Friday, 27 July 2007


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.—

Friday, 20 July 2007


By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is difficult to appreciate government’s efforts of sending a handful of people outside the country for treatment with the justification that all Zambians are entitled to this privilege. Maybe the first step that government should take to convince us is for the Ministry of Health to publish the names, of course not the ailments, of the so-called ordinary Zambians that have benefited from the privilege.
It is not difficult though to see that there are many people in Kalumwange dying (no pun intended) to be taken to Kaoma District Hospital. There are equally many people in Chiundaponde who need to be taken to Mpika District Hospital for preventable illnesses and the same is the case all over Zambia. But for reasons of lack of accessibility to these basic facilities, people are left to die in their homes.
This, unfortunately, is not just the case in rural areas. There are people dying in their homes in Kapoto in Kitwe, in Chipulukusu in Ndola and in Misisi in Lusaka.
When these people have the opportunity to go to a health centre, they are in most cases just end up being given prescriptions with which to buy medicine which is not cheap. With the Kwacha hard to come by, many people give up and just end up in their homes, awaiting death.
To make matters worse for the so-called ordinary Zambians to whom it is such a privilege to even go to the UTH, Ndola Central Hospital and Chipata General Hospital, most of the time, these institutions are not only hit by a shortage of medical and paramedical staff who have mostly left for greener pastures both within and outside the country, but they are also hit by frequent strikes by the staff that want an improvement in their conditions of service.
It is rather unfortunate that the Minister of Health, Brigadier-General Dr Brian Chituwo portrays a picture that such shortcomings in our health institutions are not a big issue going by his recent statement that led to two HIV positive people protesting outside parliament and ending up being arrested for trying to attract the attention of higher authorities to the plight of medical and paramedical staff.
Of course, the political elite and those close to them end up being evacuated to the now famous Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg even for simple illnesses like flu. Many poor people in need of renal dialysis are asked to pay huge amounts of money for the service at local hospitals while those with connections are taken to South Africa for ruptured ear-drums, depression and a myriad of ailments that can easily be taken care of locally, and all this at tax-payers’ expense.
What is sad is that the facilities to which the well-connected are sent, are manned by Zambians who have emigrated.
Franz Fanon, the author of The Wretched of the Earth and Black Faces, White Masks clearly stated that the political elite that fought for independence and by extension, those that have come after them, envied the way the colonialists lived and wanted to replace them so that they could also enjoy the privileges that the colonialists enjoyed. Improving the lot of the people was the least of their interests.
Looking at Africa today, Franz Fanon, the Algerian who was born in French Martinique, could not have been far from the truth even in the early 1960s when very few countries on the continent were independent.
He, as they say, must be turning in his grave in anger at the betrayal of the African people who are as impoverished today as they were before independence.
The story of one African president who chartered a plane for his daughter to go and give birth in Europe is still fresh in people’s minds.
**In the column “Gold Made in Mushili” two weeks ago, it was stated that mineral maps are believed to have disappeared during privatisation in the early 1970s. It should have read nationalisation instead of privatisation. –

Thursday, 12 July 2007


This week we repeat the column that was published in the January 19, 2007 edition following the developments at the just ended African Union summit in Ghana. We have highlighted some of the statements made by outgoing SADC chairman and Lesotho Prime Minister Phakalita Mosisili and President Mwanawasa just before and during the summit.

