Obama's big silence: the race questionHas the president turned his back on black America?
The Guardian, Saturday 12 September 2009
Americans began the summer still celebrating the dawn of a "post-racial" era. They are ending it under no such illusion. The summer of 2009 was all about race, beginning with Republican claims that Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court, was "racist" against whites. Then, just as that scandal was dying down, up popped "the Gates controversy", the furore over the president's response to the arrest of African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr in his own home. Obama's remark that the police had acted "stupidly" was evidence, according to massively popular Fox News host Glenn Beck, that the president "has a deep-seated hatred for white people".
Obama's supposed racism gave a jolt of energy to the fringe movement that claims he has been carrying out a lifelong conspiracy to cover up his (fictional) African birth. Then Fox News gleefully discovered Van Jones, White House special adviser on green jobs. After weeks of being denounced as "a black nationalist who is also an avowed communist", Jones resigned last Sunday.
The undercurrent of all these attacks was that Obama, far from being the colour-blind moderate he posed as during the presidential campaign, is actually obsessed with race, in particular with redistributing white wealth into the hands of African Americans and undocumented Mexican workers. At town hall meetings across the US in August, these bizarre claims coalesced into something resembling an uprising to "take our country back". Henry D Rose, chair of Blacks For Social Justice, recently compared the overwhelmingly white, often armed, anti-Obama crowds to the campaign of "massive resistance" launched in the late 50s – a last-ditch attempt by white southerners to block the racial integration of their schools and protect other Jim Crow laws. Today's "new era of 'massive resistance'," writes Rose, "is also a white racial project."
There is at least one significant difference, however. In the late 50s and early 60s, angry white mobs were reacting to life-changing victories won by the civil rights movement. Today's mobs, on the other hand, are reacting to the symbolic victory of an African American winning the presidency. Yet they are rising up at a time when non-elite blacks and Latinos are losing significant ground, with their homes and jobs slipping away from them at a much higher rate than from whites. So far, Obama has been unwilling to adopt policies specifically geared towards closing this ever-widening divide. The result may well leave minorities with the worst of all worlds: the pain of a full-scale racist backlash without the benefits of policies that alleviate daily hardships. Meanwhile, with Obama constantly painted by the radical right as a cross between Malcolm X and Karl Marx, most progressives feel it is their job to defend him – not to point out that, when it comes to tackling the economic crisis ravaging minority communities, the president is not doing nearly enough.
For many antiracist campaigners, the realisation that Obama might not be the leader they had hoped for came when he announced his administration would be boycotting the UN Durban Review Conference on racism, widely known as "Durban II". Almost all of the public debate about the conference focused on its supposed anti-Israel bias. When it actually took place in April in Geneva, virtually all we heard about was Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inflammatory speech, which was met with rowdy disruptions, from the EU delegates who walked out, to the French Jewish students who put on clown wigs and red noses, and tried to shout him down.
Lost in the circus atmosphere was the enormous importance of the conference to people of African descent, and nowhere more so than among Obama's most loyal base. The US civil rights movement had embraced the first Durban conference, held in summer 2001, with great enthusiasm, viewing it as the start of the final stage of Martin Luther King's dream for full equality. Though most black leaders offered only timid public criticism of the president's Durban II boycott, the decision was discussed privately as his most explicit betrayal of the civil rights struggle since taking office.
The original 2001 gathering was not all about Israelis v Palestinians, or antisemitism, as so many have claimed (though all certainly played a role). The conference was overwhelmingly about Africa, the ongoing legacy of slavery and the huge unpaid debts that the rich owe the poor.
Holding the 2001 World Conference against Racism in what was still being called "the New South Africa" had seemed a terrific idea. World leaders would gather to congratulate themselves on having slain the scourge of apartheid, then pledge to defeat the world's few remaining vestiges of discrimination – things such as police violence, unequal access to certain jobs, lack of adequate healthcare for minorities and intolerance towards immigrants. Appropriate disapproval would be expressed for such failures of equality, and a well-meaning document pledging change would be signed to much fanfare. That, at least, is what western governments expected to happen.
They were mistaken. When the conference arrived in Durban, many delegates were shocked by the angry mood in the streets: tens of thousands of South Africans joined protests outside the conference centre, holding signs that said "Landlessness = racism" and "New apartheid: rich and poor". Many denounced the conference as a sham, and demanded concrete reparations for the crimes of apartheid.
South Africa's disillusionment, though particularly striking given its recent democratic victory, was part of a much broader global trend, one that would define the conference, in both the streets and the assembly halls.
Around the world, developing countries were increasingly identifying the so-called Washington Consensus economic policies as little more than a clever rebranding effort, a way for former northern colonial powers to continue to drain the southern countries of their wealth without being inconvenienced by the heavy lifting of colonialism.
Roughly two years before Durban, a coalition of developing countries had refused further to liberalise their economies, leading to the collapse of World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle.
A few months later, a newly militant movement calling for a debt jubilee disrupted the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Durban was a continuation of this mounting southern rebellion, but it added something else to the mix: an invoice for past thefts.
Although it was true that southern countries owed debts to foreign banks and lending institutions, it was also true that in the colonial period – the first wave of globalisation – the wealth of the north was built, in large part, on stolen indigenous land and free labour provided by the slave trade.
Many in Durban argued that when these two debts were included in the calculus, it was actually the poorest regions of the world – especially Africa and the Caribbean – that turned out to be the creditors and the rich world that owed a debt. All big UN conferences tend to coalesce around a theme, and in Durban 2001 the clear theme was the call for reparations.
The overriding message was that even though the most visible signs of racism had largely disappeared – colonial rule, apartheid, Jim Crow-style segregation – profound racial divides will persist and even widen until the states and corporations that profited from centuries of state-sanctioned racism pay back some of what they owe.
African and Caribbean governments came to Durban with two key demands. The first was for an acknowledgment that slavery and even colonialism itself constituted "crimes against humanity" under international law; the second was for the countries that perpetrated and profited from these crimes to begin to repair the damage.
Most everyone agreed that reparations should include a clear and unequivocal apology for slavery, as well as a commitment to returning stolen artefacts and to educating the public about the scale and impact of the slave trade.
Above and beyond these more symbolic acts, there was a great deal of debate. Dudley Thompson, former Jamaican foreign minister and a longtime leader in the Pan-African movement, was opposed to any attempt to assign a number to the debt: "It is impossible to put a figure to killing millions of people, our ancestors," he said.
The leading reparations voices instead spoke of a "moral debt" that could be used as leverage to reorder international relations in multiple ways, from cancelling Africa's foreign debts to launching a huge develop ment programme for Africa on a par with Europe's Marshall Plan. What was emerging was a demand for a radical New Deal for the global south.
African and Caribbean countries had been holding high-level summits on reparations for a decade, with little effect. What prompted the Durban breakthrough was that a similar debate had taken off inside the US. The facts are familiar, if commonly ignored.
Even as individual blacks break the colour barrier in virtually every field, the correlation between race and poverty remains deeply entrenched. Blacks in the US consistently have dramatically higher rates of infant mortality, HIV infection, incarceration and unemployment, as well as lower salaries, life expectancy and rates of home ownership.
