Friday, 4 April 2008

SHAKAFUSWA AND THE POOR

By Gershom Ndhlovu

The issue of morals, or the lack of them, for Katuba Member of Parliament, Jonas Shakafuswa has been thoroughly discussed and rightly so by all and sundry.
I, however, want to take issue with the way he mocked how poor Munji Habeenzu, the Chikankata MP, is and cannot afford the expensive whisky the deputy minister drinks from exclusive clubs.
Habeenzu’s crime was to merely point out how the honourable (if we can call them that now) members use the motel for illicit sex.
I suppose Habeenzu earns a similar amount of money in sitting allowances with Shakafuswa although he has other extraneous perks as Deputy Minister of Finance. Or that should tell us how much money members of the executive earn to set them apart from other MPs and not least, ordinary citizens.
Now, if Shakafuswa can view Habeenzu in such demeaning terms, I wonder how he views his constituents at 10 miles in Mungule or at 22 Miles at Katuba who cannot afford a decent mug of Chibuku and rely on gankata or seven days for their beverages.
Anyone who has been in a rural setting such as Katuba knows that the villagers don’t mind much about taking daily baths, don’t use toothpaste that much and for deodorant, it is firewood smoke.
The villagers don’t wear the pin-stripe suits that the likes of Shakafuswa wear. To them, tattered Bermuda shorts and sweat-stained shirts are the normal garb as they while away the time at some village where seven days is on sale on a particular day.
Shakafuswa’s mockery of a fellow MP reminds me of one aspiring candidate during one election somewhere in Lusaka Province who never partook in the food cooked by villagers during campaigns.
This candidate always carried Hungry Lion snacks with him and at meal times after the villagers had sweated to cook nshima in big shomeka drums, he pulled a folding chair and table that he took along with him to eat the posh nosh. He looked so out of place with the villagers scrambling over communal nshima plates.
You guessed it, the candidate lost badly in the elections.
May be Shakafuswa has learned the art of humbling himself among villagers of Katuba constituency but I am sure that now they know his views about poor people including humble MPs who don’t have money to buy expensive whisky and to pay for sex, they may not give him the vote.
Who knows, may be the Freudian slip by Shakafuswa is symptomatic of how those in the MMD government view the majority of Zambians who cannot afford a decent meal, decent clothes and just a decent lifestyle altogether.
This is probably what the ministers and top civil servants discuss and laugh about when they congregate in the exclusive and expensive clubs where a tot of blue label whisky is equivalent to a teacher’s salary. You should just listen to the banter of the ministers when they are comparing the material of their suits!
On the other hand, it is refreshing to have politicians like Habeenzu who are candid about the goings on in the corridors of power, in this case in the august House. For those of us who have been to Parliament Motel, we know the decadence that goes on there when parliamentarians and their guests feast on cheap food and beer.
But, as you would expect from such precincts, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, to borrow from the bible, than for a journalist to go through the gates of Parliament Motel. The MPs that recognise journalists while there even joke that the reporters should put away their notebooks and pens because they don’t want what goes on there to be reported.
The most honourable thing Shakafuswa can do for now is to step down as deputy minister and even resign his seat if he is genuinely sorry for his conduct towards a fellow MP, the disregard he has shown for the women folk and more so his attitude towards those that may not be as wealthy as he may be, his constituents inclusive.

***

Does it mean that former President Dr Kenneth Kaunda is a lesser mortal than his two successors, Dr Frederick Chiluba and Dr Levy Mwanawasa? Dr Kaunda is very happy, or is it that he has no choice, to be admitted to the University Teaching Hospital while the other two are flown out of the country each time they have an irregular heart beat.
It appears that Dr Kaunda has more faith in the UTH than Drs Chiluba and Mwanawasa because it is his creation and would like to share his pain with the man from Jack or Kuku compounds while the other two want to share their illness with other rich patients at Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg or London hospitals.
Dr Kaunda wants to be treated by Zambian trained doctors and nurses at the UTH while Dr Chiluba and Dr Mwanawasa want to be treated by Zambian trained doctors and nurses working in Johannesburg and London.
It is difficult to tell what the Zambian leaders follow when they go for treatment abroad, whether it is the expert personnel which they have the capacity to retain locally with simple political will, the equipment which they have the choice of buying for the local hospitals or simply the exotic environments from which they receive the treatment.
I would like to believe that Dr Chiluba and Dr Mwanawasa travel outside the country just to be different from the ordinary citizens who daily place their lives in the faithful doctors and nurses still manning the local facilities with minimum equipment and few drugs which, incidentally, Dr Kaunda still has faith in.
In 1991 people had strong feelings against Dr Kaunda’s 27 year rule and they vilified him for everything that was going wrong in Zambia then, but 17 years of the MMD shambolic rule, it is difficult to still harbour those feeling against the man. He is a statesman to the core. Get well soon, Super Ken.

5 comments:

Cho said...

Interesting comment about KK's UTH trip. Do we know whether KK has always gone to UTH? My memory fails at this stage...

Gershom said...

Yes, when KK was "Ntambalukuta" he used to go to the UTH where there was a presidential suite between wings E and G on the first floor if I'm not mistaken. There were always "para-paras" guarding it even when he was not admitted there, and he was rarely admitted anyway.

Benboy said...

You're right Gershom. I remember very well that the big man KK never used to go out of the country for medicals.
I also remember very well that no political leader dared misbehave and be in the meedia like Shaka without being fired!
i also remembe that KK never cared whether it was a fellow Bemba or cousin Ngoni or whoever, it was what one could do for the country and not who one was that gave them a place in government

MrK said...

What it comes down to, is that neoliberalism is an elitist ideology to begin with.

If you start out believing that society and government should be run for the benefit of the business elite, and that government is only there to be reduced in size and activities, it is tempting to think of government revenues as 'yours'.

nkhula21 said...

KK believed in the institutions he built, that is why his children went to Zambian schools if you remember. Remember how good the mine hospitals were? Those hospitals were just as good as hospitals in South Africa. Even regular hospitals like Ndola Central Hospital, where I was born, was one of the best. Now we have leaders who are scared even to visit UTH.