Feb 28, 2011

This tribe, that tribe

Why do tribal issues matter? What’s so special about the particular language group to which a person belongs?
It is one thing to treasure our indigenous languages and cultures, and to ensure they are passed on to future generations AND quite another to use them as a tool to marginalise others.
It shouldn’t matter what province a President comes from or his cabinet ministers for that matter as long as they represent the real interests of the people – all the people. Now if there is evidence of preferential treatment by those in power for specific groups of people based on familial or language ties, then we’ve got a big problem and we need to speak against it.
In the efforts to eradicate poverty we often focus on people’s access to resources and the government’s role in appropriate allocation of said resources. Unequal distribution of resources by those advancing personal and/or tribal interests is extremely harmful and a hindrance to our development.
Even further, such practices foster hatred. When people are routinely treated unjustly, their pain turns into anger, which at some point will reach a boiling point and no prizes for guessing what happens when things erupt.
We need to re-learn the value of human relationships and community; understanding that we are all created equal. Tribalism is a cancer that if left untreated, keeps mutating and eventually consumes the whole being.

Feb 24, 2011

What makes you better?

I was quite impressed when I listened to Hakainde Hichilema’s interview on Zambia Blog Talk Radio about a month ago. When pressed about the outcome of the coalition pact with the Patriotic Front (PF), he insisted on the fact that the two parties still need to agree on the fundamentals, which he termed as a Joint Economic, Social and Good Governance programme before a presidential candidate can be declared. This makes a lot of sense because what’s the use of just saying you’re a coalition party when you don’t even agree on the sort of programmes needed to move Zambia forward?
Sadly, I believe this pact is a waste of time and I’ve thought so from day one. I may be proven wrong in the next few months, but that’s looking more unlikely with the way things are progressing. The PF and its president, Michael Sata, are already campaigning on their own ticket across Zambia. Sata is the de facto leader of any pact he enters into, and if Hichilema still thinks that discussion is open for debate, he’s wrong. Anyone with credible information to disprove this, please feel free to share.
The PF has clearly stated from the beginning that their mission is to remove the MMD from power. Their position on various matters of grave importance such mining taxation, the increased influence of Beijing in Zambia, etc are inconsistent and seemingly change with the direction of the wind. Bafuna kuvi chinja chabe- they just want to change things.
As I have stated before, change for the sake of change is not enough. We need serious opposition politicians to come up with real plans for how to move Zambia forward. Yes, we can all agree the MMD is flawed but how are other parties less flawed, and how will they be more successful than the last 20 years of MMD rule? I fundamentally disagree with politicians like Sata who constantly declare that the MMD has done nothing for Zambians, that’s untrue and should not be accepted as the truth when we as Zambians can see for ourselves that some things, though not all, have improved. A lot remains to be done of course, but please how about some integrity in political discourse?
If UPND or Hichilema want to have a fighting chance in the upcoming elections, they need to unhitch their wagon from the crazy horse called PF aka Michael Sata. They need to show the people of Zambia what their Economic, Social and Good Governance programme looks like, and how things will be under their leadership. Zambians deserve more than opportunistic politicians looking for sound bytes on radio stations; we need intelligent people with a real roadmap to lead the way.

Feb 23, 2011

Why internal politics matter

Mike Mulongoti recently lost his job as the Works and Supply Minister for what the president terms “attacks on senior members of the party including the president.” Mr Mulongoti had expressed his intent to contest the vacant MMD vice-president position; and in doing so positioned himself as a better candidate that the country’s current vice-president, George Kunda. This obviously did not sit well with the higher ups and he soon found himself without a job, and pretty soon he’ll be thrown out of the ruling party.

The argument can probably be made that Mulongoti was indeed disrespectful and ‘forgot his place’, so I’ll cut the party some slack here. However, given the history of the party politics within MMD we know it’s more than just that.   
Mulongoti will be hard pressed to find any sympathisers to his plight given the very fact that when this has happened to other members he has either been at the forefront cheering their dismissal or quiet (which may as well be a tacit agreement with the actions taken). No pity here, old man!
With that said, the Mulongoti situation as well as others within the MMD raise a larger question. Just how democratic are the internal politics within the party? If members cannot contest positions without first seeking approval from the big man, just what is the point?
The MMD faithful will argue that the internal politicking should not be seen in the larger context, of how capable they are in ruling the country but I humbly disagree. I believe it has everything to do with it! If a political party, and not just the MMD, is not transparent in its dealings and people are hand picked for any and all positions that doesn’t bode well for national politics. I understand the need to have discipline among members but it’s quite different from muzzling anyone who has a different point of view. How can diverse, intelligent dialogue thrive when everyone has to tow the party line no matter how ridiculous?
In the end, the people of Zambia lose in situations such as this, in my opinion. We draw no amount of confidence knowing that those in leadership positions are unable to speak out when real and/or perceived injustices are seen for fear of losing their previous coveted jobs and perks. I would much rather ALL political parties have robust national conventions where ALL positions are contested by those who feel they are equipped to do the job. It shouldn’t be about who can bow the lowest to the godfather or who has the best smear campaign.
Come on, we can do better. Let us not regress to the days of dangerous cult personalities, where certain politicians are virtually untouchable.

