Friday, 30 January 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


The fundamental problem with Zambia’s constitutions in the last four decades is that they have been tailored to suit individuals, and if not that, they have been made to fix people who appeared to have dissenting views from that of the government in power.

In this on-going constitution-writing exercise, the delegates to the National Constitution Conference (NCC) are going the same way that has forced the nation to write and re-write the constitution several times in the soon to be 45 years of independence.

One of the most curious recommendations that the delegates are intent to include in the constitution is obviously meant to embarrass PF president Michael Sata who has an on-going tiff with a number of his MPs whom the party has “expelled” for defying it over the same NCC which they have clung on contrary to the party’s position.

The recommendation that MPs expelled from their parties should instead serve as independent MPs is not only absurd in its logic, it would simply perpetuate indiscipline among the parliamentarians within their parties knowing fully well that they would retain their seats. Apart from that, the nation would end up with 150 independent members of parliament who, in the unlikely event that they were all expelled from their parties.

But again, this would be one way in which a ruling party would sow confusion in opposition parties by alienating MPs from their own parties and thereby beef up its numbers in the house.

Another vexing issue is that of benefits to a convicted former head of state. Clearly, this issue is being discussed with former President Frederick Chiluba’s on-going court cases in mind. Some delegates argue that in the event that a former head of state is convicted, he should lose his retirement benefits while others say that it would be tantamount to punishing someone twice.

Continuing giving a convicted former head of state gratuity could be likened to the proverbial “having your cake and eating it.” Such a person would be benefiting from two sources of income—the pension and other entitlements from government as well as from the proceeds of crime one is convicted of.

The best option would be for them to lose all the benefits apart from the house built for them if the conviction happens after it has been constructed otherwise they have to lose everything. Such a scenario would discourage any sitting president from dipping their fingers in the national till.

Without exercising objectivity in their constitution writing mission, NCC delegates will come up with a pedantic document which the next ruler who would not agree with it, re-write it and therefore costing the nation more resources that should be used in other areas of need such as infrastructure development or social services.

I wonder if this is what NCC spokesperson Mwangala Zaloumis told the nation about, that the delegates were doing a lot of thinking and deserved even more money in allowances than they are getting now. The political orientation of most of the delegates leaves much to be desired, especially if some of the delegates, like Church leaders who were on one radio station justifying corruption in some circles, are among those writing the national constitution.

Zambia needs a robust but fair constitution that is not targeted at settling some petty political scores between the ruling MMD and opposition parties. The vision and object of the new constitution should be able to stand the test of time, to borrow an overused but overlooked term in the country’s constitution making process.


Is it not sad that diseases such as cholera and typhoid keep breaking out in Zambia’s urban and peri-urban areas? The latest case of typhoid in Wusakile and Chamboli areas boils down to one thing—the use of communal toilets particularly in the D section of Wusakile.

This is the section between Wusakile Basic School and somewhere near the hospital and the A section somewhere near the mine shaft on the way to Chamboli through Nkana Basic School.

Obviously the sanitary state of these toilets leaves much to be desired considering that in the past when these houses where owned by the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), there were people employed to clean them. I doubt if there is anyone dedicated to cleaning these facilities in which there is very little dignity in using them.

I know for sure that in the past there were no doors to the row of cubicles with the small holes on which people squatted for the call of nature. And for flushing, and that time water was in constant supply, there was a tank at the end that emptied automatically at set times.

It was the same case in Mindolo, but in that township as in some parts of Wusakile, the mine owners at the time demolished most of those one or two-roomed ramshackles and replaced them with properly designed houses which included an inbuilt toilet.

Incidentally, there are still bigger parts of Kitwe, and unfortunately other parts of the bigger cities such as Ndola, Lusaka and Livingstone, not to mention smaller towns and most of the rural areas, where pit-latrines are still in use.

I remember Kitwe’s Kwacha in particular, where a bigger portion of the township still has pit latrines in use which used to get flooded with water rising above the pit-latrines with human waste floating about way back in the 1980s.

It is really a miracle that those days there were no diseases such as cholera which later became endemic in the area. By 1992, cholera was sweeping across most of Kitwe such that then, the authorities were forced to bury victims in mass graves.

For Wusakile residents, two waste removal trucks and unblocking sewer lines may be too little too late. The solution lies in replacing those communal toilets with individual facilities. But the problem is that the houses are in private hands and it boils down to having money—or more likely not having it—for such an exercise by the so-called landlords.





Friday, 23 January 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


For any democracy to be worthwhile, any system, organisation or country needs a tangible a worthy opposition with a purpose whose members would not sell their souls for three pieces of silver. Such an opposition should be patient to serve in its role as the opposition. 

