By Gershom Ndhlovu
“A ZAMBIAN woman has been arrested in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for wearing ivory bracelets. Ruth Mwale aged 46 was arrested at Bole International Airport Tuesday morning upon her arrival from Bangkok, Thailand en-route to Zambia.”
When this story broke out on various Zambian internet forums including Facebook and other social media networks, the arguments for the arrest and against that ensued bordered on separating the patriotic from the unpatriotic. The “patriotic” thought the arrest was wrong as the Ethiopians apparently did not “understand” the Zambian cultural dynamics while the few “unpatriotic”—I was one of those—supported the arrest.
To reiterate the question that was asked, were the Ethiopian authorities right to arrest Mwale for just a piece of ivory on her wrist? Put it in another way, would the Zambian government through the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) arrest anybody wearing an ivory bangle?
For all those who care to remember, around 1992, a few months into the new MMD administration, the then Minister of Tourism, Lieutenant-General Christon Tembo, now late, led government, non-government organisations (NGOs) officials and ordinary citizens, in torching a bonfire of ivory, rhino horns and guns seized from poachers held by ZAWA which was then known as National Parks and Wildlife Service. This public event was held at the service headquarters in Chilanga.
The ivory burning event in Zambia followed on the heels of a similar event in Kenya which was led by none other than that country’s then president, Daniel arap Moi in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. Both these events were largely supported by World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) with a promise for further funding and logistical support of wildlife management in the countries involved. Whether that was fulfilled or not is a different issue altogether.
These two events were born from the recognition by the two countries and the wider international community of depleting elephant populations in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa wrought by widespread and heavily commercialised poaching that was taking place then. In Zambia, heavy poaching was going on in the Mulobezi and Kaoma/Itezhi Tezhi precincts of the Kafue National Park, Luangwa North and South National Parks and Lower Zambezi National Park.
Brazen Zambian poachers were even crossing into Zimbabwean national parks such as Matusadona, Mana Pools and Hwange national parks where, unfortunately, a lot of suspects lost their lives from uncompromising wildlife rangers who had no mercy for armed poachers.
Although 20 years ago these issues were very much in the media limelight with what was the then Species Protection Department of the Anti-Corruption Commission, I don’t know if it is the case these days as, admittedly, I only read Zambian newspapers on the internet which only post political stories.
Again, those who care to remember will know that in the last three years or so, outgoing Minister of Tourism, Catherine Namugala has been at the forefront of trying to have trade in elephants and ivory downgraded from Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which totally bans such trade, to Appendix II which allows partial trade.
Zambia is supported by Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania, all of which claim to have substantial stocks of ivory that they need to dispose of. But opponents of the proposal such as the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent campaigning organisation committed to bringing about change that protects the natural world from environmental crime and abuse, argue that the downgrade will allow contraband ivory find its way into the legitimate system and consequently fuel poaching.
Other critics of the proposal believe that Zambia is being pressured by China, one of its largest trading partners with huge investments in the country, whose noveau riche seek ivory and products of other exotic and equally endangered wildlife species like rhino and tiger as status symbols of their newly found wealth.
It is unimaginable that there is no illegal trade going on in ivory or xanja as the Chinese call it when there are so many Chinese nationals in Zambia than at any other time. It obviously goes on in the streets of Lusaka as it did all those years ago when the onus to export the contraband was left to the Zambian contacts. Poaching with the heavy stakes involved, fuels corruption at many levels—from low level wildlife guards, to policemen manning roadblocks to customs officials who allow the goods out at ports of exit.
Ivory is a proscribed item and therefore Mwale or whoever has possession of it commits an offence under the ZAWA Act. There is no cultural excuse for wearing a proscribed wildlife animal part. If such an argument were to hold, then the Ngonis—of the fwaka yachiNgoni fame—and the old women of Gwembe must be allowed to smoke cannabis at will as they have done so since time immemorial. Here I have in mind my Lozi relatives some of whom are my mulamus, nieces and nephews to desist from wearing ivory for any reason.
Only elephants, and no one else, should wear ivory. As such, not only the Ethiopian authorities should arrest Zambians wearing ivory bangles on their territory, Zambians should also play their part for as long as elephants and elephant products remain on CITES Appendix III.
