Find us on Google+

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Poor Journalism (Daily Mail)

The extract below from the Daily Mail by a certain Ndubi Mvula has yet again set a new record of poor journalism for the Daily Mail. With the heading "RB headed for Victory - EIU", it notes (also here) :

A report of the influential Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted that President Rupiah Banda and the MMD are likely to retain power in the 2011 general elections because of the influence of incumbency and the recovery in both the local and global economy. 
The report goes on to blab and rejoice about the high reputation of the EIU, especially for making this prediction, among others. The clear inference being that the EIU is a reputable and credible source turned prophet of Zambian politics. This should not even be news. This is absolutely laughable. I mean no other credible paper around the world would run this headline!

The EIU have a poor understanding of Zambian issues. These are after all the people that predicted Zambia's 2009 GDP to be only 1.8%. We dismissed that even before official figures came out at 6.2%. Then there was that horrible prediction supplied to World Vision that Zambia was on a verge of catastrophe in 2010! Apparently according to the EIU we were one of the top most volatile places in the world, largely fuelled by the down.  The least Mr Mvula could have done is check EIU's poor record. He could have also checked the fact that these are done by young graduates with no experience of real issues obtaining on the ground. Mr Mvula's piece continues to perpetuate the image of the "ignorant journalist". In the piece we see no attempt, just the usual taxpayer funded laziness. What we expect is for him to have run the piece alongside other opinion.

Even more mind boggling is that he has quoted a "political forecast" by the EIU and paraded it as "prediction". Not only that, he is quoting a prediction in early 2010 about elections in 2011!  Zambians must start rejecting this sort of poor journalism. We should no longer accept this as "normal".  There's nothing normal about shabby, uninformed and uncritical reporting. The internet is around with information on their fingertips, the season of ignorance must surely come to an end.

Related Posts :
Poor Journalism
In Government's Palm

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Open Letter to The First Lady Mrs Thandiwe Banda

Father Frank Bwalya has written an open letter to the First Lady Mrs Thandiwe Banda. The letter raises some important questions. It would be nice if the President was able to respond to the issues raised. Father Frank Bwalya is after all his superior, by virtue of the fact that the President is there to serve us - citizens. (HT : Gershom Ndhlovu).

The First Lady
Republic of Zambia
State House
Lusaka
Zambia

Dear Madam First Lady,

RE: OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT RUPIAH BWEZANI BANDA

Greetings!

On Saturday 12th March 2010 I was arrested and detained at Kanfinsa state prison until Monday 15th March 2010 when I was released on bail. I will appear in the Kitwe magistrates court for commencement of trial on Wednesday 31st March 2010. As Christians throughout the world reflect on the agony of our Lord Jesus Christ during this holy week and the trial he underwent at the hands of a bunch of hypocrites they will prayer for me and those who suffer for proclaiming the truth.

While in detention I interacted with over 70 percent of the 1,600 inmates at Kanfinsa and a good number of other people that I can’t mention. During these interactions critical issues came to my attention and I wish to make them known to your husband, our president Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda. However, I have decided to do so through you Madam First Lady because I

Another day, another party, 4th Edition

I forgot to announce the formation of the National Restoration Party (NAREP). We are all tired of course of these new one man parties without any clear understanding that the political space in Zambia does not allow for more than two strong parties at a time.  But all friends of the Zambian Economist should be happy because the NAREP has an interesting weblink : www.newzambia.org . If that looks familiar its because for over three years the Zambian Economist has owned a related weblink www.newzambia.com  which redirects here. Those who have been with us from way back will recall that at one point we used to be called "New Zambia".  All being well then we hope NAREP will become so popular that visitors will start accidentally spilling over to us!  Their prosperity is clearly ours!

Related Posts :
Another day, another party, 3rd Edition
Another day, another party, 2nd Edition
Another day, another party

Monday, 29 March 2010

Corruption Watch (CDF), 3rd Edition

Sesheke residents have formed a protest committee over the MMD’s alleged abuse of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) amounting to over K500m. The residents allege that they information indicating that 58 named MMD cadres had shared the CDF using ‘ghost project proposals’ to the council. More detail via The Post.

Related Posts :
Corruption Watch (CDF), 2nd Edition
Corruption Watch (CDF)

Parastatal Madness, 10th Edition

The neverending madness of parastatals. Last week it was revealed that ZESCO, which is owed billions by Government and others, owes the Water Board K175 billion for water use at Kafue Gorge Dam. ZESCO apparently can only afford to pay K600 million per year.

Related Posts :
Parastatal Madness, 9th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 8th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 7th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 6th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 5th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 4th Edition
Parastatal Madness, 3rd Edition
Parastatal Madness, 2nd Edition
Parastatal Madness

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Empty statements...

A Presidential directive to the Minister of Mines Maxwell Mwale :

Re-opening Munali Nickel Mine, which is majority owned by Chinese Jinchuan Mining Group, on Friday, President Banda said his government was keen to ensure that local communities directly derive benefits arising from investment in their areas. He directed the minister of mines Maxwell Mwale to closely monitor the performance of each mining company to ensure that the mines were benefiting the locals.
Just how is Mr Mwale going to fulfill this new directive? What levers does Mr Mwale have that will ensure that local mining companies "benefit the locals"? There's nothing on the statute books that could deliver what the President is asking for - we have long argued this point. In fact the only  legislative measure that ensures local authorities benefit is found in the Mines and Mineral Development Act 2008 (para 136) : "The Minister responsible for Finance shall, in consultation with the Minister [responsible for Mines], a mineral royalty sharing scheme for distributing royalty revenues".  This has nothing to do with mining companies. It has everything do with the failure of government to implement its own legislation as Hon Joseph Katema MP and others continue to note.

Oil in Tanganyika?

The DRC plans to open 10 blocks on Lake Tanganyika for oil exploration following interest from foreign energy firms. The DRC oil sector has been virtually paralysed since the 1970s. The bidding process for the blocs will begin in April. In the words of the DRC official : "We know Lake Tanganyika has lots of petrol because it is the only one we've got lots of data for - seismic, magnetic - the geology has a lot of potential....We have to give these (blocks) to a big company because Lake Tanganyika is so deep, at 1,500 metres. It will need a lot of work".

Admittedly, the larger part is in DRC and Tanzania but I have not heard anyone even remotely suggest that the Zambian end may have oil.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Illegal Ivory Trade in Zambia

The Lumpa Massacre

Malama Katulwende has another fascinating piece on the thorny question of the Lumpa massacre. He asks whether KK and other UNIPISTs should now be tried for crimes against humanity. We have previously touched on this following Mwala Kalaluka's wonderful piece - Retracing Alice Lenshina's followers :

Should Kaunda and UNIP militia be tried at The Hague for Crimes against Humanity?, Malama Katulwende, UK Zambians, Commentary :

The massacre of the Lumpa adherents by the United National Independence Party (UNIP) militia and the Zambian security forces is perhaps the darkest chapter in our history. An army officer – who witnessed the atrocious killing of Lumpas at Paishuko settlement in eastern Zambia, on August 7th 1964 – narrated the shocking experience as follows:

 “Many of the women and children had stakes thrust into anus or vagina or down their throats – this is how they were tortured to death.” This description is captured in John Hudson’s book, “A Time To Mourn” in which some official police photographs of the monstrous event depict a man with a stake hammered into his mouth, burnt corpses, and a woman who, after being repeatedly raped, had the skin of the inside of her thighs torn off.

In defence of our jumbos..

Common sense advice from Sakabilo Kalembwe (Get Wild Zambia) to Minister Namugala, who is currently pursuing a senseless policy of culling the elephants. What Minister Namugala should focus on is getting financial support for the elephants within the policy of distribution. Seeking to kill elephants is not sensible when she cannot even count the jumbos at her disposal :

Having visited some of the parks and game management areas, we feel what needs to be sorted out is the distribution of our elephant and hence support the experts from CITES that turned down our government's request.

Research shows that our elephant population is barely over 30,000 compared to 100,000 in the 1970’s. Obviously the human population could have been quiet low then, meaning the human -wildlife conflict was less but the the human population growth has been rapid in the urban areas and not in the countryside where these animals are found. 30 to 40 years ago , the distribution of elephants was even throughout the nine provinces, while today their geographical distribution is from the south eastern parts of the Eastern province, through the south of Lusaka Province and to the southern parts of Southern and Western Provinces. There are some numbers that are found in central Zambia around the Kafue National Park and some parts north of Sesheke district.

