Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rupiah is admitting failure, says HH

Rupiah is admitting failure, says HH
Written by Chibaula Silwamba
Saturday, April 11, 2009 6:05:48 AM

RUPIAH Banda is admitting his failure by acknowledging that the big portion of the national budget goes to salaries of only a few people, UPND president Hakainde Hichilema has charged.

And Hichilema charged that President Banda was camouflaging himself from his responsibilities by calling for an indaba which did not come up with any new and extraordinary solutions to the current economic crisis the country was facing.

Commenting on President Banda’s statement to World Bank vice-president for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili on Thursday at State House that the big portion of Zambia’s national budget goes to pay salaries of only a few people and that all leaders have to give up some of their privileges, Hichilema said he and his party had constantly advised President Banda and his government to reduce expenditure on salaries and consumption in general but they did not heed the advice.

He said UPND did a budget critic and suggested that the budget should be adjusted but President Banda and his government did not listen.

“Has he just realised that now? It’s strange that Rupiah Banda has realised now that most money in the budget is spent on salaries and other consumption expenditures,” Hichilema said.

He said the budget should have focused on the economic challenges but it was unfortunate that the government focused on consumption expenditure.

“As long as you have Rupiah there and an inherent corrupt MMD in office, this country is going nowhere,” Hichilema said.

“Rupiah has realised after passing the budget; that means their priorities are wrong. This is what we call thinking upside down. They put all priorities on consumption because they had already increased their salaries. That is the first bill he signed when he came into office. If the President is complaining, who is the chief executive of Zambia, so who is he complaining to? He is now admitting his failure.”

Hichilema said Zambians had been given a clear picture and they know that President Banda is a failure.

President Banda on Thursday said those in leadership positions should give up some of their privileges, saying a big portion in the national budget goes towards paying salaries of only a few individuals.

"Those of us that are in positions of fortune or leadership have to give up some of our privileges. That means all leaders, politicians, ministers, civil servants. If you look at our budget for instance, the big portion of it goes to salaries of only a few people," President Banda said as he looked where ministers were seated.

And Hichilema observed that last weekend’s national indaba did not come up with any new resolutions to help the country cushion itself from the current global economic crisis, which was affecting Zambia. He said people, political parties and other organisations that boycotted the indaba would be vindicated because the consultative conference did not achieve anything.

Hichilema said the MMD was trying to disguise its failure by calling for the indaba.

“They have failed to address the problem of high mealie-meal prices. Do you need an Indaba to reduce prices of mealie-meal? Do you need to an indaba to reduce electricity tariffs? They have allowed Zesco to increase electricity tariffs by 66 per cent when over 80 per cent of Zambians can’t access electricity,” Hichilema said.

“That indaba for me was just a sheer waste of time and money. I can assure you that those of us who didn’t attend the indaba are being vindicated, we will be proved right.”

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Don’t fear tribunals

Don’t fear tribunals
Written by Editor

Mike Mulongoti’s frustrations are understandable. There is clearly a need to distinguish between the mistakes of an honest person and the criminal acts of a crook, a thief, a corrupt politician or public servant.

Mulongoti says ministers are now afraid to make decisions because of tribunals, decision making by ministers has now been criminalised in society and this has hampered their efficiency because everything is now being referred to permanent secretaries to make decisions.

“We are now criminalising decision making, a permanent secretary makes decisions for everybody because nobody wants to make decisions, because they are potential jail birds. Everything is being referred to the permanent secretaries. When I look at permanent secretaries, I look at potential jail birds.” This is the frustration Mulongoti is going through. He may have a point but there is need to look at how and why things may be this way.

Many polls that have been conducted in this country have continued to show diminishing levels of public trust in politicians, public servants. And this too should be understandable. How can the Zambian people be expected to trust their politicians and public servants after the betrayal by Frederick Chiluba and those around him?

This government is today trying to register a judgment from the London High Court obtained against Chiluba and others who worked with him when he was president of this country. It was found that Chiluba stole, abused public funds and he has been asked to repay that money to the Zambian government. And this is why the government is today seeking to register that judgment so that what Chiluba stole from the Zambian people can be recovered from whatever he has in this country.

We also have very senior public officers who are either in jail or on bail pending appeal for stealing public funds, for abusing public office. How can the Zambian people be expected to blindly trust public officers or servants given all this experience?

There is nothing to fear about tribunals. This is very good law which has not been abused in any way by our people and those administering it. This law – the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act – under which tribunals are convened has been around for close to 15 years now. And so far, only three cases have been investigated under this Act. The first one was against Remmy Mushota who tried to use his office to steal K210 million from a government account at Bank of Zambia just before the Easter holidays of that year. This was followed by a tribunal against Peter Machungwa, Golden Mandandi and Katele Kalumba for diverting K2 billion from government coffers to finance the MMD. And the current one against Dora Siliya is the third in a decade and half of the existence of this law. This is not to say the Chief Justice does not receive complaints under this law. Many complaints are raised with the Chief Justice but only those which are not frivolous and meet the required criteria end in a tribunal. Probably this explains why the first two tribunals found those complained against, except Katele, wanting.

This being the case, why should ministers be afraid to make decisions because of tribunals? There are clearly laid down procedures for how government decisions should be made. The duties and rights of ministers are also clearly laid down. And the responsibilities and powers of permanent secretaries are also clearly laid down in the procedures of government. And in the whole process, there is no room for arbitrariness. We are not saying the system that is there is perfect or has no deficiencies. We are merely acknowledging the fact that there is a system, there are procedures for public policy decision making. There are laws, rules or regulations that stipulate how a public policy is put in place from conception, adoption, implementation, through to monitoring and evaluation. And the roles of ministers and permanent secretaries in all this are clearly spelt out. This being the case, why should there be a problem, why should ministers be afraid to play that role that legitimately should be played by them?

Clearly, the problem arises out of the desire by ministers to play roles that the law has not assigned to their offices but to the permanent secretaries and their staff. It is the attempt by ministers, for good or bad reasons, to play the roles of permanent secretaries that is a source of all these problems and frustrations. If ministers want to perform functions that today belong to permanent secretaries, they should do so by changing the law and not by arbitrary actions. Truly, we have situations where very good ministers are being let down by the performance of inept and corrupt permanent secretaries. But the solution to this is not for the minister to arbitrarily take over the functions of the permanent secretaries. This is lawlessness. And this is what may lead to tribunals because it is against the law.

If a minister is acting within the law, there will be no reason for them to fear making decisions. Even if they were to make mistakes while acting in an honest manner, without any corrupt motives, there would be nothing to fear. Of course in public life, no one gets away with anything. In more civilised societies, those who are failed by their judgments are often forced to resign their positions in government. Just yesterday, there was a news item on BBC of a senior security officer who resigned his position because of the wrong decision he made in the handling of suspected Pakistani militants. He paid the price for making a wrong decision. This is what accountability in public service entails.

And moreover, public servants use resources that don’t belong to them, that belong to the public and therefore the levels of accountability need to be very high.

And tribunals are not just constituted anyhow. The Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct spells very clearly what constitutes a breach of conduct for a tribunal to be constituted. We don’t see how any of the provisions of section 4 of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct would make ministers fear to make decisions and hamper their efficiency. Being asked to work within the confines of the law is not criminalising the decisions of ministers.

When one critically examines the whole issue, it’s not difficult to see that the problems arise from decisions pertaining to procurement of goods and services for the government, to spending public money. We see a struggle here between ministers and permanent secretaries on who should actually spend that money, who should make this or that decision. But again the law lays out these procedures very clearly. The role of ministers in procurement is not obscure. It is as clear as the midday sun over the Barotse flood plains. The problem may be that ministers want to do a bit more than the law permits them. Again, this may be for good reasons. But the law doesn’t permit it.

There appears to be a tendency to confuse our daily, household-type, decisions with the processes and considerations which should permeate government decision making. We label perfect legitimate decisions as “corrupt” – and totally corrupt procedures as “legal” or merely “legitimate”, because this is what was decreed by the statal mechanisms, or because “this is the law”.

There are many problems with public procurement. At least this is the public image of these expenditures. True, some ministers abuse public money in all sorts of ways. It could be to favour their cronies and relatives or for their own direct personal benefit. These two plagues – cronyism and nepotism – haunt public procurement. The spectra of government officials using public money to benefit their political allies or their family members – haunts public imagination and provokes public indignation. Then, there are problems of plain corruption: bribes or commissions paid to those who control the expenditure – be they ministers or permanent secretaries. And today, there are people in our country who have been convicted by our courts of law over such issues. So public fear or suspicion is not totally unfounded.

But again, Mulongoti’s concerns should not be dismissed. We have had problems in our country in leaving all these functions to permanent secretaries. There are more permanent secretaries today who have been convicted or are in our courts of law for corruption, for abuse of public funds. Therefore, how our country’s very limited financial resources should be spent is a matter of concern for any serious minded politician. A procurement decision reflects a political preference and priority. Where there is money, there is a possibility of wrongdoing. Humans are humans – and sometimes not even that. But these unfortunate derivatives of social activity can be minimised by adherence to laid down procedures in procurement and to refining those procedures if they are found wanting; and to transparent public decision-making processes with the right mix of supervision, auditing and prosecution. Good rules are necessary but not always enough to curb corruption. It is therefore important to have clear and publicly available procedures so that the public can also participate in monitoring what is going on, what is being done on their behalf. As we have stated before, the most potent weapon against corruption, abuse of public resources is an informed public. The spending of public funds through all sorts of procurements is one of the areas most prone to corruption. And corruption in procurement affects the efficiency of public spending, creates waste and, ultimately, affects the quality of public services and the opportunities they present to improve quality of life. Corruption also harms companies that produce goods and services as it increases operational costs, reduces competitiveness and, in the medium term, is not good business.

