Saturday, May 02, 2009
By James Shikwati
South Africans are grappling with political independence for blacks who control less than 10 percent of the economy. That explains in part why voters chose to vote for "Lethu Mshini Wami" (Bring Me My Machine Gun.) To them, the struggle is far from over.
The obsession with whether the African National Congress garnered a two-thirds majority or not by Western media is driven by the apprehension of what might befall the population that controls 90 percent of South Africa’s economy should Jacob Zuma opt to make use of his "Mshini".
The African National Congress is said to have used the philosophy of "each-one-teach-one" during the struggle against apartheid to ensure that the blacks who went to school taught those who were out fighting.
In post-apartheid era, the black elites, supposedly led by Thabo Mbeki, "forgot" their brothers in the struggle.
Last year’s push by black South Africans to evict other Africans from their country was driven by the quest to access the economic pie through jobs and business.
Many firms in South Africa opt to employ educated Africans from neighbouring countries and find it difficult to absorb the "uneducated" freedom fighters — leading to an army of angry youth that view foreigners as their economic enemy.
Who else would have been their best candidate other than the one asking for a machine gun!
Jacob Zuma’s sweeping victory in South Africa is a pointer to the undercurrents that drive African politics.
Africans have started asking the "hard questions" such as: "Who controls the economy?"
"Is political freedom enough?" "Does the law (constitution) that relegates the majority into a crowd of dancing voters instead of economic producers serve Africa’s interests?" "Does Christianity (for example) define an African?"
Western market concerns over South Africa are simply a pointer to a system fighting to sustain global economic status quo.
The greatest challenge for African leaders is how to raise revenue from and serve populations that are generally disenfranchised from the global market systems and build institutions that are respected by all.
Under the current global economic order supervised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; African leaders are continuously bombarded with instructions; imposed international treaties and competing investors’ interests.
This breeds corrupt and detached leadership that ignores policies that ought to give more Africans a fair chance at the market place.
Lessons from Kenya and South Africa itself point at the fact that maintaining the economic status quo that has turned the majority into spectators at the market place is more costly.
In the eyes of Tanzanians for example, Kenya’s economy is controlled by non-Kenyans assisted by a few elites that act as mere fronts.
The resultant effect has been insecurity and mushrooming of killer gangs in search of economic survival.
Kenyans are now grappling with organised gangs such as Mungiki that are said to be mainly descendants of freedom fighters that were shortchanged by political elites.
Ethnic tensions are rife in Kenya precisely because one community is seen to have built their enterprises through political patronage.
South Africa, on the other hand, records high rates of crime, rape and even murder as disenfranchised populations seek to break into the class of wealth generators.
Last year, I participated in a closed-door session with Jacob Zuma, now South Africa’s President-elect.
He struck me as an individual who is very much aware of the challenges that the black majority face in his country.
I am, however afraid that he will soon find himself walking over hot coals — something that will create a false impression that he is a dancing President!
It is not going to be easy for the minority that control 90 percent of the economy to cede ground to allow for economic freedom that will facilitate free participation in growth of South Africa’s economy.
For long-term purposes, it will be strategic for those who fear a Jacob Zuma presidency to review the law and draw the majority into the productive sector.
Such a move will guarantee the elites peace as they sip evening tea at their verandah.
To ignore Africans who have been disenfranchised by the global market order is to breed anarchy.
The most urgent agenda for leaders on the continent ought to be to increase productivity among its people devoid of World Bank controlled development experimentations on Africans.
Zuma’s "Lethu Mshini Wami" must protect all.
l James Shikwati is the director of the Inter Region Economic Network and he can be contacted on email@example.com.
UK media obsessed with ‘tribalism’
By Keith Somerville
I HAve been researching and reporting Africa for over 30 years. It has always struck me that the continent is reported differently from the rest of the world.
The words used differ, particularly adjectives, and the assumptions behind the use of those words differ hugely. What brought this home to me powerfully was the difference in coverage and the use of certain words in describing the conflicts in Georgia and South Ossetia and the post-election violence in Kenya. The violence in the Caucasus was nationalism, or perhaps a mix of nationalism and ethnic conflict.
Kenya was tribalism.
Much of the British media — from the BBC to the Guardian and then to the tabloid Press — used the term "tribalism" widely, giving an impression of primitivism and a violence endemic to Africa.
What is it about UK and wider Western (and, it has to be said, some African) views of Africa that lead to this?
What is the result for those who read, listen to or watch this reporting? Africa is often described as vibrant — a good thing, one would think — but this very vibrancy has a primitive aspect in the way it is reported: a colourful barbarousness.
It is the vibrancy of a simple people and continent, also implying that explanations and descriptions apply to Africa as a whole in a way that would never be implied when talking about Europe, Asia or the Americas. But the words that most sum up reporting of Africa are tribe, tribal, tribalism and tribalist. The words are redolent of primordialism, chaos, endemic violence but also colour, vibrancy and identity. The word tribe (from the Latin tribus) is perhaps the most misused adjective in the media to describe conflict or even lifestyle, culture or art in Africa.
It originated in Rome as the description for the pre-republican and pre-imperial factions, based on families and ethnic communities competing for power.
The formation of the Roman Empire led to Roman leaders and historians applying "tribe" to peoples whom the Romans saw as inferior and ripe for conquest — the German and Gallic "tribes". Julius Caesar used the term widely to describe peoples Rome conquered or sought to conquer.
"Tribe" became a descriptive term in classical history for peoples at a state of development that preceded kingdoms, principalities, empires and "advanced" forms of state or government. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, as European powers or settlers gained control, usually by force, of large areas of the Americas and Africa, it was used to describe peoples encountered and conquered.
These were peoples who did not have the same societal or political structures as Europeans. It was used rarely in Asia. It was used by British colonisers throughout Africa.
Communities, peoples and even strong kingdoms (the Asante/Ashanti in Ghana or the Zulu or Ndebele in southern Africa) were designated tribes and ruled through a system that created tribal areas, reinforced chiefly power or even created it in communities lacking a history of chieftancy.
It was a convenient way to rule and, where expedient, to divide people.
Under colonial rule, African aspirations had to be channelled through tribal associations, and attempts to form "non-tribal" national movements were repressed.
English often became the language of political discourse; tribe, tribal, tribalist and tribalism became entrenched in the political vocabulary, even though the term had no equivalent in the languages of the colonised.
The Zulu word for their own identity as a people is isizwe, meaning people or nation, not tribe.
But in African states where English is the main language, tribe remains the dominant term.
It was, after all, the term for African communities drummed into pupils in schools and throughout the administrative system. The term became entrenched and ubiquitous, as did the assumptions that went with it. Tribal meant primitive, inclined to a narrow outlook and lacking a wider sense of nationhood and, of course, prone to violence to protect or advance the interests of the tribe.
Political conflicts in newly independent Africa were labelled as tribal, a term rarely, if ever, used to describe national conflicts in Europe, the Americas or Asia.
Conflicts in those regions were described as perhaps ethnic or more often as clashes of nationalisms — the Basques in Spain, the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, the wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia and now the conflicts in the Caucasus.
These wars were on a higher plane, more understandable and less clearly primitive than those in Africa, or so you would think if you read journalists’ accounts of them. The tribal label frequently meant that no other explanation or research into the causes of conflicts in Africa was necessary.
"Tribal" covered it all, with occasional injections of corruption and dictatorship (though, of course, these usually could be traced back to tribe). The post-election violence Kenya was a good example of this.
It stemmed from disputed elections and the machinations of powerful political cliques. These groups were willing to use all and any means to protect or increase their political power.
This included playing on the poverty and deprivation of many Kenyans, convincing the poor and vulnerable that they were under threat of losing what little they had to supporters of the opposing political leaders.
But this was couched in ethnic terms.
People from Kalenjin communities in the Rift Valley were told that Kikuyus would take their land and force them out if President Mwai Kibaki stayed in power.
Kikuyu leaders were telling their supporters similar things — the Kalenjin will drive you out, so organise!
Communal and ethnic violence resulted. But for much of the printed, broadcast and online media, this was tribalism — like the saying about nature, red in tooth and claw.
Tribal violence of a primitive and atavistic kind was wrecking the tourist and wildlife paradise.
Even normally sober and careful journalists like the BBC’s Bridget Kendall went for the tribal bloodletting line in an analysis of the violence.
But curiously, this was not the approach taken during the fighting in South Ossetia - which was nationalism or, at most, ethnic rivalry.
What happens in Africa is "tribal" and so primitive, but what happens in Europe, the Middle East or the Americas is always on a higher plane of organised state or nationalistic violence. The difference in terminology is key to the way in which ordinary people and decision-makers approach Africa.
This not only leads to the further reinforcing of misleading stereotypes, but it colours the world’s view of Africa and its development problems and political divisions.