Saturday, 30 July 2011
By Gershom Ndhlovu
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 10:38
Saturday, 23 July 2011
By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
ON Saturday July 23, I was going through my twitter messages when I saw a message story in which Home Affairs Minister Mkhondo Lungu was deriding former Solicitor-General Sebastian Zulu as a frustrated individual for allegedly attacking President Banda in the hope of getting favours from the opposition Patriotic Front (PF) if it forms government after the forthcoming elections.
Apparently, Zulu, a former Secretary-General of opposition UNIP, some 10 days before, had charged that President Banda’s administration was condoning plunder of national resources which Lungu described as baseless.
Whatever spat was there between the former—mark the word former—UNIP members was there between the two of them was not my concern, but rather that Lungu inadvertently crossed the floor, that is he changed political parties but still remains an MP and a minister, contrary to the Constitution.
The ruling MMD announced its list of parliamentary candidates earlier in the week and among them was Lungu, who together with a PF rebel MP Besa Chimbaka, had been appointed cabinet minister and deputy minister, respectively, from opposition ranks early this year.
Others on the MMD list of aspiring candidates are PF “rebel MPs” Peter Machungwa for Luapula Constituency Bahati’s Besa Chimbaka who is also Luapula Province Minister, Dr Jacob Choongo (Mwense), Faustina Sinyangwe (Matero), Majory Mwape who was MP for a Kantanshi constituency and Elizabeth Mulobeka Chitika (Kawambwa). Machungwa and Mwape will now run in Kabwata and Munali, respectively.
Other serving opposition MPs who have turned up on the MMD candidate list are none other than opposition Nchelenge National Democratic Focus (NDF) MP Ben Mwila and United Party for National Development (UPND) Namwala MP Robby Chizyuka.
Apart from Mwila who is president of the NDF, all the above MPs have been in trouble with their parties principally with issues related to the National Constitution Conference (NCC) which PF president Michael Sata did not want his MPs to attend but they defied him. As for Chizyuka, the problems he had with his party were internal disciplinary matters.
The choice on which party ticket people stand is entirely a personal matter but the problem I have with Lungu who hold constitutional offices of minister and deputy minister, respectively, and the other MPs in general is that they have knowingly or unknowingly crossed the floor—they have changed political parties without relinquishing their seats.
On the part of the MMD, it announced its candidate list without ensuring that parliament was dissolved first. If the ruling party’s list did not have opposition members on it, it would not have been a problem at all.
The Constitution is clear in article 71 (c) which says that “ in the case of an elected member, if he becomes a member of a political party other than the party of which he was an authorised candidate when he was elected to the National Assembly or, if having been an independent candidate, he joins a political party or having been a member of a political party, he becomes an independent…”
For the eight opposition MPs now cavorting with the MMD, the most honourable thing to do now is to cease, on their own, from enjoying the benefits of an MP and in particular for Lungu and Chimbaka to give up their offices which they are now occupying illegally. Unfortunately for the two, even if parliament is dissolved now, they just have to wait until they are reappointed in the new post-election government.
They can also not be nominated after parliament is dissolved but more so because the Constitution states in article 68 (3) that “a person may not be appointed as a nominated member if he was candidate for election in the last preceding general election or in any subsequent by-election.”
As it is now, Lungu cannot superintend over law enforcement wings of government because he is illegally in office.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 08:56
Sunday, 17 July 2011
By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
“A lot of people are busy saying the MMD government is abusing ZNBC because ZNBC only covers the MMD government. Yes, ZNBC has to cover us because it shows government developmental projects...Even when Sata comes into power, ZNBC will be covering him alone. This time is our time. Those who want to be feeling bad about themselves when they wake up every day, they should be buying The Post newspapers because it always talks about negative things, saying things are bad in the country when the economy is doing well...”
Dora Siliya, Education Minister and former journalist is quoted by the Post as saying in defence of the dismal performance of state-owned and controlled media.
The view that state-owned media is supposed to toe the government, and worse, the ruling party's line is one I have often heard from government officials and, surprisingly, some journalists working for the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. It appears to me, however, that the people purveying such a despicable view have very little understanding of the history of Zambia's media.
