Monday, 30 March 2015

Where Zambian Traders Go Wrong

...They decline large denomination notes for lack of change!

Guest blog by Samuel Kasankha

Have you noticed, or haven't you, how if any business person or concern will turn you away with your money because they are not able to change the high denomination Kwacha you have planted on their counter, they will almost be invariably indigenous Zambian? Oh yes!
True, we seem to have readily realised that we can, after all, earn a worthwhile living out of trading in all sorts of merchandise including (pardon my examples) used underwear and so called "manhood" and hip or breast enlarging concoctions for those that feel belittled by their current God-given natural body sizes! (Where are they that specialise in brain enlargement for I hear bigger brains are more useful than bigger sex symbols?)
But I'm talking about our strange if not dull indigenous entrepreneurs or their agents at the counter or till who are so desperately bankrupt of business sense they don't have the slightest idea it is their business to stock enough change because refusal to attend to a client on account you have "no change" negatively affects your rate of turn over!
Unrebased Kwacha.
In case even this begins to sound like original South African "cingoni" which is unfamiliar to many a Zambian ear, don't you surely enhance your profit-making abilities by getting as many clients to buy as much as is possible of your merchandise off your shelves? So how on earth do you attain this goal by either being so indolent or ignorant you can't make daily runs to the nearest bank (and they are now all over including the townships) to change some of your in-hand Kwacha into smaller denominations for purposes of being able to accept every note that comes your way and give the valued client their due change?


Soiled Notes

Not with our country men and women that have opted to survive by vending, I tell you!

"Aaah, palibe change [Aaah, there's no change]," they will tell you nonchalantly and quickly face skywards to make it crystal clear that any further comment from you is unwelcome and a bother! Take the same denomination into an Indian or Lebanese (or even Rwandan) shop next door, they will willingly sell you that K3 Coca Cola and give you back your K97 change without a single sign of irritation with you. They are counting their turn over, the number of stuff leaving their shelves, and how each item, no matter how small, is building towards the huge profit with which in a matter of time they will dominate you and I sooner than later while you keep crying that "foreigners this" or "foreigners that"!
If you haven't observed this, or you have and now think like me that indigenous Zambians have a curious if not peculiar way of shooting themselves in the business foot, take a tattered or partly torn Kwacha note to them and try to transact! They will refuse to accept that MONEY and vehemently order you to produce "better" money the very effort making you wonder whether the notes, Dollar, Naira, Kwacha, name them are part of the main course at dinner so they must be very neat for our healthy and happy chewing!
On the other hand, watch how the Indian or Lebanese (or even Burundese) will tuck that tattered Kwacha away, another item sold, turn over rate up by one, and at the end of the day or early tomorrow, at the time of going scouting for change, the torn or tattered notes will form normal banking business!
You can trust your indigenous entrepreneur or their agent to refuse to serve you over terribly trivial matters like tattered notes and explain with so much conviction "bamatishauta ba boss tikatenga ndalama zong'ambika [the boss shouts at us if we accept tattered bank notes]."
[Photo credit: Global Voices]

Friday, 27 March 2015

Dedicated Presidential Health Unit Unnecessary

A dedicated presidential health unit, as announced initially by Vice President Inonge Wina and explained in depth by Health Minister Dr Joseph Kasonde, is an unnecessary waste of resources which could be channelled to the health sector for the benefit of all citizens.
In announcing government’s intention in parliament, Dr Kasonde said such a body would be headed by a person who would be appointed by the president including other support staff adding that appointing a Physician to the President is the best way to institutionalize an autonomous office to look into the health of a sitting Republican President and future Heads of State.
However, the current Zambian constitution contains clauses of what ought to be done should a president get into a situation where he would need medical assessment. Some countries such as South Africa may have a presidential health unit simply because they can afford it and they have enough medical manpower for all citizens.
As it is, the Zambian health sector is in a critical state which forces presidents and those who are well connected to be evacuated for treatment outside the country. With a presidential health unit in place, it is clear that the necessary resources that would otherwise towards revamping the sector for the benefit of the rest of the population will be channelled towards the new unit.
Here is part of what I wrote on Africa Hadithi sometime last year:


Constitution Provision

What the constitution states in full:

