Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is There Thought in What they Say?

HH hypocrite - Ronnie (http://www.daily-mail.co.zm/media/news/viewnews.cgi?category=2&id=1246344383)

"GOVERNMENT says United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema has no moral right to call for a reduction in the size of Cabinet when his party has just increased the number of vice-presidents to four.Chief Government Spokesperson Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that it is morally wrong for Mr Hichilema to ask Government to cut the size of Cabinet."

Surely, is there thought in what our politicians say? It is obvious that it is morally right for HH to question the size of Cabinet. Cabinet is a public cost, HH's party or pact is NOT. And this Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha surely knows.

My plea to the Lieutenant-General is that he concerns himself with ensuring that the technocrats in government put in place infallable mechanisms for enforcing reductions in public resource wastage as evidenced by the hundreds of GRZ vehicles still clogging the roads after 5.00pm and at weekends. Could it be his, is still one of them? And Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha, how come suddenly the number of vehicles without GRZ plates has increased at some ministries? I am sure the many Toyota hilux vans, I saw parked at a Government ministry on Government road are government vehicles!

HH was talking about public wastage, and he has the moral and citizen right to do so. Please let us not always politic for politics sake.

And, lastly, even our public media also seldom thinks before they write. The headline "Veep challenges PF/UPND alliance" should surely have read "MMD national trustee challenges PF/UPND alliance". (http://www.times.co.zm/news/viewnews.cgi?category=4&id=1246340091)

It is clear from the news article that George Kundu was on party duty and not government duty. He spoke as MMD national trustee. What I would have loved the media to tell us is whether he used government resources or party resources. Abuse of government resources for partisan political pursuits does not just happen during electoral periods. I always wonder where CSOs go in between elections!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wage Strikes in Zambia: A Story of Going Nowhere

We can not expect any change in livelihoods accruing from wage increments. The costs of social amenities in this country are dictated more by mere profiteering than "demand and supply" assumptions. These costs always change with rumours of wage increments!

Please allow me to digress.

There is always so much I want to write about in this backwater country of ours called Zambia. And mostly, it is because I long ceased to have respect for what many consider newsworth individuals or institutions. Critical and analytical thought is rather rare and may be that is why, as a country we are always arriving where we are supposed to have left.

I wrote many years ago that, if we do not change our ways, “When our children seek our footprints in the sands of history, they will arrive at only one conclusion. ‘We went nowhere'.” Frighteningly, this is becoming true. Least we forget, it is also apparent that we are the only generation that does not improve on the successes of preceeding generations.

The fact that we are not getting anywhere or that we are not improving on the circumstances of our great grand parents is chiefly because we do not want to be critical of our obtaining circumstances. It is a comfort zone, even if messy and smelly!


Wage strikes in Zambia always remind me of a friend that decided to rent a bar premises in Chilenje compound. The owner and landlord had enough of the competition around and the profits could not sustain his life style. Renting it out was a good option, so the story goes. I will call my friend, Mbinji and the landlord, Mufalo.

In October, Mbinji entered into a rental agreement of six months advance rent, and duly paid Mufalo the tenancy contract amount. Mbinji refurbished the place and appealed to a different patronage. In the first three months, Mbinji did not see Mufalo, and was happy that he did not have a nosey landlord. But, he heard that Mufalo had taken a new wife.

However, things took an expected turn in January. Mufalo suddenly appeared, and asked Mbinji if he could advance him some money. And I hear this is how the story went.

Mufalo: "BoMbinji, I can see you are doing very well. I hear the bar is always crowded. You see my wife wants us to move the children from Chilenje Primary to Nkwazi."

Mbinji: "That is nice. Nkwazi is very expensive, I just moved my children from there to Chilenje Primary School. I could no longer afford it."

Mufalo: "Well, I am sure you will send them back, now that you are doing fine. Actually, I came to ask for an advance payment on the rentals."

