Saturday, February 23, 2008

Let the best candidate win

Let the best candidate win
By Editor
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

None of our political parties should be proud of having thugs wielding machetes and pangas and drunk on Chibuku masquerading as their political party cadres. We have heard of criminals masquerading as cadres of our political parties that are contesting the Kanyama by-election, harassing innocent people and destroying property; these rogues should have no place in our politics. Multiparty politics without civility, without tolerance and without the ability to live and campaign in peace are useless.

As home affairs minister Lt Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha has correctly observed, we are planting a bad seed and if we don’t act now, we will end up like Kenya.

The type of behaviour we have witnessed in the Kanyama by-election is a danger to peace which we should not tolerate out of political expediency. It is good Lt Gen Shikapwasha is not taking a partisan position on this issue. He has condemned all the violence, be it from his ruling MMD or opposition Patriotic Front and UPND. But this is not enough, more needs to be done.

If the law enforcement agencies were operating effectively and efficiently, there would have been no way thugs would be carrying machetes and pangas in broad daylight on their political campaigns. Moreover, it is an offence to move around with offensive weapons of this nature.

Once a culture of violence takes root, we will have a lot of problems in this country because no one has the monopoly of violence; violence begets violence.

Why should someone try to attack UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on his campaign trail in Kanyama? How is he expected to be in politics and to lead a political party if he cannot freely move around and campaign for his party’s candidate?

And as we have stated before, there is no political competition that can justify this criminal behaviour – the injuring of UPND chairman for elections Sibote Sibote and several other cadres of his party, the injuring of Gertrude Siatula and leaving her with deep cuts in her shoulders and ribs. There is no proclaimed political position that can justify the atrocious attack on minister Peter Daka’s motor vehicle, damaging windows.

This type of crime should not be tolerated or treated softly simply because it is connected to elections. Those involved in these crimes should be hunted, found, arrested and prosecuted. They actually deserve a treatment worse than that accorded to common criminals.

We need to start instilling in our political cadres a culture of civility, tolerance and humility which places the humanity of others above everything else.

There is need to teach our cadres to recognise and accept that all citizens have a right to participate in the politics of this country and in the choice of our leaders at all levels without hindrance.

Contrary to some perceptions, a healthy democratic society is not simply an arena in which individuals pursue their own personal goals.

Democracies flourish when they are tended by citizens willing to use their rights to participate in the life of their society – adding their voices to the public debate, electing representatives who are held accountable for their actions, and accepting the need for tolerance and compromise in public life or politics.

They should enjoy the right of individual freedom, but they should also share the responsibility of joining with others to shape the future that will continue to embrace the fundamental values of freedom.

Broadly speaking, these responsibilities entail participating in the democratic process to ensure its functioning. At a minimum, citizens should educate themselves about the critical issues confronting their society – if only to vote intelligently for candidates running for political office. The essence of democratic action is the active, freely chosen and unhindered participation of citizens in the public life of their community and nation.

Without this broad, sustaining participation, democracy will begin to wither and become the preserve of those who can intimidate, harass and scare others the most. In short, it will be rule of the jungle where the survival of the fittest is the norm.

There is need for our politicians to have unhindered freedom to campaign so that their messages can be delivered to, and heard by, the electorate. This is because whatever level of their contribution, a healthy democracy depends upon the continuing, informed participation of the broad range of its citizens.

It is therefore imperative that the state have the power to maintain order and punish criminal acts that have the effect of stopping people from enjoying their democratic rights.

We need to hold free and fair elections so that citizens are confident that the results are accurate and reflect the will of the voters.

What we should strive to achieve is a situation where no matter who wins today’s by-election in Kanyama, all must agree to cooperate in solving the common problems of that constituency. After all, this by-election is not a contest for survival among those taking part, but a competition to serve the people of Kanyama. If this is the case, why should they be hacking each other with machetes and pangas?

If our politicians continue to perceive democracy as nothing more than a forum in which they can win elections and pursue their own interests, the society can shatter from within. A democratic society needs the commitment of citizens who accept the inevitability of conflict as well as the necessity for tolerance.

As we have stated before, democracy is not a set of revealed, unchanging truths, but the mechanism by which, through the clash and compromise of ideas, individuals and their political parties, the people can, however imperfectly, reach for the truth and govern themselves in a better way.

Let this be the last time machetes and pangas appear in an election campaign in this country. Let’s give away all these machetes and pangas to our scrap merchant dealers so that they can make steel out of them which can be put to better use in the efforts to develop our country.

It is not really who wins today’s by-election that matters, but the collective efforts that will arise from this. Let us try to use our multiparty elections to build a better nation.

We should be one country – one Zambia, one nation – one people, marching together in the future. Let this Kanyama by-election help us elect the best candidate for this highly troubled constituency without many services required in an organised community.



MMD cadres attack HH

MMD cadres attack HH
By Lambwe Kachali and Mutuna Chanda
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on Tuesday escaped unhurt after an attack by scores of MMD cadres with pangas and machetes during campaigns for the Kanyama parliamentary election in John Laing compound. And home affairs minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha has warned members of parliament that they would not plead immunity from prosecution once they were arrested in acts of violence during campaigns for the Kanyama constituency parliamentary by election scheduled to take place today.

UPND deputy chairman for elections Sibote Sibote and several cadres were severely injured.

Hichilema described the MMD as a party full of thugs and criminals who were after his life because of his popularity in the country. However, Hichilema said he was not scared of the MMD because they had now felt his pressure on the ground. He said people were tired of being ruled by a violent political party, which did not respect the law.

As Hichilema was conducting door-to-door campaigns, canter trucks full of MMD cadres surrounded his campaign team. Before the MMD cadres descended, the cadres who have nick named themselves as 'Euros' were heard saying, “we are good fighters so boss you should be buying us more beer.”

But Hichilema was whisked away amid fighting in which several people sustained injuries. Hichilema said his campaign team managed to catch one MMD cadre who was taken to the police.

Several UPND vehicles were damaged. And Sibote, whose clothes were torn apart, expressed disappointment at the continued violent attacks by MMD cadres. He said he lost K4.7 million during the attack.

And another victim, Gertrude Siatula, said she had sustained serious deep cuts in the shoulders and ribs where a cadre hit her with a machete. And commenting on Vice-President Banda who said that UPND had failed to sort out the issue of tribalism, Hichilema said he had a lot of respect for him.

He said as far as UPND was concerned, there was no tribalism and that those talking about it were the tribalists. Hichilema advised Vice-President Banda to concentrate on his government, which he said had lost grip.

"I think Banda has stopped thinking well. I know it's because of his old age. In fact, Banda should rest because if he continues to be stressing himself in political campaigns, he might face serious health problems," Hichilema said. He said Vice-President Banda should be reminded that Dr Kenneth Kaunda declared Zambia as one nation for one people.

And Lt Gen Shikapwasha on Tuesday appealed to members of parliament to lead in the preservation of peace in the country, especially during elections.

"We saw that in Chingola during the Nchanga by elections where MPs were in the forefront of agitating violence," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said.

"I have just received a report that Honourable Peter Daka's vehicle has been damaged and the windows have been broken in Kanyama. It is not correct for members of parliament to be leading cadres of violent youths. Like last week, my deputy minister was attacked by youths and some members of parliament were there."

He said the situation in Kanyama had deteriorated to such levels that it had become premeditated violence.

"The situation in Kanyama is endangering the peace of Kanyama, the city and the nation," said Lt Gen Shikapwasha. "I urge MPs from MMD, PF and UPND to preserve peace. We have only one country. We are not going to allow people to break houses and tell people to vote for you. I want to warn that when MPs are arrested, the law will take its course. People in Kanyama want free and fair elections. To all the parties that are offering money in Kanyama whether they are MMD, PF or UPND, we are planting a bad seed and we'll end up like Kenya."

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Nakonde farmers protest over FRA's unpaid dues

Nakonde farmers protest over FRA's unpaid dues
By Ntalasha Mutale
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

OVER 200 farmers yesterday protested in Nakonde over the non-payment of more than K2 billion owed by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA). The farmers had supplied maize to the FRA during the last farming season. District Commissioner Clement Sinyinda said the farmers threatened to beat him up if he did not pay the remaining amount of money FRA owed them. However, police managed to calm the situation.

“I tried to explain to them that I am not the one who releases the money. I just facilitate the payment from FRA,” he said.

Sinyinda said the issue was with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Auditor General’s office and were investigating the farmers that had allegedly sold rotten maize to FRA. He said there would be no payment to farmers who would be identified as culprits.

Sinyinda blamed the cooperative union for not conducting the purchasing exercise properly.

“The farmers should wait until the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture gives a go ahead to pay them. Those that will be paid are those that have been identified as genuine sellers,” he said

Sinyinda said over 400 farmers had not been paid. But one of the farmers speaking on condition of anonymity said FRA was tricking the farmers. He said the farmers would take severe action against Sinyinda and FRA.

But Northern Province Permanent Secretary Gabriel Kaunda said FRA would not afford to pay farmers at the moment because it only had about K484 million in its Nakonde account and the debt was about K2.1 billion.

And Northern Province Minister Lameck Chibombamilimo asked FRA not to pay the farmers until it was established that the maize they were getting from neighbouring Tanzania and Malawi was not rotten.

He said action should be taken against farmers that would be culprits because they were distorting the government’s budget.