How often do you see it described as a basket case or beyond hope?
Because deep down, there is the assumption created and nurtured by the belief that Africa is tribal and, therefore, unable to get out of the cycle of violence, dictatorship, corruption and further violence. What happened in Kenya and other conflicts in Africa over the past 50 years and the wider development problems in Africa cannot be viewed in isolation from globalisation or from the colonial and post-colonial history of Africa.
To develop a more accurate and realistic view of events in African states, we need to lose tribalism as the all-purpose explanation. Over 30 years ago, anthropologists began to question its validity, then sociologists and political scientists.
It is surely now time that journalists examined why they so frequently use the term as a catch-all for Africa.
Certainly, their readers, viewers and listeners often have little or only a transitory knowledge of Africa and are satisfied with simple terms or don’t show any desire for more complex explanations.
But we owe it to ourselves as journalists to be fair not only to our audience, but also to the subjects of our stories and reports.
A debate within journalism about how we report Africa is long overdue, and I can see no better starting place than the use of these words.
l Keith Somerville is a lecturer in journalism at the School of Arts, Brunel University in London. His books include "Southern Africa and the Soviet Union: From Communist International to Commonwealth of Independent States" (London, Macmillan, 1993).
WORKERS must be realistic when they negotiate salaries since it will take time for salaries to reach desired levels, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday, while the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions urged Government to help improve salaries through the promulgation of a statutory instrument for a rationalised salary structure.
Addressing thousands of workers celebrating Workers’ Day, under the ZCTU banner, at Gwanzura Stadium yesterday, PM Tsvangirai said Government would improve civil servants’ salaries as more revenue is generated.
"As someone with a background from the trade unions, I would urge you to continue negotiations with your employers, but your demands must be realistic," he said.
The Prime Minister was secretary-general of the ZCTU before going into politics.
PM Tsvangirai said while Government wanted workers to earn enough money for their families’ upkeep, salaries would take time to improve.
Turning to civil service salaries, he said: "The inclusive Government is still new, but we would like our workers to get proper salaries. We are currently paying allowances. All people in Government, including President Mugabe, are getting US$100."
He said Government could only get money when more people pay Pay-As-You-Earn but not enough tax was being remitted into State coffers at present.
The Prime Minister said Government would, nevertheless, work hard to improve salaries.
The inclusive Government, PM Tsvangirai said, has been working well since its formation.
"A Government is not easy, especially when we are coming from different parties, but we are working together quite well to bring peace and
"We, however, need your support for Government to provide a way for peace in the country," he said.
He also paid tribute to the small-to-medium enterprises for "carrying" the country over the years.
The Prime Minister expressed hope that the Tripartite Negotiating Forum would come up with resolutions that would benefit ordinary workers.
Speaking at the same occasion, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa-Gwanyanya said Government wanted workers to get better salaries.
Her ministry had set targets that would help in improving working conditions for all workers.
"We have set four targets that include revisiting labour laws in the country so that all workers enjoy good working conditions.
"Government will also look at how we would harmonise the Labour Act and Public Service Commission Act for the benefit of all workers while there is also need for a united front when dealing with the plight of workers," she said.
She said Government had revived social dialogue through the TNF so that workers can get enough money for their needs while also enabling them to save part of their earnings.
"TNF meetings have already started with a technical committee meeting already underway and Government hopes the social dialogue would be progressive for the benefit of the workers."
She said 3 335 people died in work-related accidents last year and Government would work with employers to ensure safety at workplaces.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Mr Lovemore Matombo urged Government not to privatise State enterprises as advised by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
"Government should not listen to the advice of these institutions and workers should not accept privatisation of parastatals.
"We don’t want Government to privatise parastatals to pay debts and we would fight, as a union, over this privatisation bid."
However, PM Tsvangirai said there was no Government policy on privatisation of State enterprises.
Mr Matombo urged Government to include representatives of labour bodies in the National Aids Council and National Social Security Authority as workers contribute immensely to these institutions.
The ZCTU was seeking a US$454 minimum wage in the next round of the social dialogue.
In separate May Day speeches, the two groups fighting for control of the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions concurred that Government should set a minimum wage in tandem with the Poverty Datum Line.
"We last had a minimum wage in 1998 when the Minister of Labour intervened to rescue the workers from the implications of IMF-prescribed economic reforms that nearly ruined the economy.
"The situation was not as bad as it is now, so we are appealing for the ministry to intervene to normalise the situation. Failure to do so may trigger further worker exodus into the neighbouring countries and beyond," said leader of one of the ZFTU factions Cde Joseph Chinotimba, who was addressing the labour body’s members at the City Sports Centre.
He urged parastatals to reduce charges of their services.
"We want school fees, passport fees, radio and television licences and State service charges to be in line with salaries or allowances paid to the working people. It is a mockery to the conscience of ordinary workers (to expect them) to come to terms with the level of tariffs on local authority bills ranging to around US$150 to US$200 while the workers are paid US$100 at the end of the month," he said.
Cde Chinotimba hailed the inclusive Government, saying its establishment was long overdue.
He said while the ZFTU was ready to participate and have input into the constitution-making process, the labour body was against Parliament taking the lead.
Cde Chinotimba also called for the removal of sanctions and criticised the ZCTU for standing in the way of Sadc countries who are working flat out to have the embargo lifted.
The Jacob Gwavava-led ZFTU faction called on Government to cancel or deregulate the special privileges enjoyed by companies in the Export Processing Zones which are not bound by labour laws on salaries.
It also called for the removal of sanctions, saying they had caused untold suffering to workers and their families.
"Invariably, this illegal act has forced companies to reduce their production capacities to as low as 10 percent or closing down altogether.
"All this has had negative effects on workers and their families virtually reducing them to paupers. In this regard, we are steadfast in condemning the sanctions with the contempt they deserve," said Mr Gwavava.
By Times Reporter
PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda has warned that the Government will not tolerate the tendency where employers arbitrarily lay off workers and violate their rights under the guise of the global financial crisis.
The President said the current downturn should not be taken as an excuse to weaken workers rights but rather as an opportunity to reassess and extend full respect and effective implementation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) declaration on fundamental principles.
Mr Banda said this in a speech read for him by Vice- President George Kunda during this year’s Labour Day celebrations in Lusaka at the Freedom statue. The theme was ‘Economic recovery through respect for worker’s rights, good governance and job security.’
“Economic recovery and diversification can only be realised if workers rights are respected. Workers’ rights and job security are essential elements in ensuring high productivity,” he said.
He said workers’ rights included the right to occupational safety and health, right to be heard before dismissal, right to go on leave including maternity, right to belong to a trade union of one’s choice and the right to collective bargaining.
Mr Banda said the Government had observed with concern the tendency by some employers to take advantage of the large supply of labour in the countr y to disregard the relevant labour laws and abuse the workers’ rights.
“It has also been observed that some employers engage in practices that undermine efforts aimed at promoting job security. Such practices include casualistion of labour and laying off workers as first option in cost reduction. Such acts shall not be tolerated,” he warned.
Mr Banda said to ensure job security in response to the new economic order, there was need to review Zambia’s labour laws.
He said the Government had embarked on the review of labour laws and urged Labour and Social Security Minister Austin Liato to engage the social partners with a view to setting the time frame for the completion of the review exercise.
The president said the most important lesson that could be drawn from the commemoration of Labour Day was unity of purpose.
He said it was the wish of the Government to see a united and strong work force capable of contributing immensely to national development even in the midst of the current global economic crisis.
He said the Zambian labour market was faced with the poor work culture saying there was need to develop a culture of hard work and dedication to duty.
Mr Banda said every worker in Zambia must put the interests of the country first and that only collective efforts towards high productivity would help turn the economy around for the benefit of all Zambians.
He urged all Zambian workers to embrace a culture of hard work, honesty and integrity.
He however commended the workers for their sacrifice to maintain industrial harmony and hard work in the past year despite the many challenges the country was faced with.
Mr Banda paid tribute to the labour leaders for their honest and constructive leadership even when they were under extreme pressure to make demands for their members despite the challenges.
Mr Banda said the effects of the global economic crisis had not been limited to the mining sector but had also affected the agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors because of the global decline in demand.
He said the economy had also experienced a rapid depreciation of the Kwacha and as a result, imported raw materials had become more expensive resulting in reduced production and increased cost of goods and services.
He said although other sectors had experienced significant impact, the impact on the financial sector had so far been less severe as compared to what was obtaining in others countries.
Mr Banda said in this years national Budget the Government had focused on implementing measures to address the job losses experienced and enable the recovery of the economy in the shortest possible time.
Mr Banda said since the mining sector presented the most urgent challenge; the Government had put in place specific measures to reduce the cost of mining operations.