Well, I could continue with the narration, but the rest is known. Mbinji did not advance Mufalo the rentals, as he still had to recover his costs due to refurbishments. The bar closed, when the next rentals were due as Mufalo had decided to increase the rent by 50 percent. Mufalo did not get to send his children to Nkwazi. And his wife divorced him! Both Mbinji and Mufalo returned to where they were before.

The moral of this story is that monetary increases in our obtaining socio-economic environment do not always move persons from point A to B. In short, we can not expect any change in livelihoods accruing from wage increments.

From 1991 to today, we decided to dance with the devil we did not understand! Nearly, 18 years later, we still have not interrogated our dance, mostly because for the few it is havesting gold, and this is irrespective of whether one is in government, donor circuit, church or civil society. The individual benefits to be reaped are immense!

The rot that came with this country's shift from provision of social amenities to where the State allowed interested individuals to asssume State responsiblities is inarguably where the solution to our problems lie. We can not go anywahere if the State fails to provide or regulate housing, health, education, and transport. These amenities need regulation, with such regulation being direct or by State intervention through CONTINUED provision of equivalent services. And in this country, there was no continuation in quality and quantity!

Surely, how then can wage increments address the fact that costs of social amenities are dictated by factors most distant from the regulation of the State? A nurse, teacher in Lusaka seeks to send his or her child to a private school, and the private school owner always increases the schoo fees each year!

I have to close here, as I surely do not intend to write a dissertation on State Failure in Zambia. But we should always be cognisant of the fact that the proliferation of NGOs or CSOs in general is always indicative of the failure of the State to provide for its people.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Tomorrow, We Will Not be Told

Tomorrow (Thursday, June 25, 2009 AD) the media will be in a frenzy. 

 "RB talked so much rubbish about HH, Sata and Mmembe.., RB failed to commit himself to the health workers strikes.., RB defends Dora.., RB has known Dora for a long time..., HH has never insulted RB.." This will be the news as this is what RB called the press conference for so we will be made to believe. And it is what our always misinformed public will believe. 

Already, I have had many calling, sms'ing this viewpoint. I will not faulty this viewpoint, it is their opinion, but I will not hesitate to argue that as a nation we need to seriously re-assess our interpretation of policy directives that politician enunciate. It is clear, many (include so-called intellectuals) do not know what constitutes a policy directive. 

 To this end, I seek to argue that what tomorrow we, Zedizens, will not be told are the following policy directives ensuing from RB's enunciations. 

 1. There should be a legal and institutional framework for private-public partnerships in basic social infrastructure investments. This means that the fellows who had wanted to build the toll road from Leopards Hill to Chirundu, should now have an enabling framework; 

 2. Political leaders in public office and senior servants who have personal to holder government vehicles should not use them for personal business. The vehicles should be parked on government premises when not being used for public service; 

 3. Public officers (political and civil) should stop procurement of expensive vehicles; 

 4. Public officers (political and civil) should minimise workshops, and should endeavour to hold workshops on their premises; 

 5. The ACC should set up a Fraud Investigations Unit; 

 6. Government will set up a Financial Intelligence Unit to curb white collar crimes; 

 7. The ACC and Auditor General's Office should always be provided the needed financial resources; and, 

 8. Members of public should not hold people who are living off proceedings of crime in high esteem. The public should report such individuals.

And of course there were the administrative directives of setting up commissions, which are short term ad hoc arrangements. But, which will be THE news! 

 And indeed the administrative directive aimed at ensuring that those with delegated duty carry it out diligently. 

 These policy directives are what I captured by listening carefully to RB’s press conference, and to me they are more important than the expletives he went into during the Q and A. This is because these are directives that can found transparency and accountability if there are implemented. 

The implementation challenge is not RB’s, as I know that is what many are already asking and saying. Surely, that is being na├»ve. Politicians DO NOT implement. The implementation challenge is for the senior public officers that administrate the public service delivery systems to translate these into practicable solutions to this country's development needs, criminality and abuse of public resources. 