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Kapita must resign

Kapita must resign
By Editor
Saturday February 23, 2008 [03:00]

THE illness of Ben Kapita, our Minister of Agriculture, is something very hard to accept. And it is understandable why President Levy Mwanawasa has problems dropping him from his Cabinet on account of his illness. Kapita, for whom we have great personal affection, has formidable qualities, a powerful intelligence, immense capacity to work and honesty in his dealings. But these will mean nothing if we continue to keep him in office when his health cannot permit him to work and deliver according to his qualities.

We know it is hard to understand and accept things like these, but sometimes painful things like these happen. It is all part of life, which we have to learn to accept.

We need to be brave about things like these. If not, we will be making a lot of irrational decisions that may tomorrow prove costly to the nation as a whole. The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.

We should care about others all the time. We don’t think this is a soft sentiment, we don’t think it is wet. We think that caring about others is the essence of strength.

And we believe that because we know that strength without care is savage, brutal and selfish. Strength with care is compassion – the practical action that is needed to help people lift themselves to their full stature. That is real care – it is not soft or weak. It is tough and strong.

But where do we get that strength to provide that care? Do we wait for some stroke of good fortune, some benign giant, some socially conscious Samson to come along and pick up the weak or the afflicted, the sick or the crippled? Of course we don’t.

We cooperate, we collect together, we coordinate so that everyone can contribute and everyone can benefit, everyone has responsibilities, everyone has rights.

That is how we should put care into action. That is how we can help make those who are ill recover, the weak strong, that is how we can help make the sick whole. We do it together. It is called collective strength, collective care. And its whole purpose is human dignity and love.

If we look at things this way, we will not force Kapita to continue working as Minister of Agriculture. Being a minister of government should not be seen as a favour to Kapita. It should not be seen as a job he should hang onto at whatever cost and whatever state of health he is in just to survive, to earn a living or for us as a nation to care for him and pay for his medical bills.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done and being a Cabinet minister should be seen as a more important position one occupies in our country now rather than it has been in the past. We say this because a Cabinet minister should be seen as a trustee of a dream. We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now, in the unfolding life and history. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation to a higher destiny and a new plateau of compassion.

The work of our Cabinet ministers is functional, and not ceremonial. This means that one has to be physically and mentally fit to be able to fulfil his duties as a Cabinet minister. And for this reason, we don’t think Kapita is fit to continue as a Cabinet minister.

It would have been fair for Kapita to resign his position in government and allow his friend to freely replace him. It puts Levy in an awkward position to drop Kapita when he himself has not indicated that he is not capable of continuing as minister.

Although Levy says there is nothing that stops him from appointing two Cabinet ministers to one Cabinet portfolio, it cannot be denied that this is not a rational thing to do; he is simply forced by irrational circumstances to do it.

It is time our leaders came to accept that political positions are not pastime undertakings; they are not on a jolly ride. The government is the instrument by which our people cooperate together in order to achieve the common good.

Therefore, being a minister of government is a very serious and important undertaking because an authority is needed to guide the energies of all of us towards the common good. And Cabinet is of great importance for promoting development and community among all.

Yes, Levy as President of the Republic has the right to make final decisions but the people themselves have the right and duty to share in that authority.

We should start to regard Cabinet positions as a vocation, a way of building up society for the common good, as an opportunity to serve the people and not as a job for one’s personal security.

But one needs to have genuine and selfless interest in the future of our country to look at things in this way. And most of our politicians have no real interest in the future Zambia; instead, the present Zambia owes them.

And this may explain the tragedy of our politicians, their inability to value public service rationally and objectively and do everything possible to try and bring happiness to our people without demanding eternal gratitude, hence the besetting temptation of our politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

Zambia is in trouble today not because her people have failed, but because her leaders have failed. What Zambia needs are leaders to match the greatness of her people.

There is no justifiable reason for Levy to waste taxpayers’ money on two Cabinet ministers for the Ministry of Agriculture. Kapita is ill and there is no need to keep him as a minister. It is either he resigns or he is dropped on account of ill health.

There is nothing inhuman about this; there is nothing cruel about it. If Kapita will still need medical attention, he can still be assisted in all sorts of ways. Let us not play around with Cabinet positions or government functions and public funds. Our people have a lot of things they need attended to.

Let us look into our hearts, and let us look down in the faces of our children. Is there anything in the world that should stand in their way? None of these political considerations means anything when one looks down into the faces of our children. In their faces should be our hope, our love and our courage to take difficult decisions with courage.

With love and compassion we call on Kapita to resign his Cabinet position in national interest. If this is not possible for Kapita to do, we call on Levy to drop him.

It doesn’t make sense at all for Kapita to continue as a Cabinet minister and later on for us to have two Cabinet ministers for the Ministry of Agriculture. Let us learn to conduct the affairs of our people in a rational, thrift, efficient and effective way.



MMD scoops Moomba ward

MMD scoops Moomba ward
By Kelvin Tembo
Saturday February 23, 2008 [03:00]

THE MMD has scooped the Moomba ward by-election in Kabwe.

Kabwe town clerk Vivian Chikoti said MMD’s Gilbert Chembe was pronounced winner after polling 223 votes beating his closest rival from the Patriotic Front, Cephas Mutale, who got 214 votes. Lemmy Mwale of the UPND got 66, Kedweal Sikavizya of the FDD got 49 and Michael Muyangwa of UNIP got 37 votes.

Chikoti said the elections were incident-free.She attributed this to the effective voter sensitisation that was carried out by civic educators and the Anti-Voter Apathy Project (AVAP).

The seat fell vacant after area councillor Charles Mando of MMD passed away last year.

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CBTA links illegal practices at borders to high taxes

CBTA links illegal practices at borders to high taxes
By Fridah Zinyama
Saturday February 23, 2008 [03:00]

THE Cross Border Traders Association (CBTA) on the Copperbelt has said high taxes and poor facilitation by officials at border posts have compelled most traders to use informal channels to conduct their trade. BTA secretary general Tadeo Taruvinga was speaking at a capacity building and trade facilitation forum organised by the COMESA secretariat in collaboration with the Zambian and DRC governments held at Kasumbalesa.

The forum was held to facilitate the implementation of the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (COMESA-STR).

“We find doing trade with DRC’s mineral rich Katanga Province which has a population of between 10 to 15 million people very profitable,” he said. “We normally trade in foodstuffs such as mealie meal, tomatoes, beans, rice and goats.”

Taruvinga said the forum dealt with issues to do with smuggling of goods from Zambia to the DRC at Kasumbalesa.

“It is unfortunate that things at Kasumbalesa have not been formalised as traders have been forced to use informal and illegal trade channels to conduct their trade,” he said. “This has cost the two governments the much needed revenue that they could have realised from this busy post.”

Taruvinga said it was important for the two governments to resolve the issues of high taxes, unauthorised payments to officials, complicated documentation and procedures and various restrictions to trade at the border.

“Kasumbalesa is one of the busiest borders in COMESA with an average of 200 to 300 heavy goods vehicles entering DRC at this point on a daily basis,” he said. “If managed well, the two governments are supposed to rake in a lot of revenue.”

And the two governments resolved to launch the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime to foster cross border trade between the two countries.

Under the COMESA-STR, cross-border traders would benefit from duty and quota-free entry of their goods through the use of a Simplified Customs Document (SCD) and a Simplified Certificate of Origin (SCO) provided the goods they carry are valued at US$500 or below per consignment and appear on a Common List of Eligible Products to be agreed upon by the two countries.

The initial list which has already been approved largely comprises agricultural and food products.

This list is to be expanded to include manufactured products produced in the two countries.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Elections propelled by beer

Elections propelled by beer
By Editor
Friday February 22, 2008 [03:00]

Beer drinking, or rather abuse, is quickly getting out of control in Zambia. The number of people drinking is on the rise. And more and more young people are joining the "beerhalls"- some of them as young as 11, 12 or 13 years old. Therefore, the concerns being raised by Comrade Betty Kaunda deserve urgent and favourable consideration. No one can disagree with Comrade Betty when she says that the country is facing a serious moral decay and reduced life expectancy as a result of excessive beer drinking.

And what is even more worrying is that "our politicians encourage the young people to drink beer especially during campaigns". Truly, this is all wrong, there has to be some sanity, rationality, decency and dignity in our politics.

What type of country is this that calls itself a Christian nation and yet allows drunken youth to determine who should be a councillor, member of parliament or indeed president of the country?

What positive messages, or campaign propaganda can these drunken youth deliver? It is no wonder that we are experiencing so much violence in our election campaigns.

This is simply because the young people, the party cadres that are mobilised to campaign, to sell candidates, are propelled by stomachs and lungs full of alcohol, which end up in the brain, producing nothing but violence and other by-products of drunken behaviour.

The sad thing is that all this beer, all this drinking and indeed the bad or anti-social behaviour that accompanies it is sponsored, is paid for by our politicians who are seeking our votes. What type of leadership can one really expect from such people, people who intoxicate youths so that they can do all sorts of crazy things on their behalf?

And contrast this with the attitude of those who struggled for our independence. In June of 1962, during a debate in the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Assembly, one of the few African members made a prediction: " I think as soon as we have an African government in this country, beerhalls will be the first thing it will hit at." (Job Michelo, proceedings of the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council (NRLC), 18 June, 1962, para. 804).

