Thursday, 25 October 2007


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


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


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


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.