Saturday, October 20, 2007

State of Despondence part 2 - Lessons for Zambians

World's Most Expensive Homes 2007
by Matt Woolsey
Thursday, October 18, 2007
provided by

Along Australia's Gold Coast and across the French Riviera, they sit above the beach offering extraordinary views of the sea. In the U.K. they are palaces that humble the Queen's Belgravia mansions.

Others range from landed estates throughout continental Europe to nature preserves in Zambia.

For the past two years Forbes has listed Chaminuka as Africa’s second most expensive house. The preserve is on the market for sale, the asking price $ 20 million (twenty million US dollars). How did Andrew Sardanis who arrived, a penniless teenager, in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) build this pricey piece of real estate in a country whose average homes look like this?

Zambia abounds with immense resources and opportunities; nonetheless it appears as though the ability to perceive, craft a vision and act on it, in order to exploit and benefit from this resource is an ability that Zambian people lack. A few Zambians may boast of a few riches but none can equal the legacy of Andrew Sardanis or Abe Galuni.
For these two Zambian legends, arrived in Zambia penniless teenagers yet in less than forty years, they had amassed tangible treasure and wealth, enough to trickle down and preserve three or more family generations.
Sardanis a Cyprus-born journalist cum politician cum businessman had the particular genius
to place himself, at the centre rather than the peripherals of Zambia’s freedom struggle and immediate post independence economic development. He crafted a friendship with Kenneth Kaunda, that he has natured through the rough turbulence of their political and philosophical differences.
When he arrived in colonial Rhodesia, he had the vision to perceive and exploit the business of trading cattle for slaughter between the western province and the booming mine towns. Though catering to the nutritional and other needs of the colonial masters, he had the good mind to support Zambian’s freedom struggle. After independence, Sandanis was appointed Chairman of industrial Development Corporation (Indeco). He oversaw major national investments at the same time, advancing his personal fortune such that, when the rift of his differences with KK caught up with him in 1970, when he resigned his position, he was able to incorporate his own firm in the UK with a capital of 250,000 pounds.

Sardanis has clearly used his political and economic capital over the years; his influence on Zambian politics and business is enduring, he has also written a few books about his early experience in Zambia.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A fatal bond to a valley of death.

This report on the daily challenges of the people of the Gwembe valley in southern Zambia, who were displaced in the 60’s to pave way for the construction of the Kariba dam is heart breaking. The area development chairperson had much to complain about poor roads, lack of electricity, schools, clinics, food and dry land. Yet despite the Zambian government’s failure to address these needs for the past forty seven years, the people of this hostile valley will not even consider relocating. In fact they are still angry at their initial displacement from their traditional habitant –

"Culture was destroyed during that period. People were taken to areas new to them meaning their beliefs and way of life were affected,"Mweemba Area Development Association chairperson Edson Sikalongo .

In an attempt to understand this fatal bond to a valley, that causes so much pain in the daily lives of these people and yet like a child sitting on nail but won’t consider getting up to end the resulting pain yet continues crying out loud. I found the Hualapai and Havasupai the native Indian tribes who were also displaced from their traditional habitant - the Grand Canyon, Arizona USA.

The Havasupai consider themselves the traditional Guardians of Grand Canyon. With the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919, the tribe was restricted to a reservation at the southwest corner of the park.
Just as the Tonga of the Gwembe valley, the Havasupai have complaints against the US government, poor roads, high unemployment, and loss of their ancestral land and the destruction of their culture. The road to Havasupai is paved all the way though some parts are in need of resurfacing.

It is believed that by A.D. 1300, semi-nomadic, non-puebloan peoples also occupied the river corridor of Grand Canyon. These Pai and Paiute hunter-gatherers had a stable subsistence economy based on combined agriculture and hunting and gathering, supplemented by trade. Dispersed settlements included wick up rings, rock shelters, extensive roasting complexes that included ceramics and abundant flake stone tools and debitage. It is also believed that these hunter-gatherers made use of perishables such as baskets, mats, sandals, and twine. These ancestors of the present day Hualapai and Havasupai continued to seasonally utilize both the rim and river corridor until interdiction by the U. S. Government.

Recently the tribes lost an attempt to prevent the building of this skywalk on their ancestral land.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To Turn a Leaf.

