Friday, 27 March 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


In last week’s column, I wrote that Kabwata MP Given Lubinda and other MPs were not solely responsible for the development of their constituencies, but the local authorities under which those areas fell as well as the central government. This was after Kabwata residents demonstrated against the MP and a Non-Governmental Organisation, Forum for Leadership called for Lubinda and other MPs perceived not to be “delivering” to step aside.

I wrote: “I wonder if (Edwin) Lifwekelo implies that MPs should take over the overall development of their constituencies particularly with the K400 million Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) while local authorities and government go to sleep. MPs and councillors can only serve as a conveyor belt for development ideas while local authorities do the rest.”

I received the following response from Mr Justine Mwiinga, a resident of Kamwala South:

“Dear Gershom, whilst I totally agree with you on Magande’s letter to Minister of Transport & Communication, please note that we the residents of Kamwala South do not appreciate your comments on Lubinda. Lubinda and yourselves must not underestimate that demonstration though it may be viewed politically as an MMD affair.

If what Lubinda childishly says those are MMD cadres let him know some of us are not cadres in any way but share the same concerns and are appalled to see the road networks for Kamwala South, Kasama road and Chalala in a deplorable state. Whether you try to justify or not the role of an area MP must be to influence or aid development in his constituency by urging, demanding and criticizing so that together with local residents can see the need especially where wants and needs are many everywhere, as residents we are not privileged to have platform and legislative power to influence government to bring development to the area.

He is also supposed to creatively and proactively liaise with possible local and foreign investors that can help bring development through construction of roads, clinics and other business activities.  It is his role also to work with residents through mobilization of residents to contribute in a formal way and create confidence in community generated and driven projects not just using CDF to tackle floods reactively. All this indirectly and directly an MP should engage government and community to raise the level of life.

Take note that our MP has been speaking in the press print and radio on a number of issues that are general by condemning the president, MMD and other opposition on behalf of his party but what has he done for us to measure his performance since 2001. Rarely has he been pressuring government regarding our problem, which I thought should have been his pre-occupation than trading [sic] more on party lines.

I know his answer will be I have been doing this and we do not need to hear him say it, I feel this is disrespectful to voters. We feel our representation has been mutilated and he needs to address this or else if his thinking is that only government should think on its own without seriously intervening as area MP then he is a mistake to us.

Gershom, try and visit Kamwala South, you will see that the roads are now impassable, then you will appreciate his role, government and our role together to solve this problem. Advise him properly, some people can take mileage in such situation but he should not politic instead we need solutions in Kamwala South than denying that it is not my role to bring development. It is his role to influence development activities as our representative. We are fed up with such lip service.”

If, according to Kabwata residents in general, Lubinda has failed them, I shudder to think what success the other 149 elected MPs have scored in their constituencies with the eight nominated members of parliament together with the president in terms of development.

I have been fortunate enough to visit all the nine provinces of Zambia and most of its 72 districts. I have been to the most urbanized province, the Copperbelt to the least developed North-Western Province (before the new investments that are transforming the area, if at all).

I have seen the least developed areas of the Copperbelt and I have seen metropolitan Solwezi, if we may call it that. I wonder what Lubinda has not done in Kabwata what Benny Tetamashimba has done in Solwezi Central as MP not to attract the ire of the constituents.

As Kabwata residents call for Lubinda’s blood, it is just imperative that Zambians in general start questioning their representatives, from Lubinda through to President Banda, on what they have done for them and, most importantly, what they have not.

If Kabwata residents who literary have access to a lot of amenities can complain against their MP, what about Kaoma and Lukulu residents who have to go through hell on the Dark Forest road to get to Watopa Pontoon on the border between Western and North-western provinces? Would the MPs between Chipata and Lundazi survive for the bad road that people have to endure between the two districts taking more than six hours to navigate the 176 km road?

Who is answerable for the whole lot of boys and girls who fail to go beyond Grade Nine for lack of school places all over the country? Who is equally answerable for those that cannot proceed to tertiary level education when they complete their Grade 12? Woe betide those that cannot find jobs after attaining their degrees, diplomas and post-secondary school certificates as there is no single MP they can point their fingers at for their plight.

Zambians need to discard the culture of being hired at election time and other political junctures for the price of partisan-branded T-shirts, chitenge materials, caps and packets of shake-shake and a few thousands of Kwacha for a few days at the expense of the next five years.

I sympathise with Mr Mwiinga for his genuine concerns, but a number of the people that took part in the demonstration against Lubinda probably just wanted to settle political scores against the opposition MP for his outspokenness against the ruling MMD.

