Friday, 28 November 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu


I am surprised that people are surprised that the Rupiah Banda administration moved so swiftly to increase salaries and allowances for Constitutional office holders so soon after the controversial elections. In fact the indelible red ink is not yet completely washed away from the people who voted particularly in the rural areas where accessing water may be a bit tricky.

This reminds me of the film Catch Me If You Can in which the main character goes round conning a whole range of people such that when they realise they have been conned, it is too late.

When the MMD presidential candidate was campaigning in his capacity as acting republican president, he refused to assent to the bills because of the pressure from civil society, the church and general members of the public. This was a crucial bargaining chip by Banda to make people believe that he had their interests at heart. This act of betrayal shows that he and his ministers are only concerned about their own personal welfare.

People should have been reading the ruling MMD politicians’ lips over this issue during the election campaign. It was clear that these bills would be pulled out of the hat it was just a matter of time.

The justification by the government with the support of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president Leonard Hikaumba, that civil servants were also awarded a 15 per cent increment really does not hold water. That to a civil servant earning K1 million is a mere K150,000 but to someone earning over K20 million plus other allowances and benefits, it is a whole world at over K3 million.

If anything, the Vice President will be earning not less than K30 million per month compared to K15 million per annum that a teacher, a nurse and a policeman earns.

It appears like Information and Broadcasting Minister General Ronnie Shikapwasha who is also Chief Government spokesman lives on a different planet where he does not know that it is a struggle for earthlings in Kanyama, in Masala and in Kwacha townships to survive from one day to the next. This is what makes it a political issue for an opposition leader worth his salt to talk about.

It is illogical for leaders to claim that some of them have left their businesses to come into government. If these businesses were doing well they should have stuck to them instead of milking public coffers through unjustified salary and allowance increments and other fringe benefits.

It is equally insulting to the public by Shikapwasha demeaning other lowly paid workers like teachers who when it comes to salary increments, they are theorised to about complex economic issues of inflation and such stuff.

As such, PF president Michael Sata is within his duty as an opposition leader to remind the government and Banda of what they did and promised during campaigns. To argue that even PF Members of Parliament also voted for the bills does not hold any water at all. It is the same MMD that told the electorate that voting for an opposition leader would be useless because they do not have sufficient members to pass bills.

The opposition MPs would still have been steam-rolled even if they all had voted against the bill anyway.

As for the ZCTU, one misses the days of militant unionists like Frederick Chiluba (who later became republican president and weakened the trade unions), Fackson Shamenda and the late Japhet Moonde (who later became an MP and still spoke out on labour issues) who always sided with the workers.

Hikaumba may be because of his alliance with the petty bourgeoisie who are in this case also the ruling class, in this case through the National Constitution Conference where he is vice chairperson, tends to agree with their treacherous increment of salaries and allowances.

If the ZCTU president is a true trade unionist, he should speak on behalf of the workers who are casualised, underpaid and when pensioned off, don’t get their dues until they go to the grave as miserable as they were during their working lives.

Well, President Banda promised mountains, let us wait and see if he will deliver them; cheap fertiliser, low fuel prices (which are coming down on the international market anyway), more jobs and the rest. Just more than three weeks into his administration, things do not look very promising.

As it is, we will be subjected to the legalised plunder of national resources through the current constitution office holders who will, at the end of the day, walk away with even bigger and mouth watering gratuities to turn the lesser mortals green with envy.


The issue of Zimbabwe is clearly getting out of hand. The refusal of entry into that country of eminent persons in the name of former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, shows that the Robert Mugabe administration is not committed to resolving the political impasse there.

Ever since the disputed elections in March and June this year, there has not been a proper running government in Zimbabwe with the result that the economy has all but collapsed, there are widespread food shortages and hospitals have run out of drugs and other materials essential for the running of a hospital.

It appears that Mugabe is well insulated from the suffering of the people because he is able to get foreign exchange to buy himself food and he is also able to be attended to by foreign doctors in foreign lands.

Disappointingly, even SADC has now been manipulated to the extent where they have now allowed the mockery of a show to continue while ordinary Zimbabweans sink into deeper despair.

Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are no longer able to send money to their kith and kin through Western Union simply because there is no money to pay them locally.

Mugabe, as all leaders in Africa, should swallow his proud and listen to the people he leads.


