By Gershom Ndhlovu
One reason why the country is re-writing the constitution is that former President Frederick Chiluba targeted First President Kenneth in the 1996 constitution ensuring that he was barred from contesting the elections that year.
There was a clause therein that said something about someone of foreign parentage not being eligible to contest the elections. Kaunda was then gathering wind in his political sails that threatened Chiluba’s stay at the coveted Plot One.
Zambians were then disillusioned with the MMD in the few short years it had been in power. Companies were closing left, right and centre, among them Zambia Airways, UBZ, ZCBC, NIEC, Mwaiseni Stores and a host of others. Joblessness and unpaid terminal benefits were becoming the order of the day.
I remember covering a mammoth UNIP rally at Kafue Roundabout in late 1994, if I am not mistaken, at which Dr Kaunda declared that he was back in politics.
Chiluba’s MMD panicked then. Incidentally, that was the time the Mwanakatwe Constitution Review Commission was going round collecting views for a new constitution. When time came for writing the constitution, the anti-Kaunda clause was inserted in the document.
MMD MPs were the first ones to sing “Kaunda Walala, Walala.” UNIP subsequently boycotted the 1996 elections in protest.
It was wrong then and it is definitely wrong now that the MMD wants to target PF president Michael Sata by barring him on account of age, at 71 at the next election. It is wrong because the nation should have learnt lessons the first time it was done and it should been something that the people in power now should avoid for the sake of the country’s democratic credentials.
It is very surprising that the possibility of barring Sata is a hot topic among the likes of MMD spokesperson Benny Tetamashimba and Kafulafuta Member of Parliament and Minister of Defence George Mpombo who are intent to have Sata barred at the next election for being “too old.”
I know that Zambian politicians, when they want to justify something, like to refer to what obtains in the United Kingdom. Incidentally, on the issue of age, the MMD will get it wrong because in the UK a law was passed not too long ago making discrimination on account of age unlawful.
If a person feels like it, they could carry on working beyond the 65 years retirement age. In fact, there was a story early last year when the law came into effect of one man who was still working at 100 years old.
In the United States, the three front-running presidential candidates, namely Republican John McCain and Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are on the verge of making history in their own respects.
McCain at 71, if elected will be the oldest person elected to the United States presidency, Clinton will be the first woman while Obama will be the first black person to take up the highest political office since 1789 when George Washington took his oath of office as the first president of the United States.
It is difficult to appreciate the fuss about Sata with senior MMD cadres basking in malicious glee at the prospect of barring the opposition leader whose party keeps taking a shine off the ruling party in elections and by-elections.
There are people who are younger but clearly not in a physical and mental state to run the affairs of the nation. Equally, there are older citizens, not excluding Sata, who can run in a marathon and take the most difficult Mathematics or Physics examinations, let alone preside over the affairs of our country without any problems.
Sneaking in an ageist clause in the constitution will just bring about re-writing the constitution by another leader in future even before the ink of the new document is dry. This will be a needless waste of money which could otherwise uplift the living conditions of our people in both the urban areas as well as rural areas.
It would be important if Zambian leaders worried about people in most areas of Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone, big cities at that, still using pit-latrines in this day and age rather than how old Sata will be at the next election.
Sata must be rejected at the ballot by eligible voters rather than by overpaid members of the dubious National Constitution Commission intent on pleasing their paymaster.
It could be anything, K48 billion or K6 billion, allocated for the treatment of President Mwanawasa who has to regularly travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment or for review, whichever is the case.
But what about the Kanyama resident who cannot even access the clinic because of floods, has to combat waterborne diseases and malaria that multiply in conditions of floods? Is he any less important than the president who has to gobble such an amount on his personal health?
Today, for ordinary citizens to see or be seen by a doctor, to have an X-ray taken or even get medicine from the pharmacy, they have to part with “ka something” for such services because the facilities and, subsequently, the services are in a deplorable state.
As for our leaders and their families, if they do not travel to London or flown to Johannesburg’s Morningside Clinic for treatment, they can at least afford to go to Care for Business, Teba, Hilltop Hospital and other private health facilities where they get top-notch treatment.
