By Gershom Ndhlovu
As a young boy growing up in Kwacha in
One song’s refrain went something like “Abo baleisa bapala ba mayor wesu” loosely translated as “that one coming looks like our mayor” or something like that.
Then I did not even know what role a mayor played in the civic affairs of a city or town and I am sure that a lot other people in that part of the city did not also know the functions of a mayor, or if they knew, they did not care. All I can remember though is that we had running water 24/7, rubbish was collected at least twice a week, roads were regularly graded and street lights, like other social services, were functional. To me, and I am sure to other residents too, this was all that mattered.
Ever since the MMD came to power, the role of mayors and council chairmen has assumed an important but of course misplaced political aura that goes with the allocation, mostly illegally, of plots, being driven around in reconditioned but air conditioned Japanese second hand cars, welcoming the president and other dignitaries to the city or town and, above all, earning a cool allowance for it.
But go to Kwacha today, 44 years after independence, the place is in a sorry state worse than it was in 1978, 14 years after independence. It is an overgrown shanty compound with erratic water supply, roads look like the surface on Planet Mars, rubbish heaps on street corners are the order of the day, street lights stopped working eons ago, never mind the Zesco power cuts, and people build structures anyhow in terms of where there is open space and structure-wise.
This is true of all
I know for a fact that there was a time between 1980 and 1991 when the Kaunda regime changed local government laws--it must have been during the era of decentralisation which I only have a vague memory of--replacing mayors with governors who assumed immense powers, except may be those of life and death, over the rest of residents of cities and towns.
Today, the issue of mayoral elections is assuming controversial proportions with the minister of local government and housing, Benny Tetamashimba unilaterally cancelling what is supposed to be an annual exercise with some obscure if feeble reasons. Meeting him head on is, of course, PF president Michael Sata, an Alderman of the city of
It may appear that the Town Clerks supporting Tetamashimba’s decree are only doing so to protect their employment contracts because they may not have a legal leg to stand on. I only hope Attorney-General Mumba Malila’s advice is to the effect that Tetamashimba’s decision is ultra-vires the law.
Eleven years ago, or almost that long, in 1997 or thereabouts, President Chiluba when commissioning the Chinese-built housing complex in
In the last few weeks, I had to deal with two cultural-related issues. The first was the 2008 Zambia Diaspora E-Conference which took place in October on themes ranging from Investment and Commerce, Human Capital, Land and Housing and Culture and Identity. I was privileged to be part of the Culture and Identity group which was ably chaired by Canada-based Chasaya Sichilima.
The second was a paper presented by Senior Chief Mwamba Kapalaula II to the Zambian Open University’s Forum Discussion entitled Culture: The Missing Dimensions in National Development a copy of which he kindly forwarded to me.
From these two mutually exclusive events, I concluded that culture has not been given the place it deserves in Zambia’s economic sphere and that is why it is divided in terms of administration between the ministry of tourism when it comes to traditional ceremonies such as Kuomboka and N’cwala, etc., and the ministry of community and social services under which the Department of Cultural Services falls.
What the Zambian government does not realise is that a cultural industry can flourish in the country irrespective of the so-called foreign direct investment or indeed other sectors such as mining and tourism, if only the right approach is taken for its development. Music is one area of the cultural industry that has shown capacity to develop and provide employment to a lot of people but without government support, cultural industries are doomed.