Friday, 24 April 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu

If the National Constitution Conference (NCC) recommendation that the Vice President should automatically take over the presidency in the event that the incumbent vacates office due to death or incapacity is included in the new constitution, it will mean Zambians losing one existing right and potentially denying them another one.

Firstly, the NCC not recommended that the Vice President be made running mate of the president in an election means that people will be denied the right to elect the vice president by the larger Zambian constituency rather than by a smaller constituency unit. Such a person taking over the presidency would do so without the people’s general mandate.

Secondly, the automatic assumption of the presidency by the Vice President without a by-election has taken away the right of the people to decide who takes over as the current constitution guarantees.

Of course, Zambia has experienced a sad episode of the demise of a sitting president and a by-election, and I am sure that the recommendation comes as a result of that. I am sure that what many well meaning Zambians doubt is whether there is any justification, apart from the costs which are necessary in a democracy, for that fundamental change in the constitution. But coupled with that, is the arrogance with which the politicians from the ruling party are going about it.

What would be the most ideal situation is that such a person is scrutinised by the general Zambian electorate in the first place but, as I have stated above, would have just been elected in one corner of the country or in a worst case scenario, just nominated as Member of Parliament and appointed vice president.

Not taking away anything from him, but President Rupiah Banda is himself a case in point. He was just nominated by the late President Levy Mwanawasa in 2006 and today he has taken occupancy of State House through that fluke appointment less than three years ago.

The NCC delegates should have also looked at the history of instability in the office of the vice president. In the last 17 or so years of the MMD in power, not less than seven people have occupied that office starting from Levy Mwanawasa himself in 1991 to George Kunda today. In between there have been people like Godfrey Miyanda, the late Christon Tembo, Enoch Kavindele, Nevers Mumba, Lupando Mwape and Rupiah Banda himself in that order.

Simply put, there is no security of tenure in the office of the vice president because whoever occupies it, does so at the pleasure of the president who is the appointing authority and can be removed at any time. For this reason, the president could appoint a weak person who would not be inclined to challenge him for any reason, including wrong decisions, for him to continue enjoying the comfort of Government House and other facilities and benefits attached to it.

It appears to me that the MMD members on the NCC and their proxies are not thinking through some of the recommendations they are passing. The motivation is clearly to entrench the MMD in power given the control that the ruling party has on the Electoral Commission of Zambia, an organisation which lacks the full confidence of the people.

The danger is that whoever will come in power after President Banda, especially if it he or she will come from the opposition, will change the constitution. It will be a cycle repeated over and over and it is doubtful if we will ever come up with one that will stand the so-called test of time.

There is equally no guarantee that even an MMD president will not change the constitution. Zambians know that when President Mwanawasa took over from Chiluba, he ripped the Chiluba constitution which is in the process of being re-written. We all thought that this should have been the opportunity to put in a good document especially that the constitution making process costs money which could be better used in other areas of development.

Sadly, Zambians are once more being taken for a ride by the very people they put in office by drafting a constitution that takes away their fundamental rights. One would have hoped that Vice President George Kunda, who is also justice minister, should have done a better job considering that he was once president of that luminous legal body, the Law Association of Zambia.

Equally sad is the fact that most of the people sitting on the NCC are just interested in the huge allowances they are earning when everyone else faces the spectre of joblessness as a result of the global economic meltdown.


So President Rupiah Banda knows it when he is being told lies by the people who have access to him? Yes Sir, this type of flotsam has spoiled lives of many honourable men and women of our beautiful country who have wrongly being reported to heads of state who have acted on the information based on lies.

People have lost businesses, professions, jobs, and unfortunate ones, even their lives because of such liars.

The people who tell lies to presidents have probably wanted to win favours for themselves or have done so merely out of jealous and malice. A good President would indeed verify this information through the professional system and if needs be, ask the people so maligned for their side of the story.

Many a time, these lies would be disproved and it would be appropriate if the liars were exposed right there and then, and if needs be, even punished. What is sad in the Zambian case is that even people who have held ministerial positions have done that to settle simple scores with ordinary citizens.

Zambia needs a lot of healing from this type of people and other political misfits who have gotten to the top through deceit, backstabbing and utter lies. And there is no better place from where to start this process than from the President himself.

Friday, 17 April 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Maize in Zambia grows all over the place, it is a wonder that mealie meal, its by-product, is for most part of the year in short supply, and when available, it is out of reach of the majority.

