Friday, 27 February 2015

Two Charities To Hold Easter Ball To Raise Funds For Cancer And Orphans

Guest Blog By Betty K Chilufya*

Reading is a beautiful town in the South East of England in which a hive of community activities take place throughout the year. This year, 2015, the Mumba Children’s Project (MCP) in conjunction with the CancerSupport Network of Zambia (CSNZ), will be hosting a charity Easter Ball at the Hilton Hotel, Reading, on the April 11, 2015. The money raised at this event will be equally shared by the two charities.
The MCP based in Mpongwe, Zambia, was initiated by Hildah Mulenga in memory of her 13 year old son who was tragically killed after being run down by a car while riding a bike. This incident occurred shortly after the family had moved to Southend-on-Sea, in Essex in the United Kingdom.
The MCP functions as a children’s day care learning centre. Children include orphans being looked after by grandparents and extended families while the rest are from impoverished families who need a lot of assistance as there are no social benefits in Zambia.  
Some of the children that helped by the Mumba Children's Project.

Their mission is to acknowledge that every child matters and no child is born to die. They strive to give children in their care, basic needs which include education, clothing, shelter, safe playing environment and a nutritional balanced diet.


Mosaic Art 


Apart from caring for the children, the centre empowers the youth with life sustaining skills such as carpentry. In September this year, a group of Mosaic artists from the UK will be traveling to Mpongwe to teach the youth Mosiac art. It is hoped after being taught this amazing skill, they will be able to start their own profitable business. In the same group will be an experienced aroma therapist who will teach the women on reflexology and aromatherapy. The MCP also offers material support to the adults especially with literacy classes and help in looking after their children. This charity is registered both in Zambia and the UK.
The CSNZ was founded by Doreen Mwenya Grant based in the USA and is a breast cancer survivor. It was launched in October 2011 in Zambia and has its headquarters in Kitwe. It aims to educate the public on cancer, advocate for better health and inspire people with its stories of hope. 
The organisation is committed to helping strengthen the mental and physical capacity of cancer patients in order for them to fight their way back to health. It gives hope by building and sustaining strong peer facilitated support groups, educational forums that empower people affected by cancer and give inspiration for a life beyond the cancer experience. Currently it offers support to cervical, breast and prostate cancer patients.


Cancer Eradication 


CSNZ is always thankful with the commitment made by donors for supporting their efforts in making strides towards eradicating cancer in Zambia. The vision of the Board of Directors and the Planning Committees is to reach as many communities as possible with life-saving information, provide training forums and challenge lawmakers.
In 2013, a public appeal was made to CSNZ by Chief Chiwala of Masaiti District to sensitise and screen women on breast and cervical cancer.  A team of advocates and health care professionals screened hundreds of women for breast and cervical cancer. The event was such a success that it received national media attention.  
Women that were found to have signs or symptoms of cancer, received written referrals for specialised screening at district hospitals. A vehicle was rented to transport the advocates and nurses to and from Ndola Rural, who were able to provide printed educational materials, organise forums and basic screening equipment.   
Some patients were provided with transport to and from the Cancer Diseases Hospital, Lusaka, where they received mammograms or pap tests. This activity was made possible by the support from various donors from around the globe. 
It is also important to mention that all the CSNZ advocates are all volunteers and are not reimbursed for their time or effort. Despite the many challenges, the CSNZ continue to grow as an organization, and its partnerships with its sponsors is vital to the success of eradicating cancer in Zambia.
At CSNZ’s launch in 2011, a group of women from Mpongwe attended the gala at Edinburgh Hotel in Kitwe and one of them was a breast cancer patient who received support and participated in the walk with the then First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba Sata.


Cervical Cancer Treatment

Currently there are women from Mpongwe who are undergoing cervical cancer treatment at Ndola Central Hospital with the help and support of CSNZ. Mumba Children’s Project has and continues to use the services offered by the CSNZ and therefore feel obliged to plough back funding into the Network. It is for this reason that MCP will share the funds raised at the charity event with CSNZ.
Currently, the MCP are building three classrooms with the support of various donor groups based in the UK. 
With the money raised from the charity ball, they plan to buy desks and other school stationary. There are also future plans to complete a library and make it a resource centre for the youth. For the CSNZ, it is hoped that the funds raised will help to equip a gynaecological ward at Kitwe Central Hospital, Zambia that has been allocated to them.

*With the help of Doreen Mwenya Grant and Hilda Mulenga.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

"The Democratization Process In Zambia Has Reached A Point Of No Return"

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Won by Edgar Lungu of the ruling party and contested by some in the opposition, the major take away from the recent elections is that the democratization process in Zambia has reached a point of no return says seasoned journalist Gershom Ndhlovu.The process may not have been perfect but the elections were a step in the right direction says Ndhlovu. In an interview with Pan African Visions, Ndhlovu discusses the elections, factors that facilitated victory for Edgar Lungu, the new government, challenges ahead and complaints from the opposition.

