning statements that should worry Zambians are where he warns the citizens that those who do not accept him as President should leave the country, the second being that he would fall on his detractors like a machine (ton?) of bricks, and the third in which he directly warns opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema not to dare him.
Cartoon used with permission of Kiss Brian Abraham.
“Those who accept me as President,” Lungu declared, “I will work with them and give them support. I am head of the state, I am head of the Republic of Zambia. Those who don’t accept me as President should go away from Zambia. The reason is simple, because if you don’t accept me as President, you are likely to offend me by breaking the law of the land and I will tell the police to pounce on you.”
At another occasion, referring to those that did not accept the appointment of Inonge Wina as Vice President, Lungu said: ‘’There are some critics who are planning to make it difficult for Madam Vice President and others, they will debate contrary to what we stand for to make you appear as if you are not fit for the job … some of them have already resolved that they will move to the opposition as soon as Parliament is dissolved. I will be watching them and I will not hesitate to fall on them like a ton of bricks when it is appropriate to do so. If you have been left out, either you toe the line or you get out, that is what democracy entails.’’

“Don’t Dare Me”

Not the least shocking of statements, Lungu warned Hichilema, the man who nearly upset the PF apple cart during the January 20 elections, President Lungu said: “I want to warn politicians to desist from politicising the killing of the cadre. Let me be specific, especially Mr Hichilema should not dare me too much by mobilising cadres and start protesting in Lusaka.”
This was on the day police tear-gassed UPND cadres who were on their way to bury their fellow party member who had allegedly been killed by members of the ruling PF. Obviously it is wrong for any politician to incite lawlessness but whether the reasons given by the police for their action are genuine or not is another matter.
Interestingly, Lungu told the SABC in a televised interview that he nearly lost the elections because he was naïve. The point gleaned from this statement is that Lungu, who had been left with the instruments of power by President Michael Sata at the time he left the country and, unfortunately, dying in the process of the treatment he went for, controversially lost them to Dr Guy Scott, the then Vice President.
Seemingly a student of veteran Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Lungu is not ready to lose an election—or easily give up power like was the case when he was threatened with a treason charge by the then Attorney General Musa Mwenye. We do not know what lessons Lungu has learnt from Sekuru whom he visited shortly before and shortly after elections. Mugabe himself has been at the helm of Zimbabwean politics for three and a half decades.

Catholic Priest Deportation

All these in the first five weeks of Lungu’s presidency, but anyone who cared to follow Lungu’s political ascent particularly when he became Home Affairs Minister, knows that it was under him that a Catholic Priest, Father Viateur Banyangadora was deported to his home country, Rwanda, for simply preaching the shortcomings of the PF government which had neglected to pay farmers barely 14 months into government.
It was also under the man as the political head of the home affairs portfolio that opposition parties were suppressed to an extent that nearly all opposition leaders were at some point or other, arrested for holding meetings even indoors, visiting markets or chiefs. At some point, Hichilema, MMD’s Nevers Mumba and NAREP’s Elias Chipimo were busy trekking to court to answer charges related to their political activities.
Lungu went on to simultaneously hold the portfolios of Defence and Justice in addition to the position of the ruling party’s national secretary barely two months before President Sata died. It is his ascent to the party’s presidency and with it, the party’s candidate in the national presidential candidate that went without controversy. It is probably from this controversy that he was to declare in the SABC interview that he was naïve not to have won the national election with a wider margin.

School Playground Bully

Shortly after being elected, President Lungu declared, like Francis Fukuyama of the end of history fame, the end of politics, at least before the 2016 elections. Some cynics likened Lungu to a school playground bully who calls off the game because he is tired. The nation is, nevertheless, going back to the polls in the next one year six months and political parties need to constantly register in people’s minds about alternatives and programmes if and when they form government.
It appears that Lungu, who acted as a president in the absence of Sata a couple times, has just realised how much power he wields as an elected office holder. At every opportunity, he is now reminding citizens of that fact and how he can order the police to pounce on his detractors if he so desires.
In the run up to the presidential elections, Lungu was touted as a humble person but whether as republican president that humility is holding now or will hold in the future, is yet to be seen considering that the election season is not really over with next year’s presidential and general elections and someone is likely to step on his toes.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Two Charities To Hold Easter Ball To Raise Funds For Cancer And Orphans

Guest Blog By Betty K Chilufya*

Reading is a beautiful town in the South East of England in which a hive of community activities take place throughout the year. This year, 2015, the Mumba Children’s Project (MCP) in conjunction with the CancerSupport Network of Zambia (CSNZ), will be hosting a charity Easter Ball at the Hilton Hotel, Reading, on the April 11, 2015. The money raised at this event will be equally shared by the two charities.
The MCP based in Mpongwe, Zambia, was initiated by Hildah Mulenga in memory of her 13 year old son who was tragically killed after being run down by a car while riding a bike. This incident occurred shortly after the family had moved to Southend-on-Sea, in Essex in the United Kingdom.
The MCP functions as a children’s day care learning centre. Children include orphans being looked after by grandparents and extended families while the rest are from impoverished families who need a lot of assistance as there are no social benefits in Zambia.  
Some of the children that helped by the Mumba Children's Project.