The biggest gap, however, is in net worth. By the end of the 90s, the average black family had a net worth one eighth the national average. Low net worth means less access to traditional credit (and, as we'd later learn, more sub-prime mortgages). It also means families have little besides debt to pass from one generation to the next, preventing the wealth gap closing on its own.
In 2000, Randall Robinson published The Debt: What America Owes To Blacks, which argued that "white society… must own up to slavery and acknowledge its debt to slavery's contemporary victims".
The book became a national bestseller, and within months the call for reparations was starting to look like a new anti-apartheid struggle. Students demanded universities disclose their historical ties to the slave trade, city councils began holding public hearings on reparations, chapters of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America had sprung up across the country and Charles Ogletree, the celebrated Harvard law professor (and one of Obama's closest mentors), put together a team of all-star lawyers to try to win reparations lawsuits in US courts.
By spring 2001, reparations had become the hot-button topic on US talkshows and op-ed pages. And though opponents consistently portrayed the demand as blacks wanting individual handouts from the government, most reparations advocates were clear they were seeking group solutions: mass scholarship funds, for instance, or major investments in preventive healthcare, inner cities and crumbling schools.
By the time Durban rolled around in late August, the conference had taken on the air of a black Woodstock. Angela Davis was coming. So were Jesse Jackson and Danny Glover. Small radical groups such as the National Black United Front spent months raising money to buy hundreds of plane tickets to South Africa.
Activists travelled to Durban from 168 countries, but the largest delegation by far came from the US: approximately 3,000 people, roughly 2,000 of them African Americans. Ogletree pumped up the crowds with an energetic address: "This is a movement that cannot be stopped… I promise we will see reparations in our lifetime."
The call for reparations took many forms, but one thing was certain: antiracism was transformed in Durban from something safe and comfortable for elites to embrace into something explosive and potentially very, very costly. North American and European governments, the debtors in this new accounting, tried desperately to steer the negotiations on to safe terrain.
"We are better to look forward and not point fingers backward," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said. It was a losing battle. Durban, according to Amina Mohamed, chief negotiator for the Africa bloc, was Africa's "rendezvous with history".
Not everyone was willing to show up for the encounter, however, and that is where the Israel controversies come in. Durban, it should be remembered, took place in the aftermath of the collapse of the Oslo Accords, and there were those who hoped the conference could somehow fill the political vacuum. Six months before the meeting in Durban, at an Asian preparatory conference in Tehran, a few Islamic countries requested language in their draft of the Durban Declaration that described Israeli policies in the occupied territories as "a new kind of apartheid" and a "form of genocide". Then, a month before the conference, there was a new push for changes: references to the Holocaust were paired with the "ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine", while references to "the increase in antisemitism and hostile acts against Jews" were twinned with phrases about "the increase of racist practices of Zionism", and Zionism was described as a movement "based on racism and discriminatory ideas".
There were cases to be made for all of it, but this was language sure to tear the meeting apart (just as "Zionism equals racism" resolutions had torn apart UN gatherings before). Meanwhile, as soon as the conference began, the parallel forum for non-governmental organisations began to spiral out of control. With more than 8,000 participants and no ground rules to speak of, the NGO forum turned into a free-for-all, with, among other incidents, the Arab Lawyers Union passing out a booklet that contained Der Stürmer–style cartoons of hook-nosed Jews with bloody fangs.
High-profile NGO and civil rights leaders roundly condemned the antisemitic incidents, as did Mary Robinson, then UN high commissioner for human rights. None of the controversial language about Israel and Zionism made it into the final Durban Declaration. But for the newly elected administration of George W Bush, that was besides the point. Already testing the boundaries of what would become a new era of US unilateralism, Bush latched on to the gathering's alleged anti-Israel bias as the perfect excuse to flee the scene, neatly avoiding the debates over Israel and reparations. Early in the conference, the US and Israel walked out.
Despite the disruptions, Africa was not denied its rendezvous with history. The final Durban Declaration became the first document with international legal standing to state that "slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade". This language was more than symbolic. When lawyers had sought to win slavery reparations in US courts, the biggest barrier was always the statute of limitations, which had long since expired. But if slavery was "a crime against humanity", it was not restricted by any statute.
On the final day of the conference, after Canada tried to minimise the significance of the declaration, Amina Mohamed, now a top official in the Kenyan government, took the floor in what many remember as the most dramatic moment of the gathering.
"Madame President," Mohamed said, "it is not a crime against humanity just for today, nor just for tomorrow, but for always and for all time. Nuremberg made it clear that crimes against humanity are not time-bound." Any acts that take responsibility for these crimes, therefore, "are expected and are in order". The assembly hall erupted in cheers and a long standing ovation.
Groups of African American activists spent their last day at the conference planning a "Millions for Reparations" march on Washington. Attorney Roger Wareham, co-counsel on a high-profile reparations lawsuit and one of the organisers, recalled that as they left South Africa, "people were on a real rolling high" – ready to take their movement to the next level.
That was 9 September 2001. Two days later, Africa's "rendezvous with history" was all but forgotten. The profound demands that rose up from Durban during that first week of September 2001 – for debt cancellation, for reparations for slavery and apartheid, for land redistribution and indigenous land rights, for compensation, not charity – have never again managed to command international attention. At various World Bank meetings and G8 summits there is talk, of course, of graciously providing aid to Africa and perhaps "forgiving" its debts. But there is no suggestion that it might be the G8 countries that are the debtors and Africa the creditor. Or that it is we, in the west, who should be asking forgiveness.
Because Durban disappeared before it had ever fully appeared, it's sometimes hard to believe it happened at all. As Bill Fletcher, author and long-time advocate for African rights, puts it: "It was as if someone had pressed a giant delete button."
When news came that the Durban follow-up conference would take place three months into Obama's presidency, many veterans of the first gathering were convinced the time had finally come to restart that interrupted conversation. And at first the Obama administration seemed to be readying to attend, even sending a small delegation to one of the preparatory conferences.
So when Obama announced that he, like Bush before him, would be boycotting, it came as a blow. Especially because the state department's official excuse was that the declaration for the new conference was biased against Israel. The evidence? That the document – which does not reference Israel once – "reaffirms" the 2001 Durban Declaration. Never mind that that was so watered down that Shimon Peres, then Israel's foreign minister, praised it at the time as "an accomplishment of the first order for Israel" and "a painful comedown for the Arab League".
When disappointed activists reconvened for the Durban Review Conference this April, talk in the corridors often turned to the unprecedented sums governments were putting on the line to save the banks. Roger Wareham, for instance, pointed out that if Washington can find billions to bail out AIG, it can also say, "We're going to bail out people of African descent because this is what's happened historically."
It's true that, at least on the surface, the economic crisis has handed the reparations movement some powerful new arguments. The hardest part of selling reparations in the US has always been the perception that something would have to be taken away from whites in order for it to be given to blacks and other minorities. But because of the broad support for large stimulus spending, there is a staggering amount of new money floating around – money that does not yet belong to any one group.