Equally puzzling is Siliya's position on the matter. She is one person who should know better as a University of Zambia Mass Communication graduate who should have read the media history in her first, or is it second, year of study.
Talking about the the history of Zambia, I must hasten to say that it is aptly captured in late Francis P Kasoma's seminal book, The Press in Zambia. It captures the development of the media in Zambia from 1900 up to about 1980. Nowhere in it does it say that state-owned media was created to portray government's development projects or, indeed, government's views on issues.
Sadly, state-owned media has been reduced to the ruling MMD's public relations unit. Anyway, first things first, I will not discuss the history of broadcasting, neither will I discuss the privately-owned press represented by the Post which was born in 1991.
The Zambia Daily Mail was the first newspaper the UNIP government acquired in c1969 from Dr Alexander Scott, father of politician and Patriotic Front (PF) vice president Dr Guy Scott. The weekly African Mail as it was known and started in the late 1950s tended to portray the views of freedom fighters fighting for Zambia's independence. Some of the early journalists to have emerged on this paper were Kelvin Mlenga and Bill Saidi.
The Mail transformed into the Zambia Daily Mail around 1970. Along the way it introduced the Financial Mail (1990/1) and the Sunday Mail (1992) to its portfolio of newspapers. For some reason, the Financial Mail was discontinued but the Sunday Mail, the paper I joined as a Senior Reporter in 1992 has continued as a flagship of the company.
I must say that during my time at the Zambia Daily Mail, both papers were quite critical in their reportage and feature writing. Some of the critical journalists to have walked the corridors of the Zambia Daily Mail in recent times include the late Jowie Mwiinga, late Moses Mbewe and late Nigel Mulenga, an uncompromising lot when it came to journalism principles.
As for the Times of Zambia, its history goes back to a bit earlier than that of the Mail. It was started as the Northern News under Lonrho and it was pro-colonial in its outlook serving mostly the white community on the Copperbelt. It was later to change to the Times of Zambia. Government acquired the paper in 1974.
Vernon Mwaanga served at the paper as editor-in-chief around 1972 and 1974. Even though he was appointed by President Kaunda to serve at the newspaper from the diplomatic service, he was surprisingly one of the most liberal editors who allowed journalists express themselves to the full. Actually, the outlook of the Times never changed much from the Vernon he took over from.
Mwaanga took over from Vernon Wright who was deported by the Kaunda administration after some misunderstanding between them. One strange phenomenon is that at some point, even though the Times was privately-owned, Kaunda got to appoint editors-in-chief.
Even then, the Times produced some great journalists among them the late Patu Simoko, the late Bandawe Banda, the late Desmond Mubiana, Arthur Simuchoba and even the iconic “Kapelwa Musonda”, a satire-columnist who wrote under a pseudonym.
In the current environment of fear of loss of jobs in which the ruling MMD has usurped the operations of state-owned media, the journalists I have mentioned above could not have done their jobs as they did. I suppose not even the Zambia Congress of Trades Unions (ZCTU) and its leadership led by the late Frederick Chiluba who went on to become Zambia's second republican president, could not have been covered as to be known and become a factor in Zambian politics.
Because both the Daily Mail and the Times were not quite the papers they are being made to be by the MMD government, both UNIP in government at the time and the MMD in its first days in government, ran their own newspapers which were short-lived. UNIP started the Eagle and the MMD the Herald (if I get the name right).
Things for the Zambia media started going pear-shaped in 1999-2000 when Chiluba started hankering for an unconstitutional third term. Unfortunately, there was a lot of money being thrown around to journalists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to skew people's views in support of the political manouvre. Incidentally, this unprecedented hold on the media by a government and a ruling party has continued just over a decade later.
The media under Kaunda was very critical considering that there was only one party in power and constitutionally, no other party was allowed to exist alongside UNIP. Journalists, between 1979 and 1980, even defeated government's moves to introduce a Press Council Bill that was going to let government control the practice of journalism in Zambia. I am sure the current generation would have allowed themselves to be roughshod.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 16:54
Saturday, 16 July 2011
By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
I am slowly beginning to think that the MMD government runs a Mafia-type system where for as long as you are part of them and have kept the omerta—the oath of secrecy—you are very part of them and all your crimes are glossed over or covered up altogether.