Go to Mufumbwe, M’kushi, Lundazi, Kalomo, Masaiti, Chongwe, Mpika and indeed any other place, maize grows on big and heavily mechanised farms, on small patches of land where people toil with hoes and other basic implements as well as in the backyard of houses right in Kabulonga in Lusaka, Riverside in Kitwe and Highridge in Kabwe.

For those who are lucky to live near streams and rivers, maize grows all the year round in madimba alongside vegetables such as rape, cabbage and tomatoes.

What is surprising, if not shocking, is the fact that the Zambian government in particular and the people in general have not taken the growing of maize for what it is—an important crop that can earn them money not only on the local market but also across borders.

Whatever the case, there is a market for maize, if not locally, at least in neighbouring Congo DR where commercial agriculture will not normalise very soon if the political situation especially in the east of the country where there has been constant fighting for the last 12 years or so, is anything to go by.

There is equally growing demand for maize in Zimbabwe where agriculture is currently in a chaotic state with the on-going farm repossessions from white land owners which has negatively impacted on maize production.

With an extra incentive to maize growers, what is required is a bit more organisation in the manner grain is exported to neighbouring countries rather than in the haphazard manner it is done with every Jim and Jack just waking up in the morning and deciding to run across the border with a bag or two of maize.

For peasant farmers who have historically produced the bulk of Zambia’s maize cumulatively, there has simply been no motivation for them in the last 18 years in which they have been subjected, first to promissory notes, and later to the ravages of pestilential briefcase businessman who offer them dambo soap, coarse salt and useless pieces of clothes contemptuously known as salaula, in exchange for bags of maize.

This means of exchange deprives the peasants the opportunity to earn the much needed cash for which they should pay for fertiliser and pay off agro-loans and to also pay for other requirements such as school fees and other little luxuries of life such as radios and battery operated TV sets.

For all its inefficiencies, at least the defunct National Agricultural Marketing Board, (Namboard), reached the remotest parts of the country scouring for the last bag of maize which went on to be stored in its silos in Monze, Lusaka, Kabwe, Ndola and Kitwe.

In came the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) whose task was basically to buy maize from some centres where farmers have to take the commodity to, an onerous task for those living in outlying areas. All it did was to kill the peasant farmers will to cultivate maize. They instead opted to cultivate tobacco and cotton for which they were paid instantly.

Travelling along the Great East Road from Kacholola to Kazimule in Eastern Province between May and August reveals desperate farmers having to spend a long time by the roadside with their bags of chimanga waiting to take it to Lusaka where it might fetch a good price. It is the same for farmers at TBZ in Kaoma, Mufumbwe and indeed other areas. This leaves them open to the briefcase businessmen who then smuggle the maize outside the country where they fetch huge profits.

The idea of the Crop Marketing Agency (CMA) which the late President Levy Mwanawasa wanted to replace the FRA with was probably a good idea which, however, died at conception. May be the CMA was going to bring new impetus to crop, particularly maize, marketing.

On the part of government, identifying that there is a yawning demand for maize in Congo and other food-deficient parts of Africa, government would do a lot by reviving the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) in Kafue to supply the equally yawning demand for fertiliser among farmers for maize growing.

Agriculture in general and maize growing in particular could provide the basis for the much talked about economic diversification if government puts in place sound policies, systems as well as infrastructure for that to be achieved.

I hope that as Agriculture Minister General Brian Chituwo announced last week that the country expects a good maize yield is real rather than a flash in the pan and that the country will learn lessons to manage yields and also re-organise its agri-business for the benefit of all involved.


I have just finished reading a book entitled Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by journalist Tim Butcher who works for the Telegraph and currently based in the Middle East. In the book, he chronicles how he tries to retrace the footsteps of another Telegraph correspondent, Hebert Morton Stanley who followed the River Congo from its source in eastern Congo up to the Atlantic Ocean in the late 19th Century.

The recurrent theme in Butcher’s book is how Congo’s rich resources have brought a curse on the country which, instead of bringing development and uplifting the living standards of the people, they have brought only corruption, war and misery.

This grim outlook is not only typical to the Congo, but it is the general pattern in most African countries where citizens live in wretched and impoverished conditions.

Zambia, rich in mineral and other natural resources, is a perfect example of this. Presently, up to 80 percent of the population live in poverty as they watch the very resources being frittered away to develop distant lands.

Who would know that Lufwanyama is the source of some of the world’s best emeralds when there is nothing to show for it in the area?