Obama's approach to stimulus spending has been rightly criticised for lacking a big idea – the $787bn package he unveiled shortly after taking office is a messy grab bag, with little ambition actually to fix any one of the problems on which it nibbles. Listening to Wareham in Geneva, it occurred to me that a serious attempt to close the economic gaps left by slavery and Jim Crow is as good a big stimulus idea as any.
What is tantalising (and maddening) about Obama is that he has the skills to persuade a great many Americans of the justice of such an endeavour. The one time he gave a major campaign address on race, prompted by controversy over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, he told a story about the historical legacies of slavery and legalised discrimination that have structurally prevented African Americans from achieving full equality, a story not so different from the one activists such as Wareham tell in arguing for reparations.
Obama's speech was delivered six months before Wall Street collapsed, but the same forces he described go a long way toward explaining why the crash happened in the first place: "Legalised discrimination… meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations," Obama said, which is precisely why many turned to risky sub-prime mortgages. In Obama's home city of Chicago, black families were four times more likely than whites to get a sub-prime mortgage.
The crisis in African American wealth has only been deepened by the larger economic crisis. In New York City, for instance, the unemployment rate has increased four times faster among blacks than among whites. According to the New York Times, home "defaults occur three times as often in mostly minority census tracts as in mostly white ones". If Obama traced the Wall Street collapse back to the policies of redlining and Jim Crow, all the way to the betrayed promise of 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves, a broad sector of the American public might well be convinced that finally eliminating the structural barriers to full equality is in the interests not just of minorities but of everyone who wants a more stable economy.
Since the economic crisis hit, John A Powell and his team at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University have been engaged in a project they call "Fair Recovery". It lays out exactly what an economic stimulus programme would look like if eliminating the barriers to equality were its overarching idea. Powell's plan covers everything from access to technology to community redevelopment. A few examples: rather than simply rebuilding the road system by emphasising "shovel ready" projects (as Obama's current plan does), a "fair recovery" approach would include massive investments in public transport to address the fact that African Americans live farther away than any other group from where the jobs are. Similarly, a plan targeting inequality would focus on energy-efficient home improvements in low-income neighbourhoods and, most importantly, require that contractors hire locally. Combine all of these targeted programmes with real health and education reform and, whether or not you call it "reparations", you have something approaching what Randall Robinson called for in The Debt: "A virtual Marshall Plan of federal resources" to close the racial divide.
In his Philadelphia "race speech", Obama was emphatic that race was something "this nation cannot afford to ignore"; that "if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like healthcare, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American". Yet as soon as the speech had served its purpose (saving Obama's campaign from being engulfed by the Wright scandal), he did simply retreat. And his administration has been retreating from race ever since.
Public policy activists report that the White House is interested in hearing only about projects that are "race neutral" – nothing that specifically targets historically disadvantaged constituencies. Its housing and education programmes do not tackle the need for desegregation; indeed Obama's enthusiasm for privately-run "charter" schools may well deepen segregation, since charters are some of the most homogenous schools in the country. When asked specific questions about what his administration is doing to address the financial crisis's wildly disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos, Obama has consistently offered a variation on the line that, by fixing the economy and extending benefits, everyone will be helped, "black, brown and white", and the vulnerable most of all.
All this is being met with mounting despair among inequality experts. Extending unemployment benefits and job retraining mainly help people who've just lost their jobs. Reaching those who have never had formal employment – many of whom have criminal records – requires a far more complex strategy that takes down multiple barriers simultaneously. "Treating people who are situated differently as if they were the same can result in much greater inequalities," Powell warns. It will be difficult to measure whether this is the case because the White House's budget office is so far refusing even to keep statistics on how its programmes affect women and minorities.
There were those who saw this coming. The late Latino activist Juan Santos wrote a much-circulated essay during the presidential campaign in which he argued that Obama's unwillingness to talk about race (except when his campaign depended upon it) was a triumph not of post-racialism but of racism, period. Obama's silence, he argued, was the same silence every person of colour in America lives with, understanding that they can be accepted in white society only if they agree not to be angry about racism. "We stay silent, as a rule, on the job. We stay silent, as a rule, in the white world. Barack Obama is the living symbol of our silence. He is our silence writ large. He is our Silence running for president." Santos predicted that "with respect to Black interests, Obama would be a silenced Black ruler: A muzzled Black emperor."
Many of Obama's defenders responded angrily: his silence was a mere electoral strategy, they said. He was doing what it took to make racist white people comfortable voting for a black man. All that would change, of course, when Obama took office. What Obama's decision to boycott Durban demonstrated definitively was that the campaign strategy is also the governing strategy.
Two weeks after the close of the Durban Review Conference, Rush Limbaugh sprang a new theory on his estimated 14 million listeners. Obama, Limbaugh claimed, was deliberately trashing the economy so he could give more handouts to black people. "The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. The objective is to take the nation's wealth and return it to the nation's 'rightful owners'. Think reparations. Think forced reparations here, if you want to understand what actually is going on."
It was nonsense, of course, but the outburst was instructive. No matter how race-neutral Obama tries to be, his actions will be viewed by a large part of the country through the lens of its racial obsessions. So, since even his most modest, Band-Aid measures are going to be greeted as if he is waging a full-on race war, Obama has little to lose by using this brief political window actually to heal a few of the country's racial wounds.
• A longer version of this article appears in the September issue of Harper's Magazine.
Labels: BARACK OBAMA, LAND REFORM, NAOMI KLEIN
What’s wrong with Chiluba?
Written by Editor
Blaming things on the past does not make them better. But there is need to know the past and ensure that it is not repeated. The past is a rich source on which we can draw in order to make decisions for the future. And the aim of trying to look at what was done in the past is not necessarily to deride human action, or to weep over it or to hate it, but to understand it – and then to learn from it as we contemplate our future.
However, if criminal acts are found to have been committed in the past, those responsible for those crimes should be made to account, should be punished if found wanting. And there is nothing vindictive or wrong in doing so.
This is different from the wholesale licensing of crime and abuse of power that Frederick Chiluba is advocating, is calling for in his own defence. Chiluba says that leaders should not pursue their predecessors but should thank them even if they discover some weaknesses in their leadership. This is not the issue because weaknesses will always be found in all human decisions and actions. Perfection is very difficult to attain in many things, no matter how much effort we devote to try to make things turn out in the best possible way. Only life itself will be able to tell us where the shortcomings are and which aspects or details leave something to be desired. But we will always be able to improve the instruments we have established. We feel that any citizen may have made a great mistake at a given moment but then he may make great and extraordinary efforts to vindicate himself.
There is a difference between the honest mistakes every one of us makes every day and the criminal acts of a leader who steals public funds and uses them to enrich himself, to purchase useless things – spending over a million dollars in a boutique on shoes, shirts, pyjamas and suits. And after doing all this, expecting the next set of leaders to do nothing about it is criminal. Chiluba stole public funds and this cannot be disputed. Of course, they have deployed all sorts of deception, lies, propaganda and calumny to justify their crimes. They have got the political platform to do this. But there is no amount of lies, deception, manipulation and propaganda that will clear away what Chiluba did. They can try to falsify or destroy records but everything is there in London and elsewhere in this country. There is no case of theft against Chiluba that we can today fail to prove in any court of law. And this is why we have challenged Chiluba if he truly thinks he is innocent to sue us in this country or anywhere in the world for defamation. And we will show him and the nation what he did as we have done before.
