Friday, 28 March 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Everyone in Zambia is now resigned to the daily ritual of power outages. Households are as hit as small businesses such as barbershops. Hospitals, banks, manufacturing and mining that need power for major operations like pumping water from underground, to smelting and other vital functions are as badly hit.
The fundamental problem apart from the constantly breaking down generators at the primary sources of electricity at Kariba North Bank and Kafue Gorge is that there has not been new investment in the generation sector while demand for power has increased in quantum leaps.
New mines are opening all over the place such as the nickel mine at Munali Hills in Southern Province, the new mine at Lumwana and the revived Kansanshi, Bwana Mkubwa as well as increased mining and related activities at Chambishi have all added to the pressure on the power generating facilities.
This is in addition to the existing mines at Nkana, Nchanga, Konkola and Luanshya when anything is going on there.
What is happening in the power sector is a reflection of the problem that Zambia faces as a nation—the lack of long-term planning in all sectors. Zambians are such a consumptive people they live for today. Surely, someone somewhere in Zesco as well as in government knew, or they ought to have known, that by 2008 demand for power would go up but whoever it is or whoever they are, chose to hide their head or heads in the sand with what has become the new national anthem--fikaisova.
When I first visited Botswana in 1993, I was struck by the number of solar panels I saw on top of people’s houses and I further learnt that most households used gas for cooking. And true indeed, there were gas cylinders hooked to people’s kitchens all over the place.
I equally remember very well that there was a time when BP Zambia was promoting the use of solar panels which they were selling. It is either their novelty did not catch on the people or the people just thought it was dumb to use solar panels. The company abandoned that bit of business and concentrated on what it does best—selling petrol.
Geysers and lighting can run on solar power very well without worrying about the Rhodney Sisala bunch leaving you to run for home-made koloboyi paraffin lamps when there is a sudden power cut.
What is more is that Zambia has so much of the sun that people take it for granted. One just has to spend a few winter months in Europe when it is very cold, dark and wet. The sun is only seen for a few hours per day and yet the way the Europeans harness the sun is amazing.
But then, the problem is Zambian engineers who at best can be described as mechanics rather than innovators who should have been thinking about alternative sources of energy long before this crisis.
All they do is sit in posh offices, read newspapers and make sure their imprest is being processed for them to go and look at blown transformers in some remote parts of the country.
In other parts of the world where people are talking about power needs in 2050 are already looking at establishing wind farms to generate power and in some places the wind power generating towers are already standing. This is apart from generating power from nuclear sources which is out of our reach.
A senior banker mentioned to me about the discovery of a bankable document on the development of Kafue Gorge Lower which was produced in the Kaunda administration but was left to gather dust in the archives. What is worse is that the document was discovered after the government had engaged a European company to produce another document which would only be ready after 24 months.
But even as the government has seen sense and removed duty on energy-saving appliances, knowing Zambians the appliances will be out of reach of the ordinary citizens such that owning a solar panel will be another zimya neighbour status symbol.


I am forced yet again to return to Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi whom a number of African have seen through and reject the way he is pushing for the Federated Union of African States or United States of Africa.
From the speech he gave in Uganda last week, it is very clear that had the US of Africa materialised, he would definitely had hijacked it especially if he would have been the one bankrolling it.
Gaddafi told a group of impressionable youths, some of whom were not impressed anyway, that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe are revolutionaries who should never retire.
"When I look around Africa there a few true African leaders; in eastern Africa I see only Museveni and southern Africa there is only Mugabe, others are (in) Senegal and Cameroon," Gaddafi as the over 2,000 youths, who attended the 10-day conference, reacted differently to the remarks.
Imagine what could have happened to those of us who are so accustomed to free and fair elections had this man had his way of forming his so-called African government. I believe most Zambians cherish the citizens’ ability to remove leaders when they have had their time.
We also cherish the fact we are the masters of the leaders that we chose by giving them time to run state affairs and when we decide that they cannot continue or when they have done two five year terms, they step down.
We removed President Kaunda at the time the rest of Africa did not believe it was possible to remove leaders democratically. We stopped President Chiluba from going for an unconstitutional third term just by sheer resolve of not countenancing political lunacy.
The Libyan strongman who has been head of state for his country for close to 40 years must know that the days of forcibly removing leaders are over in most African countries.
Model African countries should be Tanzania, Mozambique, and Botswana where President Festus Mogae is voluntarily stepping down in the next few days. Now what is wrong with that, Colonel Gaddafi?