Friday, 10 April 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Admittedly, I understand very little of politics in neighbouring Botswana, but there is one feature in that country’s body politic that I and, I am sure many others, admire there which is the concept of the kgotla where citizens in cities, towns, villages or kwamasimu and cattle posts meet to thrash out contentious issues among them.

In fact, Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopaedia describes a kgotla as a public meeting, community council or traditional law court of a Botswana village.

“It is usually headed by the village chief or headman, and community decisions are always arrived at by consensus. Anyone at all is allowed to speak, and no one may interrupt while someone is "having their say". In fact there is a Setswana saying that the highest form of war is dialogue (ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo). Because of this tradition, Botswana claims to be one of the world's oldest democracies.

“The custom of allowing everyone their full say is carried over into meetings of all kinds, from discussing a bill to a staff briefing, and can mean meetings last many hours.

Kgotla can also refer to the place where such meetings are held. This can range from a few chairs under a shade canopy to a permanent ground with covered seating,” states Wikipedia.

One good thing about these kgotlas is that even sitting presidents—Botswana has had four from Seretse Khama, to Ketumile Masire, to Festus Mogae to Seretse Khama’s son, Seretse Khama Ian Khama—appear before them around Botswana when and were their presence is required. A Motswana who has anything to say against the Tautona, the chief lion, or the head of state will say it without fear or favour.

This is the beauty of the Botswana political system which has been in existence since time immemorial but more so from 1966 when the country was granted political independence by Britain and it has endured as the foremost democracy in Africa over four decades when other countries experimented with one-party and other less desirable political systems.

Whether by coincidence or otherwise, Botswana has one of the strongest economies on the African continent which perhaps can be attributed to the fact that all Batswana are allowed their say through kgotla meetings without the fear of being victimized by anyone even if they are having a go at the president appearing before sechaba or residents of a city, town, village or cattle post.

Contrast this to countries, Zambia being one of them, where criticizing the head of state is a mortal sin that in some cases can lead someone to, if not losing their life, at least losing their livelihood because they will not be able to do business with government and other players as they are treated as political lepers.

This has been the case from the days of President Kaunda when in the late 1960s up to the early 1990s, all dissent was brutally suppressed as the president’s voice was supreme in all matters of the government and economics. Under President Chiluba, dissenters were treated a bit more subtly than President Kaunda’s regime did, but a few political scalps were claimed, notably those of the 22 MMD members who opposed the second president’s ill-conceived third term attempt.

Incidentally, it was no much different with the late President Levy Mwanawasa who himself differed with a lot of MMD members as well as those from the opposition. It was only later in his presidency that he reconciled with one of his bitter political enemies, Patriotic Front president Michael Sata only because the former facilitated his evacuation to South Africa after he fell ill with a life-threatening condition.

President Rupiah Banda has not fared very well in the last five months or so of both his republican as well as MMD presidency as he seems to have differed with quite a number of people and the highlight of his political differences being the dismissal of two deputy ministers Lameck Chibombamilimo and Jonas Shakafuswa who initially campaigned for the presidential candidature of former Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande after the demise of President Mwanawasa.

The national ‘indaba’ called by the Banda administration which was going to serve as a form of national kgotla appears to have been discredited right from the beginning as delegates were instructed not to discuss “politics” while major opposition parties of the United Party for National Development, PF and General Miyanda’s Heritage Party have all boycotted it along with the Catholic Church and other groups such as the Transparency International Zambia.

While Presidents Chiluba and Mwanawasa were relatively tolerant of divergent views as the MMD was founded on the principle of “transparency and tolerance” it appears that Zambia is regressing into the one-party political mode where the national leader is above criticism. President Banda definitely needs to go back to the MMD basics where he is open to public and private scrutiny if democracy has to be entrenched in the country.


Zambia bailing out Zimbabwe economically? Someone must be having a laugh. I thought we learnt our lesson as a country in the 1960s, 70s and 80s when we funded the liberation struggles of other countries particularly Zimbabwe and South Africa.

What have Zambians benefited from such benevolence if not outright scorn and arrogance from Zimbabweans and South Africans and other countries we helped gain independence? Who does not know how Zimbabweans used to laugh at us when we crossed over at Chirundu, Kariba or Victoria Falls to drink a bottle or two of coca-cola or even a bottle of castle when there were shortages of clear beer in our country?

It would be better if the Zambian government directed the money it wants to channel to Zimbabwe under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), itself a questionable body which tolerates one means of power usurpation such as happened in Zimbabwe where a military junta hijacked an election to others such as the change of government by means of people power in Madagascar, to internal needs such as road repairs or buying drugs for our hospitals.