How else can one explain the allegations of crimes that have been exposed against Kafulafuta member of parliament George Mpombo who resigned his Cabinet and party positions early last year; the threats of exposure of alleged crimes against former Works and Supply Minister Mike Mulongoti who was also expelled from the party; claims by Lusaka Province MMD chairman William Banda that Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo was involved in illegal foreign exchange dealings or something to that effect and, the latest exposure against newly resigned Deputy Works and Supply Minister Lameck Mangani that he has not been paying rentals for the house his second wife occupies in Chipata?
Mpombo who resigned as Defence Minister, is probably the only minister and government employee to be indicted for abuse of government resources exposed by the Auditor-General’s office. As this matter is sub judice, I will not dwell on it. Be that as it may, Mpombo has suffered even more humiliation by being convicted of bouncing a cheque, making history as the first person to have ever been convicted of that case for the law that was passed a few years back.
The Ndola rural legislator’s woes followed his outspokenness against perceived weaknesses of President Rupiah Banda, the man who took over from Mpombo’s tribesman and close ally, the late Levy Mwanawasa, both as Republican president and MMD acting leader at the time. Within a few weeks of Mpombo’s resignation, he was to be a frequent guest of the state on the other side of the law.
Assuming that Mpombo was still a part of government, the ever quiet and loyal servant of the President, none of us lesser citizens would have heard about his business misfortune of bouncing a cheque, of forging imprest receipts and even owing a bank over K500 million for his farm business on the Copperbelt.
For Mulongoti, the man who had been a loyal MMD member ever since he returned as a prodigal son from the FDD and subsequently nominated and appointed minister by the late Mwnawasa, made a mistake of trying to challenge for the then vacant position of MMD vice president at the party’s convention. President Banda’s preferred candidate was Republican Vice President George Kunda.
Mulongoti’s interest in the position engendered so much acrimony, the party decided to scrap the position altogether. Mulongoti’s nomination to parliament was withdrawn and automatically lost his ministerial position. The party’s former chairman of elections continued speaking out against President Banda and the MMD for losing the democratic compass.
The position of vice president in the MMD seems to be very problematic. In 2006, President Mwanawasa suspended elections of the position, effectively making former Republican Vice President Enoch Kavindele the last elected MMD vice president, the position he assumed in 2001 after another acrimonious convention at which 22 senior MMD members including Mulongoti, were expelled.
A few days after Mulongoti was relieved of his duties by President Banda, the man he helped bring into the MMD from UNIP and later helped to get elected as Republican president, chief government spokesman and information minister Ronnie Shikapwasha asked his former Cabinet colleague to keep quiet as the government reserved the right to commence investigations against him for unspecified crimes.
As I write, do not know if any investigations have been commenced against Mulongoti but he called off their bluff by saying he had deposited some documents apparently about on-goings in government with some lawyers as well as family and friends. Whether this scared his would be tormentors or not, is difficult to say.
Even more outrageous was William Banda’s disclosure after the high profile defection of Sylvia Masebo from the MMD a few weeks ago that government would launch investigations against her for some foreign exchange crimes. Obviously, Banda was anachronistically operating in his former party, UNIP’s mindset, that possession of foreign exchange was a crime. Again, it is difficult to tell whether or not investigative wings have gone in to investigate Masebo who has since joined Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF).
Another victim is former permanent secretary Susan Sikaneta who served in various ministries whom it was disclosed immediately she was associated with the PF that she was being investigated for corruption offences. Again, I am not in a position to comment on what Sikaneta has done or not done to warrant a visit from law enforcement agencies.
For the critical minded, examining these threats and counter-threats coming from the MMD and former MMD members, it appears that the ruling party holds its members hostage, even at ransom, for indiscretions if not crimes that they commit while working in either the party or, indeed, the government.
There is definitely something wrong that crimes or alleged crimes committed by people serving in government or in the MMD are only disclosed after they have left the service of the party or the government usually arising from serious differences. Those who go quietly are reappointed and their “loyalty” praised.