Friday, 21 March 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Now that 42 companies have been blacklisted from accessing tenders on government projects, the next step is to name them so that they are shamed. The nation must know the companies involved so that when people see the owners, they know that the wealth they flaunt is ill-gotten.

Not only that, where it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was an element of dubiousness in their modus operandi, the company directors and civil servants that aid them in the process of defrauding the state must face the full force of the law. Simply banning the companies is not enough because the crafty ones would just go round, register new companies and carry on.

The question, surely, is how do these companies get the tenders in the first place, how are they paid if they do shoddy work and who supervises the jobs from government and sign them off as completed and payment sanctioned? There must be a rotten link somewhere in the government system particularly at the ministries of works and supply and finance and national planning as well as the Zambia National Tender Board.

Is it any wonder then that some people without noticeable jobs and government workers with inadequate official income are able to drink from upmarket pubs from one month-end to the next, drive expensive cars and even build multiple mansions which they complete in no time while their neighbours struggle to clear shrubs from their plots?

It is common knowledge that most of these companies have top civil servants, their relatives and friends as directors and their link in the provision of services, shoddy as they are, to government at inflated fees at that. Who doesn’t know how these people organise and manipulate pro-forma invoices in favour of their companies?

President Mwanawasa’s government is definitely showing political will in fighting the scourge of corruption but the general legal framework is not very supportive of the fight. Take the case of General Wilford Funjika who was found guilty but was merely given a slap on the wrist by through a suspended sentence.

Thank God, though, that someone realised that that was not right and the matter was taken to the High Court where it was ordered that he be sent away for at least nine months. There are also other baffling cases of high profile people convicted of offences related to the plunder of national resources but are on bail pending appeal in higher courts.

Strange this is because poorer people who are convicted for lesser offences are never accorded the privilege of bail and are seen jumping in and out of kasalanga prison trucks to go and hear their appeals whether in the High or Supreme courts. Invariably, most of these convicts are represented by legal aid lawyers. Those that are bailed after their conviction are obviously represented by top-notch lawyers.

This reminds me of an anecdote we used to hear when we were growing up in Kwacha: steal one ngwee and you will be jailed for a long time; steal a lot of money, you will not spend much time inside.

Contrast the leniency showed to high profile convicts of fraud and corruption in Zambia to similar crimes in America particularly involving the perpetrators of corporate fraud at Enron, the energy firm that collapsed a few years ago and that of and another American businessman, media mogul Conrad Black, who were jailed for not less than five years and were fined huge amounts of money.

In the name of human rights and the legal presumption of not guilty until proven otherwise, make corruption and fraud related cases bailable but remove that right once a person is found guilty by any court or otherwise extend the same privilege to all those who cannot afford K40 million bail when they appeal their cases.

Zambians certainly need a complete change of their mindset to root out the corrupt among them. Those in power should help by amending the necessary laws if the scourge is to be fought with any success.


I noticed that Zambia joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Consumer Rights Day. The panellists who talked about the day on last Saturday’s ZNBC Kwacha Good Morning read out an impressive list of the consumer rights but failed to mention what obtains in the developed countries whereby consumers return goods for the flimsiest of reasons like not being happy with the colour.

Take a walk around Kamwala, Freedom and Cha Cha Cha roads and all you find is the same notice: No Exchange, No Return, No Refund. This reminds me of an experience I had several years ago when I bought a Michael Jackson video tape, obviously pirate, from some shop in the town centre and all it could play where the first few minutes while the rest of it was blank.

The businessman of Asian origin would not have it when I took it back for either exchange or refund. I lost out and I am sure millions of Zambians still lose out because they cannot return faulty items in the face of the intimidating cardboard signs declaring that stores do not accept returns or exchanges.

Some of the shop owners are so brazen they even scrape out expiry dates from products on sale and still make it look like it is your fault for buying the items in question. The businessmen know that most of the people are ignorant of the Spartan laws in existence while others don’t just have the energy and resources to fight such cases in courts of law.

Consumer rights are human rights. There is need for government to put in place mechanisms in which these rights are protected by making it easier for consumers to seek simple recourse such as exchanging faulty goods, obtaining refunds and returning the goods.

Zambia could take a leaf from some developed countries where consumers can return an item within a given number of days if they do not want it for any reason as long as it is in an acceptable condition. But may be the problem could be with Zambians who would abuse the facility.