It may seem unusual that, in the midst of a bitter and violent racial and inter-party contest for the political destiny of this territory, a prominent African politician could suggest that changing liquor laws would be the first order of business of a future African government.

There's urgent need to reexamine our laws and see how they can be changed to protect our children from the dangers of alcohol. But how are we going to achieve this with members of parliament whose electoral victories were propelled by drums and drums of Chibuku, kachasu and some other barrels of alcoholic drinks?

This is the moral dilemma we face when as a nation we allow very important values to be abandoned, to be negated in this way. This is what happens in a nation when morals and ideals are lost.

This is the consequence of not having a principled approach to politics and public life in general. This is the result when expedience completely takes over the politics of a country and when everything can be sacrificed on the altar of political expedience.

Instead of promising our young people a future that will provide them jobs, that will better their educational and health facilities, all they are promising them is: "Join my campaign trail and I will make you high on alcohol." These youngsters need help.

They are already in a helpless situation and to further destroy them with alcohol is being very cruel and insensitive.

Moreover, no politician should be fit to be elected to our Parliament if they don't understand the consequences drinking has on our youngsters. Many researches have proved that people who drink heavily in their youth may have a higher risk of developing a collection of risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Those who drink heavily in their teens and young adulthood are more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who don't drink.

In case we are using words that may make us seem too knowledgeable and complicated when we are merely simple journalists, metabolic syndrome refers to a combination of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes - including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and so on and so forth. People who have three or more of these problems are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

There are already many reasons for encouraging young people to avoid heavy drinking and our politicians should join hands with parents, teachers and other civic leaders to discourage young people from drinking instead of driving them to the slaughter house, to the abattoir just to win elections.

Adolescents who begin drinking at a very early age are more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin much later in their lives. And an early age of drinking onset is also associated with alcohol-related violence not only among persons under 21 but among adults as well. It is criminal to add more to the problems of our young people when many of them already have serious drinking problems that they cannot manage on their own.

And while drinking may be a singular problem behaviour for some, for others it may be an expression of general adolescent turmoil that includes other problem behaviours.

These behaviours may be linked to unconventionality, impulsiveness, and sensation-seeking. Dependent on alcohol is also associated with several psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, anti-social personality disorder.

Why should our politicians compound all these problems by encouraging reckless drinking at their election campaigns?

It is time our politicians recognise the fact that we have in the country a drinking problem that needs to be urgently remedied. There is need to look at all our legislation concerning the brewing, selling and consumption of alcohol. Delayed action on this front may prove too costly for the nation in the not-far-away future.

We cannot afford to waste away our youths, our young people in such a reckless manner. Our young people constitute the most valuable resource of our country and it is on them that the progress of this country will totally depend more than on anything else.

Let's take care of them in the best way possible. Let's nurture them for a future that appears so complicated and sombre.

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PF scoops Kanyama by-election

PF scoops Kanyama by-election
By Lambwe Kachali, Patson Chilemba and Collins Chali
Friday February 22, 2008 [11:00]

Hichilema is politically melting like President Levy Mwanawasa for being ejected by the people of Kanyama despite carrying out vigorous campaigns in the area, Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata has said. And opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema said his party would conduct a postmortem over the loss of their candidate Harrison Mukupa.

All People's Congress Party (APC) president Ken Ngondo said he has not fractured his presidential ambitions because people of Kanyama considered him a stranger.

Meanwhile, newly elected Kanyama member of parliament Colonel Gerry Chanda has charged that MMD is liability and will never win a parliamentary seat in Lusaka,

Earlier in an interview, Hichilema attributed the loss of Mukupa to violence that was being perpetrated by MMD cadres.

Hichilema said a team would soon be formed to conduct a postmortem why UPND lost to PF.

He said he did not believe that PF candidate could defeat Mukupa, taking into account the popularity and support he was enjoying from Kanyama residents.

“I think for now I will not say much until a postmortem is carried out. But I can assure Kanyama people that we are not bitter about their choice. We will soon look at issues like violence and voter apathy because there is no way out of 80, 000 people in Kanyama, only 15, 000 can vote. There is something wrong and we are going to work in those areas so that similar situation does not happen again,” said Hichilema.

But Sata said there was no way Hichilema could be surprised at PF’s victory because even in Nchanga by-elections UPND lost terribly.

Sata said UPND and MMD could not match PF’s support and popularity.

He said there was no different between UPND and MMD in terms of political muscle.

“It is the people of Zambia who choose which party and person to vote for. Hichilema is melting just like Levy Mwanawasa because these two people have no focus and can take Zambia nowhere. Levy has also been sickened by our victory and I am sure he will be sent to London for medical treatment soon,” he said.

Sata said it was undisputable that people of Kanyama did not want President Mwanawasa despite using national resources in the campaigns.

He said President Mwanawasa took advantage of the floods situation in Kanyama and sent graders to rehabilitate drainages but all went in vain.

“I have said many times that Levy and his MMD is a failure. It is just a matter of time before MMD is buried for good,” said Sata.

And Ngondo said his intention to contest the by-elections was an eye-opener for effective representation.

Ngondo said he was not embarrassed that he had lost the seat to a person younger than him.

He said he was now focusing on 2011 general elections where he said victory was eminent.

"All I can say is that citizens should learn to vote for people like me who can deliver. They shouldn't look at faces and rhetoric convincing language but the ability to deliver effectively," Ngondo said.

He said urban poverty had also contributed to his loss because the electorate were more interested in money than service.

MMD losing candidate Mwalimu Simfukwe said he would go back to his usual consultancy business and would continue to support President Mwanawasa and the party.

Simfukwe said it was sad that people of Kanyama had rejected his services.

He alleged that PF would not deliver as he could have done if he was elected.

Simfukwe said the reason why opposition members of parliament failed to deliver was because they were more interested in criticizing the government at the expense of national development.

"I thank President Mwanawasa and the party officials for giving a chance to contest that seat. I offered myself to Kanyama people but have rejected me. I am a humble person but I will continue to respect their decisions," said Simfukwe.

And Chanda said President Levy Mwanawasa should be ashamed of himself for the violence and attacks his cadres have had on innocent opposition leaders.

Kanyama constituency on Thursday became a hive of activities as residents turned out to choose their member of parliament.

Cadres from all political parties that participated in the by-elections gathered at various polling stations to witness the counting.

When some polling stations finished counting, they immediately started ferrying the ballot boxes to Chibolya Basic School where the announcement of results took place.

At new Kanyama Basic School, a fracas occurred between MMD cadres and the opposition after PF observers spotted an unknown lady attempting to carry the ballot box using a vehicle which did not belong to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

The situation angered PF cadres who almost undressed the lady before the police rescued her.

The lady whose name was withheld was rushed to Lusaka’s central police for further interrogation.

At this time UPND Siavonga member of parliament Douglas Syakalima shouted at one of the police officers who mistook him for a cadre thinking that he was among those threatening violence.

Syakalima dragged the policeman aside and told him that he was foolish and should stop behaving like a mad person.

Syakalima also lashed at some electoral officers, and said that ECZ had failed to uphold the principles of fair and free elections in the country.

And when the results started coming out around 23:30 hours and indicated that Simfukwe was leading, there was jubilation among MMD cadres.

The lead by Simfukwe cheered some notable MMD officials among them MMD chairperson for lands Judith Kapijimpanga and women affairs chairperson Rose Zimba. Kapijimpanga was full of praises for Simfukwe whom she referred to as honourable.

“Honourable Simfukwe come and sit here. Thank you so much and we are proud of you as our member parliament for this constituency,” said Kapijimpanga and Zimba with smiles.

But as PF started to lead the race, confusion erupted as MMD cadres threatened to sort out PF members who were celebrating. But police officers moved in quickly and contained the situation.

When the counting of votes finished, PF got 3834 votes seconded by Simfukwe with 3393 votes while Mukupa came third with 2807 votes. United Liberal Party (ULP)’s Elizabeth Phiri got 535, UNIP’s Hasty Mwachilele scored 373, APC’s Ngondo got 128, FDD candidate David Kasanga got 122 while New Generation party (NGP) candidate Chushi Mwewa trailed last with only 32 votes.

Kanyama constituency returning officer Morgan Kasela declared Col Chanda as duly elected area member of parliament.

“I do hereby as that in accordance with the law ascertained the results of the poll in the said constituency and so I being the returning officer for the parliamentary elections of 21 February 2008 hereby declare on this day 22 February 2008 Col Gerry Chanda as duly elected member of parliament for Kanyama constituency. 178 votes have been rejected while 12552 votes were cast,” said Kasela.

And commenting on his victory, Col Chanda said Kanyama would be his bedroom.

He said he wanted to prove to the Zambian people that MMD had collapsed both in Lusaka and across the country.

Col Chanda said despite the violence MMD had perpetrated during the campaigns, PF had proved that it was the only party worthy to the Zambian people.

“Zambia is for us all. We have taught President Mwanawasa and his violent cadres a big lesson. Levy should be embarrassed and I think he should be reminded that come 2011 President Sata will lead this nation without fail,” said Col Chanda.

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Betty calls for regulation of beer drinking

Betty calls for regulation of beer drinking
By Sheikh Chifuwe
Friday February 22, 2008 [03:00]

MAMA Betty Kaunda has called for regulation of beer drinking, particularly among youths. In an interview at her residence in Lusaka, Mama Betty expressed concern that the country was facing serious moral decay and reduced life expectancy as a result of excessive beer drinking.