They do not care about the rest of the citizens who are left to die in homes from preventable diseases for which they cannot access the basic of services, let alone the medicine for the treatment of their ailments.
Arguing about the amount allocated for the treatment of the president in foreign hospitals and clinics will not build health centres for the people of Siameja, of Chitema-Lesa, of Kamusisi and indeed those who will not readily go to Luampa, to St. Francis or Chilonga mission hospitals.
Recently there has been a picture of the first Cabinet at Zambia’s independence doing the rounds on the internet with a description of how the few of them did a tremendous if not selfless job of service and infrastructural provision.
The only thing post-1991 leaders can show for their being in office at various times is personal consumption and accumulation.
Friday, 29 February 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 16:30
Friday, 22 February 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Darfur is clearly the modern day shame of Africa which the continent’s leaders are eerily silent about. It is like incest in the family which members don’t want to talk about.
It is only people like American film director Steven Spielberg, Nobel Peace prize winners and a few others without any diplomatic muscle who are talking about it and are leading a campaign to urge countries to boycott the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics to force China to stop supporting the Sudanese government from which it buys oil and it sells arms to.
Spielberg has probably forgone a fortune he was to make as advisor on the opening ceremony of the Beijing games by pulling out.
Music producer Quincy Jones, hired to pen the Olympics theme tune has also signalled that he would pull out of the project.
What is the connection, one may ask. Indeed, the Chinese arms sold to the Sudanese government find their way to the government-supported Janjaweed Militia which has been committing acts of ethnic, if not racial, cleansing in Darfur, killing non-Arab, non-Muslim and mainly Christian black Sudanese Africans.
Rape is a common feature employed by the Janjaweed who say they are “planting tomato” when they force themselves on helpless and weak black women. The “tomato” is obviously the mixed race children who are or will be born after the rape acts.
Africa, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Limpopo River, stood up against the then racist South Africa because of the obviously white apartheid leaders when they segregated against, maimed and killed black Africans.
Today, the same Africa is quiet because “our Arab brothers” with whom “we” have shared the table for a long time can’t really be wrong. China which is increasingly the continent’s important trading partner can’t go wrong too by selling weapons to Sudan just like it does to other African countries.
None of our leaders have the courage to ruffle the feathers of both Sudan for fear of going against diplomatic etiquette of not interfering in internal matters of another country, and China from which they are earning precious foreign exchange which enables them to live in luxury while the rest of the people still wallow in poverty.
Members of the British Olympics team noticed something fishy in their agreements to perform in Beijing with a clause that they should not use the platform to express political opinions. They rejected the agreements and demanded fresh ones because they realised that by being muzzled, they would unwittingly be aiding the Sudanese government in wiping out the black people of Darfur.
For African leaders it is business as usual in spite of the fact that China does not respect human rights in its own backyard, nor does it where its entrepreneurs operate. A grim example is the Zambian case where the Chinese exploit Zambian workers, and even kill some by ignoring fundamental health and safety rules as was the case in Chambishi a few years ago.
It is not too late for African countries to use the threat of boycotting this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing by flexing their collective muscle against China if that country is to do the right thing in Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.
It is nonsensical for China which trades with other African countries and has with them military assistance programmes which are in turn sending peace-keepers to Darfur. It is like China fighting with itself, that is, the Janjaweed armed with Chinese arms and peace-keepers also armed with Chinese arms.
Have African countries wondered why China has blocked attempts by the United Nations to impose sanctions on Sudan by using its power of veto? Sadly, even American president George Walker Bush thinks that the games are just a sporting even which should go ahead.
The question then is what hope, Darfur? The UK Sun’s Whitehall Editor thinks, and rightly so, that it is hard to keep politics out of sport when a blockbuster event is staged by a dictatorship such as China.
China should really not have an easy ride when it has such excess baggage. It should realise what heavy burden it carries as a growing force on the international economic scene. In fact, China is now considered as the Third Force after USA and the European Union, a position that demands that it acts responsibly in international matters such as Darfur.