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Tribunals are taking us nowhere – Mulongoti

Tribunals are taking us nowhere – Mulongoti
Written by Nchima Nchito Jr
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:59:39

MINISTERS are now afraid to make decisions because of tribunals, works and supply minister Mike Mulongoti has said.

During a forum organised by the National Council for Construction (NCC) in Lusaka on Thursday, Mulongoti said decision-making by ministers had now been criminalized in society and this had hampered their efficiency because everything was now being referred to permanent secretaries to make decisions.

“We are now criminalising decision-making, a PS (permanent secretary) makes decisions for everybody because nobody wants to make decisions because they are potential jail birds,” Mulongoti said.

He claimed that this situation has paralysed the civil service.

“Everything is being referred to PSs. When I look at PSs, I look at potential jail birds,” he said.

Mulongoti said decisions that had been made in good faith were now being questioned although business was about decision-making.

“We will not go anywhere with tribunals, I can assure you,” he said.

Mulongoti said criminality should not be seen in everything that was done by the government.

Communications and transport minister Dora Siliya is currently being probed by a tribunal established under the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act for allegedly abusing her authority of office when she offered, without following tender procedures and legal advice from the Attorney General, a US $2 million contract to RP Capital to evaluate ZAMTEL assets. Siliya is also accused of having irregularly overruled the Zambia National Tender Board on a contract to repair radars at Lusaka and Livingstone international airports.

Meanwhile, commerce minister Felix Mutati said the K3 trillion allocated towards infrastructure development in the national budget was aimed at stimulating growth in the economy. Speaking at the same function, Mutati said the money allocated to infrastructure development may not be enough but was a good start.

“By creating growth in the infrastructure sector, we will be reversing some of the job losses that are occurring in other sectors,” he said.

Mutati said infrastructure was a huge contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). He said the government was willing to go into Public Private Partnership (PPP) to bring about infrastructure development.

“Government will not have money to address all challenges of infrastructure…that is where the private sector will come in,” he said.

However, Mutati warned the private sector that only quality products should be delivered to the public.

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Govt to conclude negotiations with new LCM investor

Govt to conclude negotiations with new LCM investor
Written by Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:58:06 AM

GOVERNMENT is by June this year expected to conclude negotiations with a new investor to take over the running of the financially troubled Luanshya Copper Mines (LCM), mines minister Maxwell Mwale disclosed yesterday.

In an interview yesterday, Mwale said a number of local and international firms had continued to show interest in taking over both the Baluba Shaft and the US $354 million greenfield Mulyashi copper project.

Mwale also disclosed that 86 per cent of LCM creditors had agreed on the payment of liabilities which would be settled at an agreed rate and time.

Mwale explained that following the meeting with the mine creditors, the assets of the mines had now been surrendered to government while LCM would continue to look after the mines in care and maintenance status.

He also said following the April 6 meeting, LCM creditors and the mine management agreed on the payment of liabilities which would be settled at an agreed rate and time.

“LCM management came to brief me about the meeting they had on the 6th of April with the creditors and they told me it went on very well. 86 per cent of the creditors agreed to the scheme while 14 per cent did not,” Mwale said. “Now the scheme will proceed to the [High] Court as by law.” Mwale also said the government wanted to expedite the selection of the new investor to ease the suffering of the people of Luanshya.

“We should come up with the new investor by June,” said Mwale. “We can’t keep the issue of Luanshya mine for too long...the people of Luanshya have suffered for so long.”

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Banda is panicking over his lies – Sata

Banda is panicking over his lies – Sata
Written by Patson Chilemba
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:56:58 AM

RUPIAH Banda is panicking because he has told so many lies, Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata has charged. In an interview, Sata said President Banda had told too many lies against The Post and Zambian Airways, including that the former had pocketed US $30 million.

Sata said apart from lying against the two institutions, President Banda had also lied to the people on his many unfulfilled election promises.

Sata pointed out that President Banda distorted the Fertiliser Support Programme (FSP) as a campaign tactic last year when he announced at a campaign rally that the price of the commodity had been reduced to K50,000 per bag and allowed civil servants to buy subsidised fertiliser under the programme.

He said those lies were now beginning to haunt President Banda.

He said the problem with liars was that they always forgot the lies they had told and covered them with more lies.

Sata said President Banda's initiatives such as calling for the indaba were all aimed at diverting public attention from the many lies he had told.

"It is him who is panicking because he has told so many lies not just against The Post. He has lied about me. I have challenged him to show me the Supreme Court ruling that said I lied as he alleged recently. He should not divert people by going to the indaba," Sata said.

He said even though the indaba had come up with several recommendations, it was wishful thinking that the government would implement them.

Sata pointed out that there was a scarcity of resources to implement the recommendations because the budget had already been passed.

Sata said this could have been done before the national budget.

And PF vice-president Guy Scott said he had complained to the German Embassy over the alleged condemnation of PF and UPND by a German delegation of parliamentarians over the two parties' boycott of the national indaba.

Scott said the German parliamentarians from both the ruling and opposition parties were not experts to lecture PF on what was right or wrong.

"They don't know who has been cheating who. We are not fools that we should be lectured like spoiled children. We have reason for what we do and don't do. We were not going to take part in a public relations of 500 and pretend that the country is run by consultation," said Scott. "We just had 40 days in Parliament, every opposing view we raised was ousted by the arrogance of numbers."

The German parliamentarians were quoted in the Times of Zambia edition of April 6, 2009 as having condemned PF and UPND for not attending the indaba.

Spokesperson on development cooperation Karl Addicks who was part of the delegation said in Lusaka at the weekend that it was sad that the two presidents, Sata and UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, boycotted such an important event aimed at finding solutions to the economic crisis.

President Banda called for the indaba to enable government and other stakeholders to brainstorm and help find solutions to effects of the global financial and economic meltdown on the country. The two-day indaba, which attracted over 500 delegates including some people from the diaspora, run from April 4 to 5, 2009.

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Cuba is a point of honour for Latin America, says Chavez

Cuba is a point of honour for Latin America, says Chavez
Written by Larry Moonze in Havana, Cuba
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:56:01 AM

CUBA is a point of honour for the peoples of Latin America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said. And on Monday, Venezuela and Japan signed 12 agreements on energy cooperation during President Chavez's visit to Tokyo.

In a telephone message to the Venezuelan National Radio from Japan, also publicised by TeleSur and Prensa-Latina, President Chavez disclosed that Caracas would hold a presidential summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)

states two days before the 5th Summit of the Americas to frame a common position on Cuba.

Cuba is excluded from the Summit of the Americas just as the island is suspended from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

"Cuba is a point of honour for the peoples of Latin America," President Chavez said. "We cannot accept that the United States should continue trampling over the nations of our America. To trample over Cuba is to trample over Venezuela and this will have to be said in Trinidad and Tobago. Nobody can make us keep our mouths shut."

President Chavez said the ALBA Summit would be held from April 14 to 15 in Venezuela.

He said Presidents Daniel Ortega [Nicaragua], Manuel Zelaya [Honduras], President Evo Morales [Bolivia], Prime Minster Roosevelt Skerrit [Dominican], a representative from the Cuban government would attend, including Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo who would attend as a special guest.

President Chavez said the ALBA meeting would be very crucial as it would be held two days prior to the 5th Americas Summit.

"It will thus provide an opportunity to discuss and bring common positions to Trinidad and Tobago," he said.

President Chavez said a discussion on Cuba's isolation as a consequence of the US blockade was to be suggested as an addition to the agenda.

"If they want to come with the same excluding discourse of the empire [US] 'on the blockade,' then the result [of the Summit of the Americas] will be that nothing has changed. Everything will stay the same."

And President Chavez met Japanese premier Taro Aso leading to the two countries signing 12 energy agreements involving operations in the Venezuelan oil-rich Orinoco Belt.

Among the agreements include four memoranda of understanding involving Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for a joint venture on the Gran Mariscal Sucre project with Marubeni, Itochu, Mitsubishi and Mitsui.

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Indaba can’t solve economic crisis, says Sacika

Indaba can’t solve economic crisis, says Sacika
Written by Patson Chilemba
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:53:16 AM

FORMER secretary to the cabinet Sketchley Sacika has observed that the global economic crisis cannot be solved by platitudes from political gatherings.

And Sacika charged that calling for indabas for purposes of receiving ideas from members of the public on how to manage the country's affairs is tantamount to government passing a vote of no confidence in itself.

In a press statement on the just-ended national indaba, Sacika pointed out that reading the conclusions of the indaba, the only significant outcome was a call to government to set up a task force to deal with matters arising from the global economic crisis. He stated that the rest of the discourse was about matters that had been talked about before.

Sacika stated that diversification of the economy and the need to improve agricultural productivity were not new ideas because they had been the subject of the national conventions.

"They are as old as Zambia is and have been the subject of the National Conventions, National Indabas and UN Study Groups since 1963. The question is: why are we still talking about the same things? When are we going to see implementation?" Sacika asked. "The problem in Zambia is not about lack of ideas. It is about the government's lack of capacity to implement its programmes."

Sacika stated that this observation was made by an International Labour Organisation (ILO) Study Group in 1981 in a report it made to the Zambian government on Basic Needs in an Economy Under Pressure. He stated that the observation was as true today as it was in 1981.

"Our system of government is tardy and inefficient; our political leaders lack innovation, drive and a sense of direction; and our civil servants are constrained by ineptitude and lack of professionalism. As a result, too many government programmes and policies have failed, and will continue to fail as long as the problem remains unresolved," Sacika stated.

