Monday, 4 May 2015

Four Months Into Office And Lungu’s Already Grooming Successor

…What Criteria Has He Used To Arrive At That Person?

 Was it a Freudian slip when President Edgar Chagwa Lungu told the nation that he was learning a lot from veteran Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe and shortly after, disclose that he was grooming a friend to take over from him? Not that there is anything wrong in grooming anyone to take up the mantle after his stint, but the problem with this is that the President is already stifling internal party democracy by curtailing anyone with ambitions of democratically contesting the presidency.
The other problem I seem to find in President Lungu grooming a successor is that he has barely been in office for less than four months and in that period he has already identified a potential successor. The question is has he identified that person based on their hardwork or other factor that we may not know about? Anyway, this is a topic for another day.
The issue of “anointing” a successor in the ruling PF is still fresh in people’s minds which resulted in a very fractious national convention which selected President Lungu as the party’s national presidential candidate following the death of President Michael Sata, the party’s founder, in October last year. There had been eleven candidates vying for the position of party leader and subsequently as national presidential candidate.
Two national conventions were held one after another in November last year with court injunctions and counter-injunctions flying back and forth to determine which one was the more legitimate convention and therefore producing a legitimate presidential candidate. With the support of party national chairperson Inonge Wina, the Lungu faction emerged winner in the political melee to succeed President Sata.

Instruments Of Power

All this was because President Sata, on the last trip which saw him hospitalised in a London hospital where he subsequently died, left the party’s national secretary who was also Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, Edgar Lungu, to act as President. This act alone saw Lungu, hitherto, a little known lawyer who entered politics through representing Sata, himself a litigious politician who frequently fell foul of the law for his political activities. Lungu was to later give a shot at the Chawama seat losing it but winning it in 2011.
President Sata, on his numerous foreign outings, had left a lot of people to act in his place and never once did he leave his then Vice President Dr Guy Scott to act despite the fact that he was constitutionally the one who should have been acting as President in his (Sata’s) absence. Irony of ironies, though, is that Scott took up the mantle upon Sata’s death and saw the country’s transition to the next election in which Zambians elected President Lungu.
The scramble to succeed President Sata started more than a year before he passed on and the process claimed the scalp of the man who the nation saw as the one to take over from the founding party president whom it was being speculated at the time that he would not go beyond 2016 compounded by rumours of ill-health.
President Sata sprung a surprise, stripping Wynter Kabimba, the party’s national secretary and justice minister of all his positions. Kabimba was a powerful figure who was, protocol-wise, third in the hierarchy from President Sata and Vice President Dr Scott. Incidentally, the party chief executive officer attracted the ire of the party membership across the breadth and length of the country with cadres carrying coffins demanding his removal as administrative head of the party.
President Lungu and his supporters fought the internal succession battle on the basis of him being anointed by President Sata by virtue of being left the instruments of power. As Acting President, Lungu also officiated at two most important events, the golden jubilee independent celebration and Sata’s funeral, the two events that probably won him national admiration.
For President Lungu to say that he is grooming a successor, he obviously is killing the ambition of not only the people who challenged him at the parallel conventions, but others within the party who could have emerged after his tenure as party and republican president.
If President Lungu is grooming someone to take over the reins as PF leader who would then go on and contest the national presidency along with candidates from other political parties, well and good. But to anoint someone to take over the republican presidency whatever it takes, then we start worrying about the lessons he is learning from President Mugabe.
President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for over three decades and has been known to manipulate polls and with it, the flagrant use of violence to coerce people to vote for him and, as happened in 2008, traumatized opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvagirayi into withdrawing from a poll run-off.

Failure Of Intra-party Democracy

Without dwelling on national democracy, clearly PF intra-party democracy is the victim here and it also just reflects the party’s history in which office bearers have mostly been appointed by the party founder, President Sata. Even the national convention that elected President Lungu was flawed to a large extent as he, himself, was elected more by acclamation than by ballot.
In fact, President Lungu fired some senior party officials and appointed others in their place in the wake of the debacle of the national conventions.
Already, there’s finger pointing in the PF with accusations of some members harbouring ambitions of challenging President Lungu. Former Cabinet Minister in President Sata's administration, WylburSimuusa has been on the receiving end from PF National Youth Chairman Chishimba Kambwili who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting who stated that there was no vacancy for presidency in the PF.
Whatever happens in the ruling party, political commentators will have a lot on their plates.
[Photo credit: Henry Salim's Facebook page]