Not that I care where a American presidents such as George Bush go to in Africa, but it appears as if Zambia does not register on their itinerary. Bush will have been to Africa twice over at the end of his latest tour.
Bill Clinton did visit Africa and even toured the Chobe National Park which practically borders Zambia on the Botswana side.
Zambia is one of the most politically stable countries in Africa and furiously pursues neo-liberal economic policies which should really make it a darling of the US. But, nay, American presidents avoid the country like a bug.
There is obviously something wrong that the Americans have seen in Zambia that makes their presidents avoid visiting it. It is not really necessary that a Bush or a Clinton or, indeed, an Obama if elected, should visit Zambia but such a gesture would not only boost the country’s economy in the short-term by various layers of the entourage shelling out the green buck on the country’s amenities such as hotels, it would also bring about long-term investment from businessmen who would look at the country with fresh spectacles.
One thing for sure is that westerners know very little about Africa in general and Zambia in particular such that when a Zambian official manages an audience with international businessman Sir Richard Branson, they are just scratching the surface.
There are a whole lot of entrepreneurs who would not take up to six months to decide whether to do business with Zambia or not. They would do it in less time than it would take Branson to make a decision.
There is no way of pretending that the visiting of American presidents of Africa has no effect on Zambia by their avoiding it. Any economist will attest to the missed business opportunities. Zambia needs to clean up its act, whatever it is, to attract an American president visiting Africa.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 16:25
Friday, 15 February 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Floods in Kanyama Compound go back 30 years if I can remember very well. The first time the compound suffered a deluge of an unprecedented scale was in 1978 triggering a massive scale of compassion in the Kanyama Disaster Fund.
Businesspeople, ordinary men and women and the international community, all contributed to the fund to help those who lost their property.
But above all, it was hoped that drainage infrastructure would be put in place to avoid floods in future.
Incidentally, there have been three or four serious floods in the compound each occurring roughly after a 10 year cycle. No one knows for sure what happened to the Kanyama Disaster Fund. For a long time, there was finger-pointing as to who misappropriated the money as well as materials such as blankets donated to alleviate the suffering of the victims. The name of one minister of state under Kaunda kept coming up as the culprit.
Kanyama Disaster Funds or not, the Lusaka City Council should have undertaken to correct whatever needs to be corrected in Kanyama to avoid the repetition of floods which we now know are periodical. The problem is basically lack of drainage, pure and simple because rains will always be there.
But then, knowing the Lusaka City Council and other local authorities, they are just busy dishing out plots corruptly and otherwise without regard to accompanying infrastructural development in those areas. Who doesn’t know the mess in Chalala in terms of the road network, water provision and such necessities?
The Kanyama floods remind me of the Mufuchani pontoon disaster in Kitwe in March 1979 when over 60 people perished when the pontoon they were using to cross the Kafue River capsized.
I remember this quite vividly because it occurred on Youth Day and the then headmaster of Kitwe Boys’ Secondary School, Mr D.C. Samuels announced it in the assembly hall. But even more vivid is the fact that some families I knew in my neighbourhood in Kwacha lost their loved ones in the same accident.
In the outpouring of grief that ensued, a fund was set up to construct a bridge across the Kafue River at Mufuchani. Nearly 30 years later, no one knows what happened to the money, there is no bridge and worse, there is no pontoon. People with maize fields across the river rely on canoes which they use at extortionate prices.
It appears as though Zambians are now inured to such occurrences, with people dying needlessly, losing their property and above all, officials misappropriating money meant for projects to alleviate their suffering. Life, to them, continues as a struggle for a bag of mealie meal. In other words, we have adopted a “wafwa wafwa, washala washala” attitude to things.
I know that our ministers, mayors and town clerks frequently travel outside the country visiting cities and towns of developed countries but I wonder if they ever learn anything from their travels. I would not be surprised if I learnt that they spent most of the time chasing bargains at Saturday or Sunday markets in the countries they go to.
If anything, our leaders do not even need to go far to learn a few tricks of developing their cities and towns. They just need to travel to Gaborone in nearby Botswana to see how the authorities there have managed to develop it into one of Africa’s most impressive capital cities.