Friday, 20 March 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


If the letter purportedly written by former minister of finance Ng’andu Magande wrote to transport and communications minister Dora Siliya about bailing out Zambian Airways which has since suspended operations published on the internet a few days ago is genuine, there is nothing wrong with it, at least on face value.

In the letter, reference number MFAL/102/ dated 26th June 2008, Magande is purported to have stated:

“By the company asking the National Airport Corporation for deferment of some charges, the company is indirectly asking for assistance from the Government so that it can go through this turbulent period and be able to survive. If the condition in the industry was normal, Zambian Airways could have easily borrowed and could be able to address its cash flow problem. However, investors or lenders usually wait and see for this period to be over before they can think of putting more money in the company. Hence the company has difficulties in finding this extra finance and its survival is very much threatened….

“By preserving Zambian Airways, the Government will actually be reinforcing the Zambian economic empowerment policy. In fact the government has, on a number of occasions repeatedly said the Zambian economy will be private sector led or driven and it will be disastrous to see private sector companies fold without rendering any assistance especially during crisis time.

“Zambian Airways is not asking for a grant but a deferment and NACL (National Airports Corporation Limited) will eventually get the money back. Ultimately, Zambian Airways will be assisted and will eventually grow, employment will be preserved, its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be sustained and investors’ confidence will be maintained.”

Even though it is difficult to prove the letter’s authenticity, it is difficult to see any underhand motive, if any, with Magande as finance minister then trying to help the troubled airline which is clear in the above paragraph. I am sure that at the time the letter was written, nobody knew the immediate political future of the country in terms of change of leadership which followed the death of President Levy Mwanawasa a few weeks later.

The rest, as they say, is history. The then Vice President Rupiah Banda contested the republican presidency and was challenged, among others, by Magande who lost and was eventually dropped from Cabinet and now risks being expelled from the MMD where cadres are calling for his blood because of his role in the Zambian Airways saga.

Equally unfortunate is that the people who tended to support Magande’s candidature for presidency are being hounded out of the ruling MMD of whom two MPs, Jonas Shakafuswa and Lameck Chibombamilimo were dropped as deputy ministers and expelled from the party and have since taken the matter to court.

Obviously, the nation is awaiting with baited breath, documents that President Banda has regarding what interest Magande had in the Zambian Airways financing issues but if those documents include this letter, or is the only document that is the evidence of “malpractice” by the former minister, really there is no need to waste time and money on this matter.

There is no hint in the letter on the cancelling of the debt that the airline owes or owed NACL and other companies particularly in return for favours. Rather, there is emphasis on the deferment of the debt for a given period of time.

I am sure that in business, but particularly in troubled global economic times like this when other governments are helping industry affected by the meltdown, this is a normal practice.

I am not defending Magande and others connected to Zambian Airways, but of course if there was any wrongdoing by the shareholders, directors, managers and staff of Zambian Airways, the law must take its course. If at the same time, this was a normal business practice gone wrong, Development Bank of Zambia and other lenders have recourse to seizing assets of the airlines to recover their money.


A few days ago, I cam across an article quoting Forum for Development Search chairperson Edwin Lifwekelo calling for non-performing MPs to step down and it is obvious that this follows a demonstration by MMD cadres against Kabwata Member of Parliament Given Lubinda for his alleged failure to “take” development to his constituency.

I wonder if Lifwekelo implies that MPs should take over the overall development of their constituencies particularly with the K400 million Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) while local authorities and government go to sleep. MPs and councillors can only serve as a conveyor belt for development ideas while local authorities do the rest.

The problem in Zambia is that issues of development are not taken seriously such that town planning is done haphazardly such that anybody is able to put up a structure anywhere and at the end of the day, those structures are legitimized and the MP is under pressure to provide roads, water, electricity and other facilities.

The practice in other parts of the world is that when there is an upcoming development project in a locality, the residents are consulted through notices that are put up in strategic public places and local newspapers so that those with contrary views are also heard.

If the majority of the people are not happy with the project, it is then shelved. If, on the other hand, the residents nod to the project, everyone involved is under pressure to deliver on it. MPs and councillors are in constant consultation with government, local authorities and the residents as stakeholders.

In our case, we lost it when party cadres and other crooked officials started allocating land even in protected areas such that even school fields, cemeteries and game reserves have not been spared from unplanned land allocations and unregulated structures.

Lubinda has been Kabwata MP for a long time now and it is surprising that he has only been labelled as non-performing simply because he is a pain in the side of government and the MMD by his vigilance in a number of areas.