How would you describe the recent elections that took place in Zambia and what impact would you say it had on the democratization process in Zambia?

As elections go, the constitutional requirement of holding an election within 90 of the death of an incumbent president, in this case, the death of President Sata on October 28, 2014, was fulfilled on January 20, 2015. The biggest handicap of the election was the apathy that characterized the whole process. First and foremost, the election was held at the height of the rain season when most places are difficult to access due to floods and poor road and bridge infrastructure in the hinterland. Secondly, most of the subsistence farmers who rely on rain for their farming, were busy cultivating their land and could not be bothered to go and vote. Even though the election results were tight with only 1.66 per cent separating the top two contenders, the pre-election management such as coverage of participating parties by state-owned media which has wider coverage, favoured the party in power. But since most of the observers declared the elections free and fair, we just have to go by that.
There may be weaknesses in the electoral management process, the democratization process in Zambia has reached a point of no return. The point at which the country has reached just expects elections to be held when they are due. The process is not perfect but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Zambia's President Edgar Lungu.

What are some of the factors which helped Edgar Lungu and the ruling party to victory?

The biggest factor that helped Edgar Lungu and his ruling party to win is obviously the incumbency that they went into the elections with. The late Sata was quite popular and his administration embarked on a massive road and other infrastructure development around the country. People perhaps voted hoping that the PF candidate, in this case Lungu, would continue with what Sata started in 2011. The biasness of coverage by state media in favour of the ruling party could have also contributed to the election of now President Lungu.

With the elections now over, may we know priority areas that Zambians expect President Lungu to focus on?

The biggest challenge on President Lungu’s hands is poverty reduction through promotion of entrepreneurship among Zambians, job creation and resource redistribution. Unfortunately, in less than a month of Lungu’s presidency, the local currency, the Kwacha has weakened markedly in relation to international currencies of the dollar and the pound. This has the potential to derail infrastructure development started by Sata. Lungu also needs to address corruption that has become rooted in public service. So far, he has not made any landmark statement addressing the issue.

From the composition of the new government, is there a sense that the new leadership will take aspirations of Zambians seriously?

Apart from a couple of new faces, notably those from the former ruling MMD being given full cabinet portfolios, most of the people who have been appointed into government were part of Sata’s team. So, unless Lungu wields a stronger hand policy and direction wise, I am afraid there won’t be earth shattering changes in the management of issues affecting the Zambian electorate.

A novelty in the new Government was the appointment of a female Vice President, how was this development appraised by Zambians?

The appointment of a female Vice President in Zambia is long overdue. In fact, the next stop should be for a female president. The appointment of Mrs Inonge Wina was generally applauded by the citizenry. But, of course, cognizance must be taken of her role as PF national charman in the election of Lungu as the party’s candidate at the shambolic party national convention which was marred by all manner of confusion ranging from one faction holding a parallel convention and suspensions and counter-suspensions. Wina sided with Lungu all along.

How did Guy Scott fare as transitional leader and what role does he play now that he is out of government?

Sadly, Guy Scott’s tenure as transitional leader was overshadowed by the problems in the ruling party some of which I highlight above. But generally, as far as managing state affairs was concerned, he did very well. He wanted transparency in the elections with all participants receiving fair coverage and treatment. However, some of the challenges are deep-rooted. Scott, a founder member of the PF, is still an MP of the metropolitan constituency of Lusaka Central. I am sure he will decide his political future in the lead up to the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Not much is known about Edgar Lungu outside of Zambia, what kind of leader is he and why did he insist on keeping the Defence Portfolio?

Not much was known about Lungu in Zambia apart from the fact that he had risen from political obscurity in 2011, to acting president in the few months leading to Sata’s death. He was not even among those jostling to take over the mantle even if Sata had lived up to 2016. He came forcefully to the forefront when Sata dismissed his once powerful party national secretary Wynter Kabimba and replaced him with Lungu. It is too soon to know what type of leader he is within the last four weeks. Zambians are just getting to know him day by day. For his maintaining the defence portfolio, it is difficult to say why he arrived at that decision. Speculation is that he wants to keep tight control of the contracts that come with the portfolio with its massive budget allocation.

Where opposition leaders who cried foul just been sour losers or there had genuine grievances?

It would not be fair to call the losers sour losers. Zambia’s electoral system needs a massive overhaul ranging from the printing of ballot papers currently done outside the country, to the use of the Zambian Airforce in ferrying ballot materials to and from far-flung polling centres.Some grievances may have been frivolous but many others were genuine.

Thanks so much for the interview sir.

You are welcome.

*This interview was originally published by Pan African Visions.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Will The MMD Be Standing in 2016?

By Gershom Ndhlovu

The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) may be experiencing death throes from the effects of the January 20 elections in which the party, credited for the reintroduction of plural politics in the country nearly a quarter of a century earlier, was—to use one of politician George Mpombo’s bombastic words—was shellacked with its candidate, pastor turned politician, Dr Nevers Mumba scoring less than the total rejected votes but officially came out fourth. But when was the mortal blow struck for the once popular if not promising party?
Before answering the first question, maybe there is need to pose another question: will the MMD be standing both as a party and in the 2016 elections?
MMD President Dr Nevers Mumba's image from his Facebook wall.

