Saturday, August 18, 2012

Romney or Obama, whose resolve is pure? President Obama I presume!

Nothing shows the immodesty or purity of a man’s resolve as the lengths and breaths one takes to exploit the vulnerable or in case of the other to help.   

What does a man do when he sees another vulnerable and weak in possession of something valuable?

In the later part of the 19th century, Cecil Rhodes and Dr. David Livingstone early explorers into Southern Africa had before them such a sight; Africans rich with potential and resources yet vulnerable and weak against slave and mineral traders.

One Cecil Rhodes conceived a "dream" to exploit the wealth of Africans and use it to form a brotherhood of elite Anglo-Saxons (whites) that would occupy all of Africa, the Holy Land in the Middle East, and other parts of the world.

 A secret society that would extend British rule throughout the world and colonize most parts of it with British settlers, leading to the "ultimate recovery of the united states of America" by the British Empire.
 Cecil Rhodes Biography

The other Dr. David Livingstone conceived a mission to reach new peoples in the interior of Africa and introduce them to Christianity, as well as to free them from slavery. He later publicized the horrors of the slave trade and secured private support for expeditions into central Africa, searching for the source of the Nile River and reporting further on slave raids in the African interior.  He literally stood up to and was the last man standing in the way of barbarians that exploited Africa for slaves and minerals. His efforts are credited for hastening the end of slave trade and delaying the colonization of Africa.

Livingstone was part of an evangelical and nonconformist movement in Britain which during the 19th century changed the national mindset from the notion of a divine right to rule 'lesser races', to ethical ideas in foreign policy which, with other factors, contributed to the end of the British Empire.

Corelli Barnett: The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation (Macmillan, 1986)

In this year’s US Presidential election, the US electorate is also weighing the purity of two men’s resolve.  
Upon completing college at Harvard, both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama were confronted with the grim specter of the capitalistic binge fallout that precipitated the dawn of the 21st century. Companies that had been productive and formed the bedrock of many communities for years were struggling under the new economic order of globalization.

Mr. Romney seized on the opportunity to found Bain capital, just as Cecil Rhodes founded De Beers a century earlier. Bain is a venture capital firm that bought financially vulnerable firms at low cost, restructured them and resold them at a profit. However, the restructuring process was not always successful, a handful of companies Romney bought were simply saddled up with more debt and eventually went bankrupt and shut down taking with them the life of communities that depended on them. When this happened, Romney took great lengths to always come out ahead, making a profit for himself even when the company restructured failed.

Mr. Obama on the other hand, worked on the other end of the spectrum, in the communities around the companies that were struggling or failing with the advent of globalization.  Company communities that are wholly dependent on a single industry for example coal or metal processing took the biggest hit. Plant closures and downsizing which became the whole mark of free trade in the global economy decimated these communities as unemployment rose. Mr. Obama took up reorganizing these communities, to diversify their economies and develop re-training programs for workers that got laid off.

These two varying experiences now lays the foundation of their political aspirations and provides a stack choice for the American electorate. 

For whom do Mr. Romney and President Obama travel the length and breadth of America canvassing?
Why do they really want to be President of the United States of America?

Mr. Romney’s economic plan according to a tax policy institute will favor the wealthy with further tax cuts yet requires middle class families to pay more in taxes and cuts in services for the poor.

President Obama on the other hand has sought to expand health coverage to the uninsured and people with pre-existing conditions, cut taxes for middle-income families while requiring the wealthy to pay a fair share in taxes.

Much as Cecil Rhodes is well known for setting in place the monopolistic practices De Beers has used throughout the 20th century to dominate and manipulate the international diamond market, Romney’s ultimate ambition seeks to consolidate and put American political power at the disposal and benefit of a few wealthy families.

President Obama in contrast, has resolved to make every opportunity for advancement available to ALL Americans, by making college loans, health care, home ownership more affordable while requiring equal pay for women and fair taxes for all.
Like Dr. David Livingstone his heart is with and for the people.
That is why I stand still with President Obama in this year's election.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Structured Resettlement – Re-imagining rural Zambia


The dispersed settlements in which most rural Zambians live poses egregious challenges to the development of public health infrastructure like roads, clinics and school.  Their dispersed distribution calls into question the practicality of continuing this traditional lifestyle and cultural behavior in the 21st century.

The villagers need clinics, schools and roads yet want no part in shouldering the costs or the life transformations these services require to sustain. They want to return settlement decisions framed in the 18th century when the threat of inter-ethnic conflicts lead most ethnic groups to move further apart, beyond the reach of perceived aggressors.