“What is even more worrying is that our politicians encourage the young people to drink beer especially during campaigns,” Mama Betty lamented. “This is all wrong, there has to be dignity even in politics. What kind of a country are we trying to build for ourselves if there is so much beer drinking among the youths.”

Mama Betty challenged parents and leaders to teach their children good moral values that would help build the country.

She urged politicians to genuinely assist youths to overcome some of the challenges they faced such as lack of employment and access to education instead of enticing them with beer to win popularity.

Mama Betty proposed that the illicit brew commonly known as Kachasu should be banned because it was destroying people’s lives.

“When people drink Kachasu, especially in rural areas, they become completely unproductive. Government should do something about this situation so that discipline can be restored in our country,” she said.

Mama Betty appealed to the government to consider engaging the youths in productive activities that would contribute to sustainable development.



Follow up Auditor General's revelations, KK urges Levy

Follow up Auditor General's revelations, KK urges Levy
By Mwila Chansa
Friday February 22, 2008 [03:00]

DR Kenneth Kaunda has urged President Levy Mwanawasa to follow up revelations by the Auditor General’s report to ensure that “dirty-minded” people who abuse public funds are dealt with sternly. And Dr Kaunda has said it would be all right if either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton won the US elections because both of them represented oppressed sectors of society, the black people and women. Meanwhile, Dr Kaunda has condemned the incidents of violence against women that have recently been reported in the media.

During the launch of the 2007 State of Africa report at the American centre yesterday, Dr Kaunda said the Auditor General (AG) was doing a wonderful job as she was coming out forcefully on people who had misappropriated public funds.

“Africa faces a problem of receiving so much money from outside yet it does not go to the people it is meant to serve; we have to act on this,” Dr Kaunda said.

“That young lady (the AG) is doing a wonderful job, and she needs to be supported by all of us because she is protecting the public’s interest. I hope the President and his colleagues will follow up the matter so that people who are dirty-minded in the use of public resources are dealt with sternly.”

Dr Kaunda also implored the media to take a leading role in assisting the AG to expose the misapplication and misappropriation of public funds.

And Dr Kaunda said it was wonderful to see Obama and Clinton working and fighting for the same post.

“This is a wonderful development for this world and whichever one of them wins, we will rejoice with them,” Dr Kaunda said.

And Dr Kaunda condemned violence against women.
“I am condemning this in the strongest of terms, we must bring out these acts for more men to understand the role of our mothers,” he said.

“We who call ourselves men look down upon our mothers in every corner of this world but we must remember that for nine months, we are in the womb, coming out is a painful experience for the mother, she feeds you with her milk and when you grow up, you look down upon a woman.”

And US Ambassador to Zambia Carmen Martinez also said all that had been exposed in the Auditor General’s report should be followed up.

“This is a rich country where everyone can be fed, live in a nice house, drive on good roads but the issue is distribution of resources,” said Ambassador Martinez.

She said if money was diverted, misapplied or used in ways that were not transparent, foreign assistance had to come in and this was not good for economic emancipation.

Ambassador Martinez urged Zambians to demand transparency and accountability from their leaders.

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I won't tolerate officials overwhelming contractors with work, warns

I won't tolerate officials overwhelming contractors with work, warns
By Mwala Kalaluka
Friday February 22, 2008 [03:00]

WORKS and supply minister Kapembwa Simbao has said he will this year not tolerate officials that continue to overwhelm contractors with works they have no capacity to handle. And the Road Development Agency (RDA) has indicated that out of the K462.7 billion donor funds budgeted for in the 2007 Annual Work Plan (AWP) only K157.92 billion was utilised.

Simbao yesterday said it was amazing how certain local contractors were able get a bulk of the road contracts even when they were incapacitated in the implementation of the works.

Explaining some of the achievements and challenges in his ministry to instill sanity in the construction sector this year, Simbao said contractors who still feel they can use their connections or money to receive favourable treatment should think twice.

“Things have started as you have seen we have done a lot of terminations, where we have found it necessary,” he said. “There are contractors with a lot of contracts and because of this they are not able to coordinate these works properly. We want to look into this issue.”

Simbao said this strategy would help avert a situation where government officials had to continuously quarrel with contractors over the poor implementation of projects.

“It is also amazing to me that a road contractor can end up having an excess of 10 contracts; how they get them I do not know,” Simbao said. “In this particular case, we just keep on giving even when there are complaints, not just from me but Zambia in general. How? That is what we want to look at, this must stop. Somewhere there is a problem.”

He observed that the idea of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder had somehow given rise to this trend of contractors being inundated with works beyond their capabilities.

Simbao also revealed that RDA officials would be specifically attached to road projects so that they could effectively play a supervisory role.

“We want to ensure that we attach an official to these projects, so that these contracts can be checked day and night,” he explained. “We know that they are not doing the job properly and they are not able to do the work properly because they are able to fool the eye.”

And the RDA stated that delayed and lengthy procurement processes had caused the low utilisation of funds.



Proliferation of unions has weakened labour movement, says Hikaumba

Proliferation of unions has weakened labour movement, says Hikaumba
By Ntalasha Mutale
Friday February 22, 2008 [03:00]

IT has become impossible for unions to merge because there is so much rivalry amongst them, Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba has said. And Hikaumba has said young men have not learnt anything from Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata because his language does not depict the wisdom of an old man. In an interview on Monday, Hikaumba said there was much enmity amongst the unions because they were all competing to be the best.

“There is a lot of attacking each other, there is competition about the way each union recruits its members,” Hikaumba said.

He said ZCTU had tried to have meetings with the other small unions but had failed to make progress because of inter-personal vendettas.

He admitted that the proliferation of the unions had weakened the labour movement and its voice in fighting for the workers’ rights.

“We should come together. We should find a way of working together so that we compliment one another’s efforts rather than compete amongst ourselves,” he said.

“Small unions whose effectiveness has not been according to expectations should merge so that they are strengthened.”

And Hikaumba said Sata’s language did not impart wisdom into young men.
He said young men had not learnt anything from Sata because he was busy criticising and condemning them, instead of teaching them good morals.

He was commenting on Sata’s statement that young men had no capacity to lead the country.

Hikaumba said the young men had not been given the chance to take up leadership roles that should be shaped by his old-age experience.

“If Sata is boasting about having good leadership qualities, why not extend them to young men to benefit? As young men, we don’t want to hit back when old men talk. We want to listen to them and get their wisdom acquired over the years,” Hikaumba said.

“The old men of his time were not criticising young men but were imparting good leadership qualities into them; otherwise he would not have reached the levels he reached.”

He said old men should not take advantage of the mistakes the young men were making by remaining in leadership themselves but should instead control them.

“We make an earnest appeal to old men to teach us, advise us, and guide us. And this can only be given if we are the ones holding the leadership,” said Hikaumba.

On Monday, Sata said young men had failed to run the country and had no capacity to lead.

Sata also said young men had failed to stand against him because they were scared.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

(BBC) MDC says Zimbabwe dialogue failed

MDC says Zimbabwe dialogue failed
Mr Ncube said neighbouring states did not do enough

Zimbabwean opposition representatives have publicly confirmed for the first time that dialogue with the government over the past year has failed. Movement for Democratic Change leaders said they felt betrayed by the Southern African Development Community which had been trying to facilitate the process.

Representatives from both factions of the divided movement spoke at a press conference in Johannesburg. They said next month's presidential poll will not have a legitimate result.

Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, representing the MDC's two factions, said dialogue with the Zimbabwean government foundered last December when it became clear the ruling Zanu-PF party was reneging on an agreement to enact a new constitution before elections were held.

They said Zanu-PF had not been prepared to negotiate on the date of the elections, which are now set for 29 March.

'Heavy heart'

The MDC will nevertheless still participate in the elections, with one faction supporting MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, and the other supporting Simba Makoni, a former finance minister in President Robert Mugabe's government, who is standing as an independent candidate.

The officials say, however, that they will do so "under protest" and "with a heavy heart", as they do not believe there can be a legitimate outcome.

Mr Biti said it had been hoped the dialogue with the government would offer a new beginning for Zimbabwe, and he was disappointed that eight months of hard work had failed.

Mr Ncube said that SADC, represented by South African President Thabo Mbeki, should have been tougher and had failed to use leverage on the Zimbabwean government. On the party's internal divisions, Mr Ncube told the BBC he was "very disappointed" that the two factions had been unable to resolve their differences.

"We worked around the clock to reach an agreement to reunite the MDC," he said.

Mr Biti added: "We hope that after the elections we will be able to sit down again as a united opposition." Mr Biti represents Mr Tsvangirai's faction, while Mr Ncube is from the faction led by Arthur Mutambara, which is backing Mr Makoni in the presidential election.

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Banda advises Kanyama residents not to be intimidated by politicians

Banda advises Kanyama residents not to be intimidated by politicians
By Lambwe Kachali
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

REPUBLICAN Vice-President Rupiah Banda has said Kanyama residents should not be intimidated by politicians or any other forces but instead be given a chance to vote for a candidate of their choice in today’s by-elections. And All People’s Congress party (APC) president Ken Ngondo said the ruling MMD and other opposition parties that represented the constituency had failed to deliver. Meanwhile, UNIP candidate Hasty Mwachilele said he was confident that people of Kanyama would vote for him because they were aware of his developmental ideas.