The Zambian government could take the alternative route of redistribution instead of trying to convince the technocrats at CITES reduce the number and sell the ivory. They can also consider seeking finances from CITES and other donors to use in relocating the elephants to areas like the Liuwa which have very small numbers of the animals if they are still even there. We are however aware that some animals may not do very well in certain habitats but we also are that organisations like CITES, ZAWA do have experts who are able to carry out environmental and habitat assessment to ascertain the viability of projects like redistribution of of our elephant.

Mine Watch (Munali)

Munali resumed production on Friday under new Chinese owners. The Nickel mine is expected to raise annual output of nickel ore to 1.2 million tonnes by 2012 from the current 900,000 tonnes per year. Australia's Albidon Ltd, which halted operations last year at the country's only nickel mine following a fall in metals prices, resumed output after China's Jinchuan Group took over majority shareholding and invested $37 million.

Book Reading Goal : Week 8

This week I picked up a surprise recent release by the Lembani Trust - African Realities : A Memoir by Robinson M Nabulyato, edited by Dr Giacomo Macola, a lecturer at the University of Kent, UK. This incidentally is the third book I have read involving Macola. The first was the the wonderful Kingdom of Kazembe and the other One Zambia, Many Histories.   

African Realities is a personal account of the life and times of Dr Robinson M Nabulyato, one of the founding fathers of modern Zambia, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the freedom fighters during the struggle against colonialism. This is a welcome publication by the Lembani Trust. Although its only 108 pages, it is packed with important reflections. The memoirs were penned around 1988. I was particularly struck by Nabulyato's fierce defence of Parliamentary independence and private enterprise.   The book should appeal to any Zambian interested to understand our history. Its quick to read.

Memorable Quote :

No Parliament can claim to be living a democratic existence unless it is made independent of either the ruling party or government. When this is not obtaining, Parliament is made to serve dictatorial purposes. Once the party or government in power begins to resist the people's criticism or decisions through Parliament, then it becomes impossible to rule the country concerned except through the barrel of a gun.
Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 9 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 41 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 40 weeks

Friday, 26 March 2010

Selling Zambia abroad..

The Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) have apparently partnered with Cornwell University School students to rebrand the country as a tourism destination. As one of contributors Frank mentioned a while back - the brand "Zambia the real Africa" does not exactly inspire confidence.  In general the ZTB appears stuck in a time capsule.  Their website is clearly outdated. For an organisation responsible for selling Zambia abroad its quite worrying that they appear not to have grasped technology. My free advice to them is to ask the diaspora to help. Its quite obvious that if they want to sell Zambia abroad, their best ambassadors are the diaspora. They understand what Zambia has to offer and what the foreigner wants. Incidentally, I have found that there's still something to say for "person-to-person" recommendation.

Inflation Statistics - March 2010

The annual rate of inflation, as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased by 0.4 of a percentage point from 9.8 percent in February 2010 to 10.2 percent in March 2010. The increase of 0.4 of a percentage point in the annual inflation rate in February 2010 is attributed to a result of "increases in food products and public transport". This clearly part of the delayed effect of the January fuel hike. More detail via the CSO Monthly Bulletin.

Parliamentary Question (Petroleum Imports)

More comedy from Ms Kapwepwe and Co on the politics of Zambian petroleum. She appears not to have a clue about what the government energy policy is. At every turn, her only response appear to be "ask ERB" :

Importation of petroleum products, Oral Answer (332), Edited Transcript, 10th March, 2010 :

Mr D. Mwila asked the Minister of Finance and National Planning: (a) how much money in the form of tax the Government lost as a result of waiving import duty on petroleum products to mitigate the impact of the fuel shortage; (b) how long the suspension of import duty lasted; and (c) what the total amount of petrol imports were at the end of the period at (b).

Quick notes

A feel good story. Zambia last week resumed exports of canned food into southern Africa after the revival of a 200-250 tonne agro-processing plant that collapsed during privatisation of state firms in the 1990s.

The Economist on the Paul Kagame achievements which have come "at the expense of freedom". Mr Kagame and his government are apparently stifling political and press freedom in advance of a presidential election due in August. Opposition parties have been forbidden to “use words or facts that defame other politicians”, with their members spied on and bullied.

Still on Rwanda, among those vying for the top job is Victoire Ingabire who came back home in January 2010 after 16 years in exile in the Netherlands and immediately declared her interest in the country’s top political job. Rwanda has one of the highest female representation in the world, but the top jobs remain illusive to women.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

FDI and domestic spillovers, 2nd Edition

Another paper on the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic spillovers. It examines the effects of FDI on on the performance of firms in three emerging market economies, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland :

I find evidence that foreign firms perform better than domestic ones, however, I do not find evidence for the presence of positive ‘spillovers’ of foreign investors to the domestic firms. In contrast, I find evidence which suggests no ‘spillovers’ for Bulgaria and Romania and negative ‘spillovers’ for Poland on average. I suggest that the competition effect dominates the technological spillover effect in Poland. Once contolled for the absorptive capacity of firms, I report evidence of positive spillovers of FDI for R&D intensive firms in Bulgaria and Poland. While previous studies have found positive spillovers from DFI to domestic firms, which motivated policies to attract FDI, the results in this paper suggest that policies to attract DFI might lead to perverse effects in the short run.
This is in line with the previous paper on Ghana. That post also provides thoughts on the implications for Zambian policy.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Zambia as a Christian Nation (Guest Blog)

The question of Zambia declaring itself a Christian Nation is becoming a hot topic in some circles. Notable among those, is a piece posted on popular UK Zambians’ website (26th February, 2010) by Malama Katulwende (MK) – one of the site’s columnists.

Another discussion has erupted from the Zambian Economist review of Mark Burke’s book Glimmer of Hope. In his book – kind of his memoir from his stint as a volunteer teacher at Chasa Secondary School in the Eastern Province, Zambia - Burke makes some sarcastic comments on Zambian Christians.

To paraphrase Burke: - he is basically lamenting the double standard morals of these, supposedly people of God have. He claims that they begged for money from him, are sinful and don’t seem to care much about the suffering masses especially those in rural areas. According to him, if they did, actions spoke a different language. For had they really cared, they would have assisted the country to inculcate higher moral standards, which in turn would have minimized vices like corruption, HIV/Aids, STDs and so on.

It was a surprise for him to see so many prostitutes, drunks, beggars and the abundant poverty in such a Christian nation. In short, Zambia being a Christian country is like a joke.

The State and Religion Argument

A recent article by Katulwende responds to the Charles Kachikoti Op'ed's defence of  Zambia's declaration as a Christian nation. Katelwende has problems with the validity of the Christian claims and "the discriminatory" nature of the declaration :

The State and Religion Argument, Malama Katulwende, UK Zambians, Commentary:

Has the Christian faith in Zambia become compulsory for every citizen to espouse, or should our country be judged in terms of her adherence to the "principles of the Bible"?

In a disturbing article titled, "Uphold Zambia's crucial covenant with God", Charles Kachikoti, Chief Policy Analyst for Press and Public Relations at State House, seems to suggest so. Daily Mail: 23-02-2010.

"The Declaration [of Zambia as a Christian nation] is a vision statement and values statement rolled into one. It espouses a national vision, a people's mission and family values...It is a statement of strategic intent. It is a rallying point giving credence to national development plans and bringing moral sensitivity into governance. It is Zambia's view of the future."

What can one make of this "exposition" ? In my humble view, this official position is very dangerous and, to say the least, irrational. When did Zambians enter into a covenant with some Jewish God? What proof is there of this? Yet granted that Zambians have indeed made this covenant with some God, then we have to face up to some serious dilemmas.