Now, that the threat of ethnic conflicts has all but disappeared, what is still motivating these people living in far flung and remote areas to continue living beyond the reach of Government.

The bedrock of rural life is supposed to be agriculture yet every year the Zambian governments is overwhelmed with pleas to send seeds, fertilizers and vaccines to rural areas.   The governments hardly gains any return on that seed investment instead after the harvest rural farmers appeal yet again to the government to buy their surplus produce which can not make it to commodity markets due to impassable roads. Rural farmers rarely achieve self-sufficiency this cycle of dependence has been going on for years at great cost to the rest of the population.

What draws these people to this hard life on the edges of rural Zambia?

 Is it a fatal attraction to the traditional land that their ancestry was first to lay claim or is it the absence of  property rights that lures people further and further into the jungle.

Any urban Zambian that has visited their father or mother’s ancestral village will observe how far apart the village settlements are in rural Zambia, you travel for miles upon miles on treacherous impassable roads seeing nothing but bush then a small village setting then bush for miles again then yet another small settlement.

This story about what school looks like in Shangombo in Watchdog Zambia illustrates this wacky phenomenon.

“About 150 pupils at Dihehe primary school in Shangombo are having their lessons under trees while their only classroom built on temporal structures is almost collapsing.
School Head teacher Sikute Kamona said though government had given them school about K180 Million to construct 1×3 classroom block under which 4000 bricks have since been moulded by parents, pupils at the school still receive lessons under trees and a few risk their lives learning under an almost collapsing temporal classroom block built on pole and
muddy structure.
Mr. Kamona added that despite the government funds to the school, construction has not been done due to difficulties to find a contractor as a result of long distance coupled with extreme bad road to the area.”

The problem is not only funding, the Government of Zambia has written out a check of approximately 40,000 USD but there are no contractors willing to go down to this remote area for this amount.

What is most challenging and disconcerting in dealing with rural Zambians is not only that government assistance cannot easily reach these people but how little effort these people in remote areas make to detach their lives from the jungle, in order to access the help they so desperately need.

How can the Zambian government help people in rural areas especially the kids in meaningful and lasting terms? Beyond the emotional handout, forced by an occasional glimpse into the daily hardship of rural children.

 How can anyone help if these people insist on living on the edge, beyond lure of 40,000 US dollars?

Does the government have any authority to re-order rural settlements to make the delivery of public infrastructure cost effective?

How compelling is the moral or humanitarian justification for such a disruptive measure?

What to do to overcome cultural attachments to ancestral habitats?

What will be the costs and long-term impact of such an undertaking?

These are difficult questions that may not be readily answered but the alternate preposition is to go along with the status quo, to leave the fate of so many children to the hand of time.

How long will it take for the rural mindset to evolve to the reality of 21st century living?

 Fifty maybe a hundred years, yet the ability to reorder and adjust can be seen in the transformed lives of those Zambians that have made the move to the cities. So quickly dispensed is the traditional mindset of isolated living, in per-urban shanty compounds. Once in the city, these urban drifters experience a collective shock to their traditional mindset, they flocked together overcoming ethnic diversity to build an urban habitat so closely knit it is said neighbours can literally shake hands through open windows standing in their own homes. 
So when people in Kanyama or Misisi need a school, clinic or road - the cost or challenges of delivering such infrastructure is dwarfed by the thousands instead of a few hundred who stand to benefit simply because these settlements dynamics are more favorable. These people in urban settlements are more successful at attracting and actually getting the benefits of government assistance by using their collective weight of their numbers and shared demographics.
Yet their rural counterparts despite collectively significant and shared demographics cannot be as successful because they are so sparsely distributed and isolated from one another.

Well, I think we need to restructure our rural settlements into organized clusters, for the sake of these kids and posterity.  Before undertaking such a monstrous task government needs to;

i)              Undertake a rural population study to ascertain the specific behavioral characteristics and demographics of rural Zambians.

ii)             Use study data to formulate, plan and develop a long-term rural settlement policy including cluster settlement designs, public infrastructure plans, local and national development schedules.

iii)           Identify and prepare populations that will need relocating into the created settlement cluster including generating cost benefit analysis, environmental impact assessment, implementation timeframe and education on the long term benefits of organized settlement clusters.

iv)           Design and Implement regulatory and tax incentives to enhance economic activity and attract business to serve the market, organized settlements will create.