During campaigns at Linda grounds yesterday to boost support for MMD candidate Mwalimu Simfukwe, Vice-President Banda said Kanyama Constituency was a hot seat and therefore harassment of voters from either MMD or the opposition would not be tolerated. Vice-President Banda said he was looking for free and fair elections where voters should be given ample time to choose their representatives.

And Ngondo said the people of Kanyama had tried MMD, UPND and the Patriotic Front (PF) but they failed to address the numerous problems Kanyama was facing. Ngondo said he would work hand in hand with the residents in ensuring that major problems such as water, poor drainage system, roads among others were solved within three years. He charged that people of Kanyama would continue to suffer if PF or MMD won the seat.

And Mwachilele said he would ensure that he legalised the houses that had no title deeds. Mwachilele said he believed in politics of development and urged the electorate to vote wisely if the area was to change for the better.

MMD’s Simfukwe said the opposition had occupied the seat for seven years but failed to deliver and it was time that his party tried again. He said he had a developmental mind and would ensure that Kanyama enjoyed the respect other townships in Lusaka had. Simfukwe promised the electorate that he was ready to be voted out of office if he failed to deliver by 2011.

Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD)’s candidate David Kasanga said he was a man of his words and as former Resident Development Committee (RDC) chairman, he would use that experience to channel development. Kasanga said most projects such as building of ablution blocks at markets as well as water reticulation were started by him and it would be important that he was given another mandate to complete them. He said people of Kanyama had suffered enough and it was important that an experienced and competent leader of his calibre was voted into office.

Chushi Mwewa of the New Generation Party said he had set up developmental programmes for widows and youths to acquire skills in the area. Mwewa pleaded with the electorate to vote for him as he was young with new ideas. Mwewa said despite having several investments, he had never ran away from the problems Kanyama was facing.

United Liberal Party (ULP)’s candidate Elizabeth Phiri said she was the right person to take development to Kanyama as all men had failed to do so. Phiri said people of Kanyama should not be deceived by male politicians whom she accused of being incompetent and failures in most sectors of life.

Patriotic Front (PF)’s Colonel Gerry Chanda said people of Kanyama were geared to vote for development. Col Chanda said he believed in politics of development and was confident enough to change the face of Kanyama within a stipulated period. Col Chanda said when elected into office, he would work with members of the constituency to ensure that development reached all corners of Kanyama.

Harrison Mukupa of the UPND said Kanyama residents had now come to realise that they made a grave mistake when they did not vote for him in 2006. Mukupa said he was hopeful that he would carry the day because of the good economic policies of his party. Mukupa said he did not believe in politics of rhetoric the way other parties did.

“I have no doubts that I will be the victorious one today. None of these candidates can match the support I have from people of this constituency,” said Mukupa.

Nine candidates are vying for the seat which fell vacant following the death of Henry Mtonga. The campaign trail has been marred by violence between MMD, UPND and PF.

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Kunda urges courts to dispose of cases promptly

Kunda urges courts to dispose of cases promptly
By Ntalasha Mutale
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

MINISTER of Justice George Kunda yesterday said courts should be alert with the need to dispose of cases promptly. Kunda said the lawyers were partly to blame for the unjustified adjournments of the cases. He however said that the courts did not tolerate any adjournments that slow the process. Kunda said the judiciary was taking into account all factors that were slowing the dispensation of justice.

And Kunda said Cabinet was reviewing the Auditor General’s office and other anti-corruption arms to ensure prudent financial management to avoid corruption.

He said the government wanted to come up with a proper formula for cooperating partners on the roles of the Auditor General’s office, the Task Force, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in order to strengthen the fight against corruption.

“We want to find new ways to strengthen the fight against corruption. The cabinet is yet to determine the future and the role of the task force, and we want to know how we should proceed,” Kunda said.

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Witness testifies how Chitoba, Koyi withdrew K400 million

Witness testifies how Chitoba, Koyi withdrew K400 million
By Inonge Noyoo
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

A Barclays Bank manager has revealed that suspended Drug Enforcement Commissioner Ryan Chitoba and his deputy Jacob Koyi made withdrawals amounting to K400 million from an account holding seized assets.

Henry Mwale was testifying in a matter before Principal Resident Magistrate Charles Kafunda in a case in which Chitoba, 53 of Kalundu, his deputy Koyi, 53 of Makeni and commissioner for administration and training Charles Ndulumina, 37 of Chainama are charged with 20 counts of theft by public servant contrary to section 272 and 277 of the Penal Code chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.

It is alleged that the trio being persons employed in the public service at DEC between May 2006 and April 2007 jointly and whilst acting together did steal over K345 million, property of the government which came into their possession by virtue of their employment.

Mwale told the court that the three signatories to the asset service account were Koyi, Chitoba and Lufwendo Saboi.

He said a total of 22 withdrawals were made from the bank amounting to over K400 million.

Mwale said nearly all the bank debit notes for the withdrawals amounting to over K400 million were signed by Chitoba and Koyi, except for one which was signed by Saboi.
Mwale said the signatories to the account were five but that the mandate was changed to Chitoba, Saboi and Koyi only.

He said the withdrawals ranged from K15 million to K80 million and were drawn from 2005 to 2007.

In cross examination by defence lawyer Robson Malipenga, Mwale said nothing was irregular with the way the money was withdrawn.

He said the withdrawals were in line with procedure. Mwale said the account did not have a cheque book because at the time it was a bank policy that savings account holders were not given cheques.

In re-examination by ACC prosecutor Linos Eyaa, Mwale said he would not know what the purpose of the money withdrawn was because it was not indicated on the debit slips. He said only Chitoba and Koyi would be the right people to know how the money withdrawn was used. Trial continues on March 8.

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Govt's failure to release irrigation funds worries ZNFU

Govt's failure to release irrigation funds worries ZNFU
By Sangster Kapulisa
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

THE Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) is disappointed with government’s failure to release the Irrigation Development Fund (IDF). But agriculture deputy minister Daniel Kalenga yesterday said his ministry could not do anything if the Ministry of Finance did not release the money.

ZNFU executive secretary Songowayo Zyambo said the union was disappointed that despite the efforts by all stakeholders, the government had not released funds, which were budgeted for in 2007.

He said it was very important for the government to explain what happened to the fund and why it had not been implemented.

“The the government has to make a very clear statement about what happened to the fund, where it is and why it was not implemented; why did the agricultural minister launch the fund when it was not going to materialise? The farming community deserves a very good explanation from the government on this issue,” he said.

Zyambo said the IDF was one of the great things that the government had come up with and failure to implement such an important measure was frustrating and disappointing to the farming community which had been looking forward to utilising the fund to increase their irrigation capacity.

He said when the government was informed that the conditions for accessing the IDF were too stringent for small-scale farmers, a steering committee to oversee the utilisation of the fund and address the concerns of accessibility raised by the small-scale farmers was proposed by government, but since then, the steering committee had not been established.

“We have now just learnt that the proposed IDF steering committee was also not established because the funds were not released to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives,” Zyambo said.

But Kalenga said the government had other pressing issues to which money was diverted. He said the government was however still committed to empowering the farming community and that money would be made available for the farmers to access through the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission.

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Fidel's world influence won't die, says Kaunda

Fidel's world influence won't die, says Kaunda
By Brighton Phiri and Royd Mwenya
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:01]

Dr Kenneth Kaunda yesterday said the West was wasting its time celebrating Cuban President Fidel Castro’s retirement because his world influence would not die. Commenting on Castro’s announcement that he would not accept the position of president of Council of State, Dr Kaunda said the fact western leaders were celebrating Castro’s retirement meant that his leadership had made a huge impact worldwide.

“They are cheating themselves if they think that his influence will be reduced by his retirement,” Dr Kaunda said.

He said Castro’s contribution to Africa and the Southern African region in particular brought about human development. He said Castro would be remembered for the bold decision to deploy his troops in Angola when the South African racist regime invaded that country.

“None of the independent countries in the region assisted the Angolans when they were on the verge of defeat at the hands of the racist regime.

But comrade Castro sent his troops to push away the rebels from the Angolan soil despite facing condemnation from the West,” Dr Kaunda said. “Every country in the region has received medical doctors from Cuba and many of their people have gone to Cuba to train as medical doctors.

Again that is service to humanity. He is an international leader of quality.”
Dr Kaunda described Castro as a great man by world standards.

“He has been a great man of peace and development to the human race,” Dr. Kaunda said. “He is an outstanding example of the role of a revolutionary leader.”

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Parliament adopts report on VAT Act amendment

Parliament adopts report on VAT Act amendment
By Mutuna Chanda
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

PARLIAMENT has adopted the report for the amendment of Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, which seeks to lower the current rate of 17.5 per cent by 1.5 per cent. This was after finance minister Ng’andu Magande introduced the VAT amendment bill, together with the income tax and, Customs and Excise amendment bills in Parliament on Tuesday. Parliament also adopted the reports on the income tax amendment bill and the customs and excise amendment bill.

Chairman of parliamentary committees Mkhondo Lungu directed the committee tasked to receive recommendations on the VAT amendment bill and the other two bills to submit their reports to parliament on Tuesday, March 4.

“All those members of parliament who wish to make recommendations or amendments to the bill should do so before Tuesday, March 4,” said Lungu.

The VAT amendment bill seeks to reduce the current rate from 17.5 per cent to 16 per cent.