Those in power have a duty to do an honest job and not to enrich themselves, their friends and family members by stealing public funds and expect the next set of leaders to do nothing about it and simply turn everything into a God’s case no appeal, to borrow from Chinua Achebe’s vocabulary.
There is need to recognise the fact that our system overprotects those in power from being made to account for criminal acts while they are in office. Unlike other countries where the leaders cannot get away with any crime while they are still in office, in our country one has to wait until they are out of office to sort them out. It is even very difficult to arrest and prosecute their family members and friends until they are out of office. If it were possible to make the president of this country account for criminal acts while he still occupies public office the way we saw it in America under Bill Clinton, there would be very little cause for following someone after they have left office.
In our country today, it’s not even possible to meaningfully criticise those in power. And to the extent that criticism is insufficient and superficial, it is possible that certain problems do not strike the leaders’ sensitivities with the necessary rapidity. They only come to know the crimes committed by themselves and in their names after they have left office. Some of them think the president should have everything he wants, it’s just a matter of ordering a parastatal chief, a government department or the chief of intelligence to find the money. This is how Chiluba operated. There is the evidence of convicted former Zanaco managing director Samuel Musonda which shows how Chiluba was using stolen money from this state-owned bank. The judgment is there from our courts of law for everyone to see. And this judgment was written by the same magistrate who three weeks ago acquitted Chiluba. What can Chiluba say about these observations by the same magistrate? Yes, Chiluba has survived going to jail but he should leave things at that rather than try to claim or justify a lot of unjustifiable things. There is no country where leaders should be allowed to commit crimes and go scot-free simply because they are leaders, they are presidents. Yes, our Constitution, our laws do give reasonable leeway for leaders to make mistakes and get away with it. But it cannot be a blanket ticket where all sorts of crimes can be committed against people with impunity. There is no democratic country in the world that operates on that basis; it’s only tyrannical regimes that are managed in that way.
Chiluba and his friends went too far in their plunder and other crimes against the people. They did not even attempt to cover appearances. They did not bother in the least to conceal what they were doing as long as it was done in the name of the intelligence or the military. They thought they had deceived the people with their crookedness and lies and they ended up deceiving themselves. They felt themselves lords and masters of the universe, with unlimited power.
Chiluba’s behaviour reminds us of the story of Dante. Dante divided his inferno into nine circles. He put the criminals in the seventh, the thieves in the eighth and the traitors in the ninth. Difficult dilemma the devils will be faced with, when they try to find an adequate spot for this man’s soul – if this man has a soul.
In every society, there are men of base instincts. The sadists, brutes, conveyors of all the ancestral atavisms go about in the guise of human beings, but they are monsters, crooks, thieves, plunderers, only more or less restrained by discipline and social habit. If they are offered a drink from a river of blood, they will not be satisfied until they drink the river dry. At their hands the best and noblest Zambians have suffered: the most valiant, the most honest, the most idealistic. The plunderer, the thief, the tyrant called them all sorts of names. They were suffering at the hands of men who collect a salary from the Republic.
We were taught that the man who abides by unjust practices and permits any man to trample upon and mistreat the country he was born in, is not an honourable man. We were also taught that in the world there must be a certain degree of honour just as there must be a certain amount of light. And that when there are many men without honour, there are always others who bear in themselves the honour of many men. These are the men who challenge the evil deeds and schemes of the likes of Chiluba; these are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s resources, the people’s life, against those who steal human honour itself. In those men, thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained.
We were taught that to fight and suffer for one’s homeland is to live forever. All this we learnt and we will never forget, even though today in our country there is suffering, there is an attempt to humiliate the men who practice the ideas taught to them from cradle. We were born with these duties and the Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa rivers will dry up before we consent to be accomplices to, defenders of, Chiluba’s crimes.
It is understandable that those who fight crime, those who challenge the corrupt, the thieves, the plunderers should be made to suffer, should be humiliated in a Republic where the President enjoys the company of a criminal and a thief.
We think we have got something to learn from the Taiwanese because in this same edition, we are carrying a story in which they have sent their former president to prison for life for the same reasons Chiluba is today justifying. Anyway, this is what happens in a nation when standards, values and decency are lost. This is what happens when patronage and parasitism is the order of the day in a nation.
Leaders shouldn’t pursue predecessors – Chiluba
Written by Mutuna Chanda in Kitwe
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:14:40 AM
Addressing mourners at Chingola Road Cemetery on Thursday during the burial of Lemmy Chipili, a former Consul General to Lubumbashi during his reign, Chiluba said development took place without the leaders targeting those who ruled before them.
"Mailo twaleshika kanabesa intungulushi imbi ba Tetamashimba, ababombele muli cino calo bwino bwino ukuchinkula abantu ukwisula imitwe ifya kutila tuleya kuntanshi. Lelo twashika Consul General Chipili uwabombele mubuteko bwandi. Pafuma aba paisa aba, tekweba lilya waisapo ati 'abalipo bonse, ni driver nshi achilaensha iyi motoka? Mwikateni. Napwisha oilo'. Oilo iyakubikamo fye muleya! 'Mwikateni tachilaensha bwino iyoo. Mwikateni naba conductor bakwe bonse'. Tefyaba ama politics. Ama politics yaba ukutila ulya wafumapo, 'mwabombeni boi mwabombeni naine pano nomba nala twala uku'.
[Translated - yesterday [Wednesday] we were burying another leader [late local government minister Benny] Tetamashimba who worked very well in enlightening people for us to move forward. Today [Thursday] we have buried Consul General Chipili who served in my government. If someone leaves today another takes over. It does not mean that when you take over then you say 'those of you who are here, who was driving this vehicle? Arrest him. He has finished the oil'. Oil which you can just replace and move on? 'Arrest him for not driving properly. Arrest all his conductors as well'. That is not how politics are conducted. In politics, when one leaves, you have to congratulate them 'well done my friend, well done'. I am heading this way.'] That is how development takes place world-over," Chiluba said in Bemba. "Mulelanda kuli political scientist ninebo [translated you are dealing with a political scientist]."
Earlier, Chiluba's childhood friend, Hugo Mulenga a former boxer, asked him not to respond to the criticism against him in the press.
Mulenga advised Chiluba that once he kept quiet, all the criticism against him would fade.
In response, Chiluba said he had done a lot of good for some of the people who had deserted him when he was falsely accused.
"When I became president, like Mulenga said, it's not common when you naturally have a heart to forget where you come from," Chiluba said. "But among you I had sent you and I did good things for you. When I was falsely accused you were in the forefront and said that 'yes that is the way he is'. I know you so well, I have studied you even if you say in front of people 'Chiluba; Chiluba', I know you. But by the mercy of God, because it is God who reads the heart even if we appear clever, God reads the heart; it is God who is the redeemer. Even if they stood in multitudes and they falsely accuse you there is only one judge, the great God, that is why when you say that I should stop talking, it is my friends who was saying that I should stop talking, that is true there are many people who are saying that. But Jesus said 'go and tell that Jackal; go and tell that Jackal because what I know about him is a lot. When I open my mouth he will die'; that is why I am not talking."