The rural population study should seek specific understanding of these people in rural areas; their culture, heritage, attitudes to landownership, per capita income for 12 months, mean travel distance to school or health center and most importantly the level of cultural or ancestral attachment to their specific environment
Of course such a study may be costly and challenging but the benefits of such understanding are important for national development planning. 
According to the 2000 census data the population density disparity between rural and urban settlement is wide and significant. Lusaka has 63 people per square kilometer while Western province has 6 people per square Kilometer, so it is clear where government expenditure creates the most benefit.

So, how can the Zambian government justify spending K1.3 trillion (US$350 million), approximately 4 per cent of the national budget, on the construction of a 74 km road between Mongu and Kalabo in the Western province?

Considering the population density in Western, at this rate we are talking about connecting 6 people per Kilometer at the cost of 4 per of our national budget.

Ouch… and this money is a secured loan that needs to be repaid with interest, I say instead of spending obscene amounts of money building a road to reach a few people let the Government relocate the few to the many.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Get back some land – How Sata can appease the Zambian youth.

Michael Sata popularly known as King Cobra came to the Zambian Presidency, on the shoulders of the Zambian youth who voted for him en masse. His canny straight talk and practical approach inspired, the young people to hope for better prospects under his Presidency. However, he now finds himself without means to assuage their impatience with a sluggish economy and lack of any positive movement from the endemic high unemployment.

What does King Cobra tell his still unemployed “don’t kubeba enthusiasts “?

Whether it was a gaffe or wink… wink am trying to appear strong by talking tough to a former leader of the free world, that lead King Cobra to accuse Bush of colonial plunder; his message of the colonialists giving back what they took from our country, might resonate with the Zambian youth.

 Young people read about a time in our country’s past when 2 Zambian Kwacha’s were worth 1 British Pound, when Zambians did not need a visa to get into the UK or the United States, that history is at such a grave variance with the country now before the Zambian youth.  Saddled with crippling foreign debt and dwindling investment, it belies it’s glorious past and has become a vicious trap of poverty that only a few can escape.

For majority that cannot escape, any lifeline goes a long way in assuaging their impatience with the status quo.

 Enter Sata’s gaffe, it has been said in politics one must never miss any opportunity to extract all the good a bad situation offers.

Nothing is more central in the lives of the urban youth than the issue of land. The City of Lusaka for example has run out of residential land for new applicants. This means its young population can never hope to build their own houses in the city nor can they be buried in the city when they die as even burial places (Leopards/Chingwele) have also run out land for new graves.

According to the laws of Zambia, all land in Zambia is vest absolutely in the President and shall be held by him in perpetuity for and on behalf of the people of Zambia.
Yet, while young Zambians can not find land to build on or be buried on, non- Zambians hold title to most of the Land in Lusaka and are now profiteering from land they paid next to nothing for, in the colonial era. Non- Zambians are now offering small parcels land for building at Meanwood development or burial at Mutumbi.

Since all land in Zambia is administered and controlled by the President for the use or common benefit, direct or indirect, of the people of Zambia. Mr. Sata can make good on his rhetoric by simply getting back the land non-Zambians took in the colonial days.

Simply change the lease terms for non- Zambians as follows –

 The President shall not alienate any land to non- Zambians or permanent residents for a term exceeding forty-nine years and where the interest or right in land is being inherited upon death or is being transferred under a right of survivorship or by operation of law; the President shall not renew a lease, upon expiry, for a further term not exceeding the concurrent forty- nine years even if he is satisfied that the lessee has complied with or observed the terms, conditions or covenants of the lease, the lease will be liable to forfeiture.

This amendment if made retrogressive to 1964 might have the effect of freeing up some land in Lusaka that can be available for young Zambians and consequently also free King Cobra foot from his own mouth, at least in the eyes of young Zambians.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Rider and the Horse revisited

Most recollections of the earliest European interactions with Africans portray Africans as brutes or Tarzan like characters that needed taming and civilizing.  Notwithstanding accounts of brutal practices like human impaling that cannot be challenged, it was inaccurate to ascribe such brutality as specific to African culture excerpt perhaps that Africans were among the last people to disavow such practices.

So it was up to King cobra to remind us that there are still some among our contemporaries that are yet to give up dehumanizing fellow human beings through acts of corporal ill treatment and subservience.

Our quest for Independence from Colonial rule was intensified by the indignity Zambians suffered at the hands of European masters who deemed us beneath them and undeserving of the dignity to buy goods from an open counter.

However, it is now self-evident that while the Zambian masses sought independence to achieve dignity and self-determination, our political leaders sought only, to take the place of white man.