Their mission is to acknowledge that every child matters and no child is born to die. They strive to give children in their care, basic needs which include education, clothing, shelter, safe playing environment and a nutritional balanced diet.


Mosaic Art 


Apart from caring for the children, the centre empowers the youth with life sustaining skills such as carpentry. In September this year, a group of Mosaic artists from the UK will be traveling to Mpongwe to teach the youth Mosiac art. It is hoped after being taught this amazing skill, they will be able to start their own profitable business. In the same group will be an experienced aroma therapist who will teach the women on reflexology and aromatherapy. The MCP also offers material support to the adults especially with literacy classes and help in looking after their children. This charity is registered both in Zambia and the UK.
The CSNZ was founded by Doreen Mwenya Grant based in the USA and is a breast cancer survivor. It was launched in October 2011 in Zambia and has its headquarters in Kitwe. It aims to educate the public on cancer, advocate for better health and inspire people with its stories of hope. 
The organisation is committed to helping strengthen the mental and physical capacity of cancer patients in order for them to fight their way back to health. It gives hope by building and sustaining strong peer facilitated support groups, educational forums that empower people affected by cancer and give inspiration for a life beyond the cancer experience. Currently it offers support to cervical, breast and prostate cancer patients.


Cancer Eradication 


CSNZ is always thankful with the commitment made by donors for supporting their efforts in making strides towards eradicating cancer in Zambia. The vision of the Board of Directors and the Planning Committees is to reach as many communities as possible with life-saving information, provide training forums and challenge lawmakers.
In 2013, a public appeal was made to CSNZ by Chief Chiwala of Masaiti District to sensitise and screen women on breast and cervical cancer.  A team of advocates and health care professionals screened hundreds of women for breast and cervical cancer. The event was such a success that it received national media attention.  
Women that were found to have signs or symptoms of cancer, received written referrals for specialised screening at district hospitals. A vehicle was rented to transport the advocates and nurses to and from Ndola Rural, who were able to provide printed educational materials, organise forums and basic screening equipment.   
Some patients were provided with transport to and from the Cancer Diseases Hospital, Lusaka, where they received mammograms or pap tests. This activity was made possible by the support from various donors from around the globe. 
It is also important to mention that all the CSNZ advocates are all volunteers and are not reimbursed for their time or effort. Despite the many challenges, the CSNZ continue to grow as an organization, and its partnerships with its sponsors is vital to the success of eradicating cancer in Zambia.
At CSNZ’s launch in 2011, a group of women from Mpongwe attended the gala at Edinburgh Hotel in Kitwe and one of them was a breast cancer patient who received support and participated in the walk with the then First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba Sata.


Cervical Cancer Treatment

Currently there are women from Mpongwe who are undergoing cervical cancer treatment at Ndola Central Hospital with the help and support of CSNZ. Mumba Children’s Project has and continues to use the services offered by the CSNZ and therefore feel obliged to plough back funding into the Network. It is for this reason that MCP will share the funds raised at the charity event with CSNZ.
Currently, the MCP are building three classrooms with the support of various donor groups based in the UK. 
With the money raised from the charity ball, they plan to buy desks and other school stationary. There are also future plans to complete a library and make it a resource centre for the youth. For the CSNZ, it is hoped that the funds raised will help to equip a gynaecological ward at Kitwe Central Hospital, Zambia that has been allocated to them.

*With the help of Doreen Mwenya Grant and Hilda Mulenga.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

"The Democratization Process In Zambia Has Reached A Point Of No Return"

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Won by Edgar Lungu of the ruling party and contested by some in the opposition, the major take away from the recent elections is that the democratization process in Zambia has reached a point of no return says seasoned journalist Gershom Ndhlovu.The process may not have been perfect but the elections were a step in the right direction says Ndhlovu. In an interview with Pan African Visions, Ndhlovu discusses the elections, factors that facilitated victory for Edgar Lungu, the new government, challenges ahead and complaints from the opposition.

