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.
Friday, 30 November 2007
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 16:48
Saturday, 24 November 2007
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'."
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 07:05
Friday, 16 November 2007
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.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 15:28
Friday, 9 November 2007
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.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:14
Friday, 2 November 2007
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.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 12:11