The song about the lack of funds has been played for far too long when money continues to be spent in unnecessary undertakings when it is spent on anything other than being pocketed by those we entrust to look after it on our behalf.
It is high time Zambians demanded a higher standard of service from not only local authorities but from central government as well. People should question development brought to an area because there is a by-election like the grading of roads in Kanyama which I am sure have since been washed away again as a result of the floods.
Development, in my view, should be on-going, elections or no elections.
Did Mbita Chitala, the erstwhile Zambian ambassador to Libya cause the loss of Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika for the position of chairperson of the African Union as a result of his write-up just before the big indaba? Or are there simply other issues at play that we do not know about?
How many Anglophone secretaries general and chairpersons have there been at the Organisation of African Unity and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity? I could be wrong, but as far as I can remember, it is only Tanzania’s Ahmed Salim Ahmed who has ever come from Anglophone Africa.
The rest have come from francophone Africa. But even he had been a long standing diplomat such that he could not be ignored when time came for him to take up the position.
Name them, Diallo Telli (Guinea), Nzo Ekangaki (Cameroon—bilingual), Edem Kodjo (Togo), William Eteki Mbomouna (Cameroon), Ide Oumarou (Niger), Amara Essy (Cote d’Ivoire), Alpha Konare (Mali) and now, Jean Ping (Gabon). These people all have roots with French-speaking Africa. I doubt that even without Chitala’s article in the Tripoli Post things would have gone any differently for our BoInonge.
I am sure that our government did not see Ping as a threat to Inonge’s ascendancy to the position. Gabon is not mentioned as one of the countries visited by Mwanawasa’s special envoys. Ping’s credentials are enough to run any candidate into the ground, include Inonge, if what was touted about her is anything to go by unless her only strong point was her gender.
If I have followed stories regarding this issue very well, President Mwanawasa’s envoys only visited 14 countries to lobby for Inonge and even then, two of them did not even vote for her.
I only hope that Kabinga Pande, the minister of foreign affairs will look at this issue very objectively when he presents a report to Parliament on why Inonge lost the position, instead of dressing Chitala with the goat’s intestines as they say in one of our local languages.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 16:43
Sunday, 10 February 2008
Friday, 8 February 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Mbita Chitala has burnt his fingers over the issue of the United States of Africa or the Federal Union of African States, whichever way one may want to call it. Chitala may have a point in arguing for the quick implementation of the African government and questioning the apparent procrastination of some African leaders.
“It is unacceptable for African leaders to continue procrastinating or making lame selfish excuses of going to consult their peoples and so on such as has been the case in the last ten years,” writes Chitala.
I have argued before on this column why Africa is not ready for such an undertaking ranging from economic limitations to socio-cultural issues that need to be addressed.
The approach taken by Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, noble as it may be, is ivory tower-ish in which only privileged high-level politicians such as presidents, foreign ministers and jet-set diplomats engage in the discourse.
At the risk of naming countries and places, an exercise that landed Brother Mbita into presidential hot coals, I think that residents of Old Naledi in Gaborone, Medina in Accra, Matonge in Kinshasa, or indeed, Kwacha in Kitwe where I hail from, do not understand much about the African Union in its present form, nor do they have an idea about the proposed federation. What is more is that they do not care much about it as they grapple with issues of food.
This is an idea that the Kwame Nkrumahs, Haile Sellasies, Jomo Kenyattas, Ben Bellas envisaged just under 50 years ago when they founded the Organisation of African Unity. What they probably did not think about is the economic dynamics that have placed African countries at such disparities you would think you are on different planets. Lamentably, even the regional economic organisations such as SADC and COMESA which are supposed to be the building blocks of a successful US of Africa, are at loggerheads with each other.
The same is true on the political sphere where countries, even those that had been stable before are crumbling like Kenya, are still weighed down by undemocratic tendencies. Achieving internal democracy among those countries that wish to ascend to the federation should be uppermost in their minds.