He said given the current situation in the mining sector, the Government was considering the recommendation from the recently held national indaba, of putting in place a Taskforce to review the operations of the mining industry.
And Mr Kunda yesterday said he had taken note of all the valuable contributions from the workers and would relay the messages to President Banda.
Mr Kunda said the Government valued the relationship it had with both the employees and the employers.
He said both parties should embrace dialogue as a means of resolving problems in the sector.
Mr Liato said the ministry would in the next one year embark on labour law reforms and regulate the labour market to ensure that social dialogue was promoted among the workers, employers and the Government.
Mr Liato said labour inspections would be enhanced so as to mitigate occupational hazards.
Saturday, May 2, 2009, 10:03
This is an extract from the transcript of the IMF/World bank media briefing that took place on 25th April 2009 in the US. Only the parts relevant to the Zambian situation are captured in this extract. Great thanks to Mr Ben Kangwa, First Secretary (Press) at the Zambian Embassy in Washington, USA, for making the full transcript available to us
===========Start of Transcript Extract=========
MR. DIENG: Good morning, everyone. This is the African Finance Ministers’ Press Conference. I’m Ismaila Dieng from the IMF’s External Relations Department. Joining us today for this press conference: Mr. Charles Koffi Diby, Minister of Economy and Finance for Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Mustafa Mkulo, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Tanzania and Mr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, Minister of Finance and National Planning for Zambia. The ministers will have each some introductory remarks, and then they will be happy to take your questions. Thank you.
MR. DIENG: Thank you, Minister Mkulo. Minister Musokotwane.
MR. MUSOKOTWANE: It is also a pleasure from my side to be able to share with members of the press the perspectives of the crisis from Zambia. I will present my remarks on the basis of about three broad headlines. First of all, I’m going to talk about the effects that this crisis has presented in the specific case of Zambia. Then I’ll talk about the reaction, what measures we have taken in the reaction to the crisis. And then, finally, I will talk about the international perspective to the crisis. Therefore, let me start with the effects as we have seen them in the case of Zambia.
Let me begin with our banking sector because the crisis originated from the advanced world via the banking sector. Here, I would say that we have not–obviously, our banking sector is not as much integrated with the countries where the crisis originated from. Therefore, we did not, our banking sector did not consume any of the toxic assets that the others did, and, as a result of that, the crisis came and found the banking sector to be fairly stable. We believe this remains to be the case, but obviously we are watching very carefully because the second round effects, which I’ll talk about later, these could negatively impact on the banking sector.
But that is not to say that the entire financial market was fully immunized from the crisis. We suffered in the case of our portfolio investments that had come to Zambia. Since the economy began to improve about six, seven years ago, we saw lots of interest in investors from the advanced world coming to buy treasury securities, treasury bonds and, indeed, even investments into our stock market.
These investors, as the conditions became difficult, we saw an increasing tendency whereby they were no longer rolling their investments. They were not even bringing any new investments. To the contrary, they were taking out their money. So, obviously, that put a lot of pressure on the exchange rate.
In addition, of course, the fact that the general public, as they saw their current account deteriorating and foreign exchange becoming less available, this led to a very quick depreciation of our currency by about 45 percent in nominal terms between about mid-2008 to the end of the year.
Our ability to finance imports, therefore, saw a decline from about 3.8 months of import cover to just about 2 or something like that. So this is one area where we have seen us being adversely affected.
It is clear to the problems in terms of our ability to service our extended debt. Obviously because of the depreciation, the local currency equivalent of that is much higher.
On the other hand, there are obviously some positive aspects about this depreciation, which is an important point to raise because in the seventies and eighties when we had a similar crisis, the response via the exchange rate mechanism was quite slow, not just in Zambia but in many African countries, and I believe that this is one aspect in previous times that contributed to the heavy accumulation of debt during that time. Consumption patterns tended to remain constant, whereas the external sector had declined. Therefore, a lot couldn’t financed by more borrowing which led to the debt pileup and to the HIPC initiative.
Obviously, with the more rapid reaction through currency depreciation that has happened, we believe that part of that problem has now been put aside.
But much more fundamentally, the way we’ve been affected has been through the real economy. We have, like my colleagues have said, we have also revised our growth projections from the average of 6 percent that we have achieved in the past few years to something lower. That could be 5 or even 4.
But, more specifically, Zambia is a major mining country exporting copper. And, as the price of copper fell, just like the prices of many commodities, we saw a number of mining companies closing or shedding of labor. Obviously, in our case, I think we have lost about 12,000 jobs directly in the mining sector, and that creates social and economic problems.
Social in the sense that when people are thrown out of jobs, you know what happens, but also economically in the sense that the second round effects have launched. There are some towns which are entirely mining towns. So, if you close the mine, it means the shop owners, the bus drivers, the farmers in the neighborhood, obviously, they get affected.
So, for us, really, I think the biggest pain that we’ve suffered is in the mining industry because of labor shedding and also because their contribution to the tax revenue as a result of lower prices. Both have declined.
So, in summary, therefore, three things: Banking, not so much. Financial sector, we have seen depreciation, but much more severely the economic side through the mining industry.
So what have we done? The biggest priority has been to try and save as many jobs as possible and in the mining sector. So, in the budget that we presented earlier this year, we had to take some fiscal measures, lowering some taxes, aspect of taxes in the mining sector, so that jobs, those jobs that we can save, we would be able to save them, and also encouraging through tax measures certain aspect value addition in the mining sector so that new jobs can be created. Smelting capacity has increased. So we wanted to create jobs around this.
The other thing that we have done is that obviously there is less room for a stimulus package in a country such as Zambia, but in a limited fashion we’ve had to do that. So we saw the domestic borrowing increasing from 1.4 percent of GDP last year to 1.8 percent of GDP this year, most of this money arising from the increased deficit. We have put it on education. We will put it on health so that we protect all levels of society. But, much more importantly or so, we have put it on specific infrastructure that we believe if implemented, and this is what we are doing, can create the basis for private sector investment.
Obviously, this crisis is not going to last forever and ever. We want to find ourselves in a situation whereby when the crisis comes to the end, the basis for private sector investment will have been enhanced. So, therefore, the stimulus package can be seen from the expenditure side in that perspective.
But, also, it is to be seen on the side of tax cuts. We have to introduce some tax cuts in certain aspects, particularly those that we believed would help to save jobs in the mining sector as I indicated early on. But we also cut taxes in certain other aspects of the economy, particularly agriculture, constructing, so that some of the people losing jobs on the mining side, they could find jobs in the other sectors.
Now, I think the point to emphasize here once again is that this crisis will not last forever and ever. In the past few years, Africans, most of us, have made good progress. You’ve heard it from my colleague in Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire. Growth has been increasing.
And, what we have seen is that growth was increasing. The impact of that on poverty reduction, I think was quite powerful. We saw jobs being created. We saw many companies being created. We believe that this is really the future for Africa, to join in the leagues of what the Asian countries did some decades ago. So, for us, this is really an opportunity to reorganize ourselves, to diversify the economy, create conditions for private sector investment to come in because we believe this is the future.
My final remark is on the international perspective. Obviously, we welcome the announcements made by the G20 to provide more resources for international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, to provide more resources to us.
The major point I wish to stress is that we have seen similar announcements in the past, and sometimes when it comes to implementing these announcements, that’s where there’s been disappointment. We all recall how the HIPC initiative started. It was a very noble idea. When it came to implementing that, all types of problems, conditionalities and so forth. As at the launch, there are still some countries today which are still struggling to get out of debt.
Similarly, I want to say that this time around, let’s ensure that this noble idea of providing more resources, it actually happens on the ground. Let’s not see another lot of all types of obstacles being created by bureaucracies to prevent this from happening.
My final point is that obviously this crisis did not start from Africa. It started from here. And, we urge the rich countries to take more definite action to ensure that this crisis is as short as possible.
As the global economy grew, we saw ourselves also benefiting from that. Most of us have taken painful measures in the last 15, 20 years, so that we have become part of the global economy. And, this has happened with such success, and we believe that this success can be more sustainable if the global economy begins to grow. So we urge the rich nations to take these necessary actions to ensure that the crisis is as short as possible.
MR. DIENG: Thank you, Minister. We’ll now take questions.
QUESTIONER: Would that our finances were in as good shape as those of Zambia. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. One of the things that one notices here is that you talk about the crisis, but you don’t explain the cause of the crisis. So, without making a speech, may I please tell you what the cause of the crisis is? It’s called fraudulent finance. And, the most interesting thing that the minister from Zambia said was at the very beginning, namely, that you had not absorbed any toxic assets. Now, don’t, because they’re trying to revalidate them and they will try and sell them all over the world. Do you understand this factor and, if not, will you be discussing it with your colleagues in the international fora?
MR. DIENG: Minister Musokotwane?
