The second and final part of the 2008 Zambian Economist (McLaughlin) Awards (first part here) :
Destined for Political Stardom
Maureen Mwanawasa. In 2008 she emerged as a serious contender to replace her husband, and with the MBA in her sights, she is clearly not planning to be a local administrator. She has the experience, the name and public following to probably emerge as a strong player in Zambian politics 2011 and beyond.
Destined for Political Oblivion
A joint award : Sakwiba Sikota and Edith Nawakwi. Having backed Rupiah Banda in the election and hoping for a ministerial job, the President in the end spurned them, and with that they are left without credibility and without parties.
Best Political Theater
Any moment from the Presidential bye-election. Too many to mention, but Michael Sata's arrival at the nomination on a boat must rank as one of the most memorable electoral images of recent times.
Worst Political Theater
The shuttling of President Mwanawasa's body across the country. That must surely rank as the lowest form of politics this year. It was bad enough that the updates appeared to have been engineered, but to take the body around the country for what clearly looked like early campaigning was most disgraceful indeed.
Worst Political Scandal
...As revealed in the Auditor General's report...
Most Underreported Story
The many towns in our country going without food. In many of our areas, many people have turned to wild fruits, and this story only gets five lines on ZNBC News. Nearly all the news and blogs have not focused on the quiet enemy ravaging our people, even as food prices rocket.
Most Overreported Story
Too many to mention, but the one story I always find puzzling is FTJ's medical reviews. The newspapers are always reporting FTJ's trips to South Africa. Sometime, they even send reporters to RSA to keep watch. It surely displays the idiocy of what passes for "political reporting" in our local media.
Biggest Government Waste
The National Constitution Conference. At $350 per day per delegate, with an endless timetable, it is the most irresponsible use of tax payers money. How Zambians can tolerate this process is beyond me. Sitting on the NCC should be an exercise in patriotism not greed.
Best Government Kwacha Spent
Increasing fertiliser support was definitely a good move. Yes it was done as a "political gimmick" and out of the budget cycle, but it was long overdue. My hope is that in 2009 we will see more focus on agriculture, and perhaps on the infrastructure to support agriculture.
Boldest Political Tactic
The MMD decision to go with Rupiah Banda was the boldest political tactic this year. Although RB was the Acting President, it was clear to many people that he was relatively unpopular and unrecognisable. However, when he was chosen it soon became clear that by virtue of his candidacy certain provinces where now "guaranteed". A gamble well played.
The decision to reform ZAMTEL - in the end common sense prevailed and the government now appears to have seen some light. We now look forward to a full and frank consultation on how ZAMTEL should be reformed. This cannot be a decision for the Cabinet alone.
Sakwiba Sikota et al early attempts to argue that the bye-election was not necessary. They even brought on board a couple of failed politicians to argue their case. Such blantant and disgraceful attempt to railroad our constitution was wonderfully rejected and people in the end had their say.
Sorry To See You Go
Ng'andu Magande. Yes, he made one or two political miscalculations that ultimately cost him his job. But may be, just may be, the real losers are the Zambian people who have been robbed of his expertise at this trying time.
The "new fiscal regime". This was billed as the government taking back from the mines what belongs to the Zambian people. Unfortunately, the truth has been far from the spin. The IMF was the first to lean on the government to backdown on some elements. After that it was free for all for the mines. Up to now very few mines have paid their tax obligations under the new regime. Some have even gone further to call for new lower taxes, given the falling copper prices. I am not holding my breath for the next budget. Its fair to say the fiscal regime died a very premature death.
Most Honest Person
Justice Mumba, the ECZ Chair. About the only reason many people believe this year's election were free and fair. She tried her very honest best to do the most difficult job and must be applauded.
Chiefs. This year was the year in which Chiefs were found to be of little substance. Many crossed the "uncrossed line" and put forward significant endorsements for their preferred candidate, but in the end it did little to change the electoral maths. The biggest losers were the southern Chiefs who disgracefully backed Rupiah Banda in search of money - well atleast one or two had the honesty to admit it. History records that HH was triumphant in Southern Province.
Robert Mugabe - we all thought he was finally finished, atleast the international media had us believe that he was gone. Well, as he constantly reminds, he is not going anywhere.
Three stood out for me this year :
JCTR : the JCTR continue to provide insight and holding government to account without the fireworks. Their food basket data and push for a framework on debt really shows the kind of intellectual leadership Zambia is longing for.
FSRP : the fantastic folks at FSRP continue to churn out insightful papers on agriculture issues. I am always looking forward to reading their analysis and this year, we have such fantastic papers from them - from the analysis of the cassava industry to options for securing food security. The list has been endless, and long may it continue.
Silvia Masebo. Yes she lost her job at the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, but I have always considered her a very effective Minister. Okay, I had one or two jibes at her for threatening to disband chiefdoms, but in general her tenure was very bi-partisan and had good command of details.
Not So Honorable Mention
ZESCO. For being such a shambles. This is a company that does nothing for the average Zambian, while its executives are on hefty pay. Aside from continous loadshedding, ZESCO and the ERB (the regulator who acts as a partner in crime) do nothing to reflect the reduced service quality in their bills. They expect you to pay despite the poor quality. No compensation, No nothing.
A couple of predictions :
The Pf will indeed hold a conference in 2009 to elect new leaders....that will unite the party and give them a common purpose.
I make a bold prediction of Ng'andu Magande leaving the MMD, alongside other notable players and starting their own party of "reformists".
I predict that UPND will largely disintegrate in 2009, and may well be subsumed by the "new reformist" party or the other two.
New Year's Resolution
I promise to complete the blog specials on "Traditional Authorities" !!!
When I started it, I thought it was going to be a breeze, but as I have read around and dug into into, the task has become daunting! But I am not giving up.....its only four more long posts to go on it!!