The proponents of the federation also need to go further if they have to achieve anything tangible and they can only do this if they start from a cultural standpoint.
Much as I understand that culture is a dicey issue in that even in Zambia with 73 ethnic groups it is difficult to come up with a “Zambian” cultural blueprint, it can be done through literature, drama, music and sport which easily bring ordinary citizens together who can then be preached to about what binds us rather than what divides us as a continent.
The African Union could start by regularly holding cultural festivals along the lines of the phenomenon Festac ’77, the second Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture held in Nigeria in 1977. In the process, participants could pick up on the positive elements of the federation and eventually the idea would percolate to the ordinary citizens.
Anything to do with the proposed federation couched in the absence of culture will lamentably fail. As Chitala himself points out, there is too much Anglophone vs. Francophone, Mahgreb vs. Sub-Sahara, and Muslim vs. Christian rather than that we are all Africans.
Sadly, at the micro-level there are issues arising of the aLuo vs. the aKikuyu in Kenya. Unfortunately, it is the same elsewhere on the continent where neighbouring ethnic groups are in conflict with one another.
The gargantuan nature of the Federal Union of African States will not help matters considering that economically strong nations will want to dominate the affairs of the government that will be so formed much to the disadvantage of poorer countries or regions.
Colonel Gaddafi and his acolytes should give this issue much thought and permeate all spheres of the continent. It should not just be a question of octogenarian former leaders who were present at the founding of the OAU in 1963 saying they want the US of Africa realised in their lifetime.
The Honourable Minister of Information, Nominated Member of Parliament, Chief Government Spokesman and MMD aspiring presidential candidate Mike Mulongoti has put his foot in it yet again by suggesting that those who wished to watch the Africa Cup of Nations finals should do so from neighbours or from pubs with pay TV.
This is because “It will show if you pay” ZNBC failed to pay K5 billion for the broadcasting rights for CAN Ghana games. Where the extortionate TV licence paid through the equally extortionate ZESCO bill goes, apart from the lack of, not poor, planning by the ZNBC management is not my concern here.
Mulongoti’s statement reminded me of two things. First my origins in Kwacha were as late as the 1980s only very few people had electricity in their homes and we had to watch TV through the drawn curtains of the few neighbours who boasted of black and white TV sets.
If the owners of the house were in a good mood on a particular day they asked us to first go and bath before they allowed us in to watch Roger Ramjet, Flintstones and Maya.
Secondly, he reminded me of journalese, the language of journalists in the newsroom in which we always said someone who claimed to have been misquoted only wished he never said what he was quoted on.
Mulongoti should know that he is not only a policy maker but he is also a news maker such that whatever he says, no matter in what context, falls within the two categories. If he does not mention floods in an interview as the reason why government cannot pay for TV rights, he should not expect the journalist to guess what he means.
The question is where does self-regulation for journalists come in if he is not clear himself? No, Sir, spare us your poor judgement on issues of national importance. Some of the journalists you are trying to denigrate are probably more qualified than you are.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 17:00
Friday, 1 February 2008
By Gershom Ndhlovu
I had an interesting response to last week’s column “What Was a Rumour Then” from someone calling himself Lee. I reproduce it below:
“At the moment Levy seems to be doing well for the country in terms of the political, economic, social and technical aspects of the Zambian scenario.The positive developments achieved in the aforesaid areas under Levy appear to be gradual, possibly due to our high expectations. The fact is Levy has taken the country a step forward, as opposed to the levels of neglect experienced in the previous MMD administration.It is my considered view that behind Levy’s success is more of Maureen than the ministers. The ministers seem to be closely monitored by Levy, hence the decency being exhibited by the pretending few, thereby allowing the country to move forward progressively.Maureen may be recommended for the high position in anticipation of continued progress in the development of the country. In my opinion, we don’t have enough leaders available, so we need wider options to choose from, Maureen included.At times I reflect and imagine that we should not have restricted the term of leadership of the country, but just put in effective regulations to make the president accountable to the people for his deeds as well as making people adequately informed about what is actually happening so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to voting.