Firstly, to legalize religion means that Christianity becomes the norm and everyone opposed to it becomes a criminal. In a very short time, some citizens of this country will be arrested for practicing faiths that are contrary to the 'official' state religion, Christianity. Suppose I say to people, "I can prove that Jesus Christ is not a God, that the resurrection is a sham, that actually Mary had sex with Joseph, that the humanity of Jesus Christ permitted him to indulge in sex and marriage and, above all, that book called the Bible contains thousands of fallacies, such as no God could have created the material universe in seven earth days, or the fable of a snake asking Eve to eat of a fruit?" What would happen to me? I am convinced that Pentecostals would call for my blood, even when Zambia is a democracy. Yet this tragedy has started to happen already. Let me give two examples.

Not so long ago, some sangoma from South Africa were nearly hounded out of the country when they came to exhume the remains of their ANC compatriots. Hardcore evangelical churches called their rituals "satanic", "ungodly" and "outrageous". It has now become common to compel the citizens to behave in a certain way, simply because "Zambia is a Christian nation." In a related incident, some Pentecostals are calling for the PF leader, Michael Sata to quit politics and set aside his presidential ambitions because these fanatics claim that his 'polygamous life' is not compatible with the Bible.

Yet one might like to ask: are we not free to believe in what we choose, or should we follow the blind faith of some professed pastors such as Shikapwasha or Pule? In a country which professes to be a democracy, some citizens have become second-class citizen on account of not espousing a particular kind of religion. This is discrimination. However, every Zambian citizens is free to think, feel, associate and assemble as they choose. In point of fact, we are even free to "sin". I may decide to have a one-night-stand when I choose, or drink some wine with my friends, without reference to extrinsic motives such as threats of damnation from the bible or some weird pastor wielding Hell. I am responsible for my myself, and refuse to surrender this freedom to anyone.

Yet to make the Bible a legal document which people should follow is simply unacceptable. I believe that no one has been put in charge of deciding individual destinies of Zambians. We are free agents and should be allowed to shape our futures, that's all.

Secondly, if we suppose that the Kachikoti exposition is the official position of the country, then this brand of Christianity must translate into an economic system such as would be acceptable to Jesus Christ. Would He accept rampant capitalism, for example, in which foreigners have taken over the mines and other resources, or would He be comfortable with a form a socialism in which the state controls the means of production and distributes wealth equally to every citizen?

Would Jesus agree to some individuals such as Rupiah Banda and George Kunda controlling the social capital of this country, or NCC members earning more than others for the same amount of work or, for that matter, sleeping in parliament. If God indeed exists, He should support justice and if a political economy tolerates inequality, then it must be overthrown so that it is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yet are our politicians ready to give up their wealth and lead by the example of the poverty of Christ? I do not think so. Corruption, greed and arrogance is so embedded in them that they are almost morally incorrigible.

Thirdly, from the point of view of epistemology, there's a serious danger that the evangelical brand of Christianity and theology - which does not invent new truths the way science does - would even be more discredited in the light of new forms of knowledge. To be sure, the Bible on which such an questionable faith is based is a closed system and has a lot of inconsistencies which defies logic and rational thought. On the other hand, what would we do if the major premises of Christianity crumbled? Would we remove the Christian declaration clause from the Constitution?

Lastly, the Pentecostals have no right to decide the sort of future my country should have without my consent, as a citizen. When the former president of Zambia, Dr. Chiluba declared the country a Christian nation, he did so without consulting the Catholic Church, or any other major churches.

Pentecostals and Evangelicals gathered and inserted the clause in the Constitution. Now given this lack of consultation, why should some citizens obey a clause to which they did not consent? Besides, there is no agreed catalog amongst Christian Churches in Zambia of what constitutes their commonly held "formulas of faith". So why should a Pentecostal push for a religious agenda and expect an atheist, gay, thinker, traditionalist, Moslem, Hindu and Jehovah's Witness to obey?

One Nation Under God

A passionate case for retaining the "Christian nation" declaration in the Constitution by Charles Kachikoti, the Chief Policy Analyst for Press and Public Relations at State House. There's a lot at stake here, not least because it is penned by the President's Number 1 adviser! Although the topic itself is vitally important, of equal importance is the quality of the argument, as it tells us something about the quality of advice the President regularly receives. Read on..  

Uphold Country's Crucial Covenant With God, Charles Kachikoti, Times of Zambia, Commentary :

"You, my God and Lord, are my shield, on You I rely. On You I will build; never leave me,So that I may remain pious, your servant at all moments,dispelling the tyranny that wounds my heart." That is not a Church hymn or contemporary spiritual song; it is a stanza of the national anthem of The Netherlands.

The flourishing nations that Zambians admire; peoples that win acclaim in Africa for their massive scientific and technological advancement, hemispheres that draw accolades in endless ripples among Third World countries for their colossal economic prosperity started out on a biblical foundation. They were Christian nations founded on the values and precepts of the word of God, time-tested and weather-proven teachings. They accelerated and matured on a body of life truths that imbued in them the attitude and mentality that has shaped their entire ethos to the solid form that we in the Third World now all aspire to.

The whole system of governance that the West is grounded on, with judiciary, legislature and executive arms of government, the democratic ideal we are pursuing after, was given to them by the Bible which states the following about the living God in Isaiah 33:22 - "For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is He who will save us." This is precisely why the covenant that Zambia entered into with God, as of December 29, 1992, must be allowed to hold.

The positive results of such a position are visible beyond both reasonable and unreasonable doubt in the high-strung economies and robust political arrangements in the West.

New Zealand prays in the first stanza of one its two national anthems:

"God of nations! at Thy feet
 In the bonds of love we meet,
 Hear our voices, we entreat,
 God defend our Free Land.
 Guard Pacific's triple star,
 From the shafts of strife and war, Make her praises heard afar, God defend New Zealand."

The Greek national anthem describes the land as "divinely restored."

The English anthem God Save the Queen declares "on thee our hopes we fix," and prays that God arises and scatters England's enemies "and make them fall, confound their politics, God save us all."

African states like Kenya have national anthems that are prayers: "O God of all creation, Bless this our land and nation. Justice be our shield and defender, May we dwell in unity, Peace and liberty," as in the opening stanza.

The Nigerian anthem is a prayer with a significant line in stanza two: "Help our youths the truth to know." These are the youth who are now mature and running incredibly massive churches and businesses in that country and beyond.

Zambia

The composition of the Zambian National Anthem was centred on the nationwide consciousness of God. It was premised on Biblical expressions of praises to God as found in the English language, notably the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. God was recognised to be the maker and keeper of Zambia and He was invited to bless the great nation. It was around the consciousness of God that this anthem was crafted.

Name

The name Zambia was derived from Zambezi, the name of the fourth largest river on the continent of Africa. The name Zambezi derives from three ethnical expressions originating among the peoples of North-Western Province.

'Yambeji' means 'the best of everything'.
'Mwambeji' means 'river of God'.
'Nzambe Nzi' means 'God come'.

And this is a river that practically embraces the country on its way to the Indian Ocean. By interpretation, "Zambia" would mean: 'God come and bring to us the best of everything through the river God'. Scottish explorer David Livingstone, after whom the tourist capital of Zambia was named, described the Zambezi River as a 'Gospel Highway' when he first saw it. Even the first three presidents of Zambia had names of significant biblical import (David, Jacob and Levy) given the foundational roles they played in their time.

Oasis

It was from this historical platform that Zambia was to become an oasis of peace in the southern African region. Zambia attained her independence in October 1964 and played a dominant role in securing the liberation of colonies that surrounded it until the early 1990s.

Zambia hosted the following liberation movements that are now ruling parties in their countries: the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) of Namibia; FRELIMO of Mozambique; Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) of Zimbabwe; Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) of Angola and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.

In the 1980s Zambia hosted up to 500 ,000 refugees from some of these countries at such locations as Ukwimi in Eastern Province and Maheba in North Western Province. In spite of these factors, in which Zambia suffered from violent incursions by the Selous Scouts under Southern Rhodesia Prime Minister Ian Smith, Renamo forces opposed to Frelimo in Mozambique and Unita rebels fighting the MPLA government in Angola, Zambia did not slip into a civil war or erupted into some form of nationwide bloodshed. Not even the food riots of 1986 and 1990 or the multi-party revolution of 1991 plunged Zambia into chaos.

All this is proof of a country developing and growing under unusual conditions of national peace, attributable to divine providence.