(1) If it is resolved by a majority of all the members of the Cabinet that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions ofhis office ought to be investigated, and they so inform the Chief Justice, then the Chief Justice shall appoint a board consisting of not less than three persons selected by him from among persons who are qualified as medical practitioners under the law of Zambia or under the law of any other country in the Commonwealth, and the board shall inquire into the matter and report to the Chief Justice on whether or not the President is, by reason of any infirmity of body or mind, incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
(2) If the board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office, the Chief Justice shall certify in writing accordingly and shall table such certificate, with the report of the board before the National Assembly who shall on a motion, passed by a two thirds majority –
(a) ratify the decision of the board, and thereupon the President shall cease to hold office; or
(b) reject the decision of the board and cause a further inquiry into whether or not the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and shall thereafter decide on such question by a two-thirds majority vote, which decision shall be final.
(3) Where the Cabinet resolves that the question of the physical and mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office should be investigated, the President shall, until another person assumes the office of President or the board appointed under clause (1) reports that the President is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office, whichever is the earlier, cease to perform the functions of his office and those functions shall be performed by-
(a) the Vice-President; or
(b) in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, by such member of the Cabinet as the Cabinet shall elect: Provided that any person performing the functions of the office of President under this clause shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.
(4) A motion for the purposes of clause (1) may be proposed at any meeting of the Cabinet.

It is a well-known fact that Cabinet is appointed by the president but it is also a fact that Cabinet is supposed to serve the greater good of the nation. If these servants of the people notice that their supervisor, the president is not performing to expectation, they can fall back on the letter of the constitution which allows them to make him rest.

Monday, 23 March 2015

How Much Does It Cost To See Off The President?

I received this message through my Facebook inbox:
Gershom, you're the man to write about this: How much does it cost in money, manpower and man hours wasted when all those ministers, Permanent Secretaries, military, cadres, etc, go to see off or receive the president [at the airport]? A rich country like the US doesn't do that. Obama just gets into Marine 1 and is met at Andrews [Airforce Base] by the commander there and the crew. Same on coming back. When he lands at the White House, it’s his dogs and a few members of staff. What's your take? Blog?
I was clearly taken aback by this message and I immediately surmised that it came as a result of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s recent trip to Namibia whose departure and arrival must have been shown on local Television with a whole retinue of people sending him off and receiving him.
President Edgar Lungu flanked by Vice President Inonge Wina at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.
Obviously, the blame cannot be placed on the new president’s shoulders. This is something that has been embedded in the nation’s political culture right from the first president, Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s days when everybody who was anybody in both the party and in government had to be present at either the airport to send him off or receive him or at any public function where he officiated.


Growing Up In Kitwe

I remember when I was growing up in Kitwe how we were made to walk long distances as school kids to go and stand by the side of the road in which Dr Kaunda would be driven past. We were often hungry, thirsty and exposed in the sun, waiting for hours on end. When the motorcade sped by, all we could see was the man’s white hanky being waved at us.
This was mostly when he went to open the Copperbelt Agriculture Show in Wusakile, quite a distance from Kwacha, after landing at South Downs Airport in Chibuluma. But there were other times he could address meetings at Buchi Hall, a manageable walking distance.
All we were left asking ourselves was “wachimumona Kaunda [did you see Kaunda]?” For fear of being ridiculed by your friends who also probably saw zilch was to say “yes, I saw him, I saw him!” Then we dispersed in a more disorderly manner than when going to the place we would line up at as a school.
But more vivid is the memory I have of UNIP youths kicking pots off charcoal braziers shouting “bamayo nabatata tiyeni ku meeting [mothers and fathers let’s go for the meeting]. I remember this because my mother had a stand in the local market and she would announce to us that she was going for a meeting to be addressed by President Kaunda.


