Friday, 27 February 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Surely, the Zambian government through the Food Reserve Agency pawned the lives of its citizens for K2 billion, yes K2 billion—not US$2 billion—profit it made by exporting maize to neighbouring countries between 2006 and 2008. Surely, a local miller or two would have been able to buy grain for local consumption at that amount.

And because of this ill-advised decision, Zambians were briefly subjected to the possibility of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMO) maize, but thanks to some eagle-eyed citizens who exposed the scam although President Rupiah Banda tried to soothe the uncomfortable situation his government found itself in by saying the nation should re-open the GMO debate.

I do not know what happened to the wisdom of those we entrust to superintend over our national affairs has evaporated to, if they had wisdom in the first place, because even the bible which they claim to follow when it suits them, says that Pharaoh through Joseph, kept grain for up to seven years as buffer for the lean years ahead.

Even the United States only gets rid of its grain after seven years which is later donated to food deficit countries, most of which, like Zambia, mismanage their own food reserves.

But again, when you look at the maize silos at former NAMBOARD depots in Kitwe, Ndola, Chambishi, Kabwe, Lusaka and Monze, these are not only in a state of disrepair, they are probably empty and the rats that accompany the presence of maize may have migrated to the countries where the maize was sold to.

When the FRA replaced NAMBOARD otherwise known as National Agriculture Marketing Board, the nation was told that the new agency would be responsible for the management of strategic food reserves. We were not told that it would be involved in the business of exporting maize.

Ideally, the FRA would mop up maize that, year in year out, lies uncollected in agricultural areas such as Kalumwange in Kaoma, in Kashinakaji in Kabompo, in Chama and other areas. But these are only peasant farmers and yet the commercial and emergent farmers also cannot have their maize bought by the FRA which still prefers to import maize at a higher cost than they would normally pay to the local producers.

Only a few weeks ago, the nation was treated to yet another maize circus when government announced that it was in the process of importing 100,000 tonnes of maize and a farmers group said its members had maize around the quantities that government was about to import. One Brian Chituwo as minister responsible for agriculture swore that the farmers were not telling the truth and the farmers insisted government was not being sincere on the issue.

It is actually ironical that the FRA should export maize in the middle of the year and six months later the nation should experience a severe maize shortage which would lead government to “desperation” to the extent of buying GMO maize abroad.

The uncertainty with which the FRA handles local maize procurements not only leaves peasant farmers vulnerable to unscrupulous traders who exchange maize for useless items like “salaula” and “Dambo” soap which they would otherwise buy themselves if the government agency bought the maize from them, it also leaves those living in border areas to sell their maize in neighbouring countries. This in turn reduces people to depend on what the Tongas call “chiholehole” otherwise knows as relief maize after selling their produce to these brief-case businessmen.

President Banda, having had been chief executive officer of NAMBOARD, should know the dynamics of maize marketing and, if needs be, change laws and policies of grain management for Zambia to avoid going through the farcical food crises and shortages that continue ravaging citizens annually.

Since its inception in the early 1990s, it is clear that the FRA has failed in its mandate and it is time we tried something else if only to make food available on our tables affordably and all year round rather than the casino situation when one does not know if he will find a bag of mealie meal affordably at that.


A few days ago, I read a story of deputy transport and communications minister Mubika Mubika ticking off opposition Monze MP Jack Mwiimbu who had criticised the Lusaka International Airport. Mubika’s response was that Lusaka International Airport (LIA) is one of the best in Africa.

I thought my failing eye-sight had deceived me and had to send for my spectacles to read it all over again. If, in deed, Mubika can describe LIA as one of the best airports in Africa, it explains why a lot of infrastructure in the country is in a shoddy state, either just constructed or through neglect. We, as Zambians, have come to accept mediocrity as a part of life and Mubika’s position on LIA is just that, accepting mediocrity.

I have been to quite a few airports in Africa, ranging from Lubumbashi airport in Congo DRC—and Kinshasa’s N’djili—to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I have seen the best and the worst. In my view, Lusaka is no where near the best.

There is a lot that needs to be done at LIA for it to approach the levels of airports such as Bole which has been built with the future in mind and at the moment only 30 per cent of its capacity is being utilized. I doubt very much if Lusaka International Airport can even handle two international departures simultaneously.

Disembarking at LIA is always an anti-climax of a flight from abroad, landing to a dusty airport, back to staff clearly in ennui and run-down infrastructure.

Come on Bwana Mubika, take a quick trip to Harare International Airport and see for yourself what a good airport should be because I am sure even the severe economic throes that country is experiencing, have not taken the shine out of the airport.

Lusaka International Airport is only better than Lubumbashi airport which has seen better days, no more, no less.