How would you describe the recent elections that took place in Zambia and what impact would you say it had on the democratization process in Zambia?

As elections go, the constitutional requirement of holding an election within 90 of the death of an incumbent president, in this case, the death of President Sata on October 28, 2014, was fulfilled on January 20, 2015. The biggest handicap of the election was the apathy that characterized the whole process. First and foremost, the election was held at the height of the rain season when most places are difficult to access due to floods and poor road and bridge infrastructure in the hinterland. Secondly, most of the subsistence farmers who rely on rain for their farming, were busy cultivating their land and could not be bothered to go and vote. Even though the election results were tight with only 1.66 per cent separating the top two contenders, the pre-election management such as coverage of participating parties by state-owned media which has wider coverage, favoured the party in power. But since most of the observers declared the elections free and fair, we just have to go by that.
There may be weaknesses in the electoral management process, the democratization process in Zambia has reached a point of no return. The point at which the country has reached just expects elections to be held when they are due. The process is not perfect but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Zambia's President Edgar Lungu.

What are some of the factors which helped Edgar Lungu and the ruling party to victory?

The biggest factor that helped Edgar Lungu and his ruling party to win is obviously the incumbency that they went into the elections with. The late Sata was quite popular and his administration embarked on a massive road and other infrastructure development around the country. People perhaps voted hoping that the PF candidate, in this case Lungu, would continue with what Sata started in 2011. The biasness of coverage by state media in favour of the ruling party could have also contributed to the election of now President Lungu.

With the elections now over, may we know priority areas that Zambians expect President Lungu to focus on?

The biggest challenge on President Lungu’s hands is poverty reduction through promotion of entrepreneurship among Zambians, job creation and resource redistribution. Unfortunately, in less than a month of Lungu’s presidency, the local currency, the Kwacha has weakened markedly in relation to international currencies of the dollar and the pound. This has the potential to derail infrastructure development started by Sata. Lungu also needs to address corruption that has become rooted in public service. So far, he has not made any landmark statement addressing the issue.

From the composition of the new government, is there a sense that the new leadership will take aspirations of Zambians seriously?

Apart from a couple of new faces, notably those from the former ruling MMD being given full cabinet portfolios, most of the people who have been appointed into government were part of Sata’s team. So, unless Lungu wields a stronger hand policy and direction wise, I am afraid there won’t be earth shattering changes in the management of issues affecting the Zambian electorate.

A novelty in the new Government was the appointment of a female Vice President, how was this development appraised by Zambians?

The appointment of a female Vice President in Zambia is long overdue. In fact, the next stop should be for a female president. The appointment of Mrs Inonge Wina was generally applauded by the citizenry. But, of course, cognizance must be taken of her role as PF national charman in the election of Lungu as the party’s candidate at the shambolic party national convention which was marred by all manner of confusion ranging from one faction holding a parallel convention and suspensions and counter-suspensions. Wina sided with Lungu all along.

How did Guy Scott fare as transitional leader and what role does he play now that he is out of government?

Sadly, Guy Scott’s tenure as transitional leader was overshadowed by the problems in the ruling party some of which I highlight above. But generally, as far as managing state affairs was concerned, he did very well. He wanted transparency in the elections with all participants receiving fair coverage and treatment. However, some of the challenges are deep-rooted. Scott, a founder member of the PF, is still an MP of the metropolitan constituency of Lusaka Central. I am sure he will decide his political future in the lead up to the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Not much is known about Edgar Lungu outside of Zambia, what kind of leader is he and why did he insist on keeping the Defence Portfolio?

Not much was known about Lungu in Zambia apart from the fact that he had risen from political obscurity in 2011, to acting president in the few months leading to Sata’s death. He was not even among those jostling to take over the mantle even if Sata had lived up to 2016. He came forcefully to the forefront when Sata dismissed his once powerful party national secretary Wynter Kabimba and replaced him with Lungu. It is too soon to know what type of leader he is within the last four weeks. Zambians are just getting to know him day by day. For his maintaining the defence portfolio, it is difficult to say why he arrived at that decision. Speculation is that he wants to keep tight control of the contracts that come with the portfolio with its massive budget allocation.

Where opposition leaders who cried foul just been sour losers or there had genuine grievances?

It would not be fair to call the losers sour losers. Zambia’s electoral system needs a massive overhaul ranging from the printing of ballot papers currently done outside the country, to the use of the Zambian Airforce in ferrying ballot materials to and from far-flung polling centres.Some grievances may have been frivolous but many others were genuine.

Thanks so much for the interview sir.

You are welcome.

*This interview was originally published by Pan African Visions.