Friday, 14 March 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

The celebration of international women’s day a few days ago should spur the nation into reflecting how it treats, or more appropriately how it mistreats women, over mundane issues such as dressing in the name of “culture”.
It is always saddening to read of women stripped naked by criminal elements whose behaviour is fuelled by boredom for want of some mind-engaging activities lurking at bus stops and other public places whose occupation is to look out for those wearing mini-skirts.
It is even sadder to read in some instances that even policewomen witnessing such degrading acts egg on the thugs to strip the women. I have also heard a few songs with lyrics like “Azimai mukovala bwino” which just encourage such uncouth behaviour.
I would like to contend that those who manhandle women for the way they dress misunderstand culture which, in my view, is dynamic.
As James Lull writes in the book Media and Cultural Theory edited by James Curran and David Morley, “Cultural changes that appear on the human body are not just cosmetic; they disrupt tradition, open up cultural options, and eventually create new cultural norms and social practices.”
Culture in Zambia is reduced to traditional ceremonies such as those held by various chiefs, issues of chisungu and other rites of passage observed by some tribal groups and, surprisingly, how women dress. Culture, on the contrary, is a whole way of life such as everyday practices, values and norms of one group of people that separates it from another group.
Culture is not enforced by stripping naked women wearing mini-skirts and in the same vein, not everyone who wears a mini-skirt is a hule. The majority of those are decent and well-respected women whose only crime is trying to enhance their appearance.
I am not advocating for nudity in the way people dress or how they do not dress, but Zambian society should ask itself why it should be alright for men to pass water against a tree or a wall right in Kulima Tower while it should be wrong for a woman wearing a mini-skirt to walk through the same place. Who doesn’t know how minibus drivers and conductors high on cheap spirits pass water anyhow, even behind loaded buses?
Sista D, performing at the International Women’s Day at Freedom Statute praised government for stiffening the law against defilers warning about “25 years kudya beans yowola”. The same government should strengthen the law against whoever lays a hand on a woman without provocation but by simply the way she dresses.
American musician Tracy Chapman, in one of her songs questions why a woman should not be safe in her home where she is battered daily. Sadly she is not safe even on Zambian streets where just the way of dressing provokes the ire of criminal elements and other fellow women who do not know the other cultural side of things.
I believe that a nation’s level of civilization is measured by the way it treats its women even more so by respecting them for their choice of dress. It is only the savage minded that have mental pictures of sex whenever they see a woman wearing a mini-skirt.
Equally wrong is justifying rape on the basis of the victim’s dress.
Instead of policing the way women dress, people should divert their “cultural” instincts into higher faculties such as literature and drama if they want to capture the romantic way in which their ancestors lived in the past so that the young can appreciate it as they carry on with their own life.
After all, this is the generation that is fed on the menu of soaps and sitcoms of all sorts on both Zambian and satellite TV channels that are literary accessed by almost every household. Mini-skirts in those soaps and sitcoms are the norm. I think there is need for a “culture” reality check in the nation so that mini-skirts stop bothering people.


For reasons of time and space, I could not attend presidential aspirant Professor Clive Chirwa’s talk at the London School of Economics and Politics entitled “The Strategic Plan: Zambia in the 21st Century” but according to those that were in attendance, it appears he has what it takes to take the country to higher heights.
I have been promised a copy of Chirwa’s speech which he gave last Friday and from the account of the attendees, it is like the man has won disciples who are now convinced about his dream for the country.
Indeed, Zambia had a teacher for president in Dr Kenneth Kaunda who developed the education infrastructure during his tenure, a trade unionist in Dr Frederick Chiluba who consolidated multi-party democracy and a lawyer in Dr Levy Mwanawasa whose constitution the nation is yet to see to judge him on his legal credentials.
For the next generation of leaders, if PF president Michael Sata is grouped among the first three, the choice is between UPND president Hakainde Hichilema with his business and economic background, and Chirwa with impeccable credentials in his engineering background.
He boasts of being the only Zambian to have addressed the politically powerful senate in the US, chairing some sub-committee of the European Union and being advisor to the UK government’s transport secretary Ruth Kelly.
According to those who attended the talk, Chirwa told them that his name is now known in remote villages where even children are talking about him like they did of the MMD in 1990/91 when they raised the MMD symbol as people from the towns drove by which made one to conclude at the time that Kaunda and UNIP had no chance.
However, Chirwa has to win over the MMD lot whose top leadership is yet to accept him and allow him contest the party president at the convention which should be held towards the end of 2010 for him to beat the three year membership requirement before he goes for the party presidency.
Chirwa could not discuss his plan B because he is confident the MMD would give chance when the time comes.

