Saturday, February 9, 2008

My abiding faith in the Bright side of Mwanawasa!

My past criticism and/or praise of our most learned President has always been rooted in the abiding hope that good education especially the study of Law, will always give birth in the bearer, that insatiable desire to right injustice, to do what is moral, to advance the general welfare of men, among other virtues. Albeit a good education does not necessarily preclude someone from being evil, nor does lack of education prevent one, from doing good.
Indeed, at height of the multi party movement in early 90’s Mwanawasa’ effective use of the injunction clause in our laws did a lot good for the movement. And perhaps as a testimony to his good conscience, he resigned from Chiluba’s corrupt administration.
Since becoming President he has fought corruption with brazen vigor, there is now growing confidence in a public service delivery system that was once openly corrupt.
His recent surge in efforts to leave Zambians, a good constitution is admirable, though he should not have waited till his final term (A good chef must be first to taste his own cooking).
He has also tried to inspire Zambians to do more, to be more productive…. Whatever became of the winter maize project?
It is however, this recent move to bring in more ordinary Zambians in the mining equation, that rekindles my faith in the bright side of Mwanawasa. Nothing has given me as much grief as the marginalization of ordinary Zambians as far benefits from mining are concerned. It has always been a limited elite, in collusion with foreigners that have derived the most benefit from mining, especially gemstones mining. Those that were privy to, mining exploration data got licenses for interest areas and have kept this information and the tremendous benefit from the sell of Zambian gemstones out of public domain. Zambian emeralds account for 20% of global gemstone sells; this is why Kashikulu would like to give three cheers to our most learned president for this statement –

There are more than 380 gemstone mine owners and over 80 other small scale mining license holders with accumulated unpaid area charges in excess of K10 billion contrary to the law," he said.
President Mwanawasa called on the defaulters to clear the area charges adding that the new mining cadastre system, which will be opened to the public soon after March 31st, 2008, will not accommodate and recognize holders of mining rights who are not compliant with the Mines and Minerals Act.
Government is determined to open up the Zambian landscape to investors.
"We are cancelling licenses not complying with the Mines and Minerals Act regardless of whether the defaulters are holders of large scale or small scale mining rights. This will be done before the new mining cadastre system opens to the public after 31st March, 2008," he said
On the fiscal regulatory reforms for the mining sector President Mwanawasa said there will be no discrimination between owners of the old privatized mines and the new investors
... Zambia Daily Mail.

6 comments:

Zedian said...

"Since becoming President he has fought corruption with brazen vigor, there is now growing confidence in a public service delivery system that was once openly corrupt.

Uhm... Isn't Levy accused of filling top jobs in govt depts, agencies, etc with relatives and cronies? The Catholic Commission for Justice spelled it out for him a few years back. It is no secret who's linked to Levy nowadays. And people are now being fired for rightly opposing his wife's new found and careless business ambitions!

And just where has his wife obtained the money that she is pursuing those business ambitions, I wonder?

Just exploring Zambian blogs I can find. Keep up the good work...

Zedian

Kashikulu said...

Zedian-

Thank you, for the feedback.
As far as employing qualified/unqualified relatives, that might be nepotism, though one might stretch this to fit a corrupt move.
I may have used strong adjectives to underscore Mwanawasa’s courage in prosecuting Chiluba for corruption and theft (This is the man who put Mwanawasa in that office). Am interested to hear other perspectives from the ground, what I have heard from family and friends in Zambia,is that there is now, hesitation to openly demand bribes by such public service personnel as the Police, passport workers – there was or might there still be, a time, when police officers would openly ask “do you have another kind of registration card”? Or passport officers would ask for “the missing page”.

Zedian said...

Yes, the observation is correct that corruption is no longer an 'open air' affair. My sources suggest that it is now practised in rather subtle ways. Which is a good sign, actually. My view is that as the society gets more sophisticated in social/economic terms, so does the evil side of things.