The concept of self-improvement has undergone dramatic change since 1911, when Ambrose Bierce mockingly defined self-esteem as "an erroneous appraisement." Good and bad character are now known as "personality differences". Rights have replaced responsibilities. The research on egocentrism and ethnocentrism that informed discussion of human growth and development in the mid-20th century is ignored; indeed, the terms themselves are considered politically incorrect. A revolution has taken place in the vocabulary of self. Words that imply responsibility or accountability — self-criticism, self-denial, self-discipline, self-control, self-effacement, self-mastery, self-reproach, and self-sacrifice — are no longer in fashion. The language most in favor is that which exalts the self — self-expression, self-assertion, self-indulgence, self-realization, self-approval, self-acceptance, self-love, and the ubiquitous self-esteem.
Ruggiero, 2000

when I came to the US a couple of years ago, I was struck by how consistently structured the social order is laid out, in major city after city, coast to coast. I observed that while, mainstream Americans embraces and espouse a diverse and multi ethnic existence –there is always in America’s major cities that large concentration of people of African descent, almost always in the western and southern parts of the city.
The differences between mainstream and Westside/Southside residential areas are stark and glaring. The phenomenon of general decadence, scorched lawns, dilapidated building with wood instead of glass as windows, paint peeling off and uncollected garbage is a common sight in the Westside and Southside residential areas. And ironically, Kashikulu observed also that our people in Westside/Southside, Chicago USA as our people in Mutendere, Lusaka Zambia do not get into the house when the sun sets but linger on the dark streets for hours , children playing until all strength is guzzled up then and only then do they into the house to sleep.
You see over the years, Kashikulu’s job takes him from the sub-urban of Chicago land to the inner city on many nights and days. That is how seeing that much disparity, Kashikulu still high on some of old Bashikulu’s mantra
Five areas of human endeavor …..Human dignity, social justice, fair play….”
Began wrecking his mind with puzzling questions as he drives from the green lawns, Starbucks on every block and quiet streets in the suburban; to the parched lawns, liquor store on every block and buzzing streets on the Southside.

How can the minority sector of the population account for the majority population of beggars in downtown Chicago?
The majority population of welfare recipients, of the uneducated, the unemployed, the incarcerated..... …..
Then I stopped and reflected, this is just a part of the big picture-
What is the general welfare of the descendants of Africa in the world?

From the desolate tribal lands of the Aborigines in Australia, awash with alcoholism and pornography causing Premier Howard to consider effecting a six month ban, to the multitudes on Continent whose daily lives are a bitter complex of underdevelopment and massive debt, the semi-isolated yet poverty smitten lean islands of the Caribbean and the slums of inner cities in both North and Latin Americas - the dignity of Africa‘s descendants yearns for restoration.

In the coming posts, I will bloviate possible causes of the general state of Africa’s descendants - from the early civilization at the banks of the Nile, dispersal of the African population through slavery and now immigration, the scramble and now exploitation of resources, the loss of culture and identity etc…

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Zamtel Issues in the US!

If you thought frustrations with inefficient service, was a preserve of Zamtel customers, you may take comfort that our national service provider may have an equal in the US. For the past two 2 weeks I have had problems with cable, phone and internet service at home. I have that bundled package that is meant to save me a lot money but sadly I have now discovered its hidden price - a lot of pain, inconvenience and possibly loss of money (in charges due to missed online bill payments).
I called the service phone number and was immediately challenged by their interactive voice system –
Please say or enter your phone or account number.
Because of my first language interference and that resultant special accent (having to first think in your mother tongue then mentally translate to English). I have long given up speaking to these systems; I just punch in the account through the telephone keypad then dial 0 for a live operator and pray they have patience and very good ears. This time however, my luck run out, the interactive system had more questions that did not have the option to punch in a number on the keypad –
Now how can I help? You can say trouble with service or …..
I tried to repeat trouble with service as best as I could but the system could not get it, after several attempts, a few torn nerves and increasing frustration on my part the system gave up and finally said –
Let me get someone to help you (a live human operator).
It’s not just Kashikulu having trouble with interactive systems; many native English speaking Americans have complained about these systems. They have also complained about having to talk to customer support staff in India that service some US service companies. Kashikulu however, finds Indian support easier to deal with - we are on the same footing language wise.
When the human operator came on the line after a 45 minute wait in queue, I explained my problem without difficult, I had great difficulty however with the time frame the operator proposed to begin addressing my service issue. She said the earliest available dispatch appointment was nine (9) days from that day - So you are telling me that, I will have to wait nine days before a technician can come round to look into the cause of ALL service disruption into my home?
Yes sir that is the earliest date I have available for your area and make sure someone is available at home when he calls or there will be another delay and a charge.

And so, yes my fellow countrymen complaining about Zamtel’s inefficiencies albeit on a different scale, I spent all in all eleven days without TV, telephone and internet service at my home in Chicago - in a country that has sent astronauts to space and back in less than 9 days.