Among other changes that the income tax amendment bill seeks to introduce is the increase in the tax-exempt threshold from K500, 000 to K600, 000.



Unified Chemicals boss calls for incentives to soya farmers

Unified Chemicals boss calls for incentives to soya farmers
By Oliver Sinyangwe
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

UNIFIED Chemicals Company marketing manager Sarana Dash has called for incentives to soya bean farmers as a way to boost production of the crop. In an interview, Dash said the current production levels of soya beans in the country were not enough to cater for the demand by cooking oil-manufacturing companies. He said the deficit of soya beans was compelling cooking oil manufacturers to import the commodity so as to satisfy their requirements.

“The country is loosing forex when we import soya beans from other countries, because at the moment the local farmers’ production of soya beans which is our core raw material like us the manufacturers of Ole cooking oil is not enough to cater for what we require,” Dash said.

“It is unfortunate that we have to import this commodity from other countries when in fact the country is blessed with ideal soil and climate for growing soya beans.”

He said it was not only costly for the country in terms of foreign exchange loss but also a drain on the company as it was more expensive to import than buy locally.

Meanwhile Dash bemoaned what he termed the excessive importation of exotic cooking oil brands to the local market.

Dash said the importation of these products hindered the growth of the local manufacturing companies and consequently, reduced the capacity to create jobs for the local people.

“We are facing serious problems as manufacturers, despite producing high quality cooking oil; we have a lot of imported products which are creating a stiff competition for us. This is not good for the economy of the country as a whole because we are being hindered to expand and create more jobs for the people. The more we import, the more we lose our forex and impoverish our people,” complained Dash.

He appealed to government to quickly find a way of reducing cooking oil imports because this could serve as a measure of encouraging local manufacturing and job creation.

Dash said that local companies had the capacity to satisfy the market with high quality cooking oil products without imports.



Lundazi MP hails power project

Lundazi MP hails power project
By Christopher Miti
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

LUNDAZI Central UNIP member of parliament Mkondo Lungu has said the electrification of Mwase sub-centre would help boost development in the district. And Lungu said the government has released K345 million for the rehabilitation of Nyangwe airstrip in senior chief Mwase’s area.

Commenting on the recent release of K3 billion under the Rural Electrification Programme to connect Mwase sub-centre to the national grid, Lungu said the electrification project had come at the right time.

He said Lundazi was a rich agricultural area and could positively contribute towards the economic development of the country.

He appealed to the government to find credible contractors to work on the Chipata-Lundazi road so that it could have a longer life span.

Lungu said the Chipata-Lundazi road had become a death trap although it was worked on two years ago.

And Lungu said the rehabilitation of the Nyangwe airstrip would start this year following the release of K345 million.

“We received this money last November but works could not start because that was the time rains were starting so the work would now start once the rains subside,” he said.

Lungu said the provincial administration had already found a contractor for the airstrip project.



LETTERS - Windfall Tax, Brain Drain

Mining tax proposals
By Simon Mulenga, Durban
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

I wish to comment on the new mining taxes proposed by the government and being opposed by mining companies. I feel it is greedy for the companies to refuse to share the profits coming from our copper.

I feel these companies should realise that a better economy for Zambia is a better means of securing their investments in this country. Poverty is a danger to security and not even those companies will feel safe to carry on doing business if there is civil strife in this country.

However, I am not confident that if these companies agree to abide by the new tax regime, the goverment will use the money well.

We have a history here of being made to pay huge taxes without knowing where our money goes. Driving along Dedani Kimathi Road makes you wonder where the fuel levy goes. If one looks at the current electricity crisis one realises that even when Zesco was doing very well by continuously hiking tariffs, the money made was not re-invested.

Everyday, second-hand Japanese vehicles are brought into this country and owners pay huge taxes at the borders and yet nothing is being done to increase the number of roads to absorb the increasing number of vehicles.

The city and municipal councils demand and get rates and send bailiffs to those that default and yet a look at all cities and towns shows uncollected gabbage, no street lights, dirty streets and uncut grass everywhere.

Driving along Great East Road and over the flyover, one is greeted with a big billboard asking us to be responsible and pay our taxes.

If I had any money left after paying the taxes I would put up my own billboard that would read "Be resposible, show us what you do with our tax money".

I have very little faith that government will behave in any different manner once the mines start paying up. And I would rather have a stranger steal from me than someone I voted to become a leader.

Conditions of service
By John Milimo
Thursday February 21, 2008 [03:00]

Development is the song of every political leader in this nation. I don’t know why they fail to realise that development is impossible if they themselves are selfish. Development is at a slow pace in our nation because some politicians are selfish. They only want to further their own interests and not those of the nation.

That is why many doctors, nurses, teachers and other intellectuals leave the country to seek greener pastures. My question is who will bring development in this nation if more educated people leave the country to places where there are good conditions of service?

The challenge for this present government is therefore to provide better conditions of service to the people so that they do not flee to other countries.

The need to improve conditions of service should not only come when people go on strike, but should be an ongoing process until the government gives to each person what is due to them.

Our nation has the potential of becoming one of Africa's most developed countries, but the only problem is that our political leaders are too individualistic. They are paid huge amounts of money which can be put to good use. Does it mean that their work is more important than that of others?

We should therefore promote dignity of labour because it will challenge us to respect different types of work. This will inspire every human being to work for the betterment of the nation.

Dignity of labour will also prompt all of us to work for the nation with enthusiasm and commitment and contribute towards economic growth.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

(TIMES) New tax regime non-negotiable

New tax regime non-negotiable
Though Government’s ready to listen to mines’ complaints
By Times Reporter

PRESIDENT Levy Mwanawasa’s invitation to mining companies is not to renegotiate development agreements or the new tax regime for the mining industry. A statement released in Lusaka by chief analyst for public relations and Press, David Kombe said the point President Mwanawasa made was that the Government was ready to listen to the complaints by mining companies who had alleged that the rate of taxation had been pegged at 76 per cent or 95 per cent, which would scare away potential investors to Zambia.

“The point the President made was that the Government will listen to their complaint on this alleged error,” the statement said.

The statement stated that the President said that rather than engage in uncoordinated arguments with the investors’ representatives, they should send in advance their submissions in which they identified how this “error” arose, and if there was no such error, they would be wasting everybody’s time requesting for the meeting.

“He (Dr Mwanawasa) made it clear that the Government was merely getting for the people of Zambia a fair share from the value of their mineral resources.

“At 47 per cent tax it was leaving a substantial return on the investment of the investors. This level of taxes was now neither the highest nor the lowest in the world. To that extent, therefore, this level of taxation was not negotiable,” Mr Kombe said.

“The President notes that recently the investors’ representatives actually appeared before a Parliamentary Committee to put their case forward and throughout they did not show any such error for the Government’s assessment of the rate of mining taxation,” he said.

And Caritas-Zambia has commended the Government for its unwavering stance on the new tax regime for the mining sector.

Caritas-Zambia economic justice programme officer, Edmond Kangamungazi said in a statement in Lusaka yesterday that the new tax measures would ensure that Zambians shared in the mining sector successes.

Mr Kangamungazi said that it was, however, cardinal that the Government refocused on responsible spending of the proceeds from the taxes.

“With the above issue in mind we demand that our Government proceeds to act with integrity, and without fear and favour to secure an equitable resolution that ensures the well-being of the people.

“In addition, Caritas-Zambia recommend that the Government refocuses on responsible spending of the increased revenue on mining-related issues such as environment protection, infrastructure development, etc,” he said.

He urged the Government that in all future development agreements which would affect the nation, the civil society and other interest groups should be consulted.

“Government must ensure that the process and outcomes of all such negotiations are transparent and accessible to the general public in order to enhance the confidence of the people to whom the Government owes the ultimate responsibility,” he said.

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Minning companies should pay more, says Kaunda

Minning companies should pay more, says Kaunda
By Brighton Phiri
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

Dr Kenneth Kaunda yesterday said he could have asked for more than what the MMD government is demanding from the mining companies if he was in President Levy Mwanawasa's shoes. Commenting on government and the mining companies' impasse over the newly introduced mineral taxes, Dr Kaunda said there was need for the mining companies to pay more than what government was demanding. He said there was no room for dialogue over the new mineral taxes.

"What do you dialogue about? This is a just what every government anywhere and everywhere does. Why can't they be reasonable and sensible? I think what government has asked is something that I could not have asked. I could have asked them to pay more," Dr Kaunda said. "What do you negotiate about? The government must just put its foot down and tell them that this is what we have decided and this is it... period."

Dr Kaunda said the mining companies had no option but to accept the government's demand for a fair share of its resources. He said Zambians were very right to get angry about their demand for a fair share of the country's mineral revenue.

"I do not understand how some people thought about Africa... because it is not just about Zambia. We welcome the investors in Africa and Zambia, but they must understand that this is the property through which we want to get funding for our education, health, rural development, agriculture, communications, roads rehabilitation and other social services," he said.

Dr Kaunda said it was difficult to understand why the mining companies were resisting Zambians' demand for a fair share when they had already taken away more of their interest.

"I only hope they will co-operate with government and give them what they are asking, otherwise I could have asked for much more. I am justified to do that and I support what the government is saying," he said.

Dr Kaunda reminded the mining companies that his government paid the British South African company (BSA) three million pounds to get back the mineral rights on behalf of Zambians.

He said it was justified for Zambians to claim for a fair share because they had to pay to regain their mineral rights that they lost to their colonial masters.