Chiluba said Zambians needed to work together and live in harmony.
"Serving the nation is endless. One can do a little and another can do a little. Now I am just warning you because our country can drift into harmful ways. When you go home reflect on two things: why we go into politics. Here is what is known as vision and ambition. When you hear someone telling you that 'when I get to power I am going to arrest this one', that is not vision that is ambition. Vision is about 'when I come where there are no roads, I will build some', working for the nation, that is vision. Let's think about what will build Zambia not what will destroy," he said. "I have not come here for politics. My friend here when I saw that he was not working I called him 'come to State House and have tea with me'. He came and said 'what have you called me for' and I said 'what are your plans' and he said 'things are difficult'. I said 'would things be difficult when I am here'? I said 'go to Lubumbashi and stay'. He was working and 'my children' were eating. That is why it is important not to forget where we are coming from and where we are going. When we forget our past we will not know our future."
Chiluba urged Zambians to work together in harmony irrespective of their origins and their political persuasions.
"Zambia is a beautiful country. If we are not insulting each other, we are not smashing each other's windows, we'll be advancing. It was easy back then to smash windows during the federation because those were not our houses; they used to belong to the whites. Now can you smash windows for someone's house and that one comes and smashes yours? Where will you get the money to repair the window? Let's live in peace. Development is not about moving five steps backward and five steps forward, no. Then we are stagnating or regressing, we are supposed to be moving forward every such moment. May our political parties continue to enlighten our people, not engaging in physical fights..." said Chiluba.
Chipili died on Monday this week aged, and is survived by four children and seven grandchildren.
Labels: CHILUBA, LEGAL IMMUNITY
Miyanda cautions Rupiah against making serious pronouncements at the airport
Written by George Chellah
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:12:42 AM
HERITAGE Party (HP) president Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda yesterday cautioned President Rupiah Banda against making serious pronouncements at the airport, saying on several occasions there is nothing urgent or really newsworthy that is said.
Reacting to President Banda's recent remarks on dual citizenship, Brig Gen Miyanda observed that the point of his critique was that it was becoming increasingly disconcerting to hear President Banda make serious pronouncements at the airport or in foreign lands but which statements are soon repudiated or qualified.
"Although it is important or necessary for the President to respond to press queries as he leaves the country or arrives back home, on several occasions there is nothing urgent or really newsworthy that is said. I suggest that the President's staff handle such routine queries at airports. When the President speaks he must make such an important pronouncement that it cannot be contradicted or disowned a little later," Brig Gen Miyanda stated. "If it is necessary for a brief to be made to the press at the airport, arrangements should be made for the President's staff to address the press, preferably with a brief written on the plane giving salient points of the outcome of a visit. It is not wise to believe that the President has to speak each time he lands on our soil. There has to be something worth the urgency for the President to speak at the airport."
Brig Gen Miyanda stated that for some time now, the nation had been made to believe that the National Constitution Conference (NCC) had been extended for ten months on presidential order.
"Now we are told by the President that the extension is only for four months. Although about two weeks have elapsed no such correction came from the President's office until when he was returning from the Congo DR. Meanwhile, several concerned citizens have been commenting on the extension both for and against the decision, based on the information that had been put out in the public domain. It is curious that such lapses continue even in straightforward information dissemination. Is it really necessary for the President to make these pronouncements which ought really to be done by his staff?" Brig Gen Miyanda stated.
"And what is the explanation for the government, in this regard the Ministry of Justice, not publishing the Statutory Instrument on the extension which was approved by the President to run from 1st April 2009 but only published in the Government Gazette on 13th August 2009, four and a half months later? In the olden days, such an S.I. would be delayed by say a week or two, not four months. These are serious indicators of the general malaise that is afflicting this government and spreading like a cancer at great speed. The cancer must be stopped before it takes the life of this nation! But even more serious is the reported announcement by the President himself in Swaziland that the NCC has approved dual citizenship.
"This one cannot be let to pass because not only is it erroneous and misleading, but raises questions as to whether those in authority in NCC are prematurely submitting reports to the President, contrary to the NCC Act; or is it that government, which is fully represented by senior government leaders including the Vice-President of the Republic, has chosen to begin speculating instead of waiting patiently for the outcome of the conference deliberations?"
He wondered why this important statement was made in Swaziland and not at home.
"Could it be the pressure of the meeting with the diaspora, inviting a mere public relations statement or was it a timely vote-catching exercise targeting Zambians in the diaspora? The report in the media that the President had informed Zambians in Swaziland that the NCC had approved dual citizenship is erroneous. Even for the President to say that because his party had majority MPs in Parliament and will pass the clause is incorrect. Here I am not discussing the merits or demerits of dual citizenship but the principle of letting the NCC complete its work and follow the law in total," he stated.
He stated that in the first place, the NCC had no power to approve anything or finally determine any of the provisions in the Mung'omba Report.
"Under the NCC Act, the functions of the Conference are to consider and deliberate the provisions of the CRC Report and Draft Constitution and then adopt the same and submit to the Minister of Justice for his further action in accordance with the Act. The only time any provisions of the drafts may be finally approved is when they have either been endorsed by Parliament or have been subjected to a referendum and a decision made thereon. Secondly, Citizenship falls under Part Three of the current Constitution," stated Brig Gen Miyanda.
"Under this Part, no amendment may be made without a referendum. So it is premature, erroneous and misleading for the President to excite citizens abroad that approval has been given. The only time we may know the final outcome of NCC deliberations is when Parliament has finally legislated in accordance with its legislative powers or when a referendum has taken place for provisions that fall under Part three of the Constitution."
Labels: GODFREY MIYANDA, RUPIAH BANDA
Zambia moves up on World Bank rankings
Written by Kingsley Kaswende and Nchima Nchito
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:10:35 AM
ZAMBIA has improved its position on the World Bank rankings with regard to the ease of doing business. According to a latest report entitled ‘Doing Business 2010: Reforming Through Difficult Times’, Zambia is ranked 90th out of 183 world economies and is only sixth out of 46 sub-Saharan countries that were measured with regard to regulations that made it easy to do business.
Last year, Zambia ranked 100th out of 181 countries that were studied. In Africa, Zambia comes after South Africa (34th), Botswana (45th), Namibia (66th), Rwanda (67th) and Tunisia (70th).
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is a distant 159th overall as it struggles to make key economic reforms, but is still better than 18 other sub-Saharan countries.
Zimbabwe slipped from position 154 in the 2008 report to 158 in the 2009 report, and down to 159 in the current report.
Doing Business investigates the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it.
It presents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights such as: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and closing a business.
It, however, does not measure all aspects of the business environment that matter to firms and investors. For example, it does not measure security, macroeconomic stability, corruption, skill level, or the strength of financial systems.
In the latest report, country data are current as of June 1, 2009.