Friday, 13 March 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


That a whole generation of defence and security chiefs and their former commander-in-chief, Frederick Chiluba, former ministers and politicians, as well as senior civil servants are either serving jail or are appearing in court for abuse of office and corruption-related cases, speaks volumes of corruption in the nation.

Zambians have always moaned that the fight against corruption always targeted what were normally referred to as “small fish” such as police constables and junior civil servants while the “big fish” always got away. Today former army commander General Geojago Musengule, former ZAF commanders Generals Sande Kayumba and Christopher Singogo, as well as former ZNS commandant General Wilford Funjika are carrying the shameful tag of convict but whether their appeals, for those who have done so, succeed is another matter.

Former health permanent secretary Kashiwa Bulaya and former Zanaco managing director Samuel Musonda are today serving jail, all for abusing the trust of the Zambian people. Politicians such as Regina Mwanza Chiluba and Reverend Gladys Nyirongo are now convicts. What threat to security can their convictions be? On the contrary, Zambians must be happy that, at last, even the big fish are being caught in the net that hitherto, had bigger holes for them to escape, and not just an odd traffic officer, court clerk and immigration officer who probably just wanted to beef up his resources to send his son or daughter to school.

Apart from an odd chief executive who got ensnared in the past, those who almost always got convicted where the junior officers. It is unprecedented that we now have a whole range of people who were once senior government officials and politicians languishing in jail for fiddling taxpayers’ money.

With the theft of government funds as has been revealed, and proved, in the courts of law, the security of the nation was compromised by such acts of dishonesty by the people entrusted to manage national affairs. The security of the nation is not compromised by having thieves locked away. It is the anger of the people who are denied basic services because money is diverted into the pockets of these crooked men and women that threatens the stability of the nation, not the anger of the minority who are now falling like dominoes as they go to jail one after the other.

It is surprising that former defence minister and now opposition MP Ben Mwila and his counterpart, Peter Machungwa, a former home affairs minister, are now using scare mongering tactics about threats to national security that some of the people that served under their very noses are following a bee-line to Chimbokaila Prison.

Junior soldiers and policemen, as other junior civil servants, are equally suffering because they cannot enjoy good conditions of service because the money ends up in their bosses’ pockets. Who does not know soldiers living in Kuku Compound in Lusaka, Chipulukusu in Ndola or even Nabvutika in Chipata when they should have been accommodated in military cantonments or at least decent places outside of the barracks?

Which intelligence officer under the Franklin Xavier Chungu did not know of the extravagance of their boss when he threw those lavish bashes in Mansa celebrating this or that anniversary of his alma mater, St. Clements Boys Secondary School or when he took his friends on jet-skiing trips on Lake Kariba in Siavonga?

This is the time that Zambia’s law enforcement agencies such as Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission, aided by the Zambia Revenue Authority, followed the Auditor General’s reports closely to bring to book all those mentioned as having abused state resources. Those reports have been detailed and explicit in their exposure of blatant abuse of state resources it is a shame no one has ever been prosecuted for it.

It appears that everyone in government and outside government want to dip their fingers in the national honey pot through hook or crook knowing that at some point they will be protected by someone high up or that someone would use security scare tactics that jailing thieves would destabilised the nation.


General Christon Sifapi Tembo is no more. The man contributed a lot to the Zambian political scene that evolved in 1990/91, but he will be remembered more by political historians as a serving Vice President who challenged his principal, Frederick Chiluba’s third term attempt by sharing a platform with opposition leaders denouncing him at a rally at the Lusaka Roundabout.

General Tembo did not look at the comfort of his office and the privileges that went with it when, along with the then Minister of Education, General Miyanda, addressed a huge rally with UPND leader, the late Anderson Mazoka, under very hostile conditions, saying Chiluba’s move was not only unnecessary and illegal, but very divisive. After the rally, a number of people going to board buses at Kulima Tower bus station were hacked with machetes, beaten and their clothes ripped by MMD thugs who operated from the station.

After that rally, Zambians were even more resolved to block President Chiluba’s third term after they were galvanised by Gen Tembo’s appearance at that rally.

For those who care to remember, Chiluba was in Livingstone at the time and a chopper thought to have been carrying him, flew by the well attended rally. Not too long after, he dropped the idea like a hot potato, dismissed Cabinet, dropping those that did not agree with him and appointed what Edith Nawakwi deemed then as “Government Made Simple” or something similar.

Who knows, if General Tembo had not come out the way he did, Chiluba could have gone for a third term?

Gen Tembo’s democratic credentials were further demonstrated, and even enhanced by the manner he handed over the presidency of the Forum for Democracy and Development to Nawakwi knowing full well that he had lost the party the republican presidency a few months earlier. His contemporaries have lost their parties the republican presidency manifold times and they have continued to try.