The challenge is for the citizen’s to hold RB accountable if these directives are not realised, and to ask “when” we should see results. The foregoing are opportunities that any well meaning Zedizen should realise, but, unfortunately, the tragedy of our country is that these opportunities enunciated will be deemed rubbish. 

 A pity.

Finding witches and wizards

Next week I stroll back to the University. I have been away from lecture rooms for six (6) months, and I must say whereas I miss the students, I do not at all miss the human support side of the Institution.

Sometimes, I dream of a University of Zambia empty of administrators. That surely will be a place to work in. It is tragic that public administrative structures in our poor nations often end up being the demotivational circumstances to one's otherwise enjoyable pursuits.

I love interacting with students. I love learning from students, as I am not the guardian of all knowledge. I am just a slightly brighter candle in a sea of beautiful candles. And I have always hoped many of my academic colleagues will accept this simple reality, as a means of making University education a journey beyond theories.

Just thinking of how the University of Zambia is managed, at Department, School, or whatever other level always sends a shiver through my body. Camaraderie is as alien as efficacy, efficiency and being relevant to obtaining future circustances. Finding witches and wizards, is the game that is always played. A pity. I wonder if I will be the found witch again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thinking of RB & Mmembe

I wonder what RB will say tomorrow. I am thinking he will do a Mwanawasa 20% salary concession, and of course, play the Opposition game of expletives. But I also, wonder what Mmembe will write on Thursday, but I am thinking the headlines will be something to do with sacred cows, and lack of anti-corruption and civility in the incumbent presidency.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paint Me a Picture - Depravity of power

Yesterday, I saw a picture. It was of an elderly man bowing down before another man. I read that the man on his knees was a government Minister. The man before whom he bowed down was the President of this country I call home. Today, I read many arguing that in our tradition, there is nothing wrong with an elderly man bowing down before another. I also read many arguing that it is because of bootlicking that a Minister can bow down before a President. A President is not a chief or king, so the argument of tradition is a fallacy, the latter say.

Tomorrow, I asked an artist to paint me a picture of an elderly man kneeling before another. I took the picture to a group of children and asked them what they thought.

“That is Jesus, see he is praying before the lord,” says one.

“No. He must have done something wrong. He is now asking for forgiveness,” another says.

It is a beautiful picture, this picture of a government Minister kneeling before a President. Its meaning is as deep as the children eloquently understood the message conveyed by an elderly man kneeling before another. The beauty of the picture is that it shows the depravity of power.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Abysses of Reason

It is either that the private media in Zambia always intends to misinform the public or is it that the media itself exists in an abyss of reason. Reading today's Post news stories (print and electorinic), which are in effect opinions of opposition party leaders of Edith Nawaki, Michael Sata, and the fellow from SACCORD, one wonders how it can be that a country can have such inanalytic people conceived as newsworthy. There is nothing informed or meaninful that any of these persons are communicating. In short, they remind one of the noise a dog whose tail has been trapped by the door makes.

It is simplistic and uttermost a manifestation of analytic insufficiency for Nawaki to shout that RB's re-appointment of Dora Siliya is ethnical! This does not help the public. The fundamental issue is simply that Dora Silya is NOT currently conceived to be publicly acceptable. Her behaviours in the Tribunal issues did not show any evidence of her being able to instil public confidence in her execution of public office. This is the bottom line, and this has meaning to the public and not the nonsense of tribalism, ethnicity, which is utter rubbish and cheap.

As for SACCORD, I wish CSOs can take time to analyse issues before opening their mouths. We do not need uninformed statements, as they can be construed informed by lesser informed members of society.