According to the report, Rwanda was the world’s top reformer, the first time a country from sub-Saharan Africa had ever recorded such results.
Its performance was based on the number and impact of reforms implemented between June 2008 and May this year.
Rwanda reformed in seven of the 10 business regulation areas measured by Doing Business.
“It now takes a Rwandan entrepreneur just two procedures and three days to start a business. Imports and exports are more efficient, and transferring property takes less time thanks to a reorganised registry and statutory time limits. Investors have more protection, insolvency reorganisation has been streamlined, and a wider range of assets can be used as collateral to access credit,” the report states.
World Bank acting vice-president for Financial and Private Sector Development, Penelope Brook, remarked that the report showed that some post-conflict economies in the region were actively improving the regulatory framework for private sector-led development.
“In times overshadowed by the global financial and economic crisis, business regulation can make an important difference for how easy it is to reorganise troubled firms to help them survive, to rebuild when demand rebounds, and to get new businesses started,” said Brook.
Labels: World Bank
No extra land for farm blocs, chief Mwene Mutondo tells govt
Written by Mwala Kalaluka
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:08:05 AM
CHIEF Mwene Mutondo of the Nkoya people in Kaoma has told the government that no extra land would be given for the establishment of farm blocs in his chiefdom because he is deeply disturbed by the behaviour of government officials.
In a letter dated August 16, 2009 addressed to agriculture minister Dr Brian Chituwo, Mwene Mutondo warned the government to be wary that issues of land had caused problems in many parts of Africa. He stated that this should not be allowed to be the case in Zambia and Kaoma in particular. The subject of the letter was highlighted as Kalumwange Farm Bloc.
“In the first place, I would like to thank you and the government for working hard and uniting the people of Zambia and wish you God’s blessings,” Mwene Mutondo opened his letter.
“I, however, wish to bring to your attention a very sensitive issue, which I am not pleased with. This is the Kalumwange Farm Block in Kaoma. The way the issue is being handled by your officers leaves much to be desired.”
Mwene Mutondo stated that as traditional custodian of land, he was deeply disturbed with the way things were happening in Kaoma.
“I fail to understand why your junior officers could facilitate the movement of surveyors to map the farm block without my knowledge. Your officers seem to be in a hurry to acquire land without my consent by using my suspended induna Kasimba, leaving me behind and yet the land in question is under my chiefdom,” Mwene Mutondo’s letter read in part.
“I strongly suspect that your officers have a hidden agenda. Last year, I wrote to your permanent secretary in which I complained about the behaviour of the officers who seem to be conniving with some rebel or unfaithful area indunas in my chiefdom but to date the permanent secretary has not responded.”
Mwene Mutondo further stated that he had a good working and cordial relationship with the government of the day.
“With regard to farm blocks, I am surprised that out of the four farm blocks in place, not even one has been fully developed and have all been turned into primitive villages as opposed to farm blocks. Some selfish individuals acquired massive portions of land and have resold them to other people who have equally failed to develop them,” he stated.
“I therefore find it very strange that out of the three quarters of land given to state, nothing has benefited the people of my chiefdom.”
He pointed that it was in this regard that he was questioning the government’s intention to acquire an extra 100, 000 hectares for farm blocks when the current ones had yielded nothing. Mwene Mutondo stated that he had consulted his children and subjects over the position he had taken.
Labels: CHIEF MWENE MUTONDO, FARM BLOCS, KALUMWANGE FARM BLOC
Water supply in E/Province improves
Written by Christopher Miti in Chipata
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:06:23 AM
EASTERN Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC) has said water supply in the province has started improving although the company is still facing a number of challenges.
And EWSC has said it will use the 6.3 million euros funding to improve water situation in the province.
EWSC public relations manager Mike Daka said most houses that had no water had been connected in most parts of the province.
“The water situation in the province is starting to improve although it’s a very big challenge. Chadiza so far has improved, most of the houses which were not receiving water have started, we are yet to improve again. Right now we have engaged water affairs to clean up the boreholes in Chama. I think that exercise will take about five to six days, then that will actually improve on the water situation,” Daka said.
He said EWSC was also cleaning up the water system in Katete district to ensure that water provision improved.
Daka further said the water situation in Mambwe district was good but that EWSC would now embark on the expansion of the water network systems.
And Daka said the 6.3 million euros that the government had mobilised through financial corporation with the Federal Republic of Germany would be used to improve the water networks.
“..We will be doing it in phases, the funding has come for phase one for four districts which is Chama, Lundazi, Petauke and Mambwe. The actual funding has not yet been made. We are yet to receive the funding either this month or beginning of next month but we are at tendering stage. So far, we have even got consultants who have come from Germany,” he said.
Daka also said the water company still faced problems because some customers, including government departments, were not settling bills as expected.
Recently, EWSC revealed that government institutions owed the company K2.6 billion in unpaid water bills.
According to the EWSC report to the Provincial Development Coordinating Committee meeting held at Luangwa House recently, as at July 30, 2009, the outstanding amount due was K2, 629,297,461.95.
The report indicated that some institutions had not paid water bills from as far back as August 2004, citing lack of funds and poor service delivery by the company.
Labels: EASTERN PROVINCE, EASTERN WATER AND SEWAGE COMPANY, MIKE DAKA
UNZASU demands reinstatement of expelled COBUSU leaders
Written by Masuzyo Chakwe in Lusaka and Mutuna Chanda in Kitwe
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:04:20 AM
UNIVERSITY of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) has demanded that the expelled Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) leaders be reinstated and subjected to a speedy fair trial.
And former COBUSU president Emmanuel Mwange said the expelled students' leadership at CBU had good grounds to sue the university.
According to a statement, UNZASU president Duncan Nyirongo revealed that the students were looking at other alternatives to help their colleagues.
"It is rather shocking that the much learned authorities of the university could sink so low as to expel the students without any form of trial to prove their innocence. This is an act of tyranny, an act of oppression and dictatorship. The issue to do with students resorting to demonstrations; one of their constitutional and democratic rights of expressing displeasure, is not a new phenomenon. It is therefore significant that a critical assessment of this matter be carried if a better and lasting solution is to be found," he stated.
Nyirongo stated that students at various institutions of learning across the nation would take to the streets as a way of expressing their displeasure over the casual attention most of their issues had received from various stakeholders in the country.
"NRDC, Chainama College, NIPA, Evelyn Hone College and UNZA, are examples of institutions that have gone through such eventualities. With such a background, it would be unfair to perceive a student who demonstrates for better conditions at their institution of learning or indeed police brutality as being indisciplined. Because this would entail that almost all students at higher institutions of learning in the nation are indisciplined, something that is far from the truth," he stated.
Nyirongo stated that the demonstrations were so peaceful that no confrontation with the police was recorded.
He stated that it was difficult for those that were being criticised to understand why the students resorted to demonstrations in most cases.
"If one is to fully understand why the much learned university lecturers have on several occasions expressed their grievances through demonstrations such as withdrawal of labour, they may probably have to be a lecturer. It should be understood that the many problems that we are going through today, either as an institution or the nation, are because of the inadequacies in the policies that someone who was in leadership before, never did their part," he stated. "They might have taken things so casually without considering the effects of such decisions on us the siblings and indeed children."
