Friday, 15 February 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Floods in Kanyama Compound go back 30 years if I can remember very well. The first time the compound suffered a deluge of an unprecedented scale was in 1978 triggering a massive scale of compassion in the Kanyama Disaster Fund.
Businesspeople, ordinary men and women and the international community, all contributed to the fund to help those who lost their property.
But above all, it was hoped that drainage infrastructure would be put in place to avoid floods in future.
Incidentally, there have been three or four serious floods in the compound each occurring roughly after a 10 year cycle. No one knows for sure what happened to the Kanyama Disaster Fund. For a long time, there was finger-pointing as to who misappropriated the money as well as materials such as blankets donated to alleviate the suffering of the victims. The name of one minister of state under Kaunda kept coming up as the culprit.
Kanyama Disaster Funds or not, the Lusaka City Council should have undertaken to correct whatever needs to be corrected in Kanyama to avoid the repetition of floods which we now know are periodical. The problem is basically lack of drainage, pure and simple because rains will always be there.
But then, knowing the Lusaka City Council and other local authorities, they are just busy dishing out plots corruptly and otherwise without regard to accompanying infrastructural development in those areas. Who doesn’t know the mess in Chalala in terms of the road network, water provision and such necessities?
The Kanyama floods remind me of the Mufuchani pontoon disaster in Kitwe in March 1979 when over 60 people perished when the pontoon they were using to cross the Kafue River capsized.
I remember this quite vividly because it occurred on Youth Day and the then headmaster of Kitwe Boys’ Secondary School, Mr D.C. Samuels announced it in the assembly hall. But even more vivid is the fact that some families I knew in my neighbourhood in Kwacha lost their loved ones in the same accident.
In the outpouring of grief that ensued, a fund was set up to construct a bridge across the Kafue River at Mufuchani. Nearly 30 years later, no one knows what happened to the money, there is no bridge and worse, there is no pontoon. People with maize fields across the river rely on canoes which they use at extortionate prices.
It appears as though Zambians are now inured to such occurrences, with people dying needlessly, losing their property and above all, officials misappropriating money meant for projects to alleviate their suffering. Life, to them, continues as a struggle for a bag of mealie meal. In other words, we have adopted a “wafwa wafwa, washala washala” attitude to things.
I know that our ministers, mayors and town clerks frequently travel outside the country visiting cities and towns of developed countries but I wonder if they ever learn anything from their travels. I would not be surprised if I learnt that they spent most of the time chasing bargains at Saturday or Sunday markets in the countries they go to.
If anything, our leaders do not even need to go far to learn a few tricks of developing their cities and towns. They just need to travel to Gaborone in nearby Botswana to see how the authorities there have managed to develop it into one of Africa’s most impressive capital cities.
The song about the lack of funds has been played for far too long when money continues to be spent in unnecessary undertakings when it is spent on anything other than being pocketed by those we entrust to look after it on our behalf.
It is high time Zambians demanded a higher standard of service from not only local authorities but from central government as well. People should question development brought to an area because there is a by-election like the grading of roads in Kanyama which I am sure have since been washed away again as a result of the floods.
Development, in my view, should be on-going, elections or no elections.


Did Mbita Chitala, the erstwhile Zambian ambassador to Libya cause the loss of Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika for the position of chairperson of the African Union as a result of his write-up just before the big indaba? Or are there simply other issues at play that we do not know about?
How many Anglophone secretaries general and chairpersons have there been at the Organisation of African Unity and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity? I could be wrong, but as far as I can remember, it is only Tanzania’s Ahmed Salim Ahmed who has ever come from Anglophone Africa.
The rest have come from francophone Africa. But even he had been a long standing diplomat such that he could not be ignored when time came for him to take up the position.
Name them, Diallo Telli (Guinea), Nzo Ekangaki (Cameroon—bilingual), Edem Kodjo (Togo), William Eteki Mbomouna (Cameroon), Ide Oumarou (Niger), Amara Essy (Cote d’Ivoire), Alpha Konare (Mali) and now, Jean Ping (Gabon). These people all have roots with French-speaking Africa. I doubt that even without Chitala’s article in the Tripoli Post things would have gone any differently for our BoInonge.
I am sure that our government did not see Ping as a threat to Inonge’s ascendancy to the position. Gabon is not mentioned as one of the countries visited by Mwanawasa’s special envoys. Ping’s credentials are enough to run any candidate into the ground, include Inonge, if what was touted about her is anything to go by unless her only strong point was her gender.
If I have followed stories regarding this issue very well, President Mwanawasa’s envoys only visited 14 countries to lobby for Inonge and even then, two of them did not even vote for her.
I only hope that Kabinga Pande, the minister of foreign affairs will look at this issue very objectively when he presents a report to Parliament on why Inonge lost the position, instead of dressing Chitala with the goat’s intestines as they say in one of our local languages.

1 comment:

MrK said...

Hi Gershom,

I think the issue of how these projects aren't either started or completed, has several answers.

One is an end to government secrecy. Another is investigative reporting. The press can be of huge benefit in uncovering especially petty corruption. There are programmes about reporters going undercover all across the world - why not Zambia?

Kanyama Disaster Funds or not, the Lusaka City Council should have undertaken to correct whatever needs to be corrected in Kanyama to avoid the repetition of floods which we now know are periodical. The problem is basically lack of drainage, pure and simple because rains will always be there.

Also, the government could create a star system for government contractors, with them ranking high depending on whether they complete projects up to inspection standards, on time and on budget. It would be good for the honest contractors too, because they would easily differentiated from much less scrupulous operations.

And I think the government can be muscled into doing this, especially as so many of these projects are funded by 'donors', who will find it very embarassing when it becomes known what happened to the money they donated. Even foreign parliaments can be recruited to make sure everyone monitors the progress of these projects, and that there are consequences when projects are not completed. Often, it is foreign governments money that is being wasted. So there is leverage.

And the government needn't even monitor all the projects. They could pay the contractors who consistently do a good job up front, and just monitor new contractors, and de-list bad ones.

On the issue of investigative reporting, there is an excellent file called "Investigative Reporting in Zambia: A Practitioner’s Handbook",
by Leonard M. Kantumoya:

" The media are at their watchdog best when they go beyond routine reporting to bring to light underhand dealings and clandestine schemes calculated to benefit the plotters to the disadvantage of the great majority. This happens only when the media turn to the genre of journalism known as investigative reporting.

Although this brand of journalism is still relatively new and undeveloped in Zambia and other third-world countries, it is fast gaining recognition as a valuable tool for public policy reform. "