He stated that the biggest challenge, therefore, was to reform and restructure the system of government so that it could operate cost-effectively and efficiently.

"But the national indaba has made no recommendation on this important issue," Sacika observed.

He stated that there was some merit in the government inviting its nationals to an indaba to discuss national issues but that a government was elected to govern on the basis of its policies.

"...and it cannot transfer that responsibility to anyone else. If it succeeds, the people will re-elect it. If it does not succeed, the people will throw it out. Calling a national indaba for the purpose of receiving ideas from members of the public on how to manage the affairs of the country is an admission that the government has no ideas of its own; it is also tantamount to the government passing a vote of no confidence in itself," Sacika stated.

Sacika stated that in the United States of America, President Barack Obama was dealing with the economic crisis facing that country on the basis of the advice he is receiving from that country's National Economic Council, consisting of experts he appointed.

He observed that President Obama had not invited the Republicans, Churches and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to advise him.

Sacika stated that as a democrat, President Obama wanted to come up with solutions that reflect the policies of the Democratic Party.

"There is already in existence a National Economic Advisory Council, which is a creation of the Zambian government, and the question is: why did the government opt for a political gathering of more than five hundred people instead of making use of this institution?" asked Sacika.

"The problems of the global economic crisis cannot be solved by platitudes from political gatherings. They can only be solved by experts, a fact the national indaba recognised when it called on the government to establish a Task Force."



CEEC is no income-generating ‘messiah’, says Mung’omba

CEEC is no income-generating ‘messiah’, says Mung’omba
Written by Moses Kuwema
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:49:59 AM

CITIZENS Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) director general Mable Mung’omba has said the commission has not come to be a messiah for income generating.

Speaking when she addressed Chongwe residents on Thursday, Mung’omba said the CEEC was not an income generating activity, adding that people needed to come together and make enterprises. She said the CEEC will not give money to businesses that were not formalised.

“You need to formalise your businesses if you want to acquire these loans because this will help you from doing things which are out of your business,” she said.

Mung’omba called on Zambians to have a supportive culture by buying goods from whoever comes up with a viable project. She said Zambia was not poor as was being portrayed.

“Zambia is not poor because most of the money is in people’s houses. Government only considers monies in banks and even the World Bank when they come up with their statistics on which countries are rated at what position in terms of riches, they don’t go to homes to see how much is kept,” Mung’omba said.

“We have talked enough. Let’s change the language from ‘no we are poor’. Let’s not give an opportunity to other people to exploit our wealth. We should be able to demonstrate empowerment.”

And Chongwe MMD member of parliament Sylvia Masebo said people in her constituency had difficulties understanding the application forms for the CEEC funds. And Masebo called on people in her constituency to concentrate on small businesses.

She said Chongwe was a very rich district in terms of minerals but people in the area had failed to exploit the resources.

“We have been lacking resources to exploit these riches we have. People would like to invest in the road sector, and this can help in the creation of jobs by ourselves,” said Masebo.

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Economic crisis has worsened social problems – JCTR

Economic crisis has worsened social problems – JCTR
Written by Agness Changala
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:48:40 AM

THE effects of the global economic crisis have compromised the inherent dignity of most Zambians, Jesuit Centre Theological Reflection (JCTR) coordinator of the Social Conditions Programme Miniva Chibuye has stated.

And the JCTR has disclosed that the cost of living for a family of six in Lusaka was recorded at over K2.2 million in March largely on account of rising mealie-meal prices and other non-food basic commodities.

In a statement yesterday, Chibuye stated that the current economic crisis had worsened Zambia’s social problems.

She noted that Zambia had been cited as one of the worst hit developing economies from the global economic crisis.

Chibuye cited the latest slump in copper prices which was largely attributed to the reduced demand at the global level and consequently led to a sharp decline in the trade balances with imports exceeding export revenues.

She wondered what impact the economic crisis would have on the Zambian people, most of whom were already poor.

“The rising unemployment levels have been one of the prominent socio-economic consequences at the national level,” she said. “For example, a recent study by the Overseas Development Institute revealed that the fall in copper prices has led to the loss of a quarter of the mining jobs.”

And JCTR stated that the March Basic Needs Basket (BNB) had shown a continued increase in the cost of mealie-meal.

“For the month of March 2009 in Lusaka, on average a 25 kg bag of mealie-meal cost K64, 000 indicating a nominal increase of K4, 000 from the K60, 000 recorded in February,” Chibuye stated. “Increments were also recorded in beans, meat and cooking oil. However, reductions were recorded in the cost of kapenta, dry fish and vegetables.”

She observed that despite the price decline in some food items, the total cost of food still amounted to a large amount of K766, 500.

Chibuye stated that the slight reduction in food prices was unlikely to lighten the burden at the household level as the cost of essential non food items increased by K21, 800 from K1, 425,630 in February to K1, 447,430 in March.

She stated that the main contributor to the increase was charcoal which rose from K57, 500 to K67, 000 per 90 kg bag.

“The total cost of the Lusaka March 2009 BNB therefore totaled K2, 213, 930,” stated Chibuye.

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ZCTU urges govt not to relax on corruption

ZCTU urges govt not to relax on corruption
Written by Agness Changala
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:47:39 AM

ZAMBIA Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) has urged the government not to relax in the fight against corruption among public officers who have contributed to the depletion of state resources through selfish acts.

During a workshop to discuss and adopt a draft policy document on employment conditions in the public sector in Lusaka on Thursday, ZCTU secretary general Roy Mwaba said the labour movement, as a major stakeholder, would do everything within its powers to expose corrupt individuals wherever they may be spotted.

“The building of a culture of accountability and transparency among public officers should be given necessary support as this will elevate the integrity of public officers and the system itself,” he said.

Mwaba further called for effective social dialogue which involved stakeholders in decision making processes in the delivery of quality services.

“This is important because establishing effective social dialogue can improve public sector effectiveness through greater transparency and accountability in national decision making, greater information sharing and better communication as well as better democratic participation and governance,” Mwaba said.

He said the challenges that public service sector unions faced demanded that trade unions effectively formulate strategic responses through policy formulation programmes.

Mwaba implored workshop participants to pay specific attention to issues of poor remuneration, poor working conditions, poor career and education opportunities, poor management and a high level of corruption within the public sector which deprived a majority of the meagre resources available.

“Furthermore, I wish to urge you not to forget about other cross-cutting issues such as HIV and AIDS, gender, accountability and governance,” he said.

Mwaba said unions had a duty to ensure that the government delivered on its promises in all aspects through effective monitoring of the implementation process.

He said the first step was to ensure that the government formulated good policies relating to employment, professional development, social exclusion, health care, education, workplace relations and its commitment to close or bridge the gap between the poor and the rich.

Mwaba said the success of the government’s policies would be shaped by public service sector policies to stimulate and sustain productivity growth, implementing skills development and delivering on the vision of building a modern Zambia.



Petauke council secretary testifies in tribunal

Petauke council secretary testifies in tribunal
Written by Reporter
Continued from yesterday

Silwamba: We are calling on Mr Boyd Mboyi. My colleague, Mr Linyama will lead him.
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:46:37 AM
Judge Chirwa: Please swear the witness?

Linyama: Please tell the tribunal your full names?

Mboyi: My full names are Boyd Mboyi.

Linyama: Age?

Mboyi: 36 years old.

Linyama: What is your residential address?

Mboyi: 584 Kuma Yard Petauke.

Linyama: What is your occupation, Mr Mboyi?

Mboyi: I am the council secretary for Petauke District Council.

Linyama: How long have you been council secretary?

Mboyi: Four years, my lord.

Linyama: As council secretary could you just tell the tribunal what some of your duties are?

Mboyi: I am in charge of the general administration and management of the council, my lord.

Linyama: Is it your evidence that you are in charge of the day-to-day operations of the council?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: As council secretary of Petauke Council, who do you report to?

Mboyi: I report to the council, my lord.

Linyama: Mr Mboyi there is an allegation here, which has been brought by the consortium of civil society organisations. I will read it it correct to say that Honourable Siliya had wrongfully claimed...

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: The tribunal is interested to know exactly what you have to testify on the K12.5 million claim allegation.

Mboyi: Sometime in about August 2008 our high lift pump at our place, which supplies piped water, my lord, broke down. Which created a water crisis in Petauke District. In Nyika Ward.

Linyama: What happened thereafter? There was a water shortage?

Mboyi: Then my lord, then I notified the area member of parliament.

Linyama: Who is the area member of parliament?

Mboyi: Honourable Dora Siliya, my lord so that she could have some discussion with the Minister of Local Government and Housing.

Linyama: For what?

Mboyi: Sourcing for funds, my lord.

Linyama: You should be finishing your answers, funds for what?

Mboyi: Funds for the purchase of new high lift pump, my lord. On the 29th of October, my lord, Honourable Siliya was in the district my lord. She was, my lord, complaining that as a council we have failed in the provision of water services.

Linyama: What happened thereafter?

Mboyi: She promised to meet me on the 1st of November, my lord, 2008.

Linyama: Did the meeting take place?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Explain to the tribunal?

Mboyi: We had a discussion in my office.

Judge Chirwa: Who attended?

Mboyi: The water engineer, Mr Solomon Mbewe, my lord. Myself, the Honourable minister and area deputy committee chairman Nyika, my lord, Paul Ngoma. In the meeting...

Judge Chirwa: The council chairman was not there?

