By Gershom Ndhlovu
Whatever happened to that age-old gem of wisdom that we always spat out when we realised someone was about to take advantage of us as youngsters in playgrounds in Kitwe: takuli kuliilana amasuku pamutwe guys in Bemba.
In the Zambian society today, ukuliilana amasuku unfortunately has become part of the national culture, and if anybody at any level for that matter, manages to eat fruit from someone else’s head, he assumes heroic status and the victim is deemed ukupwalala or sleepy.
A good example is the way former President Chiluba who is appearing in court for various offences allegedly committed while in office, is today seen as a victim rather than what he should be treated, as in The people Vs Chiluba.
Politicians in government, politicians outside government, senior civil servants, junior civil servants, private and parastatal company chief executives, junior employees, NGO leaders and just about everybody, including tuntemba owners, are fleecing and want to fleece everyone else.In short, crime in general and corruption in particular, is endemic in the nation. The dominant criminal element in society has impoverished everyone else to a point where being “clean” is considered abnormal.
When I was a student just over two decades ago, we used to band about statistics in Kalingalinga and M’tendere taverns that 95 percent of the nation’s wealth was in the hands of five percent of the population which was then associated with UNIP.
Two decades later and 17 years of the MMD in power, I am sure the statistics have shifted: 99 percent of the wealth is in the hands of only one percent of the population.
Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande himself admitted that it was difficult for the people of Zambia to appreciate that the economy was improving because they are impoverished in any case. How does one explain the fact that ministers, top civil servants and the privileged few are able to build mansions within a short time while everyone else cannot even afford a bag of mealie meal?
I do agree with one reader, MrK, who commented on last week’s column, Katumbi’s FRA Farce, that corruption was to blame for the malaise in the nation.”The problem is not just that Zambia does not have the systems in place. The problem is the political will to actually root out corruption, even at the ministerial level. ”Zambia is very rich (an estimated $47 billion worth of mineral reserves, and millions of hectares of unused arable land), but until there is the political will to develop the country, the majority of the people are going to continue to live on less than $1 per day. ”Everything is in place, the graduates, the land, labour and capital. But there must be the political will to change, upset the comfortable agreements that keep the majority poor, but keep the political elite and western corporations with most of the money. That is the direction change is going to come from.”
The biggest problem has been that Zambians have for the last four decades been told half truths and whole lies by those they have entrusted with the affairs of the state to an extent where they now believe the state of deprivation they are in is almost divine.
Look at how they are being dribbled in the case of Moses Katumbi, DRC Katanga governor who until a few weeks ago was a villain. Today he is a saint who never put his foot wrong and never “banned the transportation of copper concentrates to Zambia.”
Because some politician with vested interests justifies the reason why Katumbi’s case is not worth pursuing now, we should all believe it. Katumbi enjoys immunity because he is a senior government official of a neighbouring country.
At one time one Zambian minister was not able to travel to one European country because of his dealings in some unsavoury substances which had landed him in detention at home. Going by this example, there is no reason why Katumbi should go scot-free.
Thursday, 27 December 2007
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 23:32
Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Chief Government spokesman Mike Mulongoti did a good job, or at least he thought he did, to explain to the nation why the state halted the case of alleged plunder Democratic Republic of Congo Katanga governor Moses Katumbi.
While Katumbi’s case generated a lot of interest in the past and at least claimed the scalp of one of the most experienced politicians in Zambia, that of former Information Minister Vernon Mwaanga for allegedly mishandling a special presidential assignment on the same matter, it is refusing to be buried.
Mulongoti who, ironically, took over from Mwaanga, in explaining government’s decision only succeeded in muddying the waters even more by revealing that there are no proper records of the transactions involving Katumbi at the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), of all places.
For all intents and purposes, Katumbi must have been a very big FRA client considering that the milling wing of Chani Fisheries bought huge supplies of maize whose mealie meal he sold at lower-than-market prices as an MMD campaign gimmick.
Before anyone asks what happened to Katumbi’s records at FRA, one wonders if this issue does not warrant a major audit at the institution which handles a lot of money buying crops from subsistence, emergent and even commercial farmers.
If documents of one of the biggest clients of a few years ago in the name of Katumbi, never mind his relationship with the former president who is himself facing cases of plunder, can go missing willy-nilly, then, God forbid, what else has gone missing.
Is it a coincidence then that the FRA is itself at the centre of the yet to be resolved, if resolved it will ever be, Carrington maize scandal in which the government paid a lot of money to some international conmen who never delivered even a grain on the nation’s doorstep?