The MMD, in the run up to the 2015 presidential elections, was clearly split three ways—those supporting the return of former President Rupiah Banda who later threw their weight behind the current ruling party, Patriotic Front (PF) candidate Edgar Lungu since elected as republican president, those supporting the candidature of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, and, of course, the few supporting Dr Mumba whose leadership isbeing called disastrous. The echoes of the split are still reverberating across the wider political spectrum at the time of writing.
Much to the shock of most political observers, Dr Mumba has elected to expel party national secretary Muhabi Lungu, national chairman Kabinga Pande and over 20 other officials some of whom are MPs. These expulsions come at the time the party has lost parliamentary seats through petitions. Therefore, once the seats of the expelled MPs are declared vacant, the MMD will have a tough time competing with the ruling and other opposition parties for the same seats.


2016 Presidential And Parliamentary Elections

What will make things even more difficult for the MMD as other political parties especially those in the opposition is the fact that they will have to start looking for resources for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. What is worse is that a number of MMD MPs have threatened to withhold their monthly contribution to the party if Dr Mumba does not call for a national convention at which all positions will be open to contest.
What should equally worry staunch MMD supporters, if there are any, are rumours of a possible merger between the former ruling party, in power for 20 years until it was ousted in in the 2011 election by the PF.
Coming to the question of when the mortal blow was struck, it, obviously, is not in the aftermath of President Michael Sata's death on October 28, 2014 in London where he had gone for what his administration officials said was a medical check-up after months of denying he was not well. The deadly blow was delivered nearly a decade and half earlier.
Immediately after Mr Sata—he once served as MMD National Secretary—died, jostling for the top position in his party and by extension, in government, ensued with up to 11 PF members including his widow Christine Kaseba, his son Mulenga Sata, his nephew and an in-law joining the race of those that wanted to replace him. 
The man he left the instruments of power on the trip that led to his expiration, Lungu, eventually emerged tops, taking over the reins of both the party and government in an equally highly contested and tight race.
But as much as Sata’s death triggered a power struggle within his own party, it also did the same in the MMD with the former MMD and Republican President Banda trying to make a come-back to contest the republican presidency. Banda’s bid was overturned by the courts of law that maintained that Mumba was the bona fide candidate. This move in itself lost Mumba the support of senior members who went on to support Lungu following Banda who threw his weight behind Lungu’s candidature, and others who went on to support UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema.


Chiluba’s Third Term Curse

MMD’s problems go back to 1999 when it became apparent that the then party and Republican President Frederick Chiluba was stoking calls among some provincial and district youth leaders all or most of whom he gave the newly created position of District Administrator since changed to District Commissioner, for him to go for a third term or perhaps even beyond had it gone through. At first this was not taken seriously until Ben Mwila, Chiluba’s putative uncle, was expelled from the party for showing interest in the MMD and republican presidency after Chiluba’s two terms as provided for by the constitution.
When other senior members who included Republican Vice President General Christon Tembo and party Vice President General Godfrey Miyanda realised what was going on, forged ranks with the opposition to oppose Chiluba’s third term scheme. As expected, Tembo, Miyanda and 20 other members who included Edith Nawakwi were expelled from the MMD and barred from attending the national convention at which Chiluba was re-elected to continue as party president.
Chiluba, however, did not have time to manipulate the national constitution like he did the party constitution. He had to truncate the process of picking a successor which should have been done by a national convention, settling for Levy Mwanawasa who had been his party and Republican Vice President until his resignation in 1994 alleging growing corruption in the then three year old MMD government. Mwanawasa was to challenge Chiluba at the MMD second national convention in 2005 but lost as he was decampaigned on his personal challenges he had suffered following a road traffic accident just two months into the new MMD government.


How Sata Left The MMD

The picking of Mwanawasa as the 2001 presidential candidate did not go very well with Sata who was then the party National Secretary. In that position, he had supported Chiluba’s third term scheme and seen off the likely successors in Tembo and Miyanda. The mantle, definitely, was going to fall on him until Chiluba showed what he had always called his political engineering skills by bringing in Mwanawasa who at the time was just an ordinary party member.
Sata left the MMD three months before the presidential and general elections to form his own Patriotic Front and lost three successive presidential elections before beating Banda, the man who succeeded Mwanawasa in a mixture of both good and bad fortune. Banda had been made vice president by Mwanawasa even as it was common knowledge that he was a UNIP member. He later took over top most office when Mwanawasa died while on international duty in Egypt where he collapsed and rushed to a military hospital in France.
For me, if the MMD had, in 2001, let the internal democratic process take due course with members electing Chiluba’s successor, the party would still be standing in one piece, and would probably still be in office today.

*Guest blogs are welcome.