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Zambia Should Go Back To Thermal Power Generation

…Infrastructure Already Exists

Zambia’s power distribution infrastructure is amazing if you know the source of the power lines at the Kariba Dam on the border with Zimbabwe and Kafue Gorge or Namalundu as it is fondly known as it snakes through the rest of the country all the way to Chililabombwe and the rest of the country.
I have been privileged to walk across the Kariba Dam wall and also socialise at a club on a hill overlooking Kafue Gorge power station. However, I have not been fortunate enough to enter the power stations themselves maybe for the simple reason that when I was an active reporter in the early 1990s there was no need for power utility company ZESCO to take reporters around because everything operated smoothly with load-shedding unheard of.
But back to the power lines. If you are coming from Siavonga you cross them at a place called Kariba Store a few kilometres to the north of Siavonga centre. As you drive on towards Lusaka, you cross them again on the Chirundu road and from there, they disappear into the countryside until after you cross the Kafue River when you come across a set of power lines coming from Kafue Gorge, these heading towards Mazabuka’s Nakambala Sugar Estates.
Travelling on Great East Road, you come across the power lines just after Silverest Primary School as they continue on to Kapiri Mposhi up to Maposa between Ndola and Kitwe and up to Luano Power Station near Chingola where they further crisscross to Mufulira, Nchanga and Konkola. The distance from Kariba to Chingola is just jaw-dropping if you have travelled the breadth and length of Zambia.
The irony of ironies, though, is that many, many people living under these power lines do not have access to electricity.
I have been underground at Baluba Mine and Konkola Mine but I have never been in the actual power generation stations. I would, however, imagine what an awesome sight it is to see all those giant turbines being driven by water to generate electric power that runs equipment and lights in industry and in our homes hundreds of kilometres away. It is an inescapable fact that electricity is to our lives almost as oxygen is.

Countrywide Power Outage

One can imagine that a power outage on the scale that hit eightof the 10 provinces of Zambia on April 27, badly affected the people largely dependent on electricity for cooking, lighting and the use of gadgets that make life easier. Even more sadly is the effect the outage had on hospitals particularly those on life-support machines and babies in incubators.
The recent power outage is the third in as many years. Most memorable though is the first power outage which affected both Zambia and Zimbabwe, just over six years ago, was attributed to a cyber attack.
Energy Minister Christoppher Yaluma, sometime in 2013 indicated that load-shedding would be history by December 2014. Five months later and definitely beyond, load-shedding is much part of life in the country. The question that needs to be asked even if load-shedding is sorted out for now, is will the installed capacity be enough to meet the growing demand of electricity for a growing population? Zambia’s population, about 4m shortly after independence, has grown to nearly 15m. Going by the percentages, the population is on target to hit 20 million and above in the next few years.
It is not for me to say how much has been invested in the power sector or how much has been borrowed to fund the rehabilitation of power generation stations. I leave that to economist friends. But what Zambia needs to do is to work on alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind-generated power, both of which are in abundant supply by the providence of Mother Nature. As for the sun, Zambian in particular and Africa in general have not less than 10 hours of sunshine per day compared to places like Europe which in some seasons, enjoy less than six hours of the sun per day.
Only recently we were told that the Kariba Dam wall hasdeveloped cracks that need to be repaired. Perish the thought of the consequences of an unrepaired dam wall because if things got to a point of—God forbid—collapsing, the carnage right from Namomba fishing camp in Lusitu all the way to the mouth of the Zambezi River in the Indian Ocean would be unspeakable.
Zambia needs to go back to thermal power generation which should be the easiest because the infrastructure, if not cannibalized or worse, vandalized, is already in place. For those who have been to the ZESCO head office in Lusaka or shop at the Levy Mall, must have seen the concrete cooling tower in the ZESCO yard. Similar infrastructure exists at the Ndola ZESCO workshop along the Chipulukusu/abattoir road turning off from the Itawa/Airport road. In Kitwe, there is one at the Mopani Copper Mines near the smelter. I am sure these can also be found in Mufulira and Chingola as I am not very familiar with these towns.