Mboyi: No, my lord. In that meeting the Honourable minister was particular on the water crisis that the district, especially Nyika Ward, especially the people of Tasala two and Show Grounds. She was interested to know what the council could do to alleviate the situation. My lord I told her that as Petauke Council, we had no money and we had not yet received the CDF. My lord and in the meeting I informed her that the Water Affairs officials from Chipata were in the district.

Linyama: Which officials in particular?

Mboyi: The drilling crew, my lord and then I suggested that if we could take advantage of their presence, my lord, and find some money to pay their allowances and fuel for drilling of the boreholes. Then we could drill the boreholes.

Linyama: What was finally reached at the meeting?

Mboyi: The Honourable member of parliament for Petauke asked me how much it would cost to have those boreholes drilled. We consulted with my water engineer, my lord, and he said that the total cost for the allowances...would come to about 12.5 million.

Linyama: 12 million kwacha?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Yes, my lord then Honourable Siliya said that he would advance the council the sum of K12.5 million, my lord, on condition that she is paid back when we receive the CDF.

Linyama: Did you agree...?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord, because we had a problem of water shortage. During that meeting, she said she can advance the council at that time K6 million, my lord.

Linyama: Did she advance the K6 million?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord she did.

Linyama: When was this money paid to you?

Mboyi: At the filling station, my lord.

Linyama: After the meeting?

Mboyi: After the meeting we went to see the site for the boreholes, my lord. So on our way at the filling station she was rushing to Lusaka that is when she gave me the K6 million, my lord.

Linyama: When receiving this K6 million, did you issue the Honourable minister with any receipt?

Mboyi: I signed on a piece of paper, my lord, acknowledging receipt.

Judge Chitengi: Did you issue a receipt? We are talking about an official receipt?

Linyama: Did you acknowledge receipt of these funds on any document?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord. I signed on a piece of paper.

Linyama: If the witness could be shown P52? Is that the copy of the document that you signed on?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Please read to the tribunal?

Mboyi reads the piece of paper where he was acknowledging receipt of the money from Siliya.

Judge Chitengi: Did you put your official designation there?

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: Please tell the tribunal, after you received the funds?

Mboyi: I consulted with my treasurer. His names are Mr Makota Zulu, my lord, on how best we could administer the funds in terms of receipting. Then I was advised that it is better we spend the money as intended. Then after getting the goods and the minister claims we would refund. On the 6th of November, my lord, I paid the drilling crew, my lord, the allowances.

Linyama: Confirm where they were drilling?

Mboyi: From Tasala two, my lord, and Show Grounds.

Linyama: How much did you pay the drilling crew?

Mboyi: I paid for Tasala two, K2,260,000 and for Show Grounds I paid them K2,260, 000, my lord taking the total to K4, 520, 000, my lord.

Linyama: How were the payments made to the drilling crew?

Mboyi: It was cash payment, my lord.

Linyama: Your payment of this money, was there any document that was executed?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Tell the tribunal what this document was and how it was executed?

Mboyi: There was an acquittal sheet that was prepared, my lord. It shows the names of the persons who received the funds, my lord.

Linyama: What else?

Mboyi: Their signatures, my lord and the date when they received the money, my lord.

Linyama: I am referring the witness to copies of the acquittal sheets dated 6 November 2008. There are two acquittal sheets. Confirm to the tribunal if those are the acquittal sheets you were referring to?

Mboyi: Yes, these are the ones, my lord.

Linyama: My lord if it could be marked? Do you want to produce them?

Where did you get these from?

Mboyi: After paying the allowances they were kept in the council registry, my lord, and I made copies of the same.

Linyama: So you have these documents in your possession?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Do you want to produce these documents as part of your evidence to this tribunal?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: State Counsel Mutale?

Mutale: No objection.

Judge Chirwa: Mr Mwitwa?

Mwitwa: No objection, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: P63.

Linyama: Most obliged...what else happened with regard to the matter?

Mboyi: With the balance from the K6 million that I was given I kept it in my custody, my lord. On the 8th of November I was in Lusaka. I called the Honourable minister reminding her of the balance she had promised. She told me to meet her at Manda Hill and she gave me the balance of K6.5 million.

Judge Chirwa: You went there?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Judge Chitengi: And you met her?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Confirm that you collected the money?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Did you sign any document where you are acknowledging receipt of the funds?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: If the witness could be shown P53? Is that the document you told the tribunal you signed?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Read to the tribunal?

Mboyi: I Boyd Mboyi, council secretary Petauke District Council do hereby receive the sum of K6.5 million for the purchase of hand pumps for Tasala two and Show Grounds...

Linyama: Can you confirm that for that document you put your designation as council secretary for the Petauke Council?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: What did you do then?

Mboyi: I proceeded to buy the pumps. As it was a weekend, my lord, it was on a Saturday, my lord, I went back to Petauke, my lord.

Linyama: You arrived in Petauke, what happened?

Mboyi: On the 14th of November, I travelled to Lusaka, my lord.

Linyama: How did you travel to Lusaka?

Mboyi: I used my official vehicle, my lord.

Linyama: Were you paid by the council for fuel for your official vehicle for your trip?

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: Explain to the tribunal how the fuel cost was met?

Mboyi: I was using to purchase...

Linyama: Understand the question. Why didn't you get money from the council for fuel?

Mboyi: The purpose of the trip was for the purchase of the pumps.

Judge Chirwa: On behalf of the council. Why didn't the council pay for the fuel?

Mboyi: We did not have funds, my lord.

Linyama: From, which filling station, explain to the tribunal do not leave it hanging?

Mboyi: My lord, the fuel was purchased from I.M.Y Filling Station.

Linyama: Were you given a receipt upon purchase of the fuel?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: What is the registration number on your official vehicle?

Mboyi: PDC 2.

Linyama: What do those abbreviations PDC mean?

Mboyi: Petauke District Council, my lord.

Linyama: I want to refer the witness to a receipt dated 14 November 2008 from I. M. Y Filling Station. Where was that receipt?

Mboyi: The receipt was in my custody.

Linyama: You have told the tribunal that it was in your custody, where did you get that receipt from?

Mboyi: I made photocopies, my lord, for the council.

Judge Chitengi: For the council records.

Linyama: Would you want to produce that receipt as part of your evidence?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: State Counsel Mutale?

Mutale: No objection.

Judge Chirwa: Mr Mwitwa?

Mwitwa: None, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: Receipt of 14 November 2008 is marked P65.

Linyama: You travelled to Lusaka from Petauke...

Judge Chitengi: What is the value of that receipt?

Mboyi: K470, 000, my lord.

Judge Chitengi: K470, 000?

Linyama: You travelled to Lusaka what transpired then?

Mboyi: On the 15th of November I went to Saro, my lord and purchased the two hand pumps sets.

Linyama: Were you issued with an invoice?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: In whose name was the invoice?

Mboyi: Petauke District Council, my lord.

Linyama: Please show the witness P27? Mr Mboyi what document is before you?

Mboyi: It is a copy of the tax invoice from Saro Agri Equipment, my lord.

Linyama: Tell the tribunal the date?

Mboyi: 15 November 2008, my lord.

Linyama: In whose name is it raised?

Mboyi: Petauke Council.

Linyama: For the attention of who?

Mboyi: Council secretary, my lord.

Linyama: What is the amount on the invoice?

Mboyi: The total amount is K5, 964, 000.

Linyama: Did you sign anywhere on that document?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: When you were signing the tax invoice, what were you signing for and in what capacity?

Mboyi: I was signing for the two hand pump sets...

Linyama: It is your evidence that you were receiving the two hand pumps on behalf of the council?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Did you collect the hand pumps yourself?

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: Please explain to the tribunal, who collected the two hand pumps?

Mboyi: I left instructions...

Judge Chirwa: Who collected?

Mboyi: The council hand man, my lord.

Judge Chitengi: Date?

Mboyi: On the 15th of November, my lord.

Linyama: The council hand man was already in Lusaka?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: The hand man came on his own?

Mboyi: He came with the council driver, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: You signed that invoice acknowledging receipt of the pumps and you left or you carried them?

Mboyi: We went to where they store the hand pumps that is where we collected them, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: With the council hand man?

Judge Chitengi: So you collected them?

Linyama: Upon collecting the hand pumps, were you given any document?

Mboyi: We were given a delivery note, my lord.

Linyama: Did you sign on the delivery note?

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: Tell the tribunal?

Mboyi: Amon Mumba, my lord, the council hand man signed on the delivery note.

Linyama: I am showing the witness a document; a delivery note of 15 November 2008. Mr Mboyi what document have you been shown?

Mboyi: It is note, my lord.

Linyama: What is written on the heading?

Mboyi: Saro Agric addressed to Petauke District Council, my lord.

Linyama: Please read what is being described, as being collected?

Mboyi: Quantity two...hand pumps India Mark II complete 30 metres...with chamber.

Linyama: Who executed that document?

Mboyi: The goods were collected by Amon Mumba on 15th of November 2008.

Linyama: Is there a registration number of a vehicle?

Mboyi: GRZ 999 CA, my lord.

Linyama: Would you know the owner of that vehicle?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord Petauke District Council.

Linyama: Where was that document, Mr Mboyi?

Mboyi: It was in the council, my lord.

Linyama: How did you obtain it?

Mboyi: I made a photocopy, my lord.

Linyama: Would you know when you made that copy?

Mboyi: Sometime when I just heard of the allegation, my lord.

Linyama: So all this time you had possession of the document?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Do you wish to produce it as part of your evidence in the tribunal?

Mutale: No objection.

Mwitwa: That is the position as well.

Judge Chirwa: Marked P65.

Linyama: The vehicle that collected the goods was GRZ 999 CA, would you know if Petauke Council paid for the fuel?