MR. MUSOKOTWANE: Well, I thank the speaker for those comments, and if indeed these assets are circulating, I think we’ve been alerted, and we’ll take note of that. Let me take seconds just to say something about the dependence on the IMF. First of all, I think everybody agrees that many of us in Africa have made tremendous progress in the last decade or so. So, we’re really beginning to see ourselves disengaging from aid dependency–not immediately, but I think it’s something that was on track, and I think this is positive.
The fact that a crisis has come, which we did not cause, is just unfortunate. And, if we are to come and ask for financing to deal with that, I don’t see anything embarrassing about that.
And, by the way, I think in this global economy it’s not just us who depend on external financing. Let’s look at the deficit that has been created in this country, the U.S., close to $2 trillion. Where is this money coming from? Is it from the U.S.? No. Most of this money, I believe is coming from outside the U.S.–China and other countries that were running surpluses. So, if it is proper for an economy such as this to access funding, what is wrong with the African countries accessing financing from outside?
QUESTIONER: I was wondering if you have an original framework through which you help one another share experiences apart from approaching the international institutions, not just because of the current crisis, but for the future of the continent, especially in terms of economy.
Secondly, Mr. Charles Diby, you did mention that some countries spend about 30 percent of their budget financing debt. Minister Musokotwane, you said that your country’s debt is going to be or has risen from 1.4 percent of your GDP to 1.8 percent. This obviously raises a serious concern. So how are you working to make sure that you don’t drag yourself back into debt, which is a huge problem?
MR. DIENG: Minister Musokotwane?
MR. MUSOKOTWANE: At a time like this, when we interact, we interact a lot among ourselves. Certainly, in the region where we are, we have very regularly SADC meetings. We meet very frequently. Similarly, I think we have interactions at the level of the A.U., and I think sometime in June, actually, there’s a meeting by the African Ministers of Finance to discuss the crisis and share experiences in a more detailed fashion.
Now, on the debt, first of all, I don’t think you clearly understood what I was saying. What I was talking about is the deficit to GDP ratio which has increased this year from 1.4 percent last year to 1.8 this year. That, obviously, has a net effect of increasing our indebtedness. But, for us, the external debt is quite low after the HIPC and the MDRI. So I think we are like our colleagues in Tanzania here. We don’t consider external debt to be a burden right now.
But, obviously, we have to watch out because a crisis such as this can lead to a potential for us piling up debt. This, as I indicated earlier on is how the debt problem of the seventies and eighties arose in the first instance, and I also indicated very clearly that this time around we responded more swiftly. We have allowed our currency to depreciate which means that the level of balance of payments problems, I think will be curtailed much sooner than before.
And, of course, now we are much more aware. In the ’70s and ’80s, our appreciation of these things was low. Now I think we understand these relationships very carefully, and we are watching our debt situation very carefully so that we don’t drift back into the pre-HIPC days.
MR. DIENG: Thank you,
This brings to an end our press conference with African Finance Ministers. We are running out of time, and we have to bring this to a close. So, thank you very much for your attendance.
Saturday, May 2, 2009, 12:23
Government has cautioned politicians to desist from issuing negative statements about the closure of Albidon Munali Nickel mine in Mazabuka.
Youth, Sport and Development minister Kenneth Chipungu said in Mazabuka today that government is concerned with the negative reports about the mine, particularly from some opposition parties.
He said it does not make sense for the opposition to criticise government over the closure of the mine when negotiations between government and the new investor over the taking over of operations have reached an advanced stage.
Mr. Chipungu said the negative reports if left unchecked could scare away investors who have shown interest to take over operations at the only Nickel mine in the country.
He said there is need for the opposition to support government efforts meant to find a reliable investor who will revive operations and ensure people who lost jobs are re-employed.
Mr Chipungu said a Chinese investor whom he did not name has shown interest to take over the running of the mine.
All the staff at the mine have since been retrenched and paid their terminal benefits.
The mine has since been put under care and maintenance.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chipungu has expressed disappointment with the negative response by youths in seeking to access funds under the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC).
Mr Chipungu said in Mazabuka yesterday when he addressed youths at Mazabuka BOMA that government might consider withdrawing the money and channel the funds to other sectors of economy if Zambians are not interested in applying for the funds.
He was shocked to learn that many youths in Mazabuka had not applied for the funds when government had relaxed conditions on how to access the funds.
Mr Chipungu said in order for the youths and other people to access the funds, government has scrapped the application of fee of K 50,000.
He said this meant that people accessing CEEC application forms would not be required to pay for the forms..
Mr Chipungu also charged that it was regrettable to note that the K 10 Billion CEEC fund was still lying idle in the bank because people are not interested in applying for the funds.
And Speaking at the same function, Mazabuka District Commissioner, Tyson Hamaamba told the meeting that 23 applications have been approved for field appraisal by the CEEC while 31 have had their applications rejected for failing to meet the set conditions.
Mr. Hamaamba however said the rejected applicants had been given a second chance to perfect their business plans and correct other issues of raised by the appraisal team.
Friday, May 1, 2009, 11:49
Operations at Nampundwe Mine in Mumbwa District will come to a halt on Monday 4th May due to restructuring in the KCM group of companies.
This has been announced by KCM Group Human Resources manager Susan Ziko who said the pyrite producing mine will remain closed for at least nine months before re-opening.
Ms Ziko said this when her team briefed Mwembeshi Member of Parliament Edward Kasoko at the constituency office on the future of Nampundwe Mine.
She however said none of the 321 miners will lose their jobs as KCM management has taken necessary measures to ensure the future of the miners.
The KCM human resource manager said in a bid to come out of the current global economic crunch, KCM has found it fit to transfer the Namundwe Mine Larox Filter machine to Nchanga Mine to help in the production of cobalt.
Ms Ziko however said KCM has already placed an order for a new Larox Filter from Sweden which will be installed at Nampundwe.
The KCM official said the Nampundwe miners will be asked to stay at home from Monday with options to choose which KCM mine on the Copperbelt they would like to be transferred to while a skeleton staff will be chosen to keep Nampundwe Mine afloat.
Ms Ziko said there is also an option for those who want to be separated from KCM operations.
But Mwembeshi Member of Parliament Edward Kasoko said the Larox Filter from Nampundwe can only be taken to Nchanga after a memorandum of understanding has been signed between his office, the Minister of Mines, Mine workers unions and KCM management to ensure the promise by KCM to re-open Nampundwe after nine months is adhered to.
He said this will be done in order that if KCM does not stick to the promise of re-opening Nampundwe after nine months, the Nampundwe community will be free to pursue the case in the court of law adding that no matter how long the case will take, the community will eventually win.
Mr Kasoko said this has been done because the community does not trust KCM which keeps changing its goal posts.
Friday, May 1, 2009, 20:53 Politics 490 views 43 comments The ruling MMD in Lusaka Province has strongly condemned efforts being made to try and impeach President Rupiah Banda.
Provincial Chairman Cleophas Chimembe says the scheme will not succeed as the republican president was elected and mandated by the people of Zambia to rule the nation.
Mr. Chimembe told ZANIS in an interview that such actions are meant to disrupt the peace and tranquility the nation is currently enjoying.
He charged that failed politicians are trying to incite Zambians to rise against the government through civil disobedience and other such anti social activities which are against the norms of democracy.
Mr Chimembe warned that such actions are treasonable under the law and urged law enforcement agencies to move in quickly and arrest the perpetrators before they cause any serious damage.
Mr Chimembe said all well meaning Zambians should give their full and unquestionable popular support to President Banda.
He appealed to Zambians to take note of civil wars taking place in some African countries adding that Zambians risk falling in the same trap if the current peace is lost.
The Lusaka Province MMD Chairman also appealed to opposition political party leaders to show maturity by accepting in totality the verdict of the people and learn to engage constructively with the government of the day.
He said it is regrettable that some opposition leaders are only out to fight the government when the truth of the matter is that the MMD Government has implemented many serious and effective programmes which are benefiting the majority of Zambians.
The Lusaka Province MMD Chairman said the MMD general membership is solidly behind President Banda and will do whatever it takes to protect the presidency and the nation.
Written by Editor
There are many wrong things that are being revealed by the Auditor General’s reports and by the work of the Public Accounts Committee, but very little action follows it. But the question is, why is this so?
It is not enough for the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee to do all this work if no serious corrective action is taken. Clearly, the work of the Auditor General and that of the Public Accounts Committee is insufficient on its own. Equally, laws, regulations and codes of conduct are insufficient on their own. Their observance has to be monitored, deviations identified with those responsible and corrective and deterrent steps taken. This is the more difficult side of the coin.
But experience shows that corrective action is too often limited to the recovery of losses from delinquent officers. There is need to strengthen systems and to punish offenders in order to prevent recurrence.