All I can say is mulute makora akulu.

Friday, 6 March 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Vice-President George Kunda recently warned, through parliament, that civil servants who allegedly leak confidential government information would not be protected.

“It is unfortunate,” said Kunda, “that these same whistle blowers only leak information that people want to hear and they suppress the explanation. These types of whistle-blowers will not be protected.”

Having had worked in the civil service in my early years of post-graduation from the University of Zambia, I learnt, sooner rather than later, that in the civil service, any document, even a humorous doodled note passing between two officers, could simply be classified with the “confidential”, “secret” or “top secret” stamps that were readily available to any officer of my rank at the time.

If any officer wanted, he or she could classify toilet tissue with a mere stamp and from a scenario as obtains in government now, any document in government offices could be classified particularly using the maxim common in intelligence circles—“the need to know” principle. Those who have no need to know about certain things would be kept in the dark, more so the public.

As such, documents with alleged criminal intent such as the nation has recently been treated to through the private media such as the controversial valuation of Zamtel by RP Capital, the procurement of radars for National Airports Corporation both of which are now subject of a tribunal, and the importation of GMO maize and instructions by a top MMD official to a permanent secretary at the home affairs home affairs ministry to pay suppliers of some doubtful services to government, can simply be classified and put away from the prying public eye while unscrupulous figures fatten their bank accounts with taxpayers funds.

Those who, out of patriotism, take it upon themselves to expose these nefarious activities, risk going to jail for 25 years under the Official Secrets Act and other legal gibberish especially if they signed what then, if at all it has changed, was Form CS1, the very first document a civil servant signed upon employment.

It would appear as if the MMD has found a loophole, and certainly a nadir, in the civil service by appointing cut-and-dried party cadres as district commissioners, deputy permanent secretaries, permanent secretaries and diplomats, all who are controlling officers in their own right who can do their party’s bidding in terms of channeling public funds to the party.

How else have these officers been surviving the chop—even jail—when year in and year out, their ministries, departments, districts and diplomatic missions have been exposed by the Auditor General for abuse of public funds? Some permanent secretaries even have had difficulties explaining their financial operations before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and they have walked out unscathed, laughing and personally wealthier.

Is it any wonder then that the MMD government has been dragging its feet in the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill which has procrastinated for close to a decade now through which the media and the public could be at liberty to ask public bodies for release of any information in their custody, for public or private consumption?

If and when this law is passed, only Cabinet Minutes and matters of genuine defence and security would be protected from disclosure and there would be no illegality for obtaining and passing information under the ambit of the Freedom of Information law.

The absence of the Freedom of Information Act demands for innovation among journalists to dig information in what has universally come to be known as investigative journalism, a genre of journalism which came to be associated with two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who forced the resignation of US president Richard Nixon over the Watergate Scandal in 1974.

In Zambia, the only newspaper that practices a semblance of investigative journalism is the Post whose exposes led to the indictment of the country’s second republican president Frederick Chiluba over allegations dubbed the plunder of national resources which has had the domino effect of court appearances and jailing of former and serving senior government and military officials for corruption-related cases.

As reggae maestro Bob Marley sang in one of his songs “you never miss the water until the well runs dry,” most Zambians miss the country’s third republican president, the late Levy Mwanawasa who made it possible to bring to book some of the most powerful people in the country who plundered with impunity the national treasury between 1991 and 2001 and beyond. Whether the subsequent leaders will tread that path in fighting the scourge is a matter of doubt considering the way things are going in the country. They themselves may tread the path to the courts of law once they are no longer in power.


Reading between the lines of what President Rupiah Banda said recently that there was no corruption in his government because donors in the country have not mentioned it, one sees that the man will only acknowledge the problem if external voices say so.

From Banda’s point view, it is either he is being economical with the truth or the donors themselves are complicit in the corruption cancer eating away at the very core of our country’s socio-economic fabric.

Readers will recall the knee-jerk reaction of government officials in the last 18 years who always brings up the argument that foreign diplomats are not supposed to meddle in the affairs of the country they are accredited to.

We are lectured about how these diplomats are supposed to use so-called diplomatic channels to voice concern about ills going on in a country of their service.

"It is perilous to assume we are unintelligent. We are not going to accept the insidious wiles of foreign influence. We might be a poor country. We may have made mistakes, but we are a free and sovereign nation entitled to our opinions and our own domestic policies. We will do what is in our interest and not that of another nation or a multinational company,” a former minister was quoted reacting to former French ambassador to Zambia, Francis Saudubray’s criticism of the Zambian government in 2005.