Friday, 21 November 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Passing laws out of emotion is the bane of any government and the Zambian law makers should know this from some of the laws that were enacted in President Chiluba’s administration. Some of the laws came back to haunt the same people who enacted them.

The proposed enactment of media regulation laws will not be any different from the same laws that have in the past come to haunt the very people who passed them. Politicians who are today MPs will need a free and unencumbered media at one time or another. Today they may be enjoying coverage in state-owned media, tomorrow they will run to the private media that they are now spitting upon.

Only a few short years ago, Chiluba was in power and he enjoyed unfettered coverage in the state-owned media, today it is only the private media that gives him any meaningful coverage. In the days gone by, all that his aides needed to do was to snap their fingers and state media journalists went grovelling to the palace. Today he is lucky to be given any meaningful coverage if he is not appearing in court.

All those politicians advocating for media regulation would do better by turning a few pages of a history book to see all this. Emotions are high just before, during and immediately after an election especially as regards the coverage of the candidates. But as the nation was warned by ruling party officials, sorting out the media is not a solution.

The solution lies in strengthening governance institutions such as the Electoral Commission of Zambia which should also be streamlined, the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission for them to play their rightful roles in the electoral process.

What leads to perceived negative reportage by the media is the failure by these institutions to deal with matters arising from a weak and even compromised electoral process. The private media vents the frustrations of the people, particularly those in the opposition, who are not adequately covered by the state-owned media.

These are the issues that our legislators should talk about rather than reviving laws of “sedition” which are being dredged from the by-gone UNIP era where people had no outlet for opposing views. If one denounced UNIP then, they were labelled an enemy of the people. It now appears that if one denounces the MMD, they should be punished.

But again, most of the people now running the MMD are “John come lately” from UNIP and still have the mindset of the former ruling party.

Media regulation in the manner it is being advocated, will hurt the fledgling democracy in Zambia which needs a robust media such as is developing in the country. The problem that is there is that the people in control of state media such as ministers and technocrats want to treat those with opposing views as enemies who should be gagged by any means. The private media just fills the vacuum.

The arrest of Radio Icengelo’s Father Frank Bwalya, which badly backfired when Kitwe residents rioted as a result, shows how maliciously the laws, once enacted, will be applied.

The proposed media regulation will most likely be rendered useless because the media landscape is changing from the tradition media to new media under the fast developing information and communication technologies with which journalists and non-journalists alike can publish what they like and when they like. Even radio can now be run on the internet with the right software from someone’s bedroom.

Licensing of journalists in such circumstances will not work because many Zambians now have access to the internet and they will just resort to the internet to write and broadcast their views. There are already some websites in existence where Zambians exchange views which would not ordinarily be viewed as complementary of the MMD government.

The only positive view, if it can be said to be a positive at least for the government, is that not many Zambians have access to the internet, something that is slowly changing though. So the law the legislators are proposing should be all encompassing to the extent that people should not even have access to the internet. But then this is the 21st century and digital technology is the way to go.

Not too long ago, Zambians relied on what information they received through government controlled media, today the case is different. Information is all over the place particularly through the internet. As one sage said, you can cage the singer but you cannot cage the song. Someone somewhere will pick up the tune and it will prove to be difficult to cage each and every singer who takes it up.


President Rupiah Banda first international relations assignment, that of endorsing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) decision on Zimbabwe, does not in any way reflect the late President Levy Mwanawasa’s legacy who was clearly not happy with political developments in that country.

Banda should have at least sided with Botswana President Ian Khama who has maintained the position that President Robert Mugabe’s regime is illegitimate and the only way forward is to holds fresh elections.

Personal relations between heads of state and the concept of non-interference which is fast being jettisoned in the practice of international relations and diplomacy, should no longer matter in the Zimbabwean circumstances where the government has ceased to care about the welfare of the citizenry but rather concentrates on the survival of the ruling class.

Mwanawasa was uncompromising on the issue of Zimbabwe. President Banda has shown his weakness on the issue by succumbing to Mugabe’s arm twisting and tactics coupled with his friendship with some leaders in the SADC to an extent where MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai is now the villain rather than the victim of ZANU-PF’s electoral chicanery.

It may appear that SADC now operates along the principle of “scratch my back and I will scratch yours” considering that it has been rushing to declare all elections in the region free and fair even with glaring irregularities have been exposed by opposition parties and local monitors. SADC is a big shame on its own.