There is need to realise that it is impossible to have meaningful democracy without transparency and accountability. In this sense, transparency means that citizens are accorded free access to governmental political and economic activities and decisions. Accountability entails the government being held responsible, by both the citizens and their elected bodies, for its choices and actions.
Transparency and accountability means according citizens the right and opportunity of summoning their government to reveal its income and expenditure, as well as strategies and ambitions. Transparency enables the Zambian people to see the structure and functions of the government, its policy intentions and fiscal projections, and accounts for past periods.
The main purpose of opening these windows should be to render those inside accountable and answerable for their decisions and actions. Accountability is the obligation to render an account for the responsibility conferred to those in government by the Zambian people.
There is need for strengthening the internal control systems of all government operations from the lowest government unit, department, ministry and all the way up to State House. Wherever taxpayers’ money is used, there has to be adequate controls to promote orderly, economical, efficient and effective operations; to safeguard public resources against loss due to waste, abuse, mismanagement, errors, fraud; to adhere to laws, regulations and management directives.
The mismanagement, abuse and corruption of the Frederick Chiluba decade has contributed to a substantial erosion of credibility of governmental fiscal machinery and to a growing mistrust of government.
From what has been exposed by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee, and indeed the media, it’s clear that those running government generally engage themselves in circumvention of the laws.
And a gullible public may not always know what the government is doing. While the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee can be said to be doing a good job, their efforts are, by and large, very limited.
It is clear that laws, rules and regulations are not being followed rigorously. For instance, while there are regulations to surcharge any public officer any loss to the government arising from that officer’s irregularity, this is not being done. Audit reports are full of irregularities but surcharges are rare.
There are several reasons for this inaction: a permissive culture – everyone does it, salaries are very low, and so on and so forth prevent the fair treatment of officers. It is revealing that most surcharge cases are against drivers of government vehicles, who negligently cause damage to them. In such cases, there is no sharing of responsibility for control of the vehicle, so it is relatively easy to pin down who is accountable.
Transparency implies not only that accounts are rendered but also that records are open and accessible to citizens, since government activities are undertaken on their behalf. Currently, there is a practice to classify records as top secret, secret, confidential and criminalise unauthorised disclosure.
The whole culture of government is one of secrecy. This is why those seeking freedom of information legislation want the redefining of the interface between the government and civil society. Instead of defining what can be disclosed, or authorising release of information on a case-by-case basis, they want all information to become public available on demand, without question, except for carefully defined exceptions.
There is a serious obstacle, opposition to such legislation and the major constraint to this is the fear of many politicians and civil servants of loss of discretionary power enjoyed behind the screen of secrecy.
And although the Public Accounts Committee has by any standards done a very good job, its work is still very limited and ways of improving it should be sought. Only after audit by the Auditor General does the legislature get a chance to review the execution of the budget. In principle, the Public Accounts Committee examines public accounts and reports with a view to ensure that the expenditure shown in the accounts as disbursed were legally available for the purpose on which they were spent; that the expenditure conformed to the authority governing them; that every appropriation was made in accordance with the rules and that all revenues were brought to account.
For this function, it can call on the heads of departments or other officers who are legally responsible for financial administration. The Public Accounts Committee holds hearings taking up the audit objections and reports back to the legislature. Reports also go to the respective heads of departments and to the Ministry of Finance for follow-up. But what has been happening so far is that their reports are ignored, there is very little that comes out of them. This needs to be corrected or else, this good effort will continue to be a waste of time and money.
There are great benefits in ensuring transparency and accountability in the administration of public finances. Poverty is the biggest challenge facing our country and our people today. And there is mounting evidence that this poverty is associated with poor governance, less accountable and responsive government. Since the poor lack the resources to give bribes, they do not get equal access to government services.
Clearly, transparency is a necessary condition for sound economic governance. Moreover, a transparent public financial accounting policy makes it possible for the people of Zambia to determine what the government has done and to compare budgeted and actual financial operations. Further, and as we have witnessed in the Dora Siliya tribunal, open procurement policies not only facilitate the achievement of basic macroeconomic policy objectives, but also increase the productivity of public expenditure.
And as for accountability, this imposes discipline in the nation by ensuring that those in power, those in charge of public funds are answerable to the general public for their decisions. Accountability thereby lessens the likelihood that those in power, those in charge of government will make imprudent policy decisions. More particularly, transparency and accountability should result in better informed public debate about the activities of government.
Of course, it goes without saying that one of the underlying objectives of improved transparency and accountability is to reduce the extent of corruption in the management of governmental affairs.
It is therefore very important that the nation pays a lot of attention to the work of the Auditor General and urgently address its limitations. It is also important that the nation, and our members of parliament collectively, pays special attention to the work of the Public Accounts Committee and make this legislative function more efficient and effective. If this is not done, we will continue to hear stories of this or that money missing, not accounted for, not banked on time and taking to task people who were not there when those things were happening.
Written by Chibaula Silwamba and Patson Chilemba
Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:57:31 PM
FORMER minister of health Professor Nkandu Luo has advised the Zambian government to cancel its planned purchase of nine mobile hospitals valued at US $ 53 million [about K301 billion] from a Chinese firm. And United Liberal Party (ULP) president Sakwiba Sikota said procuring mobile hospitals does not make economic sense.
Commenting on the Zambian government's intention to purchase nine mobile hospitals for all the nine provinces at a cost of US $53 million from China and plans to borrow the same money from EX-IM Bank of China, Prof Luo said Zambia had purchased some mobile clinics in 1991 but the project failed.
Prof Luo wondered why the government wanted to resuscitate a project that would just become a white elephant.
She observed that if the government does not cancel the planned deal, the international donors, who are the main financiars to the health sectors, could cancel their aid hence affecting many Zambians.
"I can tell you for a fact because I used to run that ministry that the bulk of the funding in the health sector is from the donors. That decision now with the donors withholding support, the majority of Zambians especially the poor Zambians in rural areas, in compounds are gonna suffer because they have nowhere else to go. That is a serious decision," said Prof Luo in an interview in Lusaka.
"So the way forward is just to cancel that order so that we get support from donors."
She observed that the health sector had many problems and mobile hospitals were not a priority.
"For many years, even from the time I was minister of health, people have been saying our health services have a problem and the problems have been pointed out to all of us. One which is very serious at the moment is the human resource capacity in terms of numbers and distribution," she said.
"The second thing that our people have been raising is that our health institutions do not have adequate drugs and diagnostic services are not adequate, needing priority attention."
Prof Luo said the government must prioritise the problems that need to be tackled in the health sector instead of buying non-essential things.
"One, we don't have human resources, then it means you can't bring in mobile clinics [hospitals] because who is gonna work in those clinics? Then the facilities we have right now have a problem of human resource. So if I were to look at priorities, my priorities could be that of improving the human resource capacity," Prof Luo said.
"Secondly, the hospitals that we have at the moment have the problem of shortage of drugs. So how do I go and create more when I am not able to meet the demand of the current ones? So my second priority would be to make sure that there are enough drugs in hospitals. But I think we are not prioritizing."
She said Zambia did not even have money to fight HIV/AIDS and had to beg from international donors.
"So how then get into a situation where we don't look at the fact that we have these issues that are surrounding us that need our immediate attention and we want to create another monster," Prof Luo said.
"It is very important for us to look in the past, what has happened and what lessons we can draw from that. I remember in 1991 these same mobile clinics were brought; if you go round the country you will find some of these mobile clinics sitting as white elephants behind our health institutions. This thing was tried in 1991 but it did not work."
She said at that time a few mobile hospitals were brought in and some members of parliament took them to their constituencies but the project was not viable and was abandoned.
"So what is it that has changed that this time these mobile clinics brought into our country will work? Basically I think we are a nation that is very wasteful. We are a nation that doesn't learn lessons from the past, we are a nation that doesn't interrogate our leadership and we are a nation that doesn't prioritise issues," Prof Luo said.
"We just think that we can just wake up in the morning and make decisions and whatever happens, it doesn't matter; that money goes to waste then we start looking for other monies. We can't continue like that!"
She said Zambians should engage their leaders to ensure accountability.
"The other thing is that when you are put in leadership the people that put you in leadership, expect certain things from you. Tomorrow, I will not be there but I am going to leave my sons in this country," she said.
"So if I have been part of the destruction, those people will come to write history of Zambia a lot of people's names will really be in trouble because of the way they make decisions. I think those of us who are in leadership, we have to think beyond ourselves."
Prof Luo said she was glad that the donors who were supporting Zambia were interrogating the mobile hospital deal.
"Because even me as a professional, I am interrogating this. For those who are interrogating it is in the interest of every Zambian," Prof Luo said. "All these revelations we have been hearing in the past months show that the governance systems and procedures are broken down. As at now we are like a headless chicken running all over the place."