Values

The Christian Declaration does not suggest that all the people living in the various parts of the nation are Christians. Neither does it imply that they all attend Church. The declaration is a vision statement and values statement all rolled into one. It espouses a national vision, a people's mission and family values as encapsulated in the lyrics of the national anthem.

In truth, it is the national anthem that declared Zambia a Christian nation before Dr Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba did. It is a statement of strategic intent. It is a rallying point giving credence to national development plans and bringing moral sensitivity into governance. It is Zambia's view of the future.

Historical

The reasons for the declaration are historical, seen as follows: Zambia stands geographically at the heart of the southern African region. Likewise Zambia is centrally strategic to the goals and intents of corporate business, religion and even international crime. That being the case, it makes tremendous sense to position Zambia in clear ideological and cultural terms if only to define important parameters before external ideologies and cultural influences do so.

Corporate Business

Two major telecommunications projects are underway in Africa, as two examples of the strategic importance of Zambia's geo-location.

Seacom is a mostly American project providing an undersea cable from northern to Southern Africa along the Indian Ocean coastline. ast African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) is another project that has brought together national telecoms providers in all the countries in the eastern half of Africa. The EASSy member countries - who have invested money of USD$270 million in the project - will connect into the underwater cable running from Djibouti to Mthunzini near Durban in South Africa. For nations south of the Zambezi, Zambia is the vital gateway to the east and the north and vice-versa. Zambia will connect its own national optic fibre network to those of neighbouring states into the EASSy network.

This is a reflection of business thinking in various other economic sectors such as mining and banking in which considerable foreign investment has been noted.

Religion

That certain religions aim for political control of nations is not a secret. Religions opposed to Christianity have poured disapproval and ridicule on the declaration because it has served to complicate their goals and intents. Many of them have tried to sway large swathes of the Zambian population towards themselves by employing the jobless in their genuine economic ventures with the aim of making inroads into the collective psyche.

International Crime

Cross border trucking is a plausible indicator of the value Zambia has towards all kinds of international organisations. Truckers ply route that begin in Durban and end up in Nairobi and beyond. This is why organisations like World Vision and Family Health International (through Society for Family Health) have operated programmes to tackle HIV/AIDS among truck drivers.

Zambia is a central passageway for child trafficking, woman trafficking, drug trafficking, car thefts and other cross-border vices.

Media

The arrival of political pluralism in 1991 liberated the media market to such an extent that international media platforms such as paid TV channels and the Internet seeped into the country. That ran parallel to the plethora of private-ran (including religious-based) local radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines that emerged with varying degrees of success. Zambia is a noted example of Press freedom on the African continent.

Zambia stands at the threshold of tremendous economic change. Such as yet unexploited natural resources as oil, gold and diamond are now emerging as practical possibilities in a land heavily dependent on copper mining.

That economic change necessarily needs to be steered with a common vision and attitude as upheld in the Declaration.

HIV/AIDS

At least two generations (from persons born in the 1950s to those born in the 1990s) have been decimated by HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections. The society is in a state of socio-cultural and socio-economic recovery on these grounds. The impact of the deaths has been catastrophic, giving rise to palpable helplessness and hopelessness among orphans, widows and the vulnerable senior citizens. Former World Vision national director Bwalya Melu, who lost three brothers and sisters-in-law in a short period, once described Zambia as "a nation in mourning."

The moral rearmament that Second Republican president Dr Chiluba spoke of at his inauguration in November 1991 has not even started, and it needs to be coherently pursued with an over-arching theme such as is captured in the declaration. This is an area in which such divinely imbued human attributes of compassion, hope, empathy and determination need to be infused into the entire economic recovery effort.

Religions

Of all religions existent in Zambia, Christianity has been the most culturally compatible, profitable and enduring. There are nations that are constitutionally voodoo states, Islamic Republics or secular-atheist nations. One of these positions will fill the void should Zambia reach a point where the covenant with God is revoked.

Given that satanism has insidiously increased around key urban areas, and given that witchcraft is already widespread, satanism would stand a good chance of sweeping into the open spaces and turning Zambia into satanist nation. "Do what thou wilt" is a key satanist injunction among followers worldwide, therefore human rights as we know them will vastly transform until we become a law-less state, or a republic without laws.

This is a critical hour when the nation direly needs to hold together through to the next general elections and the uncertain beyond: we need the salting influence of the scriptures and Church over national affairs in increasing doses. For it is widely acknowledged that the depth, breadth and length of our national peace are not a result of human initiative. You cannot expect the sanity and sanguinity of our Christian heritage to prevail should one group of Zambians decide to nullify the nation's allegiance to the Lamb of God.

Is there a better blueprint for any nation than the Bible? No.

Meaningless bilaterals

Transport Minister Lungwangwa at the recent signing of a largely meaningless "open skies" agreement :

“[Air services] encourage tourists, trade and understanding. Air services between Zambia and USA existed during the time of the national airline, with flights between Lusaka and New York, I look forward to a time that US airline such as Delta will be flying to Lusaka and help turn Lusaka into a regional hub..."
The bilateral is meaningless for two reasons. At the surface it is quite obvious that this is "open skies" only for American carriers into Zambia. It is not reciprocal that any Zambian carrier can fly across to any part of the USA. I would be surprised if that was the case given the strict safety and security issues facing Zambian airlines and airports. It is also meaningless at the philosophical level - it reinforces the attitude of development without development. Minister Lungwangwa  is banking on the Americans to turn Lusaka into a regional hub! The USA Ambassador hints at the same when he says " the open skies agreement helped to establish a conducive foundation to attract United States carriers to the Zambian market". What happened to Zambia forging its own strategy that would drive transformation in this area? Why rely on the Americans to do this for us?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

On dogs and disciples...

Minister Kaingu believes in dogged loyalty :

"Definitely it's not acceptable! I mean we serve one man and we must have total allegiance. So if there are such ministers, deputy ministers or NEC members, they are not doing the right thing...You know what? Even a dog has got allegiance to its owner. So we must have total allegiance to the President. We must give him as much support as we can.”
His colleague Deputy Minister Muteka prefers to think of himself as a disciple of the President (whom he blasphemously likens to the first member of the trinity God the Father, with his son William Banda as the Lord Jesus Christ) :
"Jesus is as good as God. So what more do you want? Me, I am serving in the kingdom of God where Jesus is the Son. If I was not comfortable I would have resigned. You understand? Now that I am in the office working, what do you think?"
It is had to know which of the two Ministers are in a worse position mentally. One believes he is mentally as good as a dog, the other thinks he is one of the 12.  I am sure Mr Muteka knows that all disciples were martyrs. Apostle Peter found himself not worthy of dying the same death as the Lord Jesus Christ, so he requested to be crucified upside down. What loyalty Mr Muteka has!

Parliamentary Question (Government Debt)

A worrying exchange in Parliament over the issues related to debt. After Ms Kapwepwe (Deputy Minister, Finance) failed to answer the questions properly,  Mr Daka (Agriculture Minister) run to the rescue. It appears the government only policy on debt is based on sakism (the thinking advanced by certain politicians that just because others are doing it, we should also do the same thing. Other people's actions are the best reasons for your own actions). In the present case, Mr Daka believes our debt level are okay because others have higher debt, never mind that he has not controlled for all other factors. He also thinks as long as donors are willing to lend us money, that must mean we can borrow. Shocking statement when the recent credit crisis demonstrated the "irresponsibility of lenders". Sadly, MPs failed to demand the obvious - consultation on the so-called debt strategy approved by Cabinet.

Mode of Contracting Debt by Government Since 2002, Oral Answer (323), Edited Transcript, 10th March, 2010 :

Mr Chisala (Chilubi) asked the Minister of Finance and National Planning:
(a) which of the two modes of borrowing below the Zambian Government had used frequently to borrow since 2002: (i) bilateral; and (ii)multilateral; and (b)what the current external debt accumulated by the Government was.