Friday, 20 February 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Clearly, Bwacha Member of Parliament and former Minister of Lands, the Reverend Gladys Nyirongo, has drunk from the poisoned chalice that has been associated with the higher echelons of power in Zambia in the last 18 years of the MMD at the apex of governance.

Rev. Nyirongo’s case is even more interesting in that she started off as one of the four opposition members of parliament on the Heritage Party ticket in 2002 but quickly jumped onto the MMD gravy train and as they say in the local street language, “anachita ova” or overdid things when she was sent to the ministry of lands by dishing out land to kith and kin on transfer from the seemingly innocuous ministries of youth and sport and community development.

Zambians are at a juncture where people who have served in public office at one time or another, ranging from a former president, to defence and intelligence chiefs, ministers and senior servants are either serving jail sentences, or are appearing in court for corruption-related offences.

Without passing judgment on those whose cases are still in court and are yet to be concluded, this state of affairs in itself says a lot about our country, endowed with rich natural resources such as emeralds, copper, gold, cobalt, and equally rich agricultural land for both arable and pastoral farming and great tourism potential, and yet the majority of the citizens live in abject poverty.

There are already stories of people in power and those linked to them who are allegedly involved in shady deals such as the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) maize, the partial privatisation of Zamtel, procurement of radar equipment for the National Airports Corporation the importation of petroleum products and other dodgy businesses all bordering on abuse of public resources.

Surely, this coming at the heels of cases of senior government officials of a previous administration—and others still serving—smacks of unimaginable impunity and brings to the fore the old saying about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely.

A precedent has been set where leaders from one administration have been prosecuted by new leaders even from the same party upon change of guard. I can only imagine what would happen if there was a whole change of parties at the helm and how many people would be appearing in court.

My fear is that the Rev. Nyirongo case and the few others who have held high positions and have been caught is just a very small tip of a very big iceberg on which the development of Zambia has been derailed with everyone trying to milk it for as long as it lasts and lasting it has.

It is doubtful how effective the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and its twin sister, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) have been in dealing with cases of corruption and related vices, most of the time in the face of glaring but disturbing reports from the Auditor General’s Office of how billions of kwacha are salted away year in and year out. What evidence do they require when it is all there and backed by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which in my view has done quite well under the chairmanship of independent Member of Parliament Charles Milupi?

We all know the limitations of the Task Force on corruption which was specifically formed to deal with plunder of national resources under the Chiluba regime and I would grudgingly say it has scored some successes which the two established anti-vice organisations have failed to score.

By 2011, the MMD will have been in power for 20 years, but the damage that has been done to the national resources is far more than the damage under UNIP’s 27 years in power. Levels of poverty and hopelessness in the nation are higher than they ever were at the height of UNIP in power.

Under UNIP, an occasional parastatal chief would be arrested for corruption and related offences, but it was unheard of for ministers and permanent secretaries, let alone Zambia Airforce and Zambia National Service commanders, to be sent to jail. May be it is because there was strict adherence to the General Orders and Financial Regulations, two documents which new civil servants had to acquaint themselves with but was done away with under the know-it-all Chiluba administration.

Is it any coincidence then that the former head of state, Frederick Chiluba himself is regularly in court to answer criminal charges? President Rupiah Banda has chance to learn from those who have come before him.


It is my sincere hope that I have misunderstood—yes, misunderstood—Vice President George Kunda on the introduction of food vouchers meant for peri-urban areas being piloted in some Lusaka townships.

One would only hope that this food voucher scheme being implemented in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) in response to increased food insecurity, would be significantly different to the mealie meal coupons introduced by the UNIP government circa 1988.

We all remember how the vulnerable who were supposed to be beneficiaries of the cheap and in some cases, free mealie meal, depending on the coupons a family was entitled to, were denied access to the commodity which had fallen to the control of corrupt party and government functionaries. Mealie meal ended up going to the highest bidder and most of it found its way to the black market where it in turn fetched extortionate prices.

This can also be likened to bursaries at universities and colleges from which students from poor families have been marginalized while those from families that can afford the tuition fees many times over are the ones who have been benefiting because their fathers, mothers, uncles and other connections are in control.

For exercises like these to meet their objectives of helping the vulnerable, there is need to involve established churches such as the Catholic, UCZ, RCZ, the SDA and Salvation Army which have a truly grassroots presence and know who deserves help and who doesn’t and are not led by fly-by-night pastors who are hell-bent on enriching themselves.

Friday, 13 February 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Not that I care much about Dr David Livingstone, the man whom it is claimed was the first white man to see the Mosi-Oa-Tunya in Silozi or Shungu Namutitima in Toka-Leya--or the Victoria Falls, named after an English queen who reigned during the man’s travels in the central and southern parts of Africa.