Free Zambians hope to construct a social reality that meets their highest aspirations but our politicians, always set out to construct a different reality. One that assigns them all the prestige and power the colonizers enjoyed before independence yet requires Zambians to acquiesce to an only slightly enhanced status.

King Cobra wants to talk and act like a colonizer, while he tames the rights of Zambians to speak their minds or express dissent.  Meager national resources are spent indulging cronies and relatives while ordinary Zambians go without drugs, water and electricity. Each year more and more young Zambians complete the formal education that marks the rite of civilization yet they find no certain role in this post independence reality these wannabe bwanas have constructed.  

But they need not accept this arrangement that is unfair and one sided. It is the rider that now, needs taming and civilizing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the verge of revolt

The troubled past of the House of Lubosi.

When Francois Coillard a French missionary arrived at Lealui in 1886 he found Lubosi the King of the Lozi’s at the time struggling to unite a kingdom on the verge of revolt.

The trouble then as now stems from the Polylithic administrative body Lozi’s now call the “national council”. It should really be called the supreme council, as neither the Lozi’s nor the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) enjoys any national status.

The supreme council is made up of indunas (who are formerly commoners) and princes of the royal family.
Any Lozi commoner could aspire to become an Induna (a judge and councilor) or Ngambela (Prime minister and Chief councilor)- according to Gerald L Caplan in his book The Elites of Barotseland 1878 – 1969: A Political History of Zambia’s western province.
The rules of succession to the Litunga or King are not rigidly fixed in that any male descendant in the patrilineal line of the first legendary King Mboo is eligible. This creates a constant state of uneasy and back-to-back pandering between the supreme council and the Litunga. The Litunga can appoint any commoner to any supreme council title as Induna or Ngambela but the supreme council is in turn the body that appoints a Litunga from the line of eligible princes.  Thus in a culture were class and title matter as is certain in the Lozi culture, ambitious commoners who rise to be Induna may rump up the stakes by wielding their favor to bolster their own interests and thereby keep the kingdom on the verge of revolt.

And so it was, when Fran├žois Coillard arrived in Barotseland, Lubosi later known as Lewanika (who became Litunga in 1885) was making frantic steps to preserve both his Kingship and his kingdom. He was the third Litunga in 3 years and faced an immediate threat from Mwanawina who had just lost a succession decision by the supreme council.  To secure his position Lubosi appointed his known supporters to the Council and had the Kuta agree to replace Mwanawina’s Ngambela Ngenda with his own preference Silumbu.

Lewanika later enlisted Fran├žois Coillard's assistance in negotiating for a British protectorate to be declared over Barotseland in an attempt to strengthen his grip on the kingship. However, the king and the missionary misunderstood the connections between the British crown and Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). Lewanika and Coillard were gradually caught up in self-serving posturing, which resulted in the signing of the Lochner Concession, which delivered the Lozi kingdom to the BSAC's domain on 27 June 1890. During the first seven years after signing the Concession, the BSAC failed to make any of its promised annual payments of £2000 or to provide any of the educational assistance that it had pledged to Lewanika. (wikipedia)

Fast forward to now, we find the current Litunga Lubosi II also caught up between the political interests of ambitious Indunas and preserving his kingdom.  The Indunas who now comprise what they call the “National Council” aspire to elevate their own positions in the Lozi social system by demanding secession from the Republic of Zambia.

 Lubosi II (which ironically means the escaped one) whose own accession to the throne was not without controversy appears, at pains on how to navigate the intrinsic potential for instability fostered by the institutional structure of a supreme council of ambitious Indunas.

Only by great wisdom, shrewdness and justice have Kings before him managed to control and keep in check the ambitions of those royal members and indunas that are not satisfied by properly preserved traditions and the prestige of the Barotse Royal Establishment.

Article contains references to The Elites of Barotseland, 1878-1969: A Political History of Zambia By Gerald L. Caplan and The Transforming Gospel: The Mission Of Francois Coillard And Basuto Evangelists In Barotseland by Jean-Francois Zorn

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ta- Lakata by Zindaba Nyirenda - A contra positive to Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid.