I am not surprised that documents, especially Katumbi’s, can vanish in thin air, or even that record keeping at FRA is poor. It is at the same agency that the employees paid themselves huge amounts in gratuity when it was proposed that the agency would be transformed into a Crop Marketing Authority.
This issue was briefly raised but died a very quiet if wistful death probably to the convenience of some people in authority who could have benefited from the dubious arrangement.
The manner in which Katumbi’s case has been halted stinks, but the administration at FRA is definitely rotten if it does not keep proper records of big clients like Katumbi. Management probably doesn’t even know from whom the agency buys a bag of maize in Vubwi, Kalumwange or Kashinakaji. For all we care, they could be buying some of the maize from ghost farmers!
As the Americans say, the buck stops somewhere. Someone somewhere must know what really transpired in the years leading to 2001. First and foremost, former President Chiluba very much wanted a third term for reasons best known to him. When that failed, he was desperate to have a crony at State House.
At the time, he dumped even people like PF president Michael Sata to whom he is now clinging to for sympathy in preference for Levy Mwanawasa whom he woke up from slumber to take over the presidency. He sure regrets having made that decision seeing that he has spent most of his retirement years in and out of court.
Does the key to political engineering of that time lie at the FRA? Was the FRA another equivalent of the infamous ZAMTROP? Why are the records missing, or put simply, why is record keeping poor at the Agency?
From Mulongoti’s statement on the issue of Katumbi, we probably just saw a very small tip of a very big iceberg lying underneath. Can someone somewhere help in revealing the muck that is being swept under the carpet?
At the rate things are going in the nation, the people’s anti-corruption crusade which was hijacked by President Mwanawasa in 2002 has descended into an unsalvageable farce.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 18:46
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader is a good sign for Africa, that democracy can prevail even in ruling parties across the continent used to leaders who grow roots in the seats of power. Not that Zuma is the best man for the eventual job of South African president, but Thabo Mbeki is to blame.
He should have, at the earliest possible time, gave a clear indication that he would leave at the end of his two term tenure. Others more capable than Zuma could have emerged to compete among themselves while Mbeki watched on the sidelines.
Mbeki should have followed the path left by his predecessor, Nelson Mandela, who gave up the presidency after only one term. Had Mandela wanted, he would have stayed on, Mugabe-style, even into his late 80s. After all he had the charisma as well as the love of the people he presided, not ruled, over. If anything, Mandela is still loved not only in South Africa but all over the world and everyone could have sympathised with him and granted him the favour of carrying on.
Yes, Mbeki is the intellectual who has presided over a strong South African economy, but he lost it politically by trying to cling on to power even by proxy as party president. The ANC rank and file would not have it and just pulled the rag from under his feet. That he has been given a bruising by Zuma, is in itself a vote of no confidence and one wonders how he is going to work in his executive capacity with the new team in the ruling party.
The most logical thing to do is to vacate the presidency and call for national elections so that Zuma can take over as state president as well.
Mbeki’s defeat should send serious signals to the rest of Africa where the likes of Bakili Muluzi still want to come back to power, the Mugabes still run unopposed at ZANU congresses and in Zambia, the ruling party is still flip-flopping on a possible successor. Zambia risks a Zuma-like take over with a possibly “undesirable” element likely to take over. Such is the sorry state in which the African continent is in politically.
The ANC, being the oldest political party on the continent, has shown the way to proper democracy for the rest of Africa.
Hamba Kahle, Thabo.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 21:06
Friday, 14 December 2007
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Fitting into the large boots of the late Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director-general Justice Robert Kapembwa was going to be difficult for anyone not least, Nixon Banda. Barely three years after he took over there are serious allegations of impropriety flying against him.
Kapembwa, a Supreme Court judge, was too squeaky clean a man he did not want a smudge of ink, let alone wrong spellings, on documents that landed on his desk. New officers were warned to be careful because he was “fastidious”.
He was a man who was rarely in the news during his tenure from circa 1987 up to his death in 2003, on matters of operation even less so, if ever, on his private life. The man who was instead always in the news was British-born Douglas Paul Russell, simply known as Paul Russell, who was director of operations. The mere mention of his name made civil servants quake in their boots if they were prone to corruption.
Those who did not know the operational structure of the ACC actually thought Russell was the overall boss and were surprised to learn that there was someone else, a Zambian, at the helm. They would ask why they never heard of him.
But typical of the man, the only time junior officers met him was at the end of an induction course when he would hand them with certificates.
There were very few junior officers that could walk into his office to discuss very important operational matters such as seeking authority for an urgent investigation that probably required a search warrant which would otherwise take long through the normal channels.
Junior officers could go for weeks on end without seeing Justice Kapembwa. They would only know about his presence because of his car parked on the usual spot next to his office. His health, however, started falling and he lost sight in one eye and the rest, as they say, is history.