Thermal Power As Alternative

Developed countries such as the United Kingdom have projected a future power shortage and are working on alternative sources of energy even though they have nuclear power-generated electricity which by any thread of imagination, we would never have in our life time. But we do have the coal in Maamba and Batoka to fire the thermal stations.
Yes, it may be dirty to handle and anachronistic but it is an alternative. Power from those thermal stations could be fed into the grid to power Lusaka and surrounding areas, Ndola and surrounding areas and Kitwe and surrounding areas while power from Kariba and Kafue could be directed to mines and other industries.
When electric power generation sources increase, many people will have access to it at a cheaper rate and will save the environment as people will not be reliant on tree-depleting charcoal and firewood which many people rely upon even when they are connected to the national grid but have to face power outages.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Scooping Fuel From Tanker Accident Scenes Is Dangerous

...The Kabwe Accident 20 Years Ago Is Good Example

One Facebook user, Muchemwa Sichone recently wrote about an overturned fuel tanker along the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway and how it was swarmed by people of all ages and sex scooping and decanting the liquid from the stricken vehicle.
Sichone wrote:
A fuel tanker had an accident on the Ndola - Kitwe dual carriage way today [April 16]. It fell onto it's side and I was just awed by the blatant disregard for safety and life that every "container opportunistic scavenger" in man, woman as well as child was demonstrating. The Police and Fire Brigade were nowhere in sight to secure the site. It's things like this that are more of an indicator for me about the state of this nation than the US$ rate...#StartThinking.”
On another Facebook post, someone who saw the same accident reported how policemen who finally got to the accident scene, were also wet from the fuel. It would appear that the law enforcement officers also joined the jamboree of scooping the essential juice along with the rest of the citizens.
As I read the two posts, my memory raced back to an incident involving a fuel tanker that had overturned near Hindu Hall on the Kabwe-Kapiri highway just over 20 years ago. I was a reporter on the Sunday Mail then and travelled to Kabwe to cover the incident.
People scooping petrol from an overturned tanker.
Kabwe residents from far and wide descended on the accident scene like vultures with all sorts of containers including dishes without covers or leads, to decant fuel from the tanker. For a while it was a mad rush with the lucky ones siphoning as much fuel as they could and get away.
A new 4x4 Toyota Hilux also arrived at the scene with the driver trying to refuel for free before he could drive off. He did manage to refuel the twin cab but he couldn’t manage to drive off. It is not clear what happened at that very moment as the tanker with its deadly cargo blew up into a fireball engulfing everyone and everything around it and those walking away with the liquid cargo in the immediate vicinity of the tanker.
There is a sad story of two young children who sat on the culvert of their house, a few metres away, innocently watching what was going on. The children had no chance to get away when the fireball followed the flow of the fuel in the drainage running towards them.

What Caused The Deadly Kabwe Inferno?

The question is what caused the deadly inferno that killed over 30 people including a whole generation of kaponyas [touts] who had converged at the accident scene to scoop free fuel for their changanya [illegal fuel] business? There are two theories. One is that someone tried to steal the battery and in the process caused a spark, igniting the air pregnant with fumes.
The second is that a kaponya whom people called “Changwe wa ku Poleni [Changwe of Poleni] ” threw a cigarette he was smoking as he arrived at the scene on to the lethal fluid with the words “mwatapa sana [you have scooped enough]” and the whole thing just blew up. Of course it is difficult to verify the two theories as most, if not all, of the would-be witnesses perished.
At that time, Kabwe residents learnt a lesson such that a Chibuku [opaque beer] tanker overturned a few weeks later and no one touched it.

Ndola Family Wiped Out

Still on the issue of improper handling/storage of petroleum products, a family I knew in one of the townships in Ndola in the 1980s lost almost everyone when drums of petrol for sale as changanya and kept in one of the bedrooms caught fire. A family member, concluding a sale, went into the bedroom with a lit candle to decant petrol into a customer’s plastic container. The rest, as they say, is history.
But back to the Ndola-Kitwe road incident. That, clearly, was an accident—apart from the flipping of the tanker—waiting to happen. A spark or—have you ever wondered why the use of mobile phones is not allowed at filling stations—even a ringing mobile phone could spark a fire at a scene like that.
What is more is that the Ndola-Kitwe highway is a changanya haven right from Baluba up to just before ZamTan and I am sure all the traders converged on the tanker spewing liquid gold.
It is high time our law enforcement bodies, the fire brigade and safety bodies like the Mine Safety Department and the Energy Regulation Board came up with rules, regulations and serious penalties for breaking them such as when the whole citizenry descends on an overturned fuel tanker like vultures.