Friday, 14 November 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu


In the few weeks before the last presidential election I heard two people, one a journalist with close ties with a Cabinet Minister and a provincial minister, and another a clergyman with very close with the MMD, say “Sata takatekepo ichalo”, loosely translated as Sata will never rule the country.

As much as the two people are my friends, I doubt if they know each other and if they do, they probably do not know how close I am with each one of them. In fact the first time the clergyman said this was in the run up to the 2006 elections and repeated it in the run up to the recently held presidential elections.

The finality with which my two friends would say this left me cold and very worried as to the intention of, and practice of the elections by the MMD as the ruling party. It may appear to me as though that the MMD and people somewhere in the government system have ruled out certain people from the presidency and Sata is one of them from the look of things.

I never took this matter seriously. In fact I dismissed it as just idle chatter among friends until after the last election when yet again serious flaws emerged in the handling of elections by the Electoral Commission of Zambia despite the best intentions exhibited by new chairperson, Justice Florence Mumba.

These friends do not give a reason why Sata “will never rule the country” but it may appear that this is an issue that is discussed in the higher echelons of government considering what links my two friends have. The clergyman actually had access to the late President Levy Mwanawasa if that should give an indication of how well connected he is in the corridors of power.

Clearly, statements like this undermine the democratic process of any country, Zambia included. People in authority should not determine whom they will allow to govern or not govern. Whoever subjects himself or herself to the will of the general citizenry through an election should be allowed to ascend to power without any hindrance at all.

The Constitution should be blamed for any flaws about any candidate as it does not address the brusqueness or the lack of it of a candidate and this is a characteristic that certain people do not seem to like in Sata.

If anything, the National Constitution Conference (NCC) should quickly be given a fresh mandate to review the Constitution in total now that we as a nation have just witnessed the death of a sitting president, a matter which was never adequately addressed in the existing and past constitutions. This should be an opportunity for those drafting the document to address issues of choosing leaders in an ordinary general election or in an instance where a sitting president dies.

As it is, we will have a written constitution that gives guidelines on the election of leaders and a mental constitution in the minds of people running government who would do anything to exclude certain people from ascending to power even if they were to be elected. This in itself has the potential to undermine the electoral process when it becomes a routine exercise because the results do not meet the citizens’ expectations.

This is what caused problems in Kenya after last year’s December elections when the opposition was clearly cheated out of its victory in favour of the ruling party and also in Zimbabwe early this year. Unfortunately, governance in that country has not normalised since President Mugabe “won” a re-run of the elections boycotted by the main opposition party last June. This is the situation Zambia risks sliding into if elections appear rigged in favour of the ruling party.

And if comments attributed to army commander General Isaac Chisuzi and Inspector General of Police Ephraim Mateyo a couple of days before the elections are anything to go by, the electorate could have been intimidated not to vote for certain candidates because of a perception of violence that was created in the minds of the people by the two officers.

If these issues are not quickly addressed in Zambia’s governance process, the country risks a citizenry that is detached from important political issues and a leadership which would be perceived as fraudulent.


Watching Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as US president-elect early on Wednesday morning, I could not help but shed a tear of joy for the country where people of African origin have struggled for equality for centuries.

While Obama is the one carrying the trophy on this lap of honour, credit should be given to people like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and a whole lot of others who started or ran the race at one point or other.

There are so many heroes and heroines in America who have over time contributed to the struggle to reach the stage where an African-American will in just over 70 days take over the reins of power in America.

It was Rosa Parks, a seamstress, who gave the Civil Rights movement the direction it took which resulted in the rise of Martin Luther King Jr who was to give the now famous “I have a dream” speech, a dream now fulfilled in Obama.

One day in the 1950s, Parks, knackered from a hard day’s job, got onto a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and plonked onto a forward seat which was then reserved for whites and when told to take her rightful place at the back, she flatly refused.

The outcome of that event triggered the boycott of buses by black people in that part of the US and the modern civil rights movement was born.

But go on, Barack Hussein Obama Jr, the aftershock of your election is bringing about seismic changes in the wider world.

***The death last week of Wapolina M’kandawire reminded me of the fact that death always plucks the best fruit in the garden. Wapolina had unsurpassed passion for the arts.

Friday, 7 November 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu


The presidential by-election is over and the MMD is celebrating but whether it is from genuine victory or a stolen election, it is difficult to say.