President Chiluba’s New Culture

Then came second President Frederick Chiluba with his “new culture” which was somewhat different from the Kaunda era. School children were no longer required to go and line up for him and neither were businesses required to close in an area where he was visiting. However, politicians of all shades and position, senior civil servants as well as defence and security officers of all rank usually gathered to welcome him.
I must say that I covered President Chiluba a lot when I worked for the Zambia Daily Mail on the Copperbelt and I came to know the type of people that welcomed him. In this scheme of things, parastatal companies usually provided trucks that ferried cadres from the compounds to go and throng the airport or a place at which a public meeting would be addressed.
I am very sure that this political culture carried on to the Mwanawasa administration and onwards to President Lungu. Political appointees of all manner and equally those seeking appointments want to be seen to be rubbing shoulders with people rubbing shoulders with the president as one never knows when an appointing finger can land on one.
Is it President Mwanawasa? He tried something of a novelty by travelling to the airport on a Marco Polo bus, carrying all the ministers with him on the bus. What I don’t know is why it was discouraged. Was it for security reasons or was it that it took the shine off the ministers who wanted to be seen to be flying individual flags on individual Mercedes Benz cars or those super expensive Prados?
But as the writer of the message above alludes to, at what cost do these jaunts to and from the airport come? Let us assume that all ministers and their deputies within Lusaka, permanent secretaries, top defence and security officials and other government functionaries, troop to the airport, covering a total of 60 kilometres, imagine the fuel burnt plus the man hours lost and missed business opportunities for cancelled or rescheduled meetings.
Maybe if it is whispered that minister so ‘n so wasn’t at the airport, it would be seen to be insubordination and could face the chop at the next reshuffle. Similarly, cadre so ‘n so doesn't like you Mr President, he doesn’t deserve to be appointed into the diplomatic service or as District Commissioner. See, he wasn't even at the airport!
Maybe it is as they say, “there is no hurry in Africa!” One can go and stand in the sun for hours just to catch a glimpse of the head of state and be satisfied regardless of the cost.
[Photo credit: Times of Zambia]

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Reactions To “Let Us Introduce One Party Politics To End Tribalism”

Below are two reactions I have received from my last post.

Zambians Must Vote For Calibre

[1] Hi Gershom. It is a very rich history of Politics in Zambia. Much as issues are well articulated about where we are coming from and where we are today, I would not support the idea about re-introduction of one party system in Zambia because it will be again a one man show like the way Kaunda had this country under his armpits. Freedoms were not there or enjoyed and I would not want to get back to that. I feel as Zambians we just have to take it upon ourselves to go for calibre when voting and not tribe or paradox voting. Look at how we used to fear and hero worship Kaunda where he was even proud to have slogans like" Kumulu Lesa and Panshi Kaunda [God in heaven, Kaunda on earth]” literally saying he was also a God. Gershom there was the worst media propaganda in this country and again the Zambians were denied chances of knowing the truth about what was happening in the country especially in government. Really, there are a lot of reasons why I would not support the idea.

Political Dynamics

[2] Hi Gershom. I don't think introducing a one party state will solve the issue of tribalism in Zambia. To the contrary, what we need is more democracy and more freedom of speech. Tribalism can only be solved if we honestly and truthfully discuss the issue. As much as I dislike some online reports and comments on tribal issues I think allowing people to debate openly will eventually lead to a solution.
Zambia has an advantage in addressing tribalism because, unlike other African countries, there is no single tribe in Zambia that can dominate others. Political dynamics and economic survival issues will produce good leaders when democracy matures and takes root. What we need are leading academicians and historians to publish truthful articles on tribalism and it's causes and allow people to debate openly.
As a country we need to seat [sic] down and clearly define tribalism and set out boundaries on what is acceptable and not. For instance is voting for a good candidate from your own tribe, tribalism? Is insulting a particular tribe for voting overwhelmingly for a candidate of choice acceptable behaviour? Is appointing people from your tribe in favourable position at the exclusion of others as a reward for their vote acceptable? We should introduce rules to penalise those who spread tribal hate speech as is the case in the UK.
I noticed in your article you claimed that there was no tribalism from 1991 to 2001 and that the tribal issue resurfaced only at the 2006 UPND convention. Really? Why did Easterners predominately [sic] voted for UNIP from 1991 to 2006? The 2001 election results also showed regional trends with MMD drawing it's support mainly from Luapula, Northern, northern parts of central province and CB; UPND getting most of it's support from Southern, Western, North-western and southern part of central provinces while Easterners mainly supported FDD and UNIP. Lusaka was split between FDD and UPND. I think tribalism in Zambia has deeper roots than what you claimed in your article, however, I give you credit for bringing up the issue. I also read Chanda ChimbaIII's well researched article published by Zambia Reports four days ago was more factual.
[Picture credit:]

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