As I pointed out, cronyism is now an integral part of the Levy govt, and also the Bush administration; an issue that the Democrats especially Hillary Clinton have been openly describing as 'corruption'. It is sophisticated in that it is very difficult to prove any wrong doing, especially when the hired crony is somewhat qualified for the job. I think it is more a moral issue than anything else. However, one point is that so long as that hired person was unduly favoured, then it is wrong. And crucially, the person in power pulling strings can easily consolidate their power, not to mention amassing wealth as is happening, and that can be very dangerous.

We're already seeing heads rolling at such institutions as the Environmental Council of Zambia because authorities there opposed business plans by friends of the Mwanawasas, plans which were otherwise environmentally unfriendly.

There's also speculation that this cronyism by Levy is somewhat to ensure he doesn't go the FTJ route, and perhaps most importantly, to setup his wife to run for the Presidency, before he leaves office.

To be fair to Levy, I think he's been far more tolerant of dissenting views than his predecessor was. And in his own naive way, he has simply let market forces sort out the economy, which is turning around. He will get the credit for it, but I'm not entirely sure what levers he pulled in particular to get this result. Some of the ground work, I believe, may have been started by, yes, FTJ. Also, Levy may have had some luck from a revived world economy at large, which saw copper prices pull up, etc. And also the HIPC stuff, as well as a collapsing Zimbabwe.

Kashikulu said...

Refreshing perspective, I think the points you raise, reaffirm the urgency to fix our constitution.

We need to reduce the excess of executive of authority in the current constitution and empower institutions instead, though I wonder if this will do any good, given your Hillary assertion that cronyism is rife in the Bush admin they have powerful institution in the US.
Given the prevalence of poverty in Zambia, maybe a realist goal, should be reduction rather than ending corruption, whatever the tolerable level might be given our circumstance of low wages, high unemployment and limited financial resources.
This may not sit well, with many, I hear my little voice protesting too but what else might be effective?

Zedian said...

Yes, if Zambians really want to adopt democracy, then they must go further in institutionalising it, rather than the current form where power is concentrated in the Executive. That's fundamental, and is an ongoing exercise through the years as opposed to a one off event. But, as we've experienced, not many Presidents are willing to have their powers reduced. Hence, the observation that the Levys of this world only seem intent on sorting out the constitution in the twilight of their tenures, not at the beginning.

I also agree that corruption reduction, not eradication, is the realistic approach, though it would be great to aim for the ideal, as we do for fights against crime, drugs, etc.

Corruption levels will be relative to the factors you've mentioned, as well as the political awareness of the local people. The same goes for such things as injustice. People will only speak out if they're aware the act against them is or could be unjust.

A good example for this is how Zambian, and indeed African politicians at large, get away with buying themselves luxurious vehicles which even Western politicians dream of. Ask the average Zambian if they see anything wrong with that and chances are they will say the politician is entitled to it!

Kashikulu said...

I could not agree more on lack of awareness of Govt excess and abuse of resources. More unbearable is that Govt officials despite making claim that they need these luxurious SUV because of bad roads, they rarely visit the electorate, even in times of trouble such the current floods.

I wonder how long, it will take for the multi party tide unleashed in 1990, to recede to a bearable level. Democracy affirms the right to self determination and self expression. However, it is still possible to average out popular expression into liberal, conservative or independence constituencies and still have a democracy without the multitude of parties currently at play in the Zambian political arena.

The plethora of parties, many created for personal agenda, introduce undue strain on limited public funds during elections (printing of ballots), parliamentary process (expenses generated in order support MPs of several different parties/platform) and leads to the creation of a bloated cabinet/Govt in attempts to appease alliances/coalitions parties.

The nature of a people’ politics is regrettably intertwined to their social and cultural development, therefore as you stated though we know of political or government models that might be more beneficial for our country, it is up to the hand of time and experience to perfect our politics and government.