And Sikota, who campaigned heavily for President Banda during last year’s presidential elections, said procuring mobile hospitals was not worth it.
He said mobile hospitals were not the most cost effective way of dealing with the health problems the country was faced with.
Sikota said instead of procuring mobile hospitals, President Banda's government should use the K301 billion to build stationery hospitals.
"When you look at the amounts and logistical issues that arise in keeping the mobile hospitals moving, government will have to justify that it makes economic sense. But from what I have seen it doesn't seem to make economic sense. I don't see how it makes sense when you look at the other alternative, which would be building stationery hospitals. Stationery hospitals make more economic sense than mobile hospitals," Sikota said.
"There is the issue of those people who are in remote areas, maybe getting a few ambulances or helicopters could be provided to get those people to stationery hospitals. Helicopters would be able to land at every place. The concept is not a bad concept. But when you see the figures, that's when you see that the concept was wrong. The final cost no longer makes it attractive."
Sikota said an undertaking which involved about K301 billion was supposed to be tabled before Cabinet and then Parliament before it could go ahead.
He said the government should justify their undertaking to Parliament if they could not explain it to the people.
On single sourcing which has characterized President Banda's government's dealings, Sikota said single sourcing should be done rarely and in emergency situations.
He said there was nothing that made procuring mobile hospitals an emergency purchase, saying Parliament should therefore not be bypassed.
"You can have single sourcing if it is an emergency or where only one or two people who are specialized in an area can supply that kind of good or service," said Sikota.
Sikota is one of the opposition party presidents who toured most parts of the country campaigning for President Banda during last year's presidential election.
And Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata said President Banda's son, Henry, had been frequenting health permanent secretary Dr Velepi Mtonga's office. Sata charged that most of President Banda's deals were being executed by some of his children.
"Whether it's fertiliser or Genetically Modified Organisms [GMO], they are being done by his sons. The current wife of Rupiah Banda [Thandiwe] is related to Velepi Mtonga," said Sata.
"What I am trying to say, you know Rupiah Banda's children. You saw them in the Dora Siliya case and you find that probably at the end of the day, they are the ones who are behind these Chinese [mobile hospitals]."
According to sources within the donor community, the Zambian government is in the process of acquiring a US$53 million loan from EX-IM Bank of China to facilitate the acquisition of the mobile hospitals from a Chinese firm called China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).
However, international donors have questioned the deal and held meetings last week in Lusaka to discuss the pending transaction between the Ministry of Health, on behalf of the Zambian government and CATIC.
The donors later cancelled the signing of a memorandum of understanding for support to the ministry pending a satisfactory explanation from the Ministry of Health.
Written by Patson Chilemba
PATRIOTIC Front (PF) president Michael Sata has charged that President Rupiah Banda was behind the US$53m deal and personally instructed officials at the Ministry of Health to procure mobile hospital units. And the Ministry of Health on Thursday stated that it had discussed the proposal to procure mobile hospitals with cooperating partners supporting the ministry.
Commenting on health permanent secretary Dr Velepi Mtonga's statement that the concept to procure mobile hospital units from a friendly country was highlighted by President Banda during this year's official opening of the third session of the tenth National Assembly, Sata said it was a lie for Dr Mtonga to say that the ministry was still looking at whether it was feasible and cost-effective to undertake such an investment in the health sector or a modified version that would suit Zambia's needs.
He said the process for the procurement had already reached an advanced stage because it had gone through the Zambia Public Procurement Authority
(ZPPA) and the government was in the process of acquiring a US$53 million loan from EX-IM Bank of China to facilitate the acquisition of the mobile hospitals from a Chinese firm, China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC).
On Dr Mtonga's statement that a committee at the ministry met in March, 2009 and decided in principle to support the concept of procuring mobile hospital units and continue seeking guidance from the Ministry of Finance and National Planning and the ZPPA, Sata argued that the permanent secretary was contradicting herself by making it seem as though the undertaking was proposed in the committee when it was President Banda who was behind the undertaking.
He said President Banda had already made up his mind to procure the hospitals and Dr Mtonga was just following her master's orders.
Sata said there was need to find out how the procurement of mobile hospitals was single-sourced and hunt down those who were behind the act.
He said the PF would file a complaint before Chief Justice Ernest Sakala to set up a tribunal to probe how the contract for procurement of mobile hospitals was single-sourced.
Sata said given the secrecy that characterised President Banda's government's corrupt dealings, a tribunal offered the only hope to know the truth.
He said he had served as health minister before and that significant funding to the ministry came from Western countries and not China.
Sata said the country in general and the health sector in particular would be doomed if donors withheld their funding.
He said this situation could not be allowed to continue.
"We should find out who single-sourced those 'container' hospitals. We are going to ask the [PF] chairperson of health to go to the Chief Justice and find out who single-sourced. What I am saying is, in the tribunal we shall know more," Sata said. "We have already decided that we are taking this to the tribunal. We are only waiting for one document before we finalise. The donors have done their part, so as PF, we shall take it up. We have to protect the money, which the donors are trying to put in the health sector. We want the truth to be established."
He charged that the number one priority in President Banda's government was to perfect the art of plunder in each and every ministry so that those involved could get easy money.
Sata said plunderers should be hunted down and should never be allowed to have a field day.
"Rupiah Banda is leading the country like Zino pindirana, meaning when you complain about things, he just says don't worry. Pamberi ni corruption, to him it's forward with corruption," Sata said.
And Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Reuben Mbewe stated that the ministry had provided assurance that no agreement had been signed over the proposal for mobile hospitals.
"The Ministry of Health, cooperating partners and other stakeholders will jointly assess this proposal and any other major health policy decisions through the normal mechanisms," stated Dr Mbewe. "The Ministry of Health is grateful for cooperating partners’ continuing commitment to the National Health Strategic Plan 2006- 2010 and will be arranging the signing of the addendum of the 2006 Health MoU at a time when partners are available to attend."
According to a letter dated April 28, 2009 and addressed to Department for International Development (DFID) head Joy Hutcheon, Dr Mtonga stated that President Banda indicated during the official opening of the National Assembly that the government would procure mobile clinics from a friendly country to complement efforts to construct 15 hospitals in the 19 districts that did not currently have any.
She stated that the ministry was still looking at whether it was feasible and cost-effective to undertake such an investment in the health sector or a modified version that would suit Zambian needs.
Dr Mtonga stated that the ministry was to send a team to visit other countries including China where a similar concept had been implemented.
"It would therefore have been premature for the Ministry of Health to present to our cooperating partners the mobile hospital concept without the Ministry of Health having first arrived at a conclusive decision on moving forward with the mobile hospital concept," Dr Mtonga stated.
However, Dr Mtonga stated that in the case of the mobile hospitals, the Ministry of Health had not yet firmed up its decision to acquire the facilities as stated in the proposal from CATIC.
And the international donors to the health sector on Thursday stated that they were grateful to the minister of health Kapembwa Simbao for his assurance that no contract had been agreed on the mobile hospitals.
According to a statement from donors signed by Hutcheon and British High Commissioner to Zambia Tom Carter, the donors were consulting on a suitable date for the signing of the addendum to the 2006 health memorandum of understanding (MoU).
DFID health and HIV/AIDS advisor Angela Spilsbury said pressure for the Ministry of Health to procure mobile hospital units from a Chinese company is coming from outside the health sector.
On Tuesday, the Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) opposed the government's intention to purchase mobile hospitals, describing it as misplaced priority.
According to sources within the donor community, the Zambian government is in the process of acquiring a US$53 million loan from EX-IM Bank of China to facilitate the acquisition of the mobile hospitals from CATIC.
The source disclosed that donors held meetings last week in Lusaka to discuss this pending transaction between the Ministry of Health, on behalf of the Zambian government, and CATIC concerning the mobile hospitals. On Thursday, the donors cancelled a meeting, which was to be held to sign the MoU [for support] pending a satisfactory explanation from Ministry of Health over the procurement of mobile hospitals.
Written by Patson Chilemba
Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:54:30 PM
SENIOR chief Puta of the Bwile people of Luapula Province yesterday said he will not allow Benny Tetamashimba's stupidity of attacking Katele Kalumba anymore. Commenting on MMD spokesperson Tetamashimba's statement that party national secretary Kalumba should step aside after being put on his defence to answer corruption charges, chief Puta said he was the protector of his subjects and did not want anyone to tamper with them.
He said he was a friend of President Rupiah Banda but Tetamashimba would risk that friendship if he continued attacking Kalumba.
Chief Puta said MMD risked losing the support base in Luapula Province if people like Tetamashimba continued their assault on Kalumba.
He said he had been quiet for a long time but that time had now come to defend his subjects from unwarranted attacks. Chief Puta said President Banda was the acting president of MMD and should not allow Tetamashimba to be insulting senior party members like Kalumba.