The Deputy Minister of Finance and National Planning (Ms M. C. Kapwepwe): Mr Speaker, since 2002, the Government has borrowed more frequently from multilateral than bilateral institutions. As at end of December, 2009, the Government borrowed twenty-four times from the multilateral institutions compared to five times from the bilateral institutions. Mr Speaker, the stock of Government external debt outstanding as of 31st December, 2009, was US$1,159.9 million, broken down as follows: (i) bilateral US$300,472,366.79 (ii) Multilateral US$716,073,440.28 (iii) Supplier’s Credits US$139,680,896.93

Mr Chisala: Mr Speaker, the answer given by the hon. Deputy Minister of Finance and National Planning reveals that Zambia is in serious problems of external borrowing. This being the case, how does the Government intend to solve this serious problem of external borrowing?

Ms M. C. Kapwepwe: Mr Speaker, categorically correcting the impression, we are not in a serious position as regards debt contracting, firstly, because We have a debt strategy in policy which was approved last year by Cabinet which ensures that we monitor the kind of debt we are contracting. Secondly, we have debt sustainability review in conjunctions with other institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Given our position regarding our revenue, both domestic and otherwise, we are in a position to service the debt that we contract. We are well below the normal levels of contraction of debt for a country such as ours.

Mr Milupi (Luena): Mr Speaker, since 2005 when most of our external debt was forgiven leaving only US$500 million, the debt has since accumulated to over US$2 billion. At this rate, how many more years will it take before you reach US$7.2 billion which was the debt before forgiveness?

The Minister of Agriculture and Co-operatives (Mr Daka): Mr Speaker, it is not true that the debt has surpassed a mark of US$2 billion. Today’s debt is US$1.2 billion for Zambia. If you look at the region, Tanzania is at US$3.6 billion …

Hon. Opposition Members: Not Tanzania iwe, this is Zambia!

Mr Daka: … Kenya is at US$6.8 billion. Today, I signed an agreement with Belgium which has written off US$7 million which we should have started paying next year. Therefore, I feel that this country is doing very well and that we cannot develop this country without borrowing. No businessman has ever developed without borrowing and we are borrowing this money at a reasonable interest rate of 0.75 per cent. The local interest debt is about 15 per cent and if we had to borrow locally, we will be paying 15 per cent, but we are borrowing at 0.75 per cent. Nobody runs a business on his own money.

Mr Ntundu (Gwembe): Mr Speaker, two or three years ago, when our position was around US$7 billion, the Government stated that it would ensure that borrowing is reduced. Now, the rate the debt is accumulating, I would like to find out whether the Government’s position has since changed or its position is to continue borrowing?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, our debt has never reached that level from the time some of it was forgiven. Now, if my colleague was in our position as a Government, would he sit idly without developing the hydro-electric power that we need to generate the businesses that we want, today, no? The answer lies in borrowing. A good example is that of the Arcades Shopping Mall or any other business, they are borrowing, but it depends on the interest rates that they attract. We have to borrow either multilaterally or bilaterally at the lowest interest rates. We do not have capacity to manufacture money to generate business in Zambia. That is why we have to borrow to sustain economic growth.

Mr Mukanga (Kantanshi): Mr Speaker, according to the hon. Minister, Zambia is within the normal levels of borrowing. What are the acceptable levels of contracting debt for a country like Zambia?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, the normal levels of contracting debt are the ones that we are at, today. In 2009, this Government looked at the policy of borrowing. If we had to borrow under the bonds from Bank of Zambia, it would attract interest of 15 per cent. The same applies to borrowing from commercial banks, today. At the moment, we are paying almost nothing. We only pay back the principal amount borrowed in order to increase generation of power that we require to work on projects such as the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company and sinking of boreholes. If we borrow for consumption, that is something else, but we borrow for production. That is what this Government is doing.

Mr Imenda (Lukulu East): Mr Speaker, much as we appreciate borrowing, is the hon. Minister aware that it took us twenty-seven years to accumulate US$7 billion, and yet under five years, we have accumulated US$1.2 billion. Is the hon. Minister mindful of the fact that we are gradually falling into a debt trap?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, the hon. Member should be aware that this country has only borrowed US$1.2 billion compared to the US$3.6 billion by other countries. For example, Kenya has a debt amounting to US$6.6 billion. We must have a yardstick and not say we are falling into a trap. Which trap is this? It is either we develop or not. If the hon. Member was in power, would he not give this country the necessary impetus to inject money into development?  The hon. Member should not fear the unknown. There is no debt trap. We have to develop this country by constructing roads, building schools and managing the Fertiliser Input Support Programme (FISP). We need to develop a lot of things, but we are not going to sit idly until you start blaming us that we are not doing anything.

Mr Kambwili (Roan): Mr Speaker, for the sake of the nation, could the hon. Minister explain the advantage of borrowing bilaterally as opposed to borrowing multilaterally as we have borrowed five times from the multilateral institutions and twenty-four times from the bilateral institutions.

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, hon. Members should understand that there are many countries with large debt. For example, we have the Zambia-Belgium bilateral debt. So depending on the interest rate, all the money is good as long as it is meant for a good cause for this country.

Mr D. Mwila (Chipili): Mr Speaker, I think our concern is on the reduction of external borrowing. The Government promised that it would reduce on borrowing. Whilst we appreciate that we have to continue borrowing, when is the Government going to reduce on external borrowing?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, we have reduced on borrowing. That is why there is a borrowing policy. I stated here that we looked at the borrowing framework in October, 2009 and I do not think we have increased the levels of borrowing. We are consistent with the projects that we have.

Mr Mushili (Ndola Central): Mr Speaker, I agree with the hon. Minister when he says that there is nothing wrong with borrowing and investing in productive sectors. Do we have the capacity to pay back? What guarantee can this Government give us that we have the ability when we do not have the money as a matter of fact?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. Member for raising this question. He is a very good businessman. This Government has the capacity to pay back. The confidence that the multilateral or bilateral donors have shown is demonstrated in what, for instance, Belgium has done, today, by cancelling our debt before we even start repaying it. Mr Speaker, since we are in charge, we are able to determine the levels of borrowing.

Mr Nsanda (Chimwemwe): Mr Speaker, all the countries that we borrowed money from had to write off the debt. What guarantee do these same countries have that Zambia will pay back if she borrows again?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, the fact that they are able to borrow us more money, ...

Hon. Members: Lend.

Mr Daka: ... is a sign that they have confidence in us. The highest interest rate that we are paying on these loans is 2.2 per cent and what we have contracted is below 0.75 per cent. The management of borrowing by this Government is very prudent.

Dr Kalumba (Chienge): Mr Speaker, can the hon. Minister confirm to this House that, in fact, the accession to the level of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) was based on an assessment of Zambia’s capacity to continue meeting its external payment obligations in terms of debt?

Mr Daka: Mr Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. Member, who is a former Minister of Finance and National Planning, for giving me more ammunition to answer the question … the questions that the hon. Members have raised. We are confident that Zambia is not the only country that has been borrowing, as there are typical examples that I can show. Mozambique’s debt is 1.8 billion escudo, Kenya’s debt is 6.8 billion shillings and Tanzania’s debt is 3.8 billion shillings. Therefore, I do not understand why the hon. Member has said that our debt has grown out of hand. We have to borrow in order to continue developing this nation. We do not have the self-generating power to create money without necessarily borrowing at the current concessional rate.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Plea Negotiations & Agreements Bill, 2010

A new draft bill seeks to provide for the "introduction and implementation of plea negotiations and agreements in the criminal justice system". In practice this would mean that prosecutors would be able to enter negotiations with the defendant with the possibility of reducing the penalty the defendant would face if they pleaded guilty. The judge would still have the final say, but it does allow, in theory, that only cases that must go through the full court process do so. The victim the final decision by Court ensures that public interest and that of the victim is still protected.

The economic impact of these changes are unclear. If the process translated in few cases actually going through full trial, this may lead to lower administration and legal aid costs. If on the other hand the process still led to full trials it could be more costly and lead to even delays. In effect the proposal introduces a new step which if it works would reduce costs but without government producing a full consultation paper on this it is hard to know.

A Million Words Project Review
New Parliamentary Bills (Not Passed) - Not Read:

The Immigration and Deportation Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Marketing and Levy (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Board (Establishment) (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Industry Development Bill 2010"
The Registration of Business Names (Amendment) Bill, 2010
The Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2010
The Engineering Institution of Zambia Bill,2010

Sunday, 21 March 2010

What constrains Africa's exports?