By Gershom Ndhlovu

Last week I read a story about the launch of a debate on an ideal African government in the electronic version of the Zambia Daily Mail. The question, however, is, is the African continent ready for a United States of Africa, or even a European Union-type system?
First and foremost, the turbulent history as well as current political situation on the continent in which most African countries are embroiled in internal power struggles, civil wars as well as economic instability and the concomitant poverty that its peoples face all militate against an all embracing, all acceptable government under a US of Africa, or indeed, an EU type of system.
The patriotism of the founding fathers of the American system that brought together the North and the South, albeit in a civil war, lacks among past, current and, for the foreseeable, future leaders of the African continent, itself an underdog in the international political and economic system dominated by the more stable and organised west.
Bringing together the 53 African countries, most of which are politically disorganised, undemocratic and impoverished to form a unitary state would be a complex task that would require a lot of diplomatic effort, time and resources, not to mention the acceptability of whoever emerges as president at any given time. Even now, it is very difficult for citizens of African countries to fully accept results of elections in their own countries, let alone the whole continent, if that were to happen.
There is also the issue of addressing failed states such as Somalia which has had no central government for over 15 years now and also dealing with the issue of corruption which is a sine-qua-non for entry into the EU for those European countries seeking entry into the community of European nations. But, as it is, most of the African countries are high on the Transparency International corruption index unless it is an issue that our leaders can sweep under the carpet.
Poor communications in most African countries would also wreak havoc on the continent in terms of knowing what is happening in one corner of the resultant mega-nation and even getting to one part of such a nation to another. At present, for example, it is impossible to get from say, Kinshasa, in the north-west, to Lubumbashi in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo by road. Imagine the task of getting from Mozambique to Cameroon!
One does not need to go far to think of tribalism that characterises the local political systems to imagine what would happen when the 53 countries come together multiplied by the tribes in those countries. Cultural and religious, and to a certain extent, the racist differences such as those that are being played out in the Darfur region of Sudan, simply work against a successful US of A.
Even a system like the EU that has, as at January 1, 2007, 27 member states, would be an impossible feat considering the fragmented political systems of the different countries on the continent where democracy at all levels needs to be inculcated in the minds of all the continent’s citizens.
In the EU, the strong economies of most of the members easily carry along the few poorer nations whereas in Africa, the burden would certainly fall on the fewer economically strong members to carry along the poorer majority.
At the moment, the regional groupings such as COMESA and ECOWAS which are supposed to be building blocs for an African Union are, to say the least, structurally and functionally weak and need to be strengthened such that when the time comes, if it ever does, for the envisaged AU, the pieces will just fall nicely into place. The current AU, like its forerunner, the Organisation of African Unity, is just little more than a playground for the big boys (and girl) of Africa where they just meet to party.
The Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development has also not worked very well in that the continent’s leaders shy away from criticising each other when things are going wrong in another country such that recalcitrant leaders continue oppressing their citizens. That, certainly, is not a good recipe for a truly citizen driven African Union or, indeed, a United States of Africa.—

Friday, 6 July 2007


By Gershom Ndhlovu
Recently I read a story entitled “Uranium ‘hunters’ masquerading as copper miners” in one of the daily papers. The story sent my mind racing back into time to the existence of the Precious Metals Plant (PMP) which was situated at the Ndola Copper Refinery which was later sold to the Binani Group of companies.
The PMP, situated on the Ndola-Kabwe road, fell into such a state of disrepair such that some bold Ndola residents started vandalising it, first by removing all the remnants of copper in whatever form and then roofing sheets and anything movable.
This is the same fate that befell the defunct Furncoz plant in Ndola’s industrial area which was vandalised brick by brick, metal by piece of metal.
I had the privilege of visiting the PMP on two occasions, first on a conducted tour of ZCCM facilities which took me underground at Baluba Mine and Konkola B shaft, with the then ZCCM spokesman, the late Francis Musonda, when I was Zambia Daily Mail Ndola Chief Reporter.
The second visit was when former Vice-President Christon Tembo was Mines Minister and toured the plant.
What I discovered then was that ZCCM used to produce gold, along with silver, selenium and other base metals from the slug that came from copper processing at the smelters in Luanshya, Kitwe, Mufulira and Chingola.
Strange as it may sound, production figures for the gold were not very well publicised, if at all. Or is it that we were only interested in production figures for the “almighty” copper? But stranger still, the same slag started finding its way to Mushili Township where gold processing flourished by people who appeared to be from a neighbouring country.
The tell-tale signs for such activities were gas cylinders and large quantities of charcoal that were found at these backyard refineries. I would not be surprised if this is still going on not only in Mushili but in other areas of the Copperbelt.
During my visit to Baluba Shaft, I learnt from a geologist who conducted us underground that Baluba was actually more of a cobalt mine than a copper mine. In the same conversation, it was also mentioned that one previously closed mine in North-Western Province was more of a gold mine, by South African standards if I correctly remember what this geologist said, than a copper mine.
I do not know how true it is, but there were rumours that at the time of privatising the mines in the 1970s, Zambia’s mineral maps disappeared with the departing foreign mine owners. Would it be surprising that someone somewhere knows where Zambia’s Uranium deposits lie?
The Mines and Minerals Development Deputy Minister, Mr Maxwell Mwale should know that the “domestic” gold processors in Mushili did not need any licences to process the precious metal. All they needed was someone illegally supplying them with the slug. The gold probably ended up in a neighbouring country and onwards to Europe.
Who knows if someone has figured out how to process Uranium in domestic kilns and who knows where it could be ending up? Waiting for someone from Chipulukusu to queue up at the Ministry of Mines for a licence would be a waste of time if all it takes is a “mbaula” to process gold or Uranium and a brief-case to take it across the border.
Of course forget about how toxic the mercury is that is used in gold processing. Equally forget the radioactivity from Uranium. What matters is the money to be made from these illegal and dangerous activities
This is exactly the same with Zambian emeralds which are marketed as coming from one Middle Eastern country just because they are polished in that country and are probably not even registered at the Ministry of Mines even for statistical reasons.
What the Zambian government needs to do for now is to go back to the drawing boards for all things mining, mineral maps, royalties and all.—