Mboyi: No, my lord.

Linyama: Who paid the fuel costs for the vehicle that collected the pumps?

Mboyi: The balance, my lord, from the K6 million was used to purchase fuel for the vehicle coming from Petauke to Lusaka, my lord.

Linyama: And when the vehicle was going back to Petauke, who paid for the fuel?

Mboyi: We used the same money that was advanced to us by Honourable Siliya.

Linyama: Would you know if there were receipts issued for both trips?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: I am referring the witness to the document...did you see this document?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Explain to the tribunal what document you have been shown?

Mboyi: These are tax invoices.

Linyama: Look at the documents.

B From Petauke it is Petauke Service Station, vehicle number GRZ 999 CA dated 15 November 2008, amount is K519, 025.00. My lord, second invoice Odys Works Filling Station Lusaka, vehicle number GRZ 999 CA dated 15 November 2008, amount K472, 000.

Linyama: What transpired after the pumps have been collected?

Having seen those receipts have you had them in your possession?

Mboyi: Yes, I made copies, my lord.

Linyama: Would you like to produce the two receipts as part of your evidence?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Mutale: No objection, my lord.

Mwitwa: No objection, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: Marked P66.

Linyama: You mentioned to the tribunal that there were two other council officials who collected the hand pumps?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: What is the name of the driver?

Mboyi: Wilson Mwanza, my lord.

Linyama: Do you know whether Mr Mwanza or Mr Mumba were paid allowances for the trip?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord. They were paid from the same money that we received from Honourable Siliya. My lord.

Linyama: How much were they paid?

Mboyi: 275, 000, my lord each.

Linyama: How did you know that these payments had been made?

Mboyi: They signed for them, my lord.

Linyama: And can you confirm that you had sight of these documents where they signed?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: My lord I am referring the witness to this document where they signed? What are those two documents?

Mboyi: Payment schedules, my lord.

Linyama: Are these the documents that you earlier told the tribunal you know?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Please tell the tribunal what you saw on the two documents?

Mboyi reads.

Linyama: You can proceed to tell the tribunal what happened there after? Please tell the tribunal the date on that document?

Mboyi: 14 November 2008.

Linyama: And you have had possession of the two documents?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Linyama: Do you wish to produce the two documents as part of your evidence to this tribunal?

Mboyi: Yes, my lord.

Mutale: No objection.

Mwitwa: No objection, my lord.

Judge Chirwa: Marked P67.

Linyama: Now you can explain clearly what happened...

Judge Chitengi interjects and says the amounts that Mboyi had been outlining were more than K12.5 million but calculations revealed that it was K12, 495, 025.

Judge Chirwa: K5, 000 is unaccounted from the minister's advance?

Linyama: You have heard the tribunal ask to say there was K5, 000 that was not accounted for?

Mboyi: When we added up the expenditure...

Linyama: Explain to the tribunal what happened with respect to the sinking of the boreholes?

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Dr Musokotwane urges banks to be proactive

Dr Musokotwane urges banks to be proactive
Written by Kabanda Chulu
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:42:13 AM

FINANCE minister Situmbeko Musokotwane has expressed concern that commercial banks are constantly adjusting base rates in relation to inflation fluctuations while interest on savings has remained constant. And Dr Musokotwane has challenged commercial banks to devise innovative products in order to take advantage of opportunities in the market.

Commenting on the high lending rates that have characterised the Zambian financial markets, Dr Musokotwane said statistics from the Bank of Zambia showed that although the weighted average lending base rate had dropped from 26 per cent in 2006 to around 21 per cent at the end of 2008, there had been an increase in the current levels.

“The average savings rates remained constant at 4.8 per cent and deposits of over K20 million held for six months attracted only 6.6 per cent in 2008. Whereas the base rate is adjusted in concert with inflation fluctuations, the compensation for savings has remained constant,” Dr Musokotwane said.

“This is of great concern to government as financial institutions such as commercial banks have an important role of mobilising savings to channel these to productive sectors such as agriculture.”

He said high lending rates made productive borrowing difficult.

“I am aware that, for instance, some commercial farmers resort to borrowing US dollar loans which are more competitive. However, this results in quoting prices for their produce in US dollars when the local currency weakens against the US dollar so that they can repay these loans,” Dr Musokotwane said. “My appeal is for banks to be more proactive and introduce products which counter such effects such as hedging products. The financial sector needs to pull up its socks and devise more innovative products which take advantage of the opportunities in the market.”

Dr Musokotwane however observed that some banks had started to look at small-scale and emergent farmers for their seasonal financing needs.

“This needs to be extended further to include finance for mechanisation, storage and transportation. The stimulus we have provided to agriculture in the budget is not expected to have an impact in this year’s marketing season as when the budget was announced, the seed had already germinated,” said Dr Musokotwane.

“But it is expected that all stakeholders will take advantage of government’s well-intended efforts and align their product offerings to embrace these opportunities for increased production in the 2008/2009 planting and harvest season.”

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StanChart increases lending to agriculture sector

StanChart increases lending to agriculture sector
Written by Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:41:00 AM

STANDARD Chartered Bank is repositioning its operations in Zambia by increasing lending to the agriculture sector and industries that enhance diversification of the local economy from too much reliance on copper.

And Standard Chartered Bank has said the recent decision by Bank of Zambia (BoZ) to ban non-residents from borrowing the kwacha for less than one year to help stem the currency’s losses will only be temporary.

Regional head of global markets for Africa Fred Lee told reporters yesterday that the bank's agribusiness experts from Standard Chartered Bank South Africa, together with officials from the Zambian branch, were working out modalities to make finance available to the local agriculture market as well as the manufacturing sector, especially companies to take part in the Multi Facility Economic Zones (MFEZ).

Lee said the funding portfolio for Zambia would be included in the recent $1.25 billion funding partnership Standard Chartered Bank struck with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank Group’s financing arm.

He, however, stressed that Standard Chartered Bank Zambia Plc was already an active financier to the local agriculture sector, adding that this move would only enhance that position.

“With the recent collapse in copper prices, there is need for Zambia to focus on diversification and develop sectors,” Lee said. “We as a bank through our agri-specialist in Johannesburg are focusing on agriculture finance and risk management solutions to support the Zambian economy move away from heavy reliance on copper. And with the opening of the free zones (MFEZ), we are also working with the companies there to provide finance and help them with challenges of managing risk.”

And Lee said Standard Chartered Bank supported the recent measures by the Central Bank to halt the continued free-falling kwacha by ridding the market of speculative practices.

He, however, said Standard Chartered Bank hoped the measures would only be permitted in the short-term.

“A number of African governments are putting in regulatory action in their markets and our view about this [BoZ’s decision to ban non-residents from borrowing the kwacha for less than one year] is that it is very good and a sensible decision to halt speculation in the market,” said Lee. “But we hope this will be a temporal measure so that the market can be allowed to operate on its own.”

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‘Agriculture research in SADC is a disaster’

‘Agriculture research in SADC is a disaster’
Written by Florence Bupe
Saturday, April 11, 2009 5:39:16 AM

GREEN Valley Agriculture Research Trust (GART) director Dr Stephen Muliokela has observed that agriculture research in the SADC region is a disaster.

In his presentation to the Regional Conservation Agriculture Tour delegates in Chisamba on Tuesday, Dr Muliokela said governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, including Zambia, needed to invest more in agricultural research to mitigate future food crises.

“We need to appreciate that research may not benefit us now, but it will profit us in the long term,” he said.

Dr Muliokela said the government should adopt technology incubation for the promotion of conservation agriculture.

“Government needs to come up with technology incubation fund for agriculture support programmes, just like we have the FSP [fertiliser support programme] in place,” he said.

Dr Muliokela said there was need for the country to move away from donor dependence for food security.

He said Zambia and other countries in the region should come up with conducive policies that would encourage conservation farming as a sustainable way of enhancing food security both at household and national levels.

“We can’t keep relying on donor aid. We have to make progress and ensure that we have sustainable harvests at national level,” he said.

He further called for increased commitment towards agriculture-related infrastructure and small-scale farmer support.

“Government should focus on oxen and hand-hoe farmers because they’re in the majority and are vital for poverty reduction. These farmers use less resources but have a great impact on household food security,” said Dr Muliokela.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

(HERALD) Land reform irreversible: Mutambara

Land reform irreversible: Mutambara
Herald Reporter

THE land reform programme is irreversible and Zimbabweans should now focus on improving yields per hectare, Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara said yesterday.

Dep PM Mutambara said Government might adjust some parts of land reforms but the whole exercise was irrevocable.

"The land reform is irreversible, there is no going back on our revolution. Yes, we might change things here and there, but we are not going back.

"Our friends in Britain and other Western countries should understand that we agreed in the Global Political Agreement that the issue of land was not negotiable.

"We now want to talk about productivity on the land, how can we improve yields per hectare?" he said. He urged farmers to use the land productively to achieve food security.

The Deputy Premier, who was addressing a youth conference that ended in Harare yesterday, also urged the youths to venture into agriculture and mining.

"We want to make sure that our young people, especially those graduating from agricultural colleges, have land and that our women have land in their names.

"We must exploit our resources effectively and young people should take the leading role in making sure the country gets back on its feet.

"Let’s learn from our mistakes. There is also need for research, starting from what we have done in our country and what our neighbours have done," he said.

Dep PM Mutambara called for unity of purpose among Zimbabweans, saying this was the only way the country would prosper.

"The sky is the limit. We are redefining the role of Government where our job is facilitative. We want to hear your views so we can work together," he said.