The opposition needs to be coherent and united, speaking with one voice and holding principles that are as true to self as needle is to the pole. It is unfortunate that none of this is true about the state of Zambian politics. We  seem  to  have  opposition  parties  who do  not seem to have a  purpose of being in  the  opposition   nor  the  heart  to  serve  the  brave  masses who  put  their  faith into  voting a would–be  toothless opposition.

This  is  so  because   while  we  could  have  had a  very  strong  opposition  in  Zambia  that  should have been  able  to  give  the  ruling  party MMD  a good run  for  their  money  and  give  them  a  torrid  time  in  terms  of  checks  and  balances, we  instead  have an  opposition  whose members  who only look for opportunities of how  to  make  or  milk  more   money  from  politics.

What with all those opposition MPs who were appointed to Cabinet in the late President Mwanawasa’s first term? What about those  involved  in  the  current National Constitution Conference  fiasco   where  the  amounts  being  paid  to  them  are  obscene  to  the  point  that    they  are  ready  to  sell  their  souls  and  ditch  the  fundamental  beliefs  and  stand  of  their  respective  parties  just  for  the  personal monetary  gains?

It   is  sad    that  we  have  politicians  who  are  so  impatient  to  be  in  power  that they  are  ready  to  dine  with  the  very  devil  they   fight. My  observation  is  that  all  this  immature  predisposition  from  the  opposition  only  serves  to  empower   the  ruling  party  MMD  which  would  have  easily  been  obliterated by  a  better  organised  opposition.

Right  now  the  Patriotic  Front party  is  embroiled  in  some  very  uncomfortable  in-fighting   where the party president  is  ready  to  lose or  risk  losing  parliamentary  seats   just  because  of  money-hungry   dissident  MPs within  the   party. It  beggars  belief   that we  could  have  leaders  ready  to  sell  their  souls for  any  sort  of  enrichment  regardless  of  whether  their  principles  are  violated .

What  is  happening in  Zambia  now  is sad  and  forms  the  basis  why  we  have  a  lot  of  our   politicians  trekking  to  courts  to  answer  criminal charges  because  the  love  of  money  forms  a  bigger attraction  for  their entering  into  politics.  Selfless  service  among  the  politicians  is a  non-existent  term and  it  has  been  replaced  by  unspeakable arrogance.

It is no wonder that our members of parliament are able to vote for themselves huge inflation-busting salaries and allowances when people are losing jobs in the wake of the global economic meltdown, crop failures among peasant farmers and other economic and social maladies affecting the rest of the citizens.

It is also surprising that opposition MPs, notably from the United Party for National Development are in the lead calling for government to control the media when on the contrary, they should be calling for full media freedom. A free media is complementary to the watchdog role of the opposition.

We  have  a  need  for  a  total  revamp  of politics  where the  opposition  will  feel  proud  to  be  in  opposition  and  will  serve  as  an  eye  and  advocate  for  the  people   to the  government  in  power  rather  than  share spoils  with  the  government.  We  have  a  scenario  where  the  government  is  so  detached  from  the  people and we  have  come   to  accept   it  as  normal  way  of  life  which  should  not  be.

Zambians need to take the 2011 elections seriously by examining the type of leadership they want for themselves, not a leadership that just contributes to their further suffering while feathering its own nest.


Recently, veteran politician and erstwhile diplomat Vernon Johnson Mwaanga, who is the parliamentary chief whip, dismissed a proposal by the delegates at the ongoing National Constitution Conference (NCC) that people appointed into the diplomatic service should be ratified by parliament.

Mwaanga’s response was that ratification of such appointees was not the practice in the Commonwealth. I know from my junior secondary school civics that Zambia’s government system is a hybrid between the American presidential system and the United Kingdom’s Westminster parliamentary system.

It is needless to say, however, that Zambia has adopted the worst traits of the two systems and these are used when the government wants to deny its citizens certain things. For the Commonwealth, really, in as far as it benefits citizens in the member countries, is as useful as an amputated limb.

The Commonwealth is a colonial vestige which the former British colonial countries are better off shaking off. Britain is glad to have its head of monarchy, the Queen in this case, officiating at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) in the manner of a king (Queen) inspecting his/her trophy.

It is not difficult to see that Britain, as the lead country in the Commonwealth, is committed more to the European Union than to Commonwealth member countries. The only true beneficiaries are members of Anglo-Saxon/Caucasian origin such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

One should probably wonder why the US with the closest ties with Britain in main areas, least of all blood, is not a member of the Commonwealth. They probably realised long ago that it was a useless venture.

It is high time other member countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean who are treated like junior partners in the Commonwealth, pulled out of the grouping and concentrated on regional ones such as the African Union for African countries. I do not agree with Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe’s internal policies, but on his decision to pull his country out of the grouping, he gets full marks from me.

There is no point for politicians such as Mwaanga to always refer to Commonwealth practice when we, ourselves, can set our own precedents, in this case by subjecting diplomats to parliamentary ratification before they are posted out of the country.—(Mueti Moomba contributed to this write up).