"Just on the eve of our independence, we paid BSA three million pounds to get back our mineral rights as they were still in the hands of the foreigners. And that was done for the good of both the foreign investors and Zambians. It is justice and fair play on both sides," he said.

Last week President Mwanawasa asked the mining companies to stop shouting against the new mineral taxes from an anthill. He said there was no justification for the mining companies to criticise government for asking for a fair share of its resources.

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We salute Fidel

We salute Fidel
By Editor
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

What more could a person expect out of one life?
This is the question that should be answered in our response to Commandante Fidel Castro's decision not to aspire to or accept the position of President of Council of State and Commander in Chief. This clearly confirms what Fidel has always said that in Cuba nobody is in public office because of ambition or pleasure but only to fulfil a duty, to serve their cause.

All virtues are attributed to Fidel - he has filled the pages of all newspapers and magazines, he has been on all screens and has seen the effect his words have on multitudes.

Some of his friends and comrades have told some amazing anecdotes about his sensitivity, which has survived disillusionment, failure, ingratitude, days of glory, assassination attempts and other people's selling out. Fidel is a man easily moved to tears. People also say that he is the most outstanding person in the modern world. People feel very strongly about Fidel: they either hate or love him.

Those who love him consider him blameless. We think, really, that he is, because he never lies, not even when he is authoritarian and stubborn. These are defects that make Fidel more human.

It is common for those who are near a leader to imitate them in some way: their voice, their gestures, their style. Nobody imitates Fidel, however, because there is the same distance between him and the others as there was between St Francis and his friars.
Even those who hate Fidel respect him.

Apocalyptic statements credit Fidel with having helped along more of the best and worst events of the last 40 years - the Vietnam War, the defence of the independence of Angola and the opening of the way for the independence of Namibia and freedom in South Africa and so on and so forth - than any other human being in modern times.

At 22, Fidel was in Bogotá during the upheaval in 1948, when Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was assassinated, and took part in an armed raid against Trujillo, defying sharks and stormy seas.

When the Cuban people took power under Fidel's leadership, revolutionaries all over the world sensed the magnitude of the change, the burial of geographical determinism and the appearance of the most charismatic, eloquent leader of modern times.

Cuba threw itself into impassioned solidarity with causes that were or seemed good. It helped so many countries and so many human beings this way that countless numbers of them are - or should be - grateful and ready to express that gratitude in Cuba's present circumstances.

Cuba has donated oil and guitar strings. It gave blood for those injured in earthquakes and for those wounded in the field of battle in Latin America and Africa.
Cuba sang lullabies, love songs and songs of battle to the listening peoples. It provided metaphors and medicines, meeting every need unhesitatingly. Fidel created that style.
The most beautiful, admirable aspect of Cuba under the leadership of Fidel has been its generosity.

We should repay at least a tenth of what it has done for us, and do so immediately. We think that we can be useful in denouncing the inhuman United States blockade. We must convince international public opinion and especially public opinion in the United States to get the government of that country to change the archaic, irrational and cruel policy it is applying against Cuba. That's the only decent thing to do.

The time will come in the not-too-distant future when the United States will come to its senses and become respectful, when its terrible pretentiousness will end, when it will stop acting like an evil stepmother and become a sister. When this happens, it will become a country worth of the large numbers of its citizens who enroll in the most noble causes and will also be worth of the respect and affection of other peoples. And we hope one day the United States will engage in self-criticism for its attempts to assassinate Fidel.

They say no one is indispensable. But there will be only one Fidel. We won't have another. Fidel is Fidel. In Cuba, any cult that may exist is fully justified by Fidel's personality. Fidel is unquestionably an archetype.
There are some people who, by pursuing their own convictions and without being self-conscious about it, touch the lives of millions of others. Such has been Fidel's revolutionary life and leadership.

There is an impressive flood of light that surrounds Fidel and he accepts it, aware that it belongs to history more than to any human being in this period of history - although his immortality is assured.

Fidel's retirement - if one can call it that - has reaffirmed our convictions and given us more arguments for our enthusiasm for solidarity and for taking the measure of the affront to the intelligence and honour of human beings. Our views are not impartial; they cling to life after the recent funeral rites, seeking to light a spark in the dark. And in our efforts to do this, we will always delve into Fidel's incredible memory and singular intelligence as he continues to "fight as a soldier of ideas" by writing columns in the Cuban media. And we have no doubt the peoples of Latin America and Africa will find his columns a stimulus to reflection and encouragement to preserving their hope in the causes that have never ceased to be legitimate. Fidel's reflections on humanity, the human condition and human beings as the protagonists in the inconstancy of history will always be of great value.

Again, Fidel's retirement demonstrates his boundless confidence in human beings and should be approached in a critical spirit, with a sense of history and renewed faith in the values that for some have become obsolete and bothersome.

We salute Fidel for his contributions to the advancement of humanity, especially those in our Third World. We will always respect and honour his great revolutionary contributions.



Taxpayer charter will sharpen ZRA's service delivery, says Dr Bwalya

Taxpayer charter will sharpen ZRA's service delivery, says Dr Bwalya
By Chibaula Silwamba
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

ZAMBIA Revenue Authority (ZRA) director of research and planning Dr Samuel Bwalya has said the taxpayer charter will enable people demand high quality and efficient delivery of services from ZRA within a stipulated period. Giving an overview of the taxpayer charter which ZRA will launch this Friday, Dr Bwalya said it would enforce and sharpen ZRA’s service delivery.

“This charter enables you the client to know what service you should expect from ZRA,” said Dr Bwalya in an interview on Monday. “For instance, tax registration, we are committing that we will undertake to complete the process of tax registration within three days. If you come to our advice centre with all the necessary documentations that we need, and you want to take a tax payer identification number, you are guaranteed that within three days it will be ready and if it’s not ready within three days you take us to task.”

He said in line with the charter, ZRA would undertake to pay a refund of Value Added Tax (VAT) claim within 30 days from the date of lodgment.

“We undertake to pay the income tax refunds within 45 days of submission of lodgment of an income tax return; customs refund (duty drawback, general, estreated deposits) - we undertake to pay the refund within 30 days from the date of lodgment; customs deposit refund (except refunds for estreated deposits) - we undertake to pay back the refund within 48 hours of submission of a refund claim; we undertake to process a clean customs declaration within one and half days,” Dr Bwalya explained. “We shall issue a tax clearance certificate within 48 hours upon receipt of an application; service efficiency – we undertake to attend to clients within 20 minutes of their arrival at the customer service centre; fairness – we undertake to allow our clients their right to appeal, inform them of their rights and obligations and treat them equitably and in accordance with the law; we undertake to provide clear information on tax matters; we undertake to acknowledge comments, complaints and queries within five working days of their receipts; we undertake to respond to all comments, complaints and queries within 14 days of their referral to the appropriate manager and we shall treat tax matters with privacy and confidentiality.”

Dr Bwalya said ZRA would be monitoring its performance according to the taxpayer charter on a quarterly basis and publicise the information. The ZRA and USAID through the Zambia Threshold Project partnered to come up with the taxpayer charter.

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Chief Mukutuma 'cries for cold beers'

Chief Mukutuma 'cries for cold beers'
By A Correspondent
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:01]

CHIEF Mukutuma of the Lamba people of Lufwanyama district on the Copperbelt has said he wants his chiefdom to be electrified for him to enjoy the luxury of drinking very cold beer from the fridge. Chief Mukutuma said the absence of electricity in his chiefdom had deprived him of enjoying cold beer. He asked the government to expedite the electrification of his chiefdom.

Chief Mukutuma said this when Copperbelt minister Mwansa Mbulakulima visited his palace on Monday. He said he was using sacks to cool his beer and was therefore not enjoying it. Chief Mukutuma said it was shameful for chiefs to live in houses without electricity for a long time despite being on the Copperbelt where there were a number of economic activities.

“I don’t enjoy beer from the sack because it is not as cold as the one from the fridge. This is why I am saying that I want you to expedite the electrification of my chiefdom so that I can also enjoy cold beer from the fridge. So please I would like also to enjoy cold beers from the fridge, just like you enjoy in the city,” chief Mukutuma said.

And chief Mukutuma said he was disappointed that councillors were not visiting him to explain various developments taking place at the council. He said councillors were not performing their duties as expected and was wondering whom they were representing at the council, if they did not visit the electorate in the area.

He also urged the government to put up a number of health centres, schools and other infrastructure to effectively improve people’s lives in the area.

And Mbulakulima, in response, said the rural electrification programme was not mere rhetoric and that the government would ensure that it electrified the chief’s palaces in the province.

He said the programme had been derailed due to various problems, but was optimistic that the programme would come to fruition.

“Your Royal Highness, a number of demands have overwhelmed various government programmes, but I am certain that we shall deliver on our promises. We shall electrify your palace and you shall enjoy your cold beer,” said Mbulakulima.

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MMD is very petty, says Sata

MMD is very petty, says Sata
By Patson Chilemba
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

PATRIOTIC Front (PF) president Michael Sata has said the MMD is very petty. And local government and housing minister Syliva Masebo yesterday urged Sata to grow up and start behaving like a man of his age. Reacting to Tetamashimba’s statement that if it was good for him to bar Dr Kenneth Kaunda then it must be good for him to also be barred from contesting the presidency, Sata yesterday said it was retrogressive that MMD was too pre-occupied with stopping him from contesting the presidency when there were a lot of pressing national issues that needed urgent attention.