Friday, 3 April 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu


For as long as I can remember, no Zambian has ever caused a buzz in international academic, media, political and social circles such as Dambisa Moyo, author of controversial book published early this year, Dead Aid, has in the last few weeks.

Admittedly, I have not read the book suffice to say that I have placed an order for it and hope to get it delivered before the end of the week.

Dead Aid has been reviewed by publications ranging from the respectable United Kingdom’s Economist and the New York Times, and on blogs ranging from one run by UK-based Zambian economist Chola Mukanga to one by David Roodman, architect and project manager of the Commitment to Development Index since the project's inception in 2002 and he is writing a book on microfinance.

Moyo herself has appeared on numerous TV and channels and radio stations giving interviews about the subject of her book.

The critiques of Moyo’s book have ranged from positive to utterly negative with those on this end saying that the issues Moyo raises are not new and have been raised elsewhere. The question, however, is why her work has generated such interest? Is it because she raises these issues as an African or does she touch the raw nerve of international aid which, actually like its twin, charity, has become big business for people in the west and their representatives in the developing countries?

I will neither go into the merits or demerits nor the nitty-gritty of Moyo’s book—which I am yet to read anyway—as these have adequately been covered by the publications and some of the people cited above.

Talking about charity, I find it to be the bane of Africa and other developing countries which are daily showed in negative light on western television channels by some of the well known international Non-Governmental Organisations which solicit money from the citizens of their countries of origin supposedly to help people in the poorer countries.

These NGOs will station people outside western shopping malls and high streets selling sob stories about Africa, making people to sign up to make monthly donations on the understanding that the money goes to a good cause because of the images they see on TV of people huddled in tents, scrambling for food or drawing muddy water from rivers and ponds.

All that indigenous British people who have never travelled to Africa know about the continent is the wildlife that is almost always romantically, if romantic is the word, shown on some nature channels and African who live in tents, are sick, thirsty and hungry. Even when throwing left over food, they are reminded of the fact that someone somewhere in Africa is going to bed on an empty stomach.

Strangely, even some struggling companies such as one that sells bottled water, want to cash on the negatively portrayed picture of Africa by pasting a message on its products that a percentage of the proceeds from the bottle goes to sink boreholes in Africa for which sympathetic western citizens are always taken in. I am yet to know the country, the province, the town, or more specifically, the village where such boreholes have been sunk by this company.

A British citizen I have regularly been in contact with for the last few years once told me about what he for 25 years knew to be Africa where there were no motorways or highways as we know them, no cars, skyscrapers etc until I explained to him that the Nandos and Subway restaurants in the UK town he lives were the same Nandos and Subway restaurants in Lusaka and similar features.

I personally know of someone in the UK who has signed up with one prominent international NGO which also has offices in Zambia, paying £18 pounds per month for a school girl someone in Katete. The supposed correspondence from the girl to this person does not look right, notwithstanding doubts about how much goes to the poor girl from the money that is dutifully collected from this person’s bank account.

I have no doubt that a big chunk of the money goes to pay mortgages of the NGO staff and service their gas-guzzling 4x4s vehicles back in the UK while most of the remainder fattens the accounts of the NGO workers in periphery countries. Only crumbs fall on the Katete girl’s reed mat.

Is it not high time Africans said “enough is enough” and turned to their rich natural resources which have since time immemorial, been thrown away to the west for nothing? Is it not high time Africa emulated the Middle East which has used its oil reserves as leverage for its own infrastructural and human development?


The counsel to newly appointed Zambian diplomats by President Banda could not have come at the right time. The attitude of diplomatic staff manning Zambian embassies and high commissions leaves much to be desired.

When Zambians go to these offices, they are treated as if they are pests who should not have found themselves in that country in the first place and diplomatic members of staff are in a hurry to see the back of them, instead of listening to what it is that has taken them to those offices.

One recent case that has particularly incensed Zambians in the Diaspora is the manner the Zambian embassy in Russia handled the case of 25 year-old medical student Cardson Kabwe who has a heart condition that needs to be operated on. The embassy recommended that Kabwe be sent back home.

A lot of Zambians abroad who felt for the young man’s case, donated money to raise upwards of US$15,000 dollars for the operation which I understand should have taken place last weekend or should be taking place any time in Moscow.

Another case is of a Zambian in the US who, inquiring about the new passports, staff at the Zambia embassy started asking him questions about his residence status there, a matter better handled by the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service.