Lastly, I sincerely wonder whether being an opposition leader means that you have the licence to talk without basis. That is innuendo, speculation and allegations. Sata surely should simply tell us of this corruption knowledge that Dora has on Rupiah Banda, that way he will be helping us. And surely, why can't the media interrogate Sata for this knowledge? What value is there in simply reporting an innuendo or allegation without requesting that the person justifies himself or herself? Well, may be this country's journalism ethics belong to the pit latrine!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Analyse First

Reading the CSO, in particular, Transparency Internationals, response to Judge Musonda's judgement on the Dora Siliya case, one is left with utter feelings of pity and a sense of melancholy. Judge Musonda used precendents to argue his case, the Tribunal did not cite a single precendent on their finding that Dora breached the constitution, how then can any analytic individual argue that the ruling is unfortunate. It is mere hogwash and crap for CSos to misrepresent facts. Judge Musonda should be upheld for his legal uprightness, and not be critised because of the mere winds of political and public discontentment. CSOs in Zambia should stop being euphoric and playing to the media spotlight.

Gosh.., analyse first and talk later!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Disfigurement of Political Opportunities

It is surely a historic feat that Rupiah Banda can pick a hammer and hit the nail closing his own coffin. It is frightening that a leader can re-appoint a publicily (not legally) unaccepted person.

The Dora Siliya re-appointment is amidst overwhelming public discontent with Rupiah Banda's leadership, and it surely is evidential of unfounded political arrogance. I will not be surprised if Dora Siliya does not receive the expected management support that is normally provided to a minister. Her performance, will as a result be constrained.

This is a time when the few good men left in our political governance institution of cabinet should show their moral mantle(if they do), by stepping down in disagreement with this one act of political foolery and arrogance.

This incident is purely a disfigurement of one's political opportunities to change a frightening negative political perception as a leader. The question that begs to be answered and now left to innuendo and speculation is - Whose interests is Rupiah Banda really serving?

Dora Siliya, Legality & Legitimacy: A Question of Political Acceptability

The inalienable premise of political acceptability or correctedness is that there is a difference between what is legal and what is legitimate.

Dora Siliya does not have any legitimacy to ascend back into political office simply because her political acceptableness is non-existent. This is despite the fact that Judge Musonda eloquently argued that Siliya is absolved of the misrepresentation of breach of the constitution. There is no denying the fact that legally she is a free person.

But it should be undoubted that being legally absolved of a misrepresented breach of the constitution, does not absolve one of his or her political unacceptedness. It is a folly of the incumbent president, Rupiah Banda, to re-appoint a person who in the political perceptions of the majority of Zambians has no moral legitimacy to hold political office again.

In any case, I consistently argued that the Tribunal did misrepresent the interpretation of the Attorney General's legal advice, but this is not to say I absolved her of any perceived wrong doings. For instance, I find it had to have trust in a public individual that can transact publicly in her car and at a filling station!

Her suitability for public office was brought in question, not simply by her ignoring the AGs advice, but by the manner in which she conducted public affairs. And this, I had hoped the president and his advisors would understand. But, it is clear it is futile to believe our leaders will understand that legal decisions are seldom in line with political legitimacy or acceptability.

It really amazes me what African leaders think. A tragedy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The dodo and the dodos

I am starting the day stressed. Really not understanding why Zedizens are now so prone to believing falsehoods. Did not sleep well, as I kept wondering how an educated group could not understand the difference between a lie and a truth. It is simply a question of "a lie repeated so often becomes a truth". Our current intellectual space has been reduced to one of innuendos and speculations. Arguing from a knowledge point of view is deemed, partisan or suspect! Utter rubbish.

It is tragic. The average person I work-related interact with is neither desperate nor hungry. It actually is the subject of the work that is mostly desperate or hungry. Yet, the intellect of these diametric opposites is the most distant from dialectic inquiry. In short, the dodo and the dodos are the same.

At Kilimanjaro

Its another day, sitting having coffee at Kili. The discussion topics are typical. The Post, Sata, HH, RB, and wherein to draw the line as to who is communicating facts or opinion. The bottomline is slowly, I am believing it does not matter anymore as Zedizens are not ready to exist in the future.

An understanding of our present socio-political and economic circumstances, I have consistently argued should be premised on what future as a people we seek to live in today. An understanding which unfortunately is not acknowledged or even debated. Instead we waste time debating nonsensical issues of presidential candidates as if presidents are the future.

More later...