Book Review - Part 1

In this book Ta Lakata (we are dying) Zindaba Nyirenda expresses at times painfully, what many Africans belabor, the quest for self-identity, personal conflicts with modernity and our collective anguish and inability to prevent the loss of so many lives to disease and poverty.
Using her native tongue Tumbuka, where English fails to give full meaning, she explains her lineage and personalizes Zambia’s fate under both colonial and post independence governance. What emerges is picture endemic in all of Africa, that the colonizers, as do multi national investors now, only needed the collusion of a few rulers to gain unfettered access to Africa’s wealth of natural resources.
But rather than outline Zambia’s decent through the prism of poor Zambians in urban settings, she unlike Dambisa Moyo (Zindaba’s cousin, contemporary- author of Dead aid) takes the reader to rural Zambia, remembering her roots and her past in a village setting. She paints a graphic mosaic of life in Lundazi, a poor part of the eastern province where she and Dambisa Moyo trace their family trees; it is representative of most of rural Zambia. Now as then, it lacks in clean water, basic shelter, adequate health centers, schools, and roads.
The lives of rural Zambians have in large part been the melting pot of  the conflict between western ideals and local interests; dating back to a time when colonial masters imposed head taxes on poor villagers, to force them into mining labor.

The central question now, as then is -
What is the best way to bring their daily lives within the norms of 21st century livelihood?

That is at the heart of this book and “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo -  is the answer simply curbing exploitation by western entities or a complete stemming of theft and waste of public funds by corrupt governments?

Zindaba would like to start from the genesis of western involvement in Africa, she wants a meeting or indaba with agents of the principals from the 1884 Berlin meeting.  The outcome of that meeting  set in motion the colonization of Africa. She would like to call back the hand of time and  reset the terms of western engagements in Africa ; demand restitution for plundered resources. 
She takes particular aim, at the Rhodes scholarship, which was started with proceeds from Cecil Rhodes estate, yet less than a hundred  Zambians  have been granted scholarships since it was started in 1902.
She contends that, since the Rhodes scholarship fund consists of proceeds from mineral resource exploitation from Northern Rhodesia (named after Cecil Rhodes), it should therefore benefit more Zambians. By contrast, more than a hundred Americans have received Rhodes scholarships. Though Cecil Rhodes intended recipients to meet the highest academic requirements, applicants from southern Africa should have a comparative advantage over other regions whose resources were spared by his untimely death; Cecil Rhodes is said to have once remarked. 

“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race...If there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible...”

In regard to current Western entities in Zambia's mining sector, Zindaba  bemoans the poisoning of rivers and the pollution of air as a result of poorly regulated mining activity since the 1920’s. She attributes the high incidence of respiratory diseases on the copper belt to polluted air and poisonous metals dumped into the Kafue River. To redress this, she calls upon educated Zambians to return from Diaspora, to oversee environmental intervention programs, monitoring and restoration of water systems.  To help the Zambian government develop an effective regulatory framework to enforce environmental protections and monitor pollution  of public resources like water and air.

Friday, November 20, 2009

After the Trial: A Case for Tort Reform in Zambia.

Now that reason has prevailed in the frivolous case, against Zambian journalist Chansa Kabwela., it is perhaps time to reflect how we got to this point.
I found BBC ‘s Jo Fidgen’s comment after observing the whole charade most telling;
It seems to me that Zambia's social conservatism is in tune with a Britain that no longer exists.” she said.
Against strong attempts to avoid drawing a post hoc ergo propter hoc conclusion, I wonder -

Was there ever a time, when Zambia’s social conservatism was ever in tune with Britain?

It seems to me that her majesty’s forgone empire has always cast that awful spell in all her former dominions that taught even coerced her subjects - to present the appearance and behavior of a British social system.
In Zambia as in much of the former colonies, keeping up that appearance is still far more important than the substance of daily life.
So sacred is the legacy of that British law as it was handed down, that we can not bear to amend it in the slightest, to right any modern day wrongs. Even draconian laws that were specifically conceived in the colonial period to enforce public order, in the face of legitimate insurrections for freedom by the natives are preserved and still applied in a present day independent Zambia.

The case of the “porn journalist” poignantly displays the dilemma of a present day Zambian stuck in a legal system framed for a different time.
The actual victim in this case, the wronged woman whose baby and privacy were fatally assaulted, can not sue for redress. There is no legal remedy for her against a vicious affront perpetuated by the hospital and the state.
In the United Kingdom  the NHS constitution provides remedies to make a claim for judicial review for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body. If a claim is for just, compensation is paid out. While the British system has moved on, the Zambian system still returns a fatal attraction to the fidelity of colonial law.

I think  time has come, for Zambian legal minds to write and enact our own laws and craft a legal system that will address the challenges of modern day Zambian lives.  It is time for Zambian legal practitioners to give up those white wigs made from horse hair that look so out on place on an African head. My I suggest the current Zambian penal code and Tort law as the starting point.