Maybe it explains why Gabriel Namulambe whom it was rumoured was about to defect to the opposition, said it was sweet to be a minister in the MMD government. Ironically, when Namulambe briefly fell out with President Banda, it was revealed that he had acquired seven industrial plots in Mpongwe where he is MP and once served as district secretary.
As Zambians go to the polls later this year, they need to become even more discerning and more demanding of the morality of their leaders. Maybe it is time citizens broke the MMD Mafia hold on them!
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 19:57
Friday, 1 July 2011
By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
I COULD not help but chuckle when a friend on Facebook asked if the funeral of the late second president of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba was a roll call of those who loved him and those who hated him.
The way a certain section of society, particularly clergy aligned to the ruling MMD and the party’s supporters have been coming out against opposition PF leader Michael Sata from the time Chiluba died, one would think Sata switched off the former president’s life support machine.
All sorts of characters, aided by certain sections of the media, want to vilify Sata for the manner he mourned or did not mourn Chiluba, someone who gave him an opportunity to serve at very high levels of government including the position of Minister Without Portfolio, de facto third in the hierarchy of government. Sata also served as MMD national secretary when Chiluba was party president.
Political observers, however, ought to know that there was no love lost, at least politically, between Chiluba and Sata from the time the incumbent president, Levy Mwanawasa died in 2008 when Chiluba declared his support for the then Vice President Rupiah Banda who contested the resultant by-election. Of course, all the time Chiluba was appearing in court for cases of the plunder of national resources when Mwanawasa was alive, no one wanted to be seen near him including George Kunda, now Vice President, who was in the forefront of prosecuting Chiluba’s cases at home and abroad.
Sata and the PF membership was always on hand giving Chiluba all the support he needed, welcoming him home at the Lusaka International Airport coming from South Africa for treatment or when appearing in court. However, this camaraderie nose-dived when Chiluba threw his weight behind Rupiah Banda’s presidential candidature, leaving Sata in a political lurch. Chiluba’s support to anyone was, rightly or wrongly, perceived to guarantee the delivery of the Copperbelt, Luapula and Northern vote.
Whatever deal was struck behind the scenes for Chiluba to suddenly stop supporting the PF which he had publicly supported between 2003 and 2003 is a matter of conjecture, but this was no longer a matter of doubt when Chiluba was suddenly acquitted and other court cases, notably the registration for local enforcement of the London judgment which found him liable for plunder, just stalled.
Sata’s friendship with Chiluba clearly hit rock bottom when the latter started campaigning for Banda, but equally, Chiluba’s support for the so-called rebel PF MPs did not help matters in their friendship. Even up to a few days before Chiluba’s death, Sata was threatening to re-start the court cases once elected president.
Sata’s non-appearance at the funeral house and subsequently at the burial at Embassy Park can be linked directly to the threats issued by Lusaka Province MMD chairman William Banda and other party cadres that those who “insulted” Chiluba when he was alive would be manhandled if they turned up at the funeral house. These threats could not be taken lightly because less than two years ago when a former MMD MP, Lameck Chibombamilimo died, people who were not in good books with Rupiah Banda were manhandled. Former Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande was badly manhandled.
Whatever the circumstances, Sata’s would have just been seen as shedding crocodile tears. However, the wily politician he is, Sata turned up at Mulungushi International Conference Centre where Chiluba’s body lay in state and viewed his body. Obviously, the schemers of the violence they were threatening against him were probably still sipping tea in the comfort of their homes. Of course there could be other reason why Sata did not visit Chiluba’s Serval Road house, Belvedere Lodge and, indeed, Embassy Park burial site. For me that Sata turned up at Mulungushi, was enough to mourn his erstwhile political colleague.
It is just political morbidity that some people want to link Sata’s future political fortunes to straight forward matters of Chiluba’s funeral. The rent-a-crowd mob baying for Sata’s blood need to grow up and understand, first and foremost, that funeral matters are private and two, no one wants to expose himself or herself to violence or the threats of it. It would have been gullible for Sata to walk into William Banda’s trap hoping to come out a hero with a broken nose and a tattered jacket like Magande.
Posted by Gershom Ndhlovu at 08:43