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(HERALD) ‘Wheat cropping preps slow’

‘Wheat cropping preps slow’
By Elita Chikwati

LAND preparations for the 2009 wheat crop have started on a slow note across the country as farmers face the challenges of input availability. The preparations are behind schedule and farmers should be ready for planting.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Mr Wilson Nyabonda said farmers need to harvest their summer maize and soyabeans before they could start winter wheat land preparations.

"Usually farmers start planting wheat from mid- April to May 25 and the fact that some farmers have not started harvesting their summer crops does not mean land preparations will be delayed. There is a lot of idle land to be used for wheat production," said Mr Nyabonda.

He added that wheat growers were bound to have difficulties mobilising inputs since the prices were now pegged in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union Director, Mr Paul Zakariya said farmers were facing challenges on mechanisation and costs.

"We are coming from a background where resources are scarce and this will cause a reduction in hectarage.

"Farmers are having problems of procuring fuel since banks are not forthcoming with funding. Very little is coming from the banks and working capital is hard to come by," said Mr Zakariya.

He added that until farmers are willing to engage in contract farming, this season was going to be a difficult one.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, a policy change was announced which was expected to boost production capacity of the agricultural sector in the short to medium term. The main points of the policy included market based access to inputs.

Mr Zakariya urged farmers to be precise with timing as this had an effect on the total yields.

To achieve the national target of 100 000 tonnes for this year, the sector requires,

6 000 tonnes of seed, 30 000 tonnes each of both Ammonium Nitrate and compound D fertiliser, 24 000 tonnes of lime and between seven and eight million kilogrammes of fuel.

Recently, the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made said about 6 000 tonnes of seed had been acquired for the winter wheat programme.

As of last week, 17 000 tonnes of fertiliser were available and this was not enough for the winter season. Fertiliser is selling between US$700-US$800 a tonne.

The Government is however working on addressing the challenges and had agreed to import some of the requirements while assisting the local industry to produce more.

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Rev Mwale calls for renewal

Rev Mwale calls for renewal
Written by Chibaula Silwamba and Masuzyo Chakwe
Friday, April 10, 2009 5:08:58 AM

COUNCIL of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) chairperson Reverend Moses Mwale has said Easter should be a period of renewal. And Roman Catholic Diocese of Mongu Bishop Paul Duffy has urged Zambians not to use the Easter holiday to get drunk but take it as a period for the Lord.

Rev Mwale, in an interview yesterday, asked people in the country to use the Easter celebrations to reunite.

"I want to invite the Zambia nation to reflect on the sacrifices that Jesus Christ himself gave on the cross of Calvary and use the celebrations to reunite us as a nation," Rev Mwale said.

He urged people to deeply reflect on their differences and come together again in an effort to live a life of reconciliation with one another.

"I think three weeks ago, I said there is something wrong with the way politics is practised in Zambia; I think this can be a time of renewal. Politics should be to the service of the people and politics should not antagonise us," Rev Mwale said. "For example, like what I read in your newspaper, the other time the Lusaka [Province] permanent secretary [Stephen Bwalya] walked away from church because [Patriotic Front leader] Michael Sata had attended a church service there. I think that cannot be tolerated in a nation like Zambia. Let Easter help us to reflect on these issues that we should not practice enmity and animosity because we are in politics, because we belong to this political grouping or that political grouping; let us reconcile and move together as a nation. Easter should provide such a forum for us."

He added that Easter reminded people about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"According to scripture, all enmities were put to rest and new hope of life was brought in," Rev Mwale said

And in an Easter message to the people, Bishop Duffy said if Zambia considered itself a Christian nation, Zambians should then celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and look forward to their own resurrections.

"It is a spiritual day and it's a holiday on Monday but what does Easter mean to Zambians? It is significant to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and apply it to our lives and see how we can live as Christians to the best of our ability," he said.

Bishop Duffy said some people took holidays as days to get drunk and miss the whole point of what they were celebrating.

Bishop Duffy said Easter was a time to celebrate Christ and his resurrection to give people a new life.

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Laying off of miners at KCM is betrayal – ZCTU

Laying off of miners at KCM is betrayal – ZCTU
Written by Mutuna Chanda in Kitwe
Friday, April 10, 2009 5:07:49 AM

THE retrenchment of miners at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is a betrayal of workers, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) general secretary Roy Mwaba has said.
And more miners at the KCM head office in Chingola yesterday received their retrenchment letters.

Commenting on the retrenchment of 1,300 miners at KCM across its different business units, Mwaba warned government that the retrenchments would become political if the government did not intervene.

"What is happening is a betrayal of miners because not so long ago those mines made a lot of profits and it is those miners who are being retrenched today who helped the companies make those profits. Now where have the profits gone?" Mwaba wondered.

He said both the government and the mine owners should be held responsible for whatever action the mine workers' unions on the Copperbelt would take.

"We are very worried and we are appealing to the government to intervene," Mwaba said. "This is not the time to pay lip service. They should act. If we lose 12,000 miners it implies that Pay As You Earn is being lost from those 12,000 that you lose and so government will lose a substantial amount of revenue. So this is not just affecting the miners alone. It's for the country and if the government does not intervene this thing will become political. The government should show leadership and stop this thing."

He said ZCTU would stand by the decisions that the mine workers' unions would take in protest against the retrenchments and the happenings in the mining industry.

"It's very immoral for us and the government to keep quiet over this issue," Mwaba said.

Mwaba also warned that the government needed to learn lessons from the happenings in the mining industry for them not to repeat errors in selecting investors to run the country's strategic assets.

And Nchanga Patriotic Front (PF) member of parliament Wylbur Simuusa said the retrenchment of miners at KCM was not justifiable.

Simuusa said KCM needed to admit that it was retrenching workers according to its plan and not because it was not making profits.

"KCM is producing copper now at around US $1.50 per pound and at the current copper price of US $4,300 per tonne it means that they are selling the copper at US $1.95 per pound or close to US $2 per pound," Simuusa said. "So they have a profit of 50 cents per pound at the current production and selling price and they cannot use the excuse of not making profits."

He said KCM needed to give a proper explanation on why it was retrenching workers.

Simuusa urged the government to assert itself and not allow any more retrenchments in the mining industry.

And National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) president Mundia Sikufele said it was sad that workers were being laid off and that the union was still trying to see if jobs could be saved other than the indicated 1,300 workers.

Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) general secretary Oswell Munyenyembe by press time declined to comment over the retrenchments on grounds that the union was going into a meeting to discuss the matter.

KCM on Wednesday stated that the company had decided to lay off 1,300 workers in a bid to restructure its operations.

Over 10,000 jobs have been lost in the mining industry alone following the slump in copper prices on the international market, which has led to closures of some mines and restructuring in those that are still operating.

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Speak loudly against sanctions, Mugabe tells Tsvangirai’s party

Speak loudly against sanctions, Mugabe tells Tsvangirai’s party
Written by Kingsley Kaswende in Harare, Zimbabwe
Friday, April 10, 2009 5:05:12 AM

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has challenged Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party to speak loudly for the removal of sanctions slapped on Zimbabwe. Addressing the 76th Ordinary Session of the ZANU-PF Central Committee at the party headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, President Mugabe challenged the Tsvangirai-led MDC formation to join their counterparts in the inclusive government to condemn the sanctions.

"We want the voices of all against the sanctions. We want the voices of the MDC-T to be heard much more loudly against the sanctions. The other MDC led by Professor [Athur] Mutambara has been calling for the removal of sanctions but we also want the other side to be heard loudly speaking against the sanctions," he said.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai has only been heard once calling for Western countries to remove the sanctions.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai said during the official opening of the current session of Parliament that the international community must support the inclusive government and remove "restrictive measures" to give chance to the inclusive government to rebuild the economy.

President Mugabe said sanctions had been rendered useless by the formation of the inclusive government.

"Of course, we have our detractors, both within and outside, who sought regime change yesterday and who have not been enthused by the modest success of the inclusive government," he said.

The MDC was at the fore-front of calling for sanctions against government officials when it was still in the opposition.

President Mugabe said Western countries had continued to work against the new political dispensation in Zimbabwe.

"There are those in Europe who think that they are the people with a divine prerogative to say the people want regime change in Zimbabwe, that Mugabe must go but you wonder where they get these ideas when there is a general acceptance of democracy in the country," he said.

"It's not for the people from other countries to choose leaders, but the people of a particular country have a God-given right to choose their leaders. I don't blame them for being that mistaken, sometimes we have some kind of lunatics who believe they have the right to do so."

President Mugabe said most developing countries had invited onto them the trouble of being dictated upon by rich countries.

"We in Zimbabwe have resisted that, but the Third World has continued to let them do that. In a sense, we must bear the responsibility. We go to them with empty bowls to pay for our budgets, for them to give us money for our workers, so when they call the tune then they must sing the tune and their natural sovereignty is compromised when you go on your knees begging for their help," he said.

The President said the affairs of the inclusive government were progressing very well.

"The inclusive government is now a reality. We have held a few Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings of the selfsame government and I am pleased to say that we are making progress with each passing day. Yes, there are problems here and there, but we continue to register progress," said President Mugabe.



Rupiah calls on leaders to give up some privileges

Rupiah calls on leaders to give up some privileges
Written by Patson Chilemba and Kabanda Chulu
Friday, April 10, 2009 5:00:58 AM

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda yesterday said those in leadership positions should give up some of their privileges, saying a big portion in the national budget goes towards paying salaries of only a few individuals.

And World Bank vice-president for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili said some people she interacted with in Zambia felt that governance is very far away and removed from society.

Speaking when he met officials from the World Bank at State House yesterday, President Banda said leaders needed to give up a little bit.