He stated that the manner in which the CBU management and senate had treated the case of students suspected to have played a role in the recent demonstrations was of great concern to UNZASU.
"We all understand the right of any accused to be heard as being one of the fundamental principles of the natural justice. Expulsion from a university is the highest level of punishment that can ever be slapped by the university on erring students. As such, there should be evidence beyond any reasonable doubt for such a punishment to be metted on any accused person. This punishment has to do with elimination of the one found wanting from the community in question [University community]. This is not any different from what was happening in South Africa during the time of apartheid," he stated.
Nyirongo stated that it was rather alarming that such a punitive action could be arrived at without the accused being tried.
He expressed concern over the decision made by the university to suspend the students union, totally disregarding the provision of its existence in Article 39 of the University Act.
"We have high hopes that the university authorities comprising of the highly learned individuals whom the general public look up to will try to appreciate the basic principles of natural justice and allow justice to prevail. Even as they reconsider your verdict, it is just fine that they take a critical assessment of the situation the students are confronted with,"Nyirongo stated.
"Union leaders are there in their official capacity to facilitate dialogue with the police and any other concerned persons or authorities, they are also there as spokespersons for the students. It is because of this mammoth task that students' leaders are bound to be found in predicaments like one of this nature."
And Mwange described the ejection of the students as a mockery of justice.
"The decision to expel them is a travesty of justice; it's ultra vires to suspend union activities, it is not backed by the law," Mwange said. "The expelled leaders have good grounds to sue. There's a precedent that was set in 1999 when COBUSU leaders were expelled; they filed an injunction and the union won the case."
Mwange, who is acting as a negotiator for the expelled COBUSU leaders, said arrangements were being made with lawyers to see how the case could be handled.
"We have tried to lobby the parties who were involved in the decision and some of the people saw a rocky heart in the decision, we are trying to speak to others whom we didn't speak to," he said. "There are also political ramifications to this issue and I am urging the students' leadership at UNZA; the UNZASU to prepare their guts, to prepare their hearts, to prepare their souls and spirits because what is happening is an attempt to silence credible voices."
He said UNZASU needed to stand and defend the cause of their counterparts who had been expelled.
"We need to get rid of this beggar mentality in this country where if someone steps on your toes, you say 'excuse me, my feet are under yours'," he said. "I expect the student leadership at UNZA to lead peaceful demonstrations and I would urge them to stand in the gap for the cause they have stood up for. UNZASU should show the incompetent leadership of Rupiah Banda; I would urge them to peacefully demonstrate. I would urge civil society, trade unions and all progressive voices to rise en masse. The only way mediocre leadership will win is if we do nothing. The expulsion of COBUSU leadership provides an opportunity to voice out over Zamtel, the mediocre Chiluba judgment, the hacking of journalists and also to ensure that there's justice over the shooting of an innocent student."
And expelled COBUSU president Kasonde Mwenda said the last senate meeting that he and COBUSU academic affairs secretary Laston Sangwapo attended concluded that the students' union was innocent of the riotus acts that led to the burning of the Toyota Hilux Surf.
Mwenda challenged the senate to go back to the minutes of the meeting in which they resolved that COBUSU was innocent of the riotus acts.
He explained that COBUSU presented its position on the riot in which the vehicle was burnt and that the senate declared the union innocent.
And Sangwapo expressed surprise that in one breath, CBU said COBUSU would not be held responsible for the riot and in another, asked the student leaders to find the ones who burnt the vehicle or else some people would be sacrificed.
Last week, the CBU senate expelled the entire COBUSU leadership and suspended some students for activities that caused instability at the institution leading to a riot on the evening of August 12 in which a Toyota Hilux Surf was burnt.
The senate also suspended all students' union activities.
The expulsions and suspensions came after home affairs minister Lameck Mangani's sentiments that some COBUSU leaders might have to be expelled.
Mangani's earlier statement that was aired on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) on August 12 that the peaceful demonstration that the students held during the day in Kitwe was politically motivated, sparked the riot in which the Toyota Hilux Surf was burnt.
Labels: COBUSU, EMMANUEL MWANGE, UNZASU
NCC increases number of parliamentary seats
Written by Ernest Chanda
Saturday, September 12, 2009 2:02:55 AM
THE National Constitutional Conference (NCC) has unanimously increased the number of parliamentary seats from 158 to 280.
Of the 280, 240 people will be elected, 30 will be appointed by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) from political parties that have participated in an election based on a proportional representation system while the President will have to nominate 10 parliamentarians as opposed to the current eight.
This is against the 200 elected seats proposed in the Mung'omba draft constitution.
Initially, the legislative committee of the NCC had maintained the proposal in the draft constitution, but the delegates resolved that they adopt the 240 seats proposed in the democratic governance committee report.
Article 159 Clause 1 (a) of the Mung'omba draft constitution states that "The National Assembly shall consist of two hundred members directly elected on the basis of a simple majority under the first-past-the-post segment of the mixed member representation system provided for in this Constitution and as may be provided by or under an Act of Parliament.
Clause 1 (b) also provides for additional parliamentarians who should make "forty per cent of the total number of constituency-based seats on the basis of the proportional representation segment of the mixed member representation system from a list of candidates submitted to the Electoral Commission by each political party contesting the elections, as provided by this Constitution and by or under an Act of Parliament."
Supporting the 240 increment, all the delegates contended that most rural constituencies were too big to be serviced by one parliamentarian.
Some went further to suggest that the seats be increased to 300.
Among those who supported the view were health minister Kapembwa Simbao and UPND vice-president Richard Kapita.
Others are Reverend Obed Mubanga and justice deputy minister Todd Chilembo.
On the 40 per cent proportional representation system as described in clause 1 (b), gender deputy minister Lucy Changwe said it would give an opportunity to more women to participate in politics.
"The contribution of women to the political proficiency and efficiency of this country cannot be underscored. Nations have devised mechanisms to address issues of gender equality. I must state categorically that this constitution must be transformatory and visionary. The time to give women an equal opportunity in national development is now. We must go for 50-50, meaning there must be a mechanism that will compel political parties to adopt 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men," Changwe said. "Most of the countries in the world have gone proportional. Even in the sub-region we have Tanzania, South Africa, Lesotho and Mozambique where some of them have gone to the extent of giving specific constituencies to women. This sectarian system of patriarch must be broken in this country. The arrangement in Parliament today is just a window dressing to show that women are there. This clause then will give more women an opportunity to participate in the politics of this country."
Copperbelt UPND youth chairman Joe Kalusa said the clause would give more opportunities to the youths to participate in national politics.
"We the youths are tired of being used and rewarded with chibuku. We want to be rewarded through the PR [Proportional Representation] system. When people want to fight they look to the youths, when looking for financial help they look to the disabled who they line up as tools for begging. I therefore propose that this PR system be supported to give chance to the disabled and the youths," Kalusa said.
But Reverend Gibson Nyirenda described the proportional representation system as a cancer.