Thursday, 6 March 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Zambian roads are clogged with all sorts of cars particularly reconditioned ones, making driving on Lusaka roads a nightmare. This, unfortunately, is seen as a sign of an improving economy by some myopic politicians who do not see that developed countries such as Japan are using poorer countries to offload old vehicles as a means of disposal.
Of course cars should not be seen as a status symbol but the people driving them should pay the price for services they receive from government. That is why I supported the earlier memorandum by Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) to increase the user fees for various services which was then hastily withdrawn by newly appointed Communication and Transport Minister Dora Siliya.
On the other hand, Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande gave an indication of new but reduced user fees which would be implemented after a Statutory Instrument is signed.
Zambian politicians whether in government or in opposition, should call a spade a spade when it comes to implementing some of these policies instead of calling each other names. Dithering on such issues is what has made us stagnate in many areas.
Firstly, increased user fees in the transport sector would mean fewer cars on the roads, less pressure on the infrastructure and less accidents. It is really madness having to spend 45 minutes from Kafue roundabout to the Kabwe roundabout on Cairo Road because of the never ending congestion.
In terms of the environment, it would inevitably lead to less damage to the environment in terms of fumes and disposal of written-off vehicles for which we have no capacity to handle.
Secondly, the money raised from such fees would go towards maintaining the roads and other transport-related infrastructure.
In the early 1980s, government seriously backtracked on charging road tolls for which even shelters for collectors where constructed on the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway and just before the Kafue Bridge on the Lusaka-Chirundu road which were later pulled down.
Road tolls are collected in most parts of the world where even more controversial user fees such as congestion charges in London are exacted on motorists who want to go to central London. This is not to mention parking fees which are a big incoming generating activity in some African countries such as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia which even has a National Parking Authority.
It is not unusual in Addis Ababa to see men and women clad in orange NPA bibs collecting parking levies while we begrudge Lusaka City Council parking levy collectors a couple of thousands for parking in designated areas.
Surely, someone who needs a personalised number plate can and should fork out K10 million for the privilege otherwise they should go with the general number plates like everyone else. As people are ready to pay several millions of Kwacha to bring in a vehicle, paying the RTSA fees should just be part of the price.
A softly-softly approach to governance issues such as the implementation of laws, rules and regulations is what has led to a near-anarchical state the country is in where someone just wakes up in the morning and starts dishing out plots even under high-tension power lines and on land belonging to institutions such as NRDC and UNZA etc, without anybody being penalised.
I am one of those that have praised local government and housing minister Sylvia Masebo for her hard-line stance on the running of markets and bus stations and illegal structures, all a thorn in the flesh of law-abiding citizens.
Siliya and Magande should take a similar approach in the road transport sector to bring back sanity on the roads and even introduce tougher penalties to get rid of “sikorokoros” or “bangers” from the roads.
There is need to apply the law fairly but firmly in all sectors of the social and economic sectors of the nation, otherwise we will reach a stage where it will be difficult to do so in the future when effects of our present laxity start to be felt.


MMD presidential aspirant Professor Clive Chirwa has a good idea by starting to address Zambians on his vision for the country in his upcoming talk entitled “The Strategic Plan: Zambia in the 21st Century” this Friday.
It is the venue I have a quarrel with, the London School of Economics and Political Science.
I believe most of the people who will be in attendance to listen to the man who threw the ruling party off balance when he announced his intentions late last year, might not be in the country to cast their vote in 2011.
The best place for Prof Chirwa to have kick-started his campaign, if that is what his talk in London is all about, is Nakatindi Hall in Lusaka, Victoria Hall in Livingstone or even Buchi Hall in Kitwe. People in these places have read about him and the reactions of those he intends to challenge, but it is time for him to take the plunge and cover the whole of Zambia.
It will not do for Prof Chirwa to vie for the republican presidency and still remain in the British Isles.
The Prof must either give up his comforts at Bolton University and join the people in Bauleni, Makululu, Shampande, Senama and similar places, or give up his aspirations for the presidency and remain in the UK.
In 2001, National Leadership for Development’s Dr Yobert Shamapande left it too late coming from wherever he was in the Diaspora to be “accepted” by the people when he contested the elections.
Similarly, in 1996 the late Dean Mung’omba with his Zambia Democratic Congress relied too much on the media at the expense of physically meeting the people through rallies and such interactions for him to have made an impact.
Prof Chirwa will make a big political mistake if he relies on the elite, those in the Diaspora and the media for his campaigns. What he needs is to go out within Zambia. If it means going through the Bottom Road in Southern Province, or the Dark Forest Road in Western Province, he must. Otherwise, he will just be classified as another source of hot air.