"Those of us that are in positions of fortune or leadership have to give up some of our privileges. That means all leaders, politicians, ministers, civil servants. If you look at our budget for instance, the big portion of it goes to salaries of only a few people," President Banda said as he looked where ministers were seated.

"If you look at the politics of conflict that we have with Zamtel now, the 3,000 people employed at Zamtel that the issues that we are talking about would result in benefits to the rest of the 11 million people of Zambia. So it takes courage to cut through that very difficult net because the same people, the civil society all of them who will rally to the popular view. But we as leaders are not there just for popularity."

In November last year, President Rupiah Banda approved salary increments for constitutional office holders and senior government officials.

President Banda said he was very happy to have assented to the bill increasing salaries and allowances for constitutional office holders.

"On the bill, you know I assented. I am the one that signed for it. I am very happy with it because it is merely fulfilling what we normally do every year. What happens is that when the unionised workers in the public service negotiate with the government a certain percentage of increment everybody else who is entitled then gets it. We didn't get it in January as you know, we had wanted to get the other one which I refused to assent to, so I am happy to do this one and if you look at the figures it is really a very small increment," President Banda had said.

President Banda also said the government would have to take certain decisions because a leader was judged by how strong they were able to take the correct decisions.

"Even when those decisions will make certain people uncomfortable, we have to take decisions. We have a very strong team who believe in what they are doing. We will work hard to implement some of these difficult decisions because the results are just around the corner," President Banda said. "I had a long, long discussion yesterday with the Bishop of the Catholic Church, who is the head of the Catholic Church organisation, Bishop [George] Lungu and it was funny that when we finished, he was like talking my feelings."

President Banda said the government was there to deliver and take serious decisions by ensuring that tourism was resuscitated and that government did not look for cheap money to achieve that.

"Instead, look to encourage more tourists to come so that we can accumulate more money. That is why our government for instance reduced the Visa fees, the same thing with fertiliser support for our people to be supported with fertiliser. You have said it and we agree with you, it's not just the amount of money you spend on fertiliser. You have to have a good effective service. You have to have good roads so that they could move the produce," President Banda said. "And those issues in order to implement can make us temporarily unpopular, but at the end of the day when people see the results, they will realise we were right at the time that we took those steps."

President Banda thanked Ezekwesili for making contact with the people.

He said he did not take the views of the people as a criticism but that they were well meant and leaders needed to take them in the spirit they had been given.

"It's now for us leaders on this side of the table to take note of what you have said. These are some of the things that opposition parties and other opposition groups in the country are saying but they don't know how to say them" President Banda said. "You've said them very clearly and I think that we need as Zambians all of us, the parties and the government who are ruling this country. All Zambians should take note of what you have underlined, that we are the solutions to problems of Zambia."

Earlier, Ezekwesili said this moment of problems could not be any difficult an opportunity for Zambia.

She said this was the greatest window to focus on the difficult decisions that should be taken to enhance development.

Ezekwesili said Zambia had what it took to be great.

She said some people she interacted with complained that there was a lot of bureaucracy in the country and that she talked to business people who said it would be good to have regular discussions that would result in policy implementation.

Ezekwesili said the civil society wanted President Banda to admit them in his space.

World Bank country manager Dr Kapil Kapoor said Zambia had always been linked to copper.

He said when copper was doing well, the country was also doing well and when price of the commodity were low so was the economic performance.

He said rural poverty had remained unchanged even when copper prices were high.

Dr Kapoor said the country was now entering into a period of uncertainty and that the rate of growth was expected to reduce from six to about three per cent.

Br Kapoor said the other problem was access to finance, adding that 66 per cent of the population was unbanked.

Later after the meeting with the World Bank officials, President Banda held another meeting with European Union Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

President Banda said the government was looking at ways and means of increasing the productivity of the people. He said Zambeef was a very unique company.

He said the company would start growing palm oil by taking land, which was inhabitable.

President Banda said the palm oil would be for local consumption as well as for export purposes.

President Banda also revealed that government was talking to the Brazilians to establish pharmaceutical companies that would manufacture drugs to curb animal diseases.

Vassiliou said a lot of importance should be attached to agriculture, saying the country could become food-secure because it was in a good position and had good rainfall.

And later addressing the media at the World Bank offices in Lusaka after a week-long tour of the country's economic sites and holding of a series of meetings with government and various stakeholders, Ezekwesili challenged the government to quickly implement policy reforms because the people of Zambia want action.

Ezekwesili said the people of Zambia expressed a sense of urgency to see policies being turned into action.

"In my week-long tour of this country, I met many people including civil society, government officials, the private sector and the President and his Cabinet, but what came out strongly is that Zambians want action and are expressing this sense of urgency to see that government ideas and policies are implemented and I told the President and his Cabinet about the feelings of the people," Ezekwesili said. "It is true there are good policies in place but access to fertilisers without access to adequate finances and extension services is nothing to revamp agriculture. Also 97 per cent of rural people do not have access to energy and how can you grow the economy when the majority have no access to energy and even those who access it. The service is not reliable and efficient, actually reforms are needed in many sectors including, financial, telecommunications, tourism, among other sectors."

She expressed concern that civil society organisations and other voices of stakeholders were not heard by those in position of authority.

"In my interaction with the civil society, they said their voices are not heard and I conveyed this message to the President and his Cabinet. Since democratic institutions cannot be taken for granted, if the economy has to grow better, there is need to have diverse of opinions," said Ezekwesili.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

(TALKZIMBABWE) Land issues and transparency

Land issues and transparency
Felicia Greene - Opinion
Thu, 09 Apr 2009 11:52:00 +0000

HAS anyone given any thought to some transparency regarding land issues?

- How many farms are in the hands of white farmers in total?
- Why is there a white farmer in the Midlands who is arrested every time he waters his wheat?
- He is growing wheat to make bread for the nation, yet he is still on his farm, but he still gets arrested for watering the wheat? why?
- How many blacks are on farms that are not producing any thing, who have cleared the land of all timber to exist, resulting in silting of local dams?
- How many blacks are on farms and producing for the nation?
- How many blacks are on farms and producing Forex for the Reserve Bank?

In 1997 the curtains came down on white farmers warning them to shape up and share with the blacks, or ship out.

Now, in 2009, the Government warning those who are not producing for the nation are about to be relocated so they too should shape up, or they will be shipped out.

- Does this mean we will have homeless families wandering our streets again?
- Why can’t those farms (that are not producing) merely be split up into 50 acre plots for those families who want to grow crops on small holdings?
- Why must everyone own thousands of acres?
- Is it the main abode the dictates the desire to own a specific farm? If these farms were split into smallholdings the main farmhouse, which has electricity and water, could be designated as the shopping centre, school and clinic.
- What is the deciding factor on who gets which farm?
- How many farms is anyone family allowed to own, or does this depend on who lives in the main house and who lives in the little house?
- Is it the farmhouses that are as sort after these days?
- Since the land invasions it is doubtful any farmer has wasted paint and effort in maintaining an abode, like fixing leaking taps, when they are likely to lose it at any time.

Whatever the results is,

Our Nation is now going hungry despite the fact that it was the communal farmers who once fed us, while the white commercial farmers focused on export agriculture, raising Forex for the Reserve Bank.

Strangely this is a system that worked, so why are those communal farmers no longer feeding the nation? We know why the white farmers are no longer focusing on export agriculture because most of them have left to farm in Zambia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

- How many of those black communal farmers have lost their land?
- When the BSAC commandeered the land they allocated 96% to the whites and 4% to the blacks.
- Why not just reverse this situation and earmark 96% to the blacks and give back the whites farmers 4%. They are quite capable of working miracles when it comes to farming. All they need is stability to be motivated.

On the other hand, why not just split the land 50% to those blacks who have proven that they are intent on farming, and 50% to those whites who too have proven that they are intent on farming, i.e. 50/50 between anyone who wants to farm and feed the nation, or generate Forex through exports.

Zimbabwe is an agricultural and mining region, therefore, whosever does not want to go underground at 51% ownership and mine, should be free to work the soil above the ground, thus generating jobs and revenue for the nation.

How can we move forward if no one is free to generate jobs, food and revenue for the nation?

Transparency is really quite simple, actually. It depends on what your aims are.



(TALKZIMBABWE) What stage is land reform at?

What stage is land reform at?
Jeffrey - Opinion
Thu, 09 Apr 2009 02:02:00 +0000

DEAR EDITOR - I am getting increasingly confused by what stage we are at in the Zimbabwe Land Reform Program.

The Fast Track Land Reform program started in 2000 if I am not mistaken. Could someone please let us know if it is still going on. When where the offer letters that we hear of issued and on what basis where they issued?

It is interesting to note that retired minister and information and publicity secretary of Zanu PF, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira was allocated a farm.

I respect the honourable former minister, but what took the government so long to have a farm allocated to him and is his new profession farming?

I think this is one of the issues that many young people in Zimbabwe are concerned about - lack of access to the productive sector.

As a young Zimbabwean I would like to see Zanu PF bring new faces to the table and a new way of doing things rather than using age old tactics to get new results.




(TALKZIMBABWE) Biti defends Gono, blames media

Biti defends Gono, blames media
Our reporter
Thu, 09 Apr 2009 05:10:00 +0000

TENDAI BITI, the Minister of Finance has blamed the media for fabricating stories about the existence of 'bad blood' between him and the Reserve Bank Governor.

Biti who addressed a joint press briefing with Dr Gideon Gono, has made a U-turn on previous statements and said there was no 'bad blood' between him and the RBZ Governor.