In Zambia it’s like we have a situation of certain people making choices (voting) on behalf of others (who are not well informed). I strongly feel we will have a good leader restricted, and then be presented with a bad one only to achieve in derailing the progress of the nation.”
Lee’s argument is clearly reminiscent of the mindset the nation had under President Kaunda when we never imagined anybody could take over from him until came along trade unionist Frederick Chiluba.
Unfortunately, it is Chiluba who strangled the fledgling democracy in the MMD when he woke Levy up from slumber instead of allowing members to vote for a leader of their choice and I believe the choice was there then. The choice is there now without bringing Maureen into the equation.
On the wider horizon outside of the MMD, there is UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema, Heritage’s General Godfrey Miyanda, APC’s Ken Ngondo or even Bashikulu BaSata with his rocking boat.
I do not believe that the MMD, or the nation for that matter, lacks leaders. In 2001, there were 11 presidential candidates. If my memory serves me right we had Gen Miyanda, General Tembo (FDD), Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika (Agenda for Zambia), Gwendolyn Konie (SDP), the late Anderson Mazoka, (UPND) and, Ben Mwila (ZRP).
The rest are Sata (PF), Mwanawasa (MMD), Tilyenji Kaunda (UNIP), Dr Yobert Shamapande (NLP) and Nevers Mumba (NCC).
Now, surely, a line up like this does not show a shortage of leaders in the nation not to mention the MMD itself whose senior members are expressing their interest for the top post. So far Gen Shikapwasha, Gen Chituwo, Mike Mulongoti and Ng’andu Magande have indicated their wish to be considered.
The dampener for them, however, is that President Mwanawasa has told them that any minister who wishes to contest the MMD presidency will be fired so that s/he concentrates on campaigning for the position.
The irony, however, is that Maureen is not a minister and will therefore not incur the wrath of her husband, the ministers’ appointing authority.
Whatever is the case, the baseline is that Zambia does not only need a leader, it needs a good leader who should turn round people’s fortunes. It is such a shame that over 80 per cent of Zambia’s citizens live in abject poverty and squalor despite the massive natural resources our country is endowed with.
The problem that arises in the case of Maureen is what has always been raised in elections and by-elections, where the party in government has gained advantage by using state resources for campaigns. In terms of the 2011 presidential race, Maureen is already on the starting blocks when everyone else is still grappling with the kit.
So, computer hackers hit the electricity generating system of Zambia and other neighbouring countries resulting in a country wide blackout at least for Zambia, so the CIA believes.
A cyberattack caused a power blackout in multiple cities outside the United States, the CIA warned. ZDNet, a respected technology company reported on its website late last week.
According to ZDnet, the SANS Institute, a computer-security training body, reported the CIA's disclosure last Friday. CIA senior analyst Tom Donahue told a SANS Institute conference on Wednesday in New Orleans that the CIA had evidence of successful cyberattacks against critical national infrastructures outside the United States.
"We have information that cyberattacks have been used to disrupt power equipment in several regions outside the U.S.," Donahue said. "In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities."
Donahue added that the CIA does not know who executed the attacks or why but that all of the attacks involved "intrusions through the Internet."
The CIA analyst added that his agency had evidence of blackmail demands following demonstrations of successful intrusions.
"We have information, from multiple regions outside the U.S., of cyberintrusions into utilities, followed by extortion demands," Donahue said. "We suspect, but cannot confirm, that some of these attackers had the benefit of inside knowledge."
One Zambian IT expert in the UK said on his blog, http://zedian-on-tech.blogspot.com, that while aging generating equipment could be blamed for the blackout, he did not rule out the possibility of hackers breaking into the ZESCO computer network.
The prospect of cyber terrorism is very real. Russian agents have in the recent past been accused of hacking into computer networks of neighbouring countries that were part of the former Soviet Union but have increasingly aligned themselves with America.
Britain recently complained against attacks on computer networks of its sensitive government departments by China.
For those who know something about botnets, phishing, viruses and remote access should understand the possibility of computer networks being attacked using these tools.
For now, spare Rhodnie Sisala.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 09:20