"I think Tetamashimba is a power hungry person. Tetamashimba came from the opposition UPND and in his sense he had what we call power hungry. He's a member of UPND, so let him go back to UPND where he will issue instructions. Katele Kalumba is not guilty and his case is still in court. If he [Tetamashimba] continues, I will disappoint him because I have been so quiet. Every time he is always in the paper insulting a respected person from this house," chief Puta said.
"I am warning him. This is the first time I am commenting, if he continues he will face the consequences. I am ready enough. Let Tetamashimba not interfere with the court cases, otherwise akaletelela no ulemutunka [he will bring trouble to those who are sending him]."
Chief Puta said he had asked Kalumba not to react to Tetamashimba's assertions, saying he would handle that himself.
He said Tetamashimba was being sent by some people who were scared of Kalumba's popularity in the party.
"Umwaiche tanya ichisushi pabakulu, ninshi kunuma kuli ulemusunkilisha, meaning if you are a young boy trying to insult old people, there is someone who is pushing him. They are so scared about Katele, so they are trying to block him because the convention is near," chief Puta said.
"There is someone who is sending him. We don't allow stupidity. I won't allow Tetamashimba's stupidity anymore. Let him go and tell those who are sending him that we won't allow any more stupidity."
Chief Puta urged MMD members not to listen to Tetamashimba, saying the MMD spokesperson would destroy President Banda's name.
He said there would be division in MMD should they get rid of Kalumba.
Chief Puta said Tetamashimba was attacking Kalumba because he was eyeing the position of national secretary at the MMD convention.
He also said Tetamashimba and those sending him were trying to influence the court process by commenting on Kalumba's cases.
"I am advising President Rupiah Banda to tell Tetamashimba to shut up. He [Kalumba] cannot function as national secretary because they are always attacking him. They are trying to push him behind the back to work but they are attacking him," said chief Puta.
Chief Puta said he had earlier advised Kalumba to take a rest because of the unwarranted attacks but would now ask him to contest for party positions including the presidency at the MMD convention.
Last week, Tetamashimba asked Kalumba to step aside after being put on his defence by the courts of law to answer to corruption charges. Tetamashimba said the MMD would not allow a person who had been put on his defence to continue administering party matters and later on contest the MMD presidency.
Written by Masuzyo Chakwe and Ernest Chanda
Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:53:13 PM
ZAMBIA Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba yesterday said President Rupiah Banda should have given priority to the Zambian workers over his trip to Zimbabwe. And Vice-President George Kunda said this year’s Labour Day was very significant as it came when the country was facing severe economic challenges brought about by the global economic crisis.
During yesterday’s Labour Day commemorations, under the theme ‘Economic Recovery Through Respect for Workers Rights, Good Governance and Job Security’, Hikaumba said this was the first Labour Day held under President Banda and it was a pity that he was not around because the workers had a message for him.
“We feel he should have given us priority,” he said.
Hikaumba said it was important especially that over 10,000 workers had lost jobs in the recent past and so many were in doubt if they would be employed tomorrow or the other week.
“That is why we would have loved him to be here,” he emphasised.
Hikaumba said the labour union was also disappointed that they had not been successful in making an appointment to meet President Banda to discuss the impact of the global financial crisis and how to avoid further job losses.
“When President Banda addressed party cadres at State House, he said he received a phone call from a party official on the eve of the demonstration. That is the quick response we would like to see. For us to wait for such a long time, we feel that we have been overlooked,” he said.
He told Vice-President Kunda that the labour movement wanted to have a meeting with President Banda.
Hikaumba said it was disappointing that their own government could ignore their concerns and side with employers who were only interested in making profits.
He complained that workers had been sacrificing for a long time and recalled the wage freeze and HIPC completion point that were used as excuses not to improve the conditions of service for employees.
Hikaumba said now there was an excuse of the global financial crisis and wondered for how long workers would continue sacrificing.
He said workers felt that political leaders not only from the ruling party but other parties had not been leading the way as they were busy fighting each other.
Hikaumba wondered how the country could develop if there was no chance for stakeholders to sit together.
Hikaumba said the action by business houses to cut jobs as a result of the global economic crunch was an abuse of workers’ rights.
“How can you explain when a chief officer has a salary that can pay 100 workers and workers are denied when their employer is driving more than five vehicles?” he asked.
Hikaumba said good governance was very important and that the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) would just be a plan on paper if the rights of workers were not taken into account.
He said when the mines were enjoying high copper prices, they were still complaining about the windfall tax, which was sorted out for them.
“When will workers benefit? What happened to all the huge profits that were made?” he asked.
Hikaumba said there had been calls that the public service should distance themselves from politics but they had in recent past seen politicians appointed to the public service.
He said such appointments confused civil servants much as they were done to reward people for having campaigned in the elections.
“Let us avoid appointing politicians in the civil service,” he said.
Hikaumba also said Zambian Airways went under because of failure to sit down and dialogue.
He wondered how many more companies would go under due to the failure to sit down and dialogue.
“Now we also hear of the proposed increase in electricity tariffs by Zesco by 66 per cent. Already workers are over burdened with the taxes they are paying. Government should come in and intervene,” Hikaumba said.
And Vice-President Kunda, who represented President Banda at the celebrations, said he had taken note and he would deliver the messages to the President, from the Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) and more importantly ZCTU.
He said the government values the relationship between employers, employees and the government.
Vice-President Kunda said he would also deliver the request from the labour movement to meet the President and had also taken note of a number of issues raised on governance and the suffering of the workers.
He also said the government would respect their opinions even where the government may take a different view because that was what democracy was all about.
Vice-President Kunda said this year’s theme for Labour Day was a wake-up call to the realities of the economic downturn and the need for workers and employers to work together to ensure the quickest recovery of the economy for the mutual benefit of both parties.
He said the effect of the global economic crisis had not been limited to the mining sector and the impact had also been felt in the agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors due to a global decline in demand.
Vice-President Kunda said he was aware that the removal of windfall taxes had raised a lot of debate but the rationale behind the decision was to enable the mines sustain their operations, expand existing investment and secure jobs.
He said with regard to the situation at Luanshya Copper Mines, which was currently under care and maintenance, the government was working tirelessly to find other investors to operate the mine.
He said given the current situation in the mining sector as a whole, the government was considering the recommendation from the recently held indaba of putting in place a task force to review the operations of the entire mining industry.
Vice-President Kunda warned employers that the government would not tolerate the tendency where employers arbitrarily lay off workers under the guise of the global economic crisis.
Vice-President Kunda said the government had also observed with concern the tendency by some employers to take advantage of the large supply of labour in the country to disregard the relevant labour laws and abuse workers’ rights, saying such ascts would not be tolerated.
And International Labour Organisation (ILO) regional representative for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, Gerry Finnegan asked the government to devise steps that would create a better and secure environment for workers.
“…The rigorous implementation of existing laws and policies, particularly in relation to inspection of Zambia’s work places to ensure compliance and elimination of workplace abuses. A systematic implementation of the employment policy, with an action plan and appropriate outputs and indicators. …Amendments to the industrial and labour relations Act (2008) to ensure full compliance with International Labour Conventions already ratified by Zambia,” Finnegan said.
He said Zambia should also create a task force to assess the full impact of the global economic crisis on workers.
“In response to the impacts of the global economic crisis on Zambian workers, government should create Task Force to quantify impacts on workers and their families. Government should also develop measures to cushion and mitigate the harsh impacts on Zambian workers and their families; and promote new job creation opportunities and new sectors,” Finnegan said.
“…Ensure a comprehensive and inclusive approach in the government’s responses and programmes relating to the global crisis, and mobilising and engaging all key actors in the labour market, including ministry of labour, employers’ and workers’ organisations, and the UN system (including ILO), particularly in private sector development and follow-up actions to the recent indaba.”
And ZFE president Dr George Chabwera warned that an improvement in the world economy would not mean the end of the global economic problems.
Labour minister Austin Liato said the government shall in the next one year embark on labour law reforms.
Written by Katwishi Bwalya
Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:50:06 PM
TOURISM minister Catherine Namugala has advised people criticising President Rupiah Banda to be sensitive and realise that he too is human. Officiating at the 3rd True Ebony Achievement Awards presentation in Lusaka on Thursday night, Namugala said there was need for people to realize that there was more to life than just criticising the government.
She said it was unfortunate that some people had continued to dish out destructive criticism on the government and politicians.
"Please yes, do criticise us but be sensitive that we too are humans especially your President whom you yourselves have elected. He is the only one you have at this point in time. Respect him, he is your President. There is no one else at the moment, give him the due respect," Namugala said
Namugala said people should also be able to speak out whenever politicians did something right.