"You cannot have a functional country in which the central bank governor and finance minister cannot work together," said Biti during the briefing.

"The problem is that there is a constant attempt to draw us into negativity," added Biti who once labelled the RBZ governor as an "economic terrorist" and called for his dismissal.

"This is what you guys in the media do to sell your papers. The Reserve Bank is a statutory body set up in terms of the RBZ Act while the Ministry of Finance is in charge of the exchequer so we can’t have an economy without fiscal and monetary policies working together," he said, echoing a statement made by the RBZ Governor when he addressed Parliament last week.

""There is a tendency in the media to draw us into the matrix of negatives when, in fact, the positives far outweigh the negative," he said.

"I think since the formation of this government, the negatives are in the minority. I will be the first to defend the gains of this government."

However Biti was quoted by many papers since he became minister saying the ouster of Dr. Gono was being negotiated.

He told Reuters international news agency that, “The Reserve Bank has totally discredited itself. We must accept that the Reserve Bank is at the core of economic decay.”

Biti also defended the statement he previously made to the media regarding the allocation of Mercedes Benz vehicles to cabinet ministers.

"In fact the cars on offer were not new but second-hand vehicles that had clocked up to 170 000km in mileage. These had been used under the central bank’s quasi-fiscal operations, which functions had now reverted back to the respective ministries."

Dr. Gono also responded to the reports in the media saying the the offer was in response to pleas by the MPs during last week’s meeting for them to use the vehicles as they awaited new ones from the Ministry of Finance.

This is in direct contrast to Biti's statement last week, in which he denied reports that his ministry had any input in the decision to allocate the vehicles.

He denied that the Finance Ministry had allocated some funds for new Mercedes Benzes for ministers and legislators.

Dr Gono revealed that it was Biti and the central bank board who instructed him to release the "idle used vehicles" to MPs.

"In fact, I was very explicit that the bank stood advised by the central bank board and the Minister of Finance on whether or not to field the idle used cars to honourable MPs," said Dr. Gono.

"This just goes to show how some of us are electing to be masters of sowing needless negativity among us through misreporting and radiation of issues out of context," he added.

Biti said the new inclusive Government needs about US$8.5 billion to fix the economy which has been hit by hyperinflation and 10 years of negative growth.

The new figure is US$1.5 billion less than that previously mentioned by Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

The new figure is also different from the one he appealed for when he presented his recovery plan, STERP in March.

Biti made a joint appeal with President Robert Mugabe for US$5 billion to revive the economy at the presentation of STERP.

Biti called for international financial institutions to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe and provide lines of credit.

He said the Bretton Woods twins, the IMF and World Bank had held positive talks with Zimbabwe, but expressed the urgency of opening up international lines of credit.

Biti said the response from the international community has "been positive, but we're still looking for international lines of credit."

Biti said some European countries had shown willingness to extend support to Zimbabwe.

"A few other countries that I don't have the mandate to disclose, and some banking institutions, some on the continent and some from Europe, have made an undertaking to extend lines of credit to the banking sector," Biti told a media briefing.

Western donors have withheld aid to Zimbabwe over policy differences with President Mugabe, and want to see political reforms put in place before resuming support.

Biti, who once opposed the dollarisation and 'Randification' of the Zimbabwean economy, said the government's decision to allow the use of multiple currencies for business transactions had brought price stability.

He added, however, that the economy faced liquidity problems due to a foreign currency crunch.

Biti, who is also the Secretary General of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party, said the inclusive Government had made significant progress since its formation in February.

"In the ... months that we've not been fighting each other, we've made phenomenal progress," he said.

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Facts are subversive

Facts are subversive
Written by Editor

Why is Fr Frank Bwalya being denied the right to hold a press conference in Kitwe? What is the government scared of that they think Fr Bwalya will say? What peace can this priest threaten or endanger through a press conference? We are asking these obvious questions because the whole issue of denying Fr Bwalya his right to hold a press conference doesn’t make sense.

There are so many questions that can be asked, seeking honest answers from the government. But we don’t think anyone in government will give an honest answer to these questions. And it therefore leaves the whole issue to speculation. However, what is at stake is a serious constitutional and human rights matter.

There is no law that allows the government to permanently stop Fr Bwalya from holding a press conference in Kitwe.

Not even the public order Act permits the police from stopping Fr Bwalya from holding a press conference. This is a right that is guaranteed Fr Bwalya in our Constitution. And to deny him this right constitutes a serious violation.

Freedom of expression forms the backbone of our multiparty democracy. And this democracy will only become a reality when there is a freedom of speech, including the freedom on the part of each individual to criticise the government and political parties; a freedom of each individual to hold a political opinion that is different from that of Rupiah Banda, the ruling MMD or indeed of the opposition political parties; the freedom of each individual to express a political opinion that is different from that of those who wield political power; that is, the freedom to have a different line of political thinking and expression.

Clearly, freedom of speech and expression is the lifeblood of any democracy. To debate and vote, to assemble and protest, to worship, to ensure justice for all – all these rely upon unrestricted flow of speech and information. Democracy is communication: people talking to one another about their common problems and forging a common destiny. Before people can govern themselves, they must be free to express themselves.

Citizens of a democracy live with a conviction that through the open exchange of ideas and opinions, truth will eventually win out over falsehood, the values of others will be better understood, areas of compromise more clearly defined, and the path of progress opened. The greater the volume of such exchanges, the better.

If the government feels there is something that Fr Bwalya is going to say that is dangerous, that is harmful, they have no choice but to wait until he has said it. And then they can take whatever measures are permissible within the law. It is simply not the business of the government to edit one’s thoughts or speech before one is allowed to hold a press conference and share his thoughts with others. If there is anything wrong that may come out of Fr Bwalya’s press conference, the cure for it is not to curtail the freedom of speech either for Fr Bwalya or for anyone else. The cure for free speech is more free speech.

It may seem a paradox but in the name of free speech, a democracy must sometimes defend the rights of individuals and groups who themselves advocate such non-democratic policies as repressing free speech. Citizens in a democratic society defend this right out of the conviction that, in the end, open debate will lead to greater truth and wiser public action than if speech is stifled.

Furthermore, the suppression of speech that we find offensive today is potentially a threat to our exercise of free speech tomorrow – which perhaps we or others might find offensive. This reminds us of that classic defence of this view argued by English philosopher John Stewart Mill in his essay of 1859 On Liberty that all people are harmed when speech is repressed: “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth, if wrong, they lose…the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.”

It is quite clear that the denial of Fr Bwalya’s right to hold a press conference suggests a conscious or unconscious lack of humanity on the part of those running government. It is quite true that acceptance of the rights of others to freely express themselves implies the highest respect for human ideal. Its denial must surely rank as one of the worst forms of immorality in human affairs.

If there is any principle in all the constitutions we have had, and we are probably going to have, that imperatively calls for attachment more than any other, it is the principle of free thought – not free for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we don’t like, we detest or even hate. Political speech is at the apex of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. And it should not be for the government to decide that political speech is some sort of disease that we must quarantine.

And from the way Fr Bwalya is being treated, it’s clear that freedom of expression is in danger in this country and it has to be defended. People believe that having freedom of expression is a natural phenomenon. It is not. It is the result of intense care and vigilance.

And there is no pleasure in living, if you are to be corked up forever, and only dribble your mind out by the sly, like leaky barrel. We shouldn’t repent saying what we think. The unregulated voice isn’t as dangerous to the public as the silenced voice. It is more dangerous to silence Fr Bwalya than to allow him to say all the dangerous things we think he’s going to say. If we think sticks and stones are hard on bones, silence breaks the heart.

People are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely. It is easy to embrace freedom of speech for the ideas we accept. But the essence of freedom of speech is that we must protect the ideas we hate. The need to protect what we detest is the reason freedom of the mind both exists and remains under siege.

In a democracy, the freedom of discussion and freedom of expression are of the highest value because without them, democracy stands into a caricature. We know that those who seek to stifle free speech seek all sorts of national security arguments, they claim that peace will be disturbed if people like Fr Bwalya are allowed to freely speak and share their ideas, views and opinions with others. We know that necessity is always the plea for every infringement of human freedom. But we also know that it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of those who they seek to enslave.

The right of Fr Bwalya to express himself is not something that should be given to him by the government only when those in power think he is not going to be harmful to their political interests; it is something that belongs to him, that is part of him by virtue of him being a human being.

We should never allow, for whatever reason, those in the government to silence anyone. Silence blurs more truth than it reveals. You cannot have democracy and you cannot have a community if you don’t have a way to share ideas. Only a strong and secure democracy can guarantee the fullest and freest exchange of ideas, no matter how much those ideas hurt or incite. To silence Fr Bwalya is to silence freedom of expression. Today it’s Fr Bwalya who is being silenced, tomorrow it will be the whole nation that will be silenced. If they can get away with it on Fr Bwalya, they will try it on many other people and one day on the whole nation.

Freedom of speech is a precious thing, and the inalienable birthright of all who travel this earth. When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real.

We don’t believe any tyrant, any intolerant regime ever succeeded in imposing moratorium on thought, on intellect. The oppression of any people for opinion’s sake has rarely had any other effect than to fix those opinions deeper and render them more important.

We therefore make a clarion call to all our people to come up and defend Fr Bwalya’s right to hold his press conference without any undue interference from those in control of government. This is a fundamental human right that the Human Rights Commission and other institutions whose mandate is to defend our people’s rights and advance their liberties should defend. The defence of Fr Bwalya’s freedom of speech should not be left to his father, old Flex Mwango. Of course we hope other parents can learn something from Mr Mwango and stand up to defend the fundamental human rights of their children when they are violated or trampled upon.