The fact that only 2221 tourists have visited his death place somewhere in Serenje between 2001 and 2008, speaks volumes of how poor tourism marketing in Zambia is. A quick calculation shows that less than one person per day visited the place in seven years.

Before I turn to the positive aspects of Dr Livingstone’s travels, or better still, the lack of them, which were themselves a direct harbinger of the infamous scramble for Africa, in which European powers of the time, divided Africa like a piece of cake among themselves, I would like to address one or two issues that affect tourist accessibility to Chipundu, some 100 km from Serenje and about 20 km off Tuta road.

Dr Livingstone’s death place is not only poorly marketed if at all, the road to the area is just better than a footpath, and when you decide to branch off from Tuta road, you need to carry bottled water and snacks because there are none on sale there, not even souvenirs that tourists want to come back with from a significant place as that.

For Dr Livingstone, I do not know why he is so revered in that part of Africa because the only achievement that can be ascribed to him is the renaming of the Mosi-Oa-Tunya and we let him get away with it. Imagine if a Zambian travelled to the south west of England and came across some stones arranged in a geometric pattern which the owners call Stonehenge and rechristened it the Litunga Stones or even the Undi Stones, imagine what disdain and contempt the local people of Wiltshire in particular and the United Kingdom in general would subject that person to.

And yet we have allowed Dr Livingstone’s sacrilege to continue for close to two centuries. Apart from that, we have even named one of our cities after him. Would it not be better for us to call the falls by its original names? Would it not be better for us to call the City of Livingstone, Mukuni City, Shungu Namutitima, Mosi-Oa-Tunya or even Senkobo after the village just north of Livingstone?

South Africa which attained majority rule in 1994 changed names of cities, towns and other infrastructure associated with the brutal past while Zimbabwe in 1980, changed most of the names associated with the colonisers replacing them with relevant local names.

Contrary to what is widely known, the first white people to see the Victoria Falls where South African Boer travellers who did not document their discovery, if discovery is the word to use here.

Equally, Dr Livingstone did not necessarily stop slave trade where he travelled. The degrading trade in humans was truly on its way out as an economic activity because it had been outlawed in 1807, about six years before Livingstone was born into a poor Scottish family, and the US itself had followed suit at the time of his travels into the African hinterland. The trade was becoming unprofitable due to changed legal and economic circumstances. Worse is the fact that Dr Livingstone used to hide each time his party came across a slave caravan for fear of being attacked by the Arab slavers.

Generally speaking, Dr David Livingstone is given more credit than he deserves and this has been ingrained in our mindset that if Livingstone City and the Victoria Falls were called by any other names apart from these eponymous colonial relics, it would be difficult to market the place to tourists.

Far from it. Tourists still flock to Machu Pichu in Mexico, to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and to the great pyramids in Giza in Egypt. Very few non-Scottish Britons know a lot about Dr David Livingstone and the Victoria Falls to the extent that they would miss any changes in nomenclature. They will still visit the Mosi-Oa-Tunya or the Shungu Namutitima if they want to.

The truth of the matter is that Dr Livingstone achieved very little during his travels and that is why the British government recalled him during his second journey but was sponsored by the private sector for his third and final trip. It is his talks at the Royal Geographical Society in London that whetted the appetites of the imperial predators who fell on Africa in the scramble of the continent whose effects Africans are still feeling over a century and half later.

Dr Livingstone must be cast to the dustbin of history as events should be correctly re-written.


It is scary, isn’t it, to think that Members of Parliament are asking for the increment in Constituency Development Funds (CDF) from K400m which in itself is quite high, to an astronomical K1 Billion. May be it is because I am not a cadre of any party, but in the three constituencies I have lived in ever since the CDF was introduced, I have never benefited from it in any way.

I know for sure that the majority of people in the 150 constituencies of the country have never seen a single Ngwee of the CDF.

While this is not to say that all the MPs squander the money—there are a few diligent ones—constituents must demand budgets from the MPs and proof of expenditure for the projects the money is spent on.

It is difficult to appreciate PF Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili argument that that CDF should be increased because this is the money that benefits the grassroots and that it is also used “to improve among other things road infrastructure in constituencies.”

I do not remember the last time a grader passed through the roads of most constituencies even in big cities such as Kitwe, Ndola and Lusaka not to mention rural areas where roads a worse than the Martian landscape.

Friday, 6 February 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


I did not see the article which quoted Honourable Gabriel Namulambe, Presidential Affairs Minister, in which he argued against having a vice presidential running mate in an election, citing “witchcraft” as the reason until a friend drew me to it.