"If we had to trade places, I can assure you that you would not enjoy a destructive criticism that is some time dished out to the politicians," she said. "We need you to tell us when we go wrong but please when we do something right tell us as well. That way you will encourage us to do even more after all even as politicians we are people too."
She said it was unfortunate that people blamed politicians for everything.
"We politicians who always have to take the blame [yes] I want to say yes, we will have problems but there are good things in our country. There are good people in our country and those good people we must encourage and applaud. Even us as politicians we need your counsel, we need you to advise us in a constructive manner," Namugala said.
She said the best gift Zambians could give to their country was to be patriotic and hard working.
"The men and women who have worked extra hard have realised that there is more to life than just criticizing and not doing much about your country. The men and women whom we are awarding and honoring tonight know that there is more to life than being a politician they have realised that in other fields there is a way you can contribute to your nation," Namugala said. "I want to encourage you to teach all of us that there is life out there, outside politics you can still excel, you can still do so much and contribute to your country Zambia and your memory will live on forever. Why am I saying all this? I am saying all this because I have realised that the best gift we can give to our country Zambia is patriotism and hard work regardless of where you are. You can contribute by being patriotic, contributing to your country in an honest manner so that you can teach the young people like Cynthia Kanema and all the young people out there that it is hard work and patriotism that builds a country so that the young people out there can look up to us the older people and indeed be proud of who we are as Zambians."
She commended Ebony executive director Kanema for coming up with an initiative of awarding Zambians who have excelled in various fields.
"The initiative by True Ebony to recognise excellence deserves special commendation because this is one way of encouraging hard work," said Namugala.
Among the people who were honoured include Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairperson justice Florence Mumba as female legend of the year while Professor Chifumbe Chintu scooped the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Silvia Banda of Sylvia Catering scooped the Entrepreneur of the year Award while Gold Medalist Rachael Nachula scooped the Sports Personality Award. Catherine Kaseketi scooped the Arts and Culture Award and Community Based Intervention (CBI) got the Humanitarian Award with AFRICAST scooping the Tourism Promoter of the year Award.
Kanema called for increased awareness of cervical cancer.
Written by Mutuna Chanda in Kitwe, Abigail Chaponda in Ndola and Christopher Miti in Chipata
Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:48:39 PM
ZAMBIA Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) representative Dr Fenson Mwape has said the labour body is appalled by the lack of civility in the political arena.
And ZCTU trustee Ben Ngula has expressed disappointment over President Rupiah Banda's decision to attend the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair instead of addressing workers on Labour Day.
During Labour Day commemoration in Kitwe last Friday, Dr Mwape said politicians needed to exhibit political maturity.
"We in the ZCTU are tempted to think that maybe politicians have taken us Zambians for granted for a long time," Dr Mwape said. "We need to make sure that the parents that we elect as our leaders are accountable to us, not just those in government but those that we vote for in the opposition."
He said it was frustrating to see political leaders in the ruling MMD and the opposition attacking each other at the expense of addressing development concerns.
Dr Mwape also urged the government to pay attention to local investors who he said were capable of developing the country.
He called for an industry policy that would direct investment to rural areas enabling the rural population to access jobs.
Dr Mwape further urged the government to pay attention to the agriculture sector, which he said had the potential to pull the country out of the mess it was in.
And information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha warned that the government would not tolerate employers arbitrarily retrenching workers using the excuse of the global economic crisis.
Lt Gen Shikapwasha expressed concern over employers who took advantage of the large supply of workers in the country to disregard labour laws and abuse workers' rights.
"Government will not tolerate the practice where employers deliberately violate workers' rights," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "Government is also concerned about some employers who undermine efforts aimed at promoting job security through unacceptable practices such as causalisation of labour and laying off workers as a first option in cost reduction...government is calling upon the labour movement to intensify workers' education especially on the issues of basic rights at work, discipline, hard work and high level of productivity."
He further expressed concern over the poor work culture prevailing in the country.
"There is need to develop a culture of hard work and dedication to duty in our collective efforts towards high productivity which will help us turn our economy around," he said.
Lt Gen Shikapwasha also urged workers to continuously upgrade their skills and invest in their education.
Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) representative Eugene Appel urged workers not to make unrealistic salary demands.
He also called on the government to protect local industry from foreign products, which were being propped up by subsidies in their countries of origin.
And in Ndola during the Labour Day celebrations under the theme “Economic recovery through respect for workers' rights, good governance and job security,” Ngula said it was wrong for President Banda to abandon the workers at the time when they needed him most.
"It is bad and it doesn't look good that the President has decided to ignore the most important day in this country. Instead he has decided to go to Zimbabwe, why? This would have been the perfect day for him to address the workers considering the job losses that this country has been facing," Ngula said.
"We are disappointed that he is not around. We are not pleased at all. Workers would have loved to hear from him as the father of Zambia. We wanted him to give us hope that everything was going to be okay, not what he has done leaving us and deciding to attend the Zimbabwean trade fair. We are disappointed."
Ngula said the workers had gathered at Kwacha centre with displeasure to commemorate Labour Day, because many people in the country had lost their jobs.
"Even if we are here, we are disappointed and have come with a heavy heart. No matter how much workers put in, they are not given what is due to them. It is a shame," he said.
Ngula said good governance would not be achieved if workers were still wallowing in poverty.
Ngula urged the government to seriously look into the plight of workers and to evaluate investors before they come to Zambia.
ZFE representative Kevin Shone said policy makers and relevant shareholders should return to the drawing board and seriously formulate polices and strategies that could help to address the current challenges the country faced.
Shone said due to the economic recession that the world was facing, this year's Labour Day theme would not be realised in full.
He said as much as there could be respect between the workers and employers, economic recovery and job creation may not be attainable unless there was total commitment from both parties.
"The country needs a well defined strategy that will enhance productivity and address the hassles to business growth at all levels. It is not business as usual and as such every citizen of this nation should rise to the challenge and make a meaningful contribution towards economic recovery and job creation," he said.
However, Shone said for Zambia's economy to grow and provide income to households, government needed to seriously re-visit the policy on the growth of the informal economy.
And in Chipata at David Kaunda Stadium, Chaala condemned politicians for spending much of their time quarrelling like babies.
Chaala said there was total confusion among politicians in Zambia.
"When it comes to the poverty levels especially in the rural community, you compare the policies which the Kaunda government in the First Republic had. Why don't you pick some of those policies and implement them in your government? What we are seeing now is total confusion, spending much of the time quarrelling among yourselves which is not in the interest of the nation," Chaala said. "We want you to see sense that your government record is being dented especially if yourselves are fighting amongst yourselves as if you are actually babies. You are adults, people who went to school but why don't you change? Just a simple change. Don't quarrel openly as leaders, you are scaring us as citizens. As a ruling party together with the opposition political parties, try to desist from this trend of openly quarrelling on daily basis in (the) press. It's not necessary, it's not helpful to the nation. Concentrate on development."
He said all the workers were labouring to develop the nation and that they needed government's support and respect.
Chaala said it was embarrassing that some workers in Zambia were being paid K100,000 as housing allowance.
He said it was sad that the government considered criticism on governance as politicking.
"But we need good governance in order for the economy to develop. We are not just politicking. We want you to see sense in this, when it comes to workers' rights honourable minister these who are gathered here I know that they are government workers. Currently we are actually bargaining, it's very difficult on the table. Where do you expect an employee to find a house at K100,000? I feel sad when I sit before the bargaining table. Let's do something, let's develop a human heart as leaders. Those are mere titles but we are all humans," Chaala said.
Chaala urged the government to put up good labour laws so that investors could pay their workers well.
Lands minister Peter Daka said called on the labour movement to intensify workers' education especially on the issues of basic rights at work, discipline, hard work and high level of productivity.
"This year's theme reminds us that our country is caught in the global economic recession. The crisis is certainly undermining Zambia's economic achievements in the recent past, particularly in the mining sector which is the mainstay of our economy. For example copper prices declined from US$8,900 per metric tonne in July 2008 to US$ 3,000 per metric tonne in January 2009, as a result bringing about operational difficulties in the mining sector resulting in loss of jobs and reduced foreign exchange earnings leading to rapid depreciation of the kwacha," Daka said.
Meanwhile, Chipata district ZCTU chairman general George Daka said pay day had now become a day of mourning to a Zambian worker because of meagre salaries.
Daka said many workers in Zambia depend on credit because of the meagre salaries, adding that there were some employers who did not even have regard for Labour Day.
He said it was sad that there were a lot of terminologies, which were aimed at disadvantaging a worker.
"A worker today is always disadvantaged due to the fact that there is always new terminologies which comes every year. Two years ago we had the HIPC, which up to now we can't understand that HIPC is no longer there. What we have today is global economic crisis, another terminology which always disadvantage a worker. Come next year, we’ll have another terminology. Are we going to survive as workers?" asked Daka.