A new paper argues that "inland transit times", not documentation or port handling / customs clearance are the binding constraint on African exports :

We find that transit delays have the most economically and statically significant effect on exports. A one-day reduction in inland travel times leads to a 7 percent increase in exports. Put another way, a one day reduction in inland travel times translates to a 1.5 percentage point decrease in all importing-country tariffs. By contrast, longer delays in the other areas have a far smaller impact on trade. The analysis controls for the possibility that greater trade leads to shorter delays...
From the Zambian perspective, this appears to have two implications. First, being landlocked need not be a curse as far as exports are concerned. Yes, we are dependent on our neighbours on port access, and it is right we are doing something about this, but more critical is improving our internal infrastructure. Secondly, the focus is rightly on "times" not necessary length. This would suggest that our focus on infrastructure should prioritise both swifter modes of travel (e.g. rail) but also better connected road systems. Improving "road connectivity" appears critical. The North-South Project is a step in the right direct, but now we must do more to ensure that all provinces are properly connected to this corridor.  

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Corruption experiences..

David Bramlett (Jubilee Centre, Ndola) has a wonderful blog on his recent experience with corruption in Zambia, after being stopped by a police officer on the road :

While paying my ticket (you have to pay on the spot), the lady told us that we could pay half the amount of the ticket, but that we would not get a receipt. That means the money would go into her pocket, and that there would be no record of my wrong. It was very tempting to just pay her the money and move on. The way they said it made bribery feel innocent and harmless. I internally debated what to do for about a minute. I finally decided to pay the full amount for two reasons. First, I knew that it was the right thing to do. I could not contribute to a corrupt society. I wish this was the main reason that I paid the full amount, but it was not. The main reason was that I would much rather have more of my money go to the Zambian government than some of my money to a corrupt policewoman. If she had been nice to me, maybe I would have decided to pay her the pocket money.
I find  David's main reason interesting because it assumes that there's no corruption down the command chain. In short there's no guarantee that money was really going anywhere other than in the pocket of the lady officer's superior! We might even extrapolate that the fact that the lady was able to ask for the bribe was because the commanding officers are comfortable with corruption. I recall doing the same journey as David. My wife and I had "hired" a taxi from Lusaka to drive us to Ndola and back. The driver had forgotten to get some sort of permit that allowed taxis to drive outside Lusaka. On our way to Ndola, we were stopped by some police officers. The officer tried to persuade the driver that if he did not "drop something" to him, his superior would demand a greater "price".

A banana republic...

The Ndola magistrate court yesterday sentenced a 35-year-old man to 18 months in prison with hard labour for defaming President Banda. This is a matter in which Darius Mukuka was charged with defamation of the president. Facts of the case are that Mukuka, on March 22 last year, with intent to bring the name of the president in ridicule, said: “Uyu….finshi alelanda, alebepa abantu nafilwa ukuteka icalo.” (Bemba for ‘what is this fool saying, he has failed to govern the country and should not be lying to the people.’) [via Times of Zambia]
This is what happens when you have "banana laws" on the statute books. I always encourage Zambians to read the legislation.We have so many poor laws, which in truth leaves many judges with little option. Until these laws are changed Zambia's image will continue to suffer as we found out with the Chansa Kabwela incident, not to mention the on-going Mpombo cheque saga.  What is equally sad about this story is that the man could not get proper legal representation (no legal aid perhaps). A lawyer attending  another case at the time felt sorry for him and intervened on his behalf.  We have an adversarial system of justice that is heavily in favour of the state. So much for justice...

Development without development

In a new short paper, Ha-Joon Chang argues that the current approach to "development" pioneered by the UN, World Bank and the western donor community is unable to promote development, and is probably anti-developmental, because it ignores a critical component of development - transformational of productive capacities. Excerpt :

By discussing these examples of countries defying the market and entering activities where they do not have comparative advantage, I do not mean that all forms of ‘traditional’ activities, such as agriculture or textile/clothing, are incompatible with development. After all, the Netherlands is still the world’s third largest exporter of agriculture despite not having much land (it has the fifth highest population density in the world, excluding city states or island states with territories less than, and including, that of Hong Kong). For another example, Germany used to be the world’s fifth largest exporter of textiles and clothing until as late as the early 1990s. However, these were possible only because these countries applied advanced technologies to these ‘traditional’ activities and upgraded them – hydroponic culture in the case of Dutch agriculture and specialty textiles and high-class design in the case of German textile/clothing. At the other extreme, countries like the Philippines export a lot of high-tech products, like electronics, but no one calls it developed because the production uses someone else’s technologies, is organized by someone else, and has few roots in the domestic economy. Should all the multinational companies decide to leave the Philippines tomorrow, it will be reduced to exporting primary commodities.

Once again, these examples confirm my earlier point that it is not what one has but how one has got it that determines whether a country is developed or not. Without any vision of transformation in productive structure and the upgrading of the productive capabilities that make it possible, the vision of development behind the MDGs can only be described as ‘development without development’.
In short, there's no short cut to development. The "process" of how one gets there is important. This naturally calls for a pro-active involvement by the State in channelling the energies of private actors to foster the transformational exercise. Markets alone wont get you there :
The emphasis on individual capabilities and entrepreneurial energy that dominates today’s mainstream development discourse is largely misplaced. To put my argument above somewhat differently, what really distinguish the US or Germany, on the one hand, and the Philippines or Nigeria, on the other hand, are their Boeings and Volkswagens, and not their economists or medical doctors (which the latter countries have in quite large quantities). Similarly, what really distinguishes Ecuador or Vietnam from the US or Japan is not the raw entrepreneurial energy of the people that the neo-liberals so often talk about(which you probably have more in the former group of countries) but the abilities of a society to set up and manage productive enterprises that can channel that individual energy into raising productivity.

What little developmentalism that there is in the currently dominant vision of development is ersatz developmentalism – the belief that, if you educate them better and make them healthier and give them security of property rights, rational self-seeking individuals will exercise their natural tendency to ‘truck and barter’ and somehow create a prosperous economy. However, this vision is fundamentally at odds with the reality of development. In reality, development requires a lot of collective and systematic efforts at acquiring and accumulating better productive knowledge through the construction of better organizations, the cross-fertilization of ideas within it, and the channeling of individual entrepreneurial energy into collective entrepreneurship.
Previous discussions on Ha Joon Chang here, here and here.

Parliamentary Question (Aid to Zimbabwe)

The Government has been providing economic assistance to Zimbabwe. A recent Parliamentary exchange revealed the government contributed K2bn in 2009, and will this year contribute K3.4bn, bringing the total to around K5.4bn. We have previously discussed this misguided aid policy on Robbing Paul to pay Peter :

Zambia's contribution to Zimbabwe's economic recovery, Oral Answer (313), Edited Transcript, 24th February, 2010 :

Mr D. Mwila (Chipili) asked the Vice-President and Minister of Justice: (a)how much money the Zambian Government intended to contribute to the economic recovery of Zimbabwe; (b)why the Government decided to make this contribution; and (c)whether this contribution would be beneficial to the Zambian people.

The Deputy Minister of Justice (Mr Chilembo): Mr Speaker, the Government’s contribution towards the economic recovery of Zimbabwe has principally been in the form of humanitarian aid and has since made and intends to contribute to this cause by doing the following:

(a) in January 2009, the Government released K2 billion to assist fight the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. Of this amount, K667 million was a one-off donation of medical supplies and equipment to the Zimbabwean Government and the balance of K1.33 billion was directed at supporting cholera prevention activities in the districts bordering Zimbabwe.

(b) a sum of US$600,000 or K2,773 billion (using the current exchange rate of K4,622 per US dollar), in humanitarian aid, will be given to Zimbabwe by the end of this year. By the end of the year, the Government projects to contribute approximately K3.4 billion.

Mr Speaker, with regard to the assistance given to fight cholera, the following is the background. In December, 2008, Zimbabwe experienced a serious outbreak of cholera which affected almost all its provinces. This, in turn, started to affect some of our districts bordering Zimbabwe in the Southern Province. This called for immediate action so as to contain the outbreak as it was going to affect Siavonga, Livingstone and Sinazongwe districts. Consequently, the Zambian Government, through the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders, was obliged to take action by providing cholera medical supplies, materials and equipment to the Zimbabwean Government. In addition, surveillance and preventive activities to contain the cholera outbreak were done in the affected districts of the Southern Province.