“Let us bear in mind that in Africa there is witchcraft and the vice-president might bewitch the Republican president in order to take over the presidency...,” Namulambe is said to have told National Constitution Conference (NCC) delegates.

Whether this was a joke or not, is difficult to say but this statement staggered me for its naivety and irrationality.

It, however, does not come as a surprise to anyone who followed the then acting President Banda on his campaign tour for the October 30 election which he later won. On his visit to a chief’s palace in one of the provinces, he told the nation that he felt protected from witchcraft. I suspect it was after some “protection” ritual was performed on him by the same chief.

With Banda and Namulambe’s statements, I feel that governance in Zambia has been taken to its nadir especially if what goes into the future constitution or, indeed, if government policies are predicated on witchcraft.

I would like to believe that Namulambe’s contribution against a vice president as a running mate of the presidential candidate in the constitution was Namulambe’s personal view. But if it was discussed with the President, then Zambians should drop their brows in shame and sorrow at the way their affairs are being handled.

At the same time, the argument by Namulambe has been a common phenomenon in African politics in the last fifty years of African independence.

Author Martin Meredith, in his book, The State of Africa: A history of Fifty Years of Independence narrates how leaders like the late Felix Houephet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Zaire’s late Mobutu Sese Seko disdained the idea of a vice president, often saying that there was no number two, three or four, it was only Houephet-Boigny.

Mobutu likened himself to a chief who did not need to consult anybody on what decisions he took. As such he appointed prime ministers and disappointed them at will. It was not, therefore, accidental that there was a lot of insecurity among those appointed as prime ministers. Some unfortunate ones who showed an unhealthy interest in taking over from the man were incarcerated if they were lucky otherwise they were fed to the crocodiles.

In Zambia, from early on in the political life of the nation, the position of Vice President was done away with under President Kaunda. Two positions were created, that of UNIP Secretary General who was the de facto Vice President and that of Prime Minister but the office holders could be removed at will by the appointing authority.

The advent of multi-party politics and the ascendancy of the MMD to power did not help matters. The President still retained the power to appoint the Vice President such that in 10 years of President Chiluba’s tenure, no less than four people served in the Vice President’s office. The first was Levy Mwanawasa, now late, who was the MMD vice president then, followed by General Godfrey Miyanda, who was replaced with General Christon Tembo and later Enoch Kavindele who continued as President Mwanawasa’s Vice President.

Under President Mwanawasa, apart from Kavindele, three other people were to serve as Vice Presidents. There was Nevers Mumba, Lupando Mwape, and Rupiah Banda who took over the presidency upon the demise of the incumbent president, Levy Mwanawasa.

Ironically, it is under these circumstances that the NCC, Mwanawasa’s creation, has been debating the need for a vice presidential running mate in the presidential elections to avoid costly elections in the event of misfortune such as death befalling the incumbent.

Even more ironical, it is the people in Banda’s administration—who took over from a man who died in office—who are now saying a vice president can bewitch a sitting president for him to take over.

Surely, is Namulambe telling us something we do not know about President Banda in the art of witchcraft?


The pronouncement by President Banda that government will continue evacuating leaders to South Africa for treatment sounded the death knell for the University Teaching Hospital and other local health facilities to which the ordinary folk go when they suffer from debilitating diseases like heart ailments, renal failure, etc.

Poor Zambians have been known to die because they could not afford the cost of dialysis which is far and away from their reach while those with political connections have been evacuated abroad for colds, flus and ear infections.

I have visited hospitals in most parts of the country ranging from Sichili Mission hospital in Sesheke, to Chilonga Mission Hospital in Mpika, Kabompo Hospital and Nyimba Hospital, you name them. For the mission hospitals, the missionaries try their best to provide for the patients who are mostly villagers in surrounding catchment areas. Government hospitals are truly run down even the local District Commissioner would not want to be admitted to one.

For people from Kuku, Chazanga and Desai, going to hospitals such as Lusaka Trust—most Lusaka residents don’t even know where it is and yet it is just a stone’s throw away from the UTH—and Maina Soko Military Hospital which are just about the best quasi-public health facilities in the country is a dream. Being flown to South Africa for them would be a dream to end all dreams.

For President Banda to say leaders—Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, Parliamentary Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga and Minister of Science and Technology Peter Daka have been evacuated to South Africa—would continue to be evacuated abroad is a kick in the teeth of the people who want to see an overhaul of the health delivery service.

The Zambian government can procure the machinery that those who are taken abroad go to be treated on for a local hospital, never mind the personnel because some Zambian medics and paramedics man these facilities at those foreign hospitals the leaders go to.