Sata urged MMD not to hide their inefficiency in Dr Kaunda. He said MMD was desperately trying to bar him because they knew he would defeat them in the 2011 elections.

“Sata is not worth the K400 billion this MMD is spending bribing people at NCC just to include in the draft constitution barring Sata to stand in 2011 and beyond,” he said.

Sata claimed the constitution the MMD government was enacting will be a sham and not worth the paper it will be written on.

“It’s good they have made their intentions clearly and they are using NCC as a rubber stamp and every person attending NCC will be accountable to the Zambian people,” he said.

And Sata said Tetamashimba was not worthy to be minister or deputy because he has a very low IQ. He said Tetamashimba’s dullness had made it very difficult for President Levy Mwanawasa to promote him to the position of Cabinet minister. He said the only position that would suit Tetamashimba was that of councillor for Mufumbwe in North-Western Province.

“Kabinga Pande who joined politics later than him is a full Cabinet minister. Even Kenneth Konga who is also from North-Western Province is a full Cabinet minister,” he said.

And commenting on Sata’s allegation that she was using a government vehicle for campaigns in Kanyama, Masebo said Sata was an old man who was not ashamed to tell lies.

“I find his allegation to be very foolish. This old man thrives on lies and it looks like he wedded to lies because he cannot do anything without telling lies,” Masebo said. “That vehicle belongs to Sylvia Masebo and not the government. And it is not difficult for anyone to establish who owns what vehicle because records are there for anyone to see whether that is a government vehicle or not.

The problem is Sata wants to pretend that he knows too much when he knows nothing but misinformation. I used the same vehicle for campaigns during the 2006 election and you members of the press took pictures of it with loud speakers mounted on it. Now Sata should mislead the electorate in Kanyama that I am using a government vehicle. I am not that cheap. And Sata is complaining when I have the police as my bodyguards.

When he was local government minister, his driver was from the army and carrying an AK47 rifle. Now, don’t I need security and protection? As a man in that ministry, Sata had an armed driver from the army so is it wrong that as a woman in that ministry, I am being protected by police officers? It looks like he cannot do his politics without mentioning Masebo. Wherever Sata is, his topical is Masebo. What have I done against this old man? ”

Masebo called upon Sata to start behaving like a grown up who cherishes the truth as opposed to embracing and using lies as means of survival.

“ But he always behaves like a 12-year-old boy. I am only comforted by the fact that Zambia will never have a Sata for president,” said Masebo.

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LETTERS - Governance

Resource distribution
By Francis Mwelwa Bwalya
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

Our President will be the most expensive if the report of the K48 billion health allocation is anything to go by. How many health facilities can be built or benefit from such a colossal sum of money? In light of this, how does it make him feel? Blessed? Our hospitals lack even panadol and specialist treatment is still the old story of unimaginable, abnormal and obnoxious appointments.

Surely, something somewhere is terribly wrong. Anyhow what is left for the common man? Where is the care? Where are the promises of improved health care? We are taking wrong turns and we will have ourselves to blame. Let’s have equitable distribution of resources to all and for all Zambians.

Economic development
By Raphael Mukuka,Australia
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

MMD boasts of good policies that have brought about development and hence the power shortages because of high demand.

What is development if you don’t have electricity 24 hours a day? It's unfortunate that we also lack investigative journalism to fully inform the nation why there is a continuous national power cut and unexplained load shedding.

If the money for all the trips the President is making and other unnecessary businesses can be found, what about the money to replace the generators that we have been told cannot handle the huge demand because of the ‘developments’ in the nation?
A few years ago when we experienced load shedding, we were told that it was because of the drought, but now we have floods and we are being told that the huge demand for electricity is too much for the generators.

Don’t tell us that the problems of load shedding the people are facing are beyond Zesco. The company was formed to provide electricity and not perpetuate people’s lives with load shedding. The current load shedding is negating development and it’s unfair to expose peoples trust in the government to run national affairs in such a manner.

Why should you pay for a service that is erratic and is cut off at the provider's timetable, leaving you to figure out how you will cook and attend to other household chores.

By Triple M
Wednesday February 20, 2008 [03:00]

I write as a sad man after reading the Auditor General’s report in The Post (12th February, 2008).

Honestly, what has gone wrong in the government ministries? Billions if not trillions of kwacha are going unaccounted for and the AG is not making positive recommendations other than reporting the lack of accountability. This is the reason some companies are evading taxes because after all, they are not properly accounted for.

Finally, I feel Zambia is not poor but it’s poorly managed.



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Journey to excellence"

"Journey to excellence"
By Editor
Tuesday February 19, 2008 [03:00]

"Journey to excellence" launched by the department of human resource and administration of the Ministry of Finance will be welcomed by most Zambians. "Journey to excellence" being a programme that is intended to work towards making public service delivery more efficient, effective and competitive will be welcomed by our people because this is what they have always yearned for. There is nothing which makes people more appreciative of a government than that it should be able to deliver services.

It should be the task of the government to give millions of Zambians an essential piece of dignity in their lives - the dignity that comes from having a solid roof over one's head, running water and other services in an established community.

And as Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Joshua Kanganja has correctly observed, the country requires a public service that is efficient and effective and that responds quickly and positively to the needs of our people. There is urgent need to redress the declining levels of service delivery in the country.

Of course, we do appreciate that the Zambian public service faces many challenges in its efforts to become a truly representative, competent and democratic instrument and to play its proper role in our country's development process. To fulfil this role effectively, our public service needs serious transformations.

By this we mean transformation as a dynamic, focussed and relatively short term process designed to fundamentally reshape our public service for its appointed role. And a transformed Zambian public service should be judged by one criterion above all: its effectiveness in delivering services which meet the basic needs of all our people.

But it must be borne in mind that public services are not a privilege in a civilised and democratic society: they are a legitimate expectation.

Improving delivery of public services means redressing the imbalances that we currently have and, while maintaining continuity of service to all levels of society, focusing on meeting the needs of the over 70 per cent of Zambians who are living below the poverty line and those who have seriously been disadvantaged in terms of service delivery, such as those living in rural areas.

The objectives to be pursued therefore must include that of welfare, equity and efficiency, and so on and so forth. It also means a complete change in the way that services are delivered. A shift from inward-looking, bureaucratic systems, processes and attitudes, towards new ways of working which put the needs of the public first, is better, faster and more responsive to meet those needs.

It is said that private companies cannot afford to ignore the needs and wishes of their customers if they want to stay in business, because dissatisfied customers can choose to take their business elsewhere. Knowing what the customer wants and providing it quicker, better and cheaper than your competitors, is essential to business success.

Thus, in the private sector "the customer comes first" is not an empty slogan but a fundamental business principle.

By contrast, public sector "customers" cannot choose to take their business elsewhere.

They cannot exert the same pressure on public service organisations to improve. Public institutions which fail to satisfy their customers do not go out of business because of lack of competition. Complaining often has little effect and can in any case be a daunting and time consuming process. The individual citizen's voice penetrates the wall of bureaucracy with difficulty.

A fresh approach is needed: an approach which puts pressure on systems, procedures, attitudes and behaviour within our public service and orients them in the customers favour. This doesn't mean introducing more rules and centralised processes or micro-managing service delivery activities.

Rather, it should involve creating a framework for the delivery of public services which puts citizens or customers first and enables them to hold public servants to account for the service they receive - a framework which frees up the energy and commitment of public servants to introduce more customer focussed ways of working.

Openness and transparency are the hallmarks of democratic government and will be fundamental to our public service transformation process.

In terms of public service delivery, their importance lies in the need to build confidence and trust between those running public institutions and the citizens they serve. A key aspect of this will be that the public should know more about the way our public institutions are run, and who is in charge.

Clearly, improving public service delivery can only be achieved with the resources that the nation can afford. Therefore, "Journey to Excellence" must go forward in the context of a transformation programme that is also aimed at reducing public expenditure and creating a leaner public service. It is therefore essential to make better use of our limited resources. Our public service currently costs us a lot of money to run.

It costs us more than the country can afford. If only a small percentage of this cost was saved in improved efficiency and reducing waste, their would be billions available per year to plough back into improved services.

The key aims of "Journey to Excellence" should therefore be to search for ways of simplifying procedures, reducing delays and duplication and to focus scarce resources on delivering services better.

Many improvements that the public would like to see cost nothing, and can sometimes even reduce costs. A courteous and respectful greeting requires no financial investment.

Failure to give a member of the public a simple, satisfactory explanation to an enquiry may result in an incorrectly completed application form which will cost time to put right.

Improving public service delivery matters, not only to the individual users of services, but also to the whole community. Improved delivery of service is essential for the future economic prosperity and social development of our country.

And economic growth depends, in the very first place, on social progress. Economic justice requires that each individual has access to the necessary services required for his survival and development. But improving service delivery should never be seen as a one-off exercise.

It is an ongoing and dynamic process, an endless "journey to excellence" because as standards are met, they must be gradually raised - as Nelson Mandela once put it: "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."

It is in this light that we welcome "Journey to Excellence" and the spirit of criticism and self-criticism under which it was launched by Dr Kanganja. It is a good start that can lead to a lot of progress if pursued consistently and in a disciplined way and if we continue to remind ourselves of the fact that there is nothing which makes people more appreciative of a government than that it is able to deliver services.