During the same period, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which Zambia is a member of, met and tabled the problem of the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe and a resolution was passed for all the SADC member states, especially those bordering Zimbabwe, to assist it contain the outbreak.

Mr D. Mwila: Mr Speaker, as you are aware, Lusaka has been hit by floods and people have started dying. Yesterday, the hon. Minister of Health reported that we had 108 cholera patients. Would the hon. Minister, therefore, explain to this House and the nation the criteria used to give money to the Zimbabwean Government?

The Minister of Home Affairs (Mr Mangani): Mr Speaker, the criterion is that Zimbabwe is a neighbour and as such we are obliged to assist our neighbours when they have problems. Secondly, in our reply, we have indicated that if we had not assisted Zimbabwe, cholera was going to spread to some of our districts along the border with Zimbabwe and that was going to cause problems for Zambia as well. Therefore, the criteria were based on humanitarian grounds and our SADC membership. Whenever we have a problem, other SADC members come to our aid as well and therefore, we cannot isolate ourselves from the regional family.

Mr Kambwili (Roan): Mr Speaker, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia share borders on the same stretch. May I know if Botswana and Namibia also helped Zimbabwe.

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, I am not able to answer on behalf of those countries. If the hon. Member of Parliament is interested in knowing that, he can visit their embassies and get the details.

Mr Kapeya (Mpika Central): Mr Speaker, Zambia contributed a lot to the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe. What reward have we received for our contribution?

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, when Zambia was contributing to the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe, we did not expect any monetary gains.

Mr Mangani: We did that on humanitarian grounds because Zimbabweans are our brothers. When they got their independence, we were proud that our brothers were free. Therefore, as Zambians, we are happy that Zimbabwe is free and there is nothing that we can talk about in terms of monetary gains apart from appreciating the freedom of our brothers.

Colonel Chanda (Kanyama): Mr Speaker, may I find out from the hon. Minister what budgetary vote was used in this House for this generous gesture to Zimbabwe because we are talking about public funds being used.

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, we used contingency funds.

Ms Kapata: Mr Speaker, the hon. Minister has not come out clearly on the rationale behind the decision to assist Zimbabwe when, here, in Zambia, we have similar situations. I will give a very good example of the people of Mazyopa who have lived in tents since 2007.

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, if the hon. Member of Parliament for Mandevu visits the cholera centres, she will find a number of organisations assisting us. In the same vein, Zambia cannot just sit idle when other countries are facing problems. Therefore, Zambia is also being assisted because we have been good to others.

Mr Milupi (Luena): Mr Speaker, will the hon. Minister confirm that assisting other countries is a matter of policy for this Government? In the same line, would he indicate to this House other neighbouring countries that have received similar assistance other than Zimbabwe?

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, indeed, the policy of this Government is to assist our neighbours, hence Zambia’s great sacrifice to liberate the Southern Region. Apart from Zimbabwe, we fought very hard to liberate Mozambique, South Africa and other neighbours. Therefore, Zambia has done a lot in terms of assisting its neighbouring countries.

Mr Lubinda (Kabwata): Mr Speaker, the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe broke out at the beginning of 2009 and, as we have been informed, the Zambian Government contributed a total of K2 billion in the form of materials and drugs. Given that the cholera situation in Zimbabwe has been contained and, in the meantime, the people of Kabwata, Mandevu and Kanyama constituencies, including Misisi Compound, are in floods and at risk of contracting cholera, would the hon. Minister and his Government consider withdrawing the offer of the US$600,000.00 which they intend to give to Zimbabwe in 2010?

Mr Mangani: Mr Speaker, we have not failed to deal with the situation in the areas mentioned by the hon. Member of Parliament for Kabwata. We are responding very well …

Mr Mangani: … by resettling some of the affected people to the Independence Stadium. You can go there and check what is happening. So far, the programme is running very well. The issue of the assistance being rendered to the neighbouring country is not conditional. I thank you, Sir.

Quick notes

Interesting debate in Namibia over campaign finance. According to IPPR, no party in Namibia voluntarily publishes its accounts. Parties do not follow the Electoral Act's stipulations on foreign funding, seeing it as unworkable and only occasionally announce that they they have received foreign funding, such as SWAPO's acknowledgement in 2003 that it had received N$240,000 from the Chinese Communist Party.

Canada's mining industry players are resisting a new bill that tries to keep in check their activities abroad. The miners argue "it sends a message to the world that the government questions the integrity and performance of its mining industry".

Rapid urbanisation has now put the world's greatest cities are under threat from deadly moving tectonic plates. The next Big One could strike Tokyo, Istanbul, Tehran, Mexico City, New Delhi, Kathmandu or the two metropolises near California's San Andreas Fault, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Or it could devastate Dhaka, Jakarta, Karachi, Manila, Cairo, Osaka, Lima or Bogota. The list goes on and on.

A new VOX EU article argues that “cloud computing” will be next big technology. It will have a dramatic effect on how we live our lives and how we do business. The economic impact of the diffusion of this technology could match that of telecommunication infrastructures in the '70s and '80s or the introduction of the internet in the '90s. Once diffusion gathers apace, cloud computing could significantly boost GDP growth and could create around a million EU jobs within five years.

Grasian Mkodzongi writes on the thorny issue of land reform. According Mkodongi, while it is ‘undeniable’ that Mugabe used land reform ‘to boost his political legitimacy’, no one can ‘justify the continued existence of a dualistic land ownership structure decades after independence, in a country whose struggle for liberation crystallised around the land issue’.

A EU funded draft legislation in Uganda is causing problems. Opponents argue that the controversial Counterfeit Goods Bill threatens access to life-saving generic medicines in the country.  Few people realise that much of the legislation in African countries is drafted by donors. I was baffled when I bumped into a certain youngling posted to Zambia from a certain European country who claimed he would be "drafting legislation".

Friday, 19 March 2010

Book Reading Goal : Week 7

In the last two weeks two weeks I have been gripped by 1492: The Year Our World Began , by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. This is the second book I have read by the renowed historian - the last was the incredible Civilisations.

1492 argues that the process of forging the new modern world  begun in 1492! Fernandez-Armesto traces key elements of the modern world back to events of  that year.  He takes the reader on a journey around the globe, drawing the together the threads that began to bind the planet. The tour begins in Granada, where the last Islamic kingdom in Europe collapsed, then moves to Timbuku, where a new Muslim empire triumphed. With Portuguese explorers, we visit the court of the first Christian king in the Congo. He then traces the frozen frontiers of the dynamic, bloody Russia of Ivan the Great, and explores the mystical poets in Asia. The book is perhaps not on the level of "Civilisations", but it is well worth the read. It will appeal mostly to those who love world, maritime or explorations history. At 346 pages, you will want to allow plenty of reading time.

Memorable Quote : "History has no course. It thrashes and staggers, swivels and twists, but never ends one way for long". [pg 311]

Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 8 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 42 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 41 weeks



On the Reading Pile
photo.jpgOn the reading list for next few weeks , I have very interesting books covering many areas from philosophy to China in Africa. Largely new works but I have thrown in two apparent classics in there. 


One that stands out is the  acclaimed new release Warrior Princess penned by our Zambian sister Princess Kasune Zulu . That book is scheduled for full review in April.  Among the endorsers includes Dr Mannasseh Phiri who writes :  "This is the story of the life of Princess Kasune Zulu--from very humble and simple beginnings in a little village in Chibombo central Zambia,through early marriage, infection with HIV, fiery AIDS activism to meeting with the world's most powerful men and women--is a compelling story of a warrior woman's determination not to be defeated by a deadly virus. Princess says of her infection that the HIV running in her bloodstream is a mere guest in her body and her life; she has refused to let the guest take over her life! This is the story of a Zambian woman who is positive about being positive. It is a story everyone must read."


Pick up that book so that by the time the review is penned in April we can have an informed discussion.  