What is clear though is that this election has given the nation a glimpse of the regionalism that is slowly but surely creeping into the nation’s body politic.

It was not difficult to see that MMD’s Rupiah Banda, PF’s Michael Sata and UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema did particularly well from their regions although a simplistic argument would state that the particular political parties are not strong in some of those areas.

Sata had a very strong showing in most Bemba-speaking regions of the Copperbelt, Luapula and Northern Province while Banda had a strong showing in Nyanja-speaking areas such as the Eastern Province and parts of Lusaka Province, and, as usual, Hichilema swept the slates in Southern Province and parts of Western Province.

For some reason, Banda scored very well in Western and North-western Provinces but whether that was due to the strong presence of the MMD in those areas or simply the lack of candidates hailing from those parts, is difficult to say.

But whatever the case, if voting will be regionally determined in future elections, Zambia risks serious fragmentation along regional lines which will ultimately mean that regions with lesser populations than others many never provide a president.

This, however, is not to say that political parties themselves should not do much in terms of selling themselves to other areas. Apart from the MMD, other parties do not appear to have any serious presence in other parts of the country. It is not surprising that some of the opposition parties that took part in the election did not even have election agents at polling stations in areas where they have few members or do not exist at all.

Most of the members of the national management committee of the UPND are, to a large extent, Tonga and similarly, most of central committee members of the PF are Bemba. Sakwiba Sikota’s ULP is no exception. Most of its senior members share the same ethnic roots as the party president.

This is what, rightly or wrongly, gives an impression that some of the political parties are tribally based entities while a few others are purely family affairs.

As these parties lick the wounds of the loss of the election just gone by, there is absolute need for them to cloth themselves up in true national colours by recruiting members from all across the country.

Other oppositions which seem to have a national character or a semblance of it, such as the FDD and UNIP seem to be in a politically cryogenic state and are slowly warming up to the MMD it will not be surprising when they dissolve themselves to join the ruling party.

Moaning over the loss in last week’s election will not do. The solution lies in these political parties reaching out to all Zambians. It is not enough for Hichilema to go to Ilamba one morning, hug villagers and think “Lo and behold, I am very popular and I will win the election.”

Similarly, it is erroneous for Sata, airborne and blitzing through the countryside, address half hour rallies and latter claim that he is popular enough to win the election.

Hichilema, Sata and HP’s General Godfrey Miyanda need to create structures on the ground throughout the country for them to stand a better chance of winning future national elections.

So much about the opposition but if indeed it is true that the MMD rigged the elections to favour its candidate, Rupiah Banda, it defeats the whole purpose of democracy because the citizens are the ones that should chose who should rule them.

A leadership forced on the citizenry is bound to face resistance from the people and what is even more serious is the fact that Banda, like his predecessor, the late Levy Mwanawasa, has been rejected in major urban areas where most of the business of governance is conducted.

Mwanawasa spent most of his time trying to win acceptance from the people in areas where he had received fewer votes. Banda may face the same problem.


A few days before last week’s elections, some prominent economists issued what in political parlance are alarming statements about investors holding back their investments and others withdrawing their money in treasury bills because of what they termed an uncertain political situation.

The economists attributed the uncertainty to one or two candidates who have been demanding that investors should learn to respect Zambian laws in the way the deal with their local workers.

Yes, may be that, but the bigger picture is that the global economy has for the last one year been in free fall and countries like Britain are now officially classified as being in recession. I am sure that to genuine and truly international investors, rather than fly by night investors who are the common type in Zambia, the political situation was the least of their worries.

The world economic outlook is so bad that the nemesis of the third world countries, the IMF and its twin sister, the World Bank, are themselves said to be broke with fears that they may not have money, in the very near future, to dole out to countries that need help.

Some big international financial companies have collapsed in recent weeks as a result of the economic meltdown in the west which has also affected the Asian markets such that there have been partial nationalisations and mergers in the financial sectors as a result.

The two economists forgot to mention that the prices of copper on the world market are going down the chute at a seriously alarming rate while OPEC members met a few days go to discuss the possibility of reducing production of oil to force prices upwards.

In a scenario like this, may be it is just good luck that Sata, Hichilema and Miyanda lost the election. Economics history graduate, Rupiah Banda will have to deal with these issues before we see the Bank of Zambia resorting to printing money on photocopying paper like one country in the neighbourhood.