Feb 22, 2011

Violence met with silence, again

Courtesy of: allvoices.com
There have been many verified reports of the brutality being meted out on the Libyan population by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Thus far, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton have probably used the strongest words denouncing the actions, as “vicious" and imploring the regime to "stop the unacceptable bloodshed." I look at both parties with a jaundiced eye given their countries' own hypocrisy in dealing with dictators with access to in-demand resources. 

Everyone else is eerily quiet. They’re probably too busy looking at the price of oil futures to be really concerned about people being taken out by snipers employed by their own government. 

Yesterday, there was news out of the Democratic Republic of Congo about the 20 year prison sentence handed to an army commander who was accused of leading his troops to rape, beat, and loot in the South Kivu area of Eastern Congo. Other sentences were also given to some of his troops. 

This is HUGE! While it may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it is; and hopefully the stepping stone towards achieving justice for the thousands of victims of the brutality inflicted by both army and militia forces.

Sadly, this story barely registered on the international news circuit.

I have often wondered how heinous crimes such as ethnic cleansing, genocide and so forth happen, and why the world is seemingly caught off guard EVERY TIME and I think I have an answer – we are simply uninvolved and would rather lie to ourselves that “things can’t be that bad.”

I know there is no simple solution to prevent such actions but that cannot continue to be the reason to do nothing. As I look at the examples above, I am not calling for the world police aka USA to swoop in and take control, how about the rest of us – Africans (and our toothless representative body, the AU)? What do we stand for, if not the interests of the people? When will we stop playing the blame game, and get working?! 

I honestly believe one of our greatest failures as a human race is ignoring glaringly obvious injustices and abuses on a grand scale. We need to start getting ahead of things, and 

Feb 16, 2011

Africa's Century

“Many global commentators agree that this is the `African Century.’ For investors, this means an understanding of the available opportunities as well as offering the chance to develop meaningful relationships among those doing business together.” Ted Alemayhu, Executive Chairman of the Africa-US Business Executive Convention.
The first Africa - USA Business Executives Conference & Expo was just held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The intent of the convention was to build a strategic business relationship between US and African private firms as well as governmental entities. Zambia's delegation was the largest, with 54 members based in Zambia and another 50 from the U.S., UK and Canada. 

Read more from HumNews

Feb 15, 2011

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

William Kamkwamba created a windmill to generate electricity for his family after dropping out of school due to failure to pay school fees when he was 14. His story inspires me because he had the courage to do something that many of us fail on an almost daily basis - HE TRIED! I never get tired of hearing his story. What a genius...we need more people like him in this world. 

Mining Expectations

More perspectives on the revitalised mining industry in Zambia, and the expectations of the people to see improvements in their communities as a result of the record high copper prices. 

Feb 11, 2011

Work the locals can't and won't do?

Feb 7, 2011

We're still rummaging!

Photo credit: lusakatimes.com

This is a companion piece to yesterday’s post. In the event you aren’t able to watch the entire video below or if you would like more information, here are some additional resources:

Feb 6, 2011

Bend down boutique

If you have 54 minutes to spare, this video is worth watching. It chronicles the second hand clothes trade in Zambia and its impact on the local economy. This isn't new material for many of us but it always good to be reminded of the work that remains to be done with local manufacturing and job creation. 

Feb 4, 2011

It's my country!

“For first time we feel that the country is ours, and we that have a say in important matters.”
These are the words of a 30 year-old Egyptian who was interviewed earlier this week about why he has joined the anti-Mubarak movement. They are very simple words and yet carry so much weight. How many of us feel disenfranchised in our own respective communities and disconnected from those in power? I am sure that’s many of us. But how many of us have the courage to speak up about the injustices we see around us? How many of us are willing to ACT to get things done.
I maintain, “we have the leaders we deserve.” Every rainy season that brings floods to your neighbourhood because of poor drainage provisions and you fail to act by bringing the matter to your local city council you deserve the poor service. Seriously!
Let us stop thinking that elected and appointed government officials are altruistic in their work and will make things better without being prodded. We have no historic precedent for such illusions, and we need to start working. If anything, history has taught us that real change happens when ordinary men and women stand together and push things forward. Please see independence movements across Africa, the end of civil war in Liberia, civil rights movement in the U.S., abolition of slave trade, etc.
Start taking ownership in the activities that move our countries forward. Being passive and apathetic brings nothing but stagnation and continuation of the status quo.