Poor Journalism (The Post)

The extract below from this Post article certainly puts words in Derek Fee's mouth :

In an interview on Saturday, EU head of delegation to Zambia Dr Derek Fee said the funds were aimed at raising standards at Lusaka International Airport.....He said once standards were raised at the Lusaka International Airport, the country would see the ban of Zambian aircrafts landing in the Euro zone lifted.
The ban is on Zambian aircraft entering the EU. What has that got to do with the condition of Lusaka International Airport? I find it hard to think a seasoned EU delegate would mislead the reporter like that. But, even if this is what he actually said, it is shockingly poor journalism to report the story the way a certain Mutale Kapekele has done. The problem with many of our journalists is that they only report! Never to stop and question whether what they write makes any sense.

As an aside, it is good that the EU is planning to invest €6m to help upgrade "facilities". One hopes that the "facilities" in question are related to the safety issues previously discussed here.

Update (18 March, 2010) : Right to Reply 

I am  extremely grateful to Mr Kapekele for replying directly to the above story. In line with our Right to Reply policy, his response is set out below :
Thank you for the observation on my story. Its good to have critics. But you may wish to know that Zambian aircrafts were banned from landing in the Eurozone because EU inspectors found only three of the expected four local aircraft inspectors at Lusaka International Airport. The facilities at the airport were also judged to be below par and the EU concluded from that that Zambian aircrafts could not land in their territory as the inspectors at LSK did not have the right equipment to certify them safe. I may be a poor journalist in your eyes but I did not put words in Dr Fee's mouth otherwise he would have complained.

Mutale


Update (19 March, 2010) : Response to Mr Kapeleka

I am grateful that Mr Kapekela has responded to the observations raised in my earlier post. I should make it clear that my original concerns, as in many posts I write, related to the style of journalism displayed, and not on Mr Kapekela's own standing as a journalist. This subtle distinction is important to ensure that when such matters are discussed the energies are appropriately focused. I would also point that I have a background in aviation economics and I have worked on European aviation safety policy and legislation relating to both Eurocontrol and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This of course does not matter, what is important is substance.

Mr Kapekela's explanation that "Zambian aircrafts were banned from landing in the Eurozone because EU inspectors found only three of the expected four local aircraft inspectors at Lusaka International Airport" is not valid. Three reasons why I hold this position :

First, the ban is clearly stated that it applies to "All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of Zambia, including, Zambezi Airlines" . This means that that ban is on aircraft regulated by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) at the Ministry of Transport. It is ban imposed due to regulatory inefficiencies. It is not airport specific. That means if you run an airline that flies from Ndola or Livingstone but is registered with CAD you cannot fly in Europe. The other point to note is that the ban is explicit to Zambezi airline. This is important because it means it is trans-regional in respect to Zambezi. If tomorrow Zambezi deregistered in Zambia and moved to operate from Malawi it would still be banned. The reason is that this is AN AIRLINE as well as a COUNTRY wide ban.

Secondly, Mr Kapekela notes that "inspectors at LSK did not have the right equipment to certify them [airlines] safe". The local aircraft inspectors are the responsibility of airlines. The safety checks are done by the airlines. This is why British Airways still lands and leaves LSK airport safely! If safety was the responsibility of LSK airport, why are all airlines leaving LSK airport not been banned, including BA? The lack of resources raised by Mr Kapekela simply reinforces the point that the level of safety checks provided by Zambian registered airlines at the airport are poor. It is not the job of Lusaka Airport to provide expertise in safety checks because its business focus is simply to provide the runway and associated terminals. I can assure him that only in situations (e.g. in the USA) where airlines own airports are such issues raised by him relevant. [On airport safety, I am happy to expand on this, but that relates to ICAO safety standards].

Thirdly, aircraft can only be banned from coming into Europe as a result of the airport, if the issues related to security.

I hope that this clarifies my position. I maintain that either Dr Fee misled Mr Kapekela or Mr Kapekela did not report Dr Fee properly. Based on Mr Kapekela's response, I now believe Dr Fee absolutely misled him. The lesson for all of us is that information and experts are at our fingertips and this is why we have this website to help all of us dig deeper that is possible in conventional media.

CDF Watch (Health)

Mpulungu Constituency recently procured two ambulances worth K157 million have been procured using Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for people in the area. The ambulances are intended to service Vyamba and Chitimbwa zones, which were far from the district hospital. According to the local MP Lameck Chibombamilimo the purchase was driven from the bottom :

"After consulting the people and stakeholders, we found that people needed ambulances. The 4x4 ambulances are ideal for the Mpulungu terrain. They were bought for K157 million both using CDF, they are tax-free. They are almost new vehicles. They were got from Durban, South Africa...We are grateful to ZRA because they are tax free. The ambulances will go a long way to help save the lives of people especially pregnant women, who at times use bicycles to get to the hospitals."

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Local Government (Amend) Bill, 2010

An important amendment bill to the Local Government Act has been tabled. It seeks to : (a) establish the Local Government Service Commission ("the Commission") and provide for its functions and powers; (b) vest the power to appoint, transfer, second, promote discipline or discharge the staff of councils in the Commission; and, (c) increase the tenure of office of the mayor, deputy mayor, chairperson and vice-chairperson of a council from one year to two and a half years.

The fundamental role of the Commission are specified under Section 91:  "The functions of the Commission are to exercise responsibility in respect of all matters relating to the staff of the councils established under this Act; and do all such things as are necessary or incidental to the regulation of service with councils". Under Sections 93 - 96, the Commission  has a range of significant powers which includes hiring and firing principal officers of a council as the Commission considers necessary. The move towards establishing the Commission is therefore intended, in theory, to make the local government system more independent and progressive. It is particularly suppose to usher in a new era of de-politicisation.

Some aspects of the legislation are positive, especially related to funding matters. A key concern in the past has been that the Commission would be broke. Section 90 (5) directly addresses this by making it clear : "the expenses and costs of the Commission shall be paid out of funds appropriated by Parliament for the performance of  the Commission's functions under this Act". Section 97 adds more weight for the day-to-day tasks : "The Minister responsible for local government shall provide the necessary staff to the Commission to enable the Commission perform its functions under this Act".  However,  the draft Bill as it currently stands still has three significant deficiencies :

Weak parliamentary scrutiny. Section 90 (3) vests the appointment power of the five commissioners  entirely in the President's hands : "The members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President and shall serve on full-time basis". Unfortunately, there's no additional provision anywhere for Parliamentary scrutiny of these appointments. This is a major weakness for what is likely to be a politically hot commission, especially given the range of powers under its disposal.

Weak provisions on political influence. The unchecked role of the President cited above is further compounded by two additional clauses. Section 90 (4)(i) states that no person shall be eligible for appointment as a member of the Commission if "that person holds any office in a political party". This is too limited. We have seen recent provisions in the National Constitutional Conference relating to other important positions specify that one must have at-least a one/two year gap in politics before and after the appointment to reduce the incentive for political capture. I would be more comfortable with a similar additional clause. Similar problems arise with Section 92(3)(g) which states that the  office of a member shall be vacated "if the member is removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of the member's office". Given the members are appointed at the President's pleasure this is expected, but the drafting does not specify what the "inability to discharge" is. This clearly leaves plenty of room for the President to hire and fire as he/she pleases, further exerting political influence.

Ambiguity of appointments.  Section 92(4) provides for Ministerial appointments of Commissioners in the event of a vacancy. What is strange here is that now it is for the Minister to act. Why is it that it is okay for the Minister to appoint someone to fill a vacancy, but the president must fill the original commissioners at the beginning of the term?  This temporary delegation of responsibility is ambiguous and makes it difficult for people to know who to hold responsible for the operation of the Commission.

Some might question whether we need to worry about these issues. My view is that we must, and it is patriotic to do so because the test for any new legislation is to imagine the worst leader in charge. The current President may not use this draft bill  to foster poor governance, but we can never be sure that all leaders to follow would not do the same. We must not draft with "hope" but with "worst case" contingencies in mind.

A Million Words Project Review
New Parliamentary Bills (Not Passed) - Not Read:

The Immigration and Deportation Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Marketing and Levy (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Produce Board (Establishment) (Repeal) Bill, 2010
The Dairy Industry Development Bill 2010"
The Registration of Business Names (Amendment) Bill, 2010
The Plea Negotiations and Agreement Bill, 2010
The Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2010
The Engineering Institution of Zambia Bill,2010