He commanded so much respect both in life and in death such that at his valediction at the Supreme Court and at his funeral service at St. Paul’s UCZ in Kabwata as well as the actual burial, the people who were there read like a Who-Is-Who of Zambian society.
I must admit that I do not know much about Banda, or Nix B as officers call him, to say anything meaningful about him apart from scraps of information from those he works with.
I, however, have read a lot more newspaper statements from him about investigations, pending arrests and on his public forum appearances in the last three years than I ever did about Justice Kapembwa as head of ACC on similar issues.
Officers who served at the ACC in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that the word “standards” never left their lips before they did anything official or personal. An officer who conducted himself “against the purpose for which the ACC was established” was never dealt with lightly. The door was always waiting even at the mere whiff of scandal.
Whatever is happening at the ACC does not bode well for government’s much vaunted fight against corruption, for it is the very heart of the fight that is getting infected. Matters are not made any better with the recent events at DEC where the top brass have been arrested for impropriety.
Maybe our defence and security services need a major shake up at all levels if the rumours at the ACC, the arrest of DEC chief Ryan Chitoba, court appearances of former army and airforce commanders and even the conviction of former ZNS commander General Funjika for abuse of office, are anything to go by.
I do agree though, with the Law Association of Zambia’s demand that Banda should not step down but a tribunal be set up to verify the allegations. If he is cleared, well and good, he should continue signing those ACC 3s against others otherwise one should be opened against him, chapwa!
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 09:02
Friday, 7 December 2007
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Following PF president, Michael Sata’s initial e-mail to me accusing me of supporting the Chinese “invasion” of Zambia, he wrote another one (reproduced below) after I sent him copies of my past articles on China.
“Thank you for your e-mail. When I wrote to you as an emerging writer, I was drawing your attention to your misplacement of facts and confusing Chinese issue with my perceived wrong doing.
“Every organisation has its rules which must be obeyed by the people who subscribe to those rules. Your attribution to the 22 who were expelled for offending the (MMD) party constitution has nothing to do with our current focus on the Chinese saga.
“The point which you missed (in the article entitled Sata’s Political Swansong a few weeks ago) Michael Sata was not MMD, Michael Sata was not the NEC. You picked on the 22 ignoring other people who were disciplined before them, for example, when B.Y. Mwila was disciplined or expelled your 22 were very much in the NEC, when Princess Nakatindi Wina was expelled your 22 were very much in the NEC and contributed to the expulsion of B.Y. Mwila, Princess Nakatindi and others.
“When Emmanuel Kasonde, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, (and) Baldwin Nkumbula were disciplined, your 22 were much, much intact in the NEC and contributed to their expulsion.
“Yourself as a writer and sometimes the Post Newspaper have brought the Chawama saga [sic] I left government 7 years ago. If what you have been projecting had some truth why has the law never visited me?
“As a writer, do not digress unless you have to, but if you are digressing to divert the attention from the subject on the floor you are bound to be misunderstood. I am not afraid of being criticised but there must be some truth in the criticism.
“As poverty has hit the country so badly you cannot blame people if they accuse you of making talk time divert your thinking, your intellect and your professional capacity. Once again thank you for your response. M. C. Sata.”
I think this is the first time the PF leader has spoken with some candidness about the expulsions in the MMD before Mwanawasa took over as president. One would have loved it though if he spoke more about how the MMD was run at the time and what really transpired when Mwila was forced out and later how Generals Tembo, Miyanda and others were expelled at a crucial point when a new party president was to be elected.
What the people who were in the MMD at the time now aspiring for the republican presidency need to do is to speak out in the manner of the South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
By remaining silent, they will all be painted with the same tainted brush with which former President Chiluba has been painted with as a “political engineer”. If anything, they were complicit to the “engineering” by not speaking out against Chiluba’s anti-democratic manoeuvres before they were squeezed out themselves.
The only ones that can be absolved are those that saw through Chiluba from the beginning and broke away from the MMD such as the late Nkumbula, Mulemba, Arthur Wina and others who went on to form the short-lived National Party. Unfortunately then as now, Zambians could not discern genuine leadership from a leadership driven by chicanery and selfishness.
What can be deduced from Sata’s response above is that what the nation needs is a crop of new leaders who are not tainted with past political misdeeds that have left the country in a political and economic meltdown.
If these people including Sata as then MMD national secretary, and others who served at the highest level of both the party and government, could not defend the basic tenets of democracy looking at the expulsion of Mwila for declaring interest in the MMD presidency as an example, how can they be trusted once elected, to uphold the same tenets they assaulted not too long ago?
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 08:13