"The Article doesn't say anything in particular about women, youths and the disabled. Why don't we work out some percentages from the 240 seats so that they can be shared among the different groups of people in society? We are creating a cancer in our politics which will start eating us and our economy. We shall have people who will have lost an election, they will have been rejected by the people and then we push them to the National Assembly through the back door. Why are we being compared to countries like South Africa? For them the system could be good because they had serious social problems like racial discrimination, but for us this PR system is just a cancer," Rev Nyirenda said.
And Southern Province deputy minister Daniel Munkombwe described the proportional representation system as a catalyst for political confusion.
"Historically, we have moved from a low number of seats to where we are now, and that is good. In 1973 we moved from 155 to 150 and now we have moved to 240. And if we make an additional number I think that will not be workable," Munkombwe argued.
"We have a team of people out there who want to get into Parliament without submitting to the wishes of the people. They are the ones causing confusion in the political stratum. They want to get in through some arrangement; and so they will start scheming and make sure they are in Parliament. Those of us that are genuine let us fight it."
Labels: CONSTITUTION, NCC, PARLIAMENT
Shaming of the sanctions deniers
by Peter Chimutsa
THERE are many issues that bedevil our country. This is a fact, but I am concerned that as a nation we are failing to accept some bare truths. In order for the inclusive Government to work, assuming there is political will, we should all accept that there are things we should shun as a nation.
One of the hard truths that we should accept is that Zimbabwe cannot continue looking to the West to seek ways of extricating ourselves from our problems. We should look everywhere, not just the East.
Neo-liberalism is dead and incurable; and that is a fact. Countries like the US and Britain now owe large amounts of money to China. Zimbabwe cannot continue seeking salvation from the West.
It was embarrassing to hear Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Gorden Moyo, claim recently that Zimbabwe needed to institute some reforms in order to be “forgiven” by the United States; that is in order for the sanctions, or “restrictive measures” as he preferred to call them, to be removed.
The minister thinks if the media is “opened up”, then America will rush to pump money into Zimbabwe. This is sad, coming from a Cabinet minister, who should know better.
America is in the middle of a financial crisis. It is battling to fund its healthcare right now and is the most indebted nation in the world. It is failing to extricate millions of black people and inner city families out of poverty.
Moyo should know that a good actor will never shine when they have a bad script. Neo-liberalism, as espoused through US domestic and foreign economic policy, is dead and buried and is a bad script.
The minister’s denial of the existence of sanctions was as laughable as it was pathetic.
The minister should know that you can tell a lie a million times but it still remains a lie.
Moyo’s assertion that if somehow, foreign-based radio stations like SW Radio Africa, are allowed to operate in Zimbabwe, then America will pump money into Zimbabwe is sad and pathetic.
It smacks of a lack of understanding of what indeed is the Zimbabwean question; or crisis as some would prefer to call it.
In any case, radio is not the only space where political debate takes place.
The comrades who fought and won the liberation war against Ian Smith’s apartheid regime were not allowed media or radio coverage.
Radio and media are important, but the argument that allowing political profanity is a reflection of a democratic dispensation is problematic.
To then suggest that allowing such stations to spew propaganda will attract foreign investment is pathetic.
In the UK, there’s a lot of censorship of profanity and regulation of these spaces. Why not in Zimbabwe?
Just trawl the internet and see the amount of abuse spawn at our leaders by our own people; some of whom fought for these people to even find a voice through a protracted liberation struggle.
Zimbabweans and their so-called independent media, are their own worst enemies. I have never seen a country whose so many institutions connive in destroying their country.
Moyo reminds me of some so-called “human rights defenders” who get trophies from the US for spewing propaganda against their own governments. The US is the worst violator of human rights. Just watch the images from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons. State prisons in the US are full of people of colour.
Minister Moyo cannot tell us that people of colour are inherently prone to crime. There must be something wrong with the US and its attitude to these communities. Why should that country care about Zimbabwe?
That is why they watched when millions died in Zimbabwe from cholera induced by their illegal sanctions. That is exactly the same response they gave to thousands of people who died in North and South Carolina, and other states, when Hurricane Katrina hit the US.
I just hope that the minister revisits his understanding of the role of sanctions in the underdevelopment of Zimbabwe. Otherwise, he stands accused of promoting the death of many innocent civilians who are victims of the effects of the illegal sanctions imposed by the West.
It is ironic that he was speaking on a pirate radio station, when his party signed an agreement on 15 September, 2008, to have those pirate stations stopped from illegally beaming into Zimbabwe.
Some kind of leadership, indeed!
Peter Chimutsa writes from Bulawayo
Labels: GORDEN MOYO, NEOLIBERALISM, SANCTIONS, ZDERA
COMMENT - " "We see still the use of violence directed against the supporters of [Prime Minister Morgan] Tsvangirai and also the abuses still of human rights," he said. " So they know better what 'supporters of Tsvangirai' need, than does Tsvangirai himself? This is what happens when opportunists throw in their luck with colonists.
Zim sanctions delay recovery: Zuma
THE lifting of sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) on Zimbabwe would speed up the country's recovery, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"The EU has a position that they are not lifting sanctions. We are seeing things, as SADC [the Southern African Development Community], from a different point of view," he told a media briefing at Tuynhuys in Cape Town.
Zuma was speaking after talks with visiting Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, which included discussion on the situation in Zimbabwe.
Referring to the EU fact-finding mission heading to Zimbabwe at the weekend, Reinfeldt stressed it was going there to listen, and was "not in preparation, at this time, for lifting of the restrictions we have coming from the EU". Reinfeldt noted there was still violence in Zimbabwe.
"We see still the use of violence directed against the supporters of [Prime Minister Morgan] Tsvangirai and also the abuses still of human rights," he said.
Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Referring to his talks with Reinfeldt, Zuma indicated he hoped to persuade the EU to lift sanctions.
"We are saying that we both understand where both SADC and the EU comes from. But we are saying, precisely because of that, we need to engage so that we could explain... and try to persuade the EU to lift sanctions."
The lifting of sanctions would "help to quicken the process of the implementation of the political agreement" in Zimbabwe, he said.
Reinfeldt and Zuma are set to co-chair the SA-European Union Summit in the Overberg coastal town of Kleinmond on Friday. - Sapa
Labels: JACOB ZUMA, SANCTIONS, ZDERA
COMMENT - " Western sanctions against him " sanctions are not 'against Mugabe', they are against the government of Zimbabwe. For the AFP to lie and misrepresent the sanctions against the government and economy of Zimbabwe as personal sanctions against President Mugabe, is unethical and unprofessional. If there were still journalistic standards in the West, the AFP would have been sanctioned itself.
Mugabe slams 'bloody whites' ahead of EU visit
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Friday lashed out at Western sanctions against him, condemning "bloody whites" for meddling in Zimbabwe's affairs, on the eve of a landmark European Union visit.
"Who said the British and the Americans should rule over others? That's why we say down with you. We have not invited these bloody whites.
They want to poke their nose into our own affairs. Refuse that," he said.
"We have stood firm and we have refused to let go. Zimbabwe, sanctions or no sanctions, Zimbabwe remains ours," he told a gathering of his party's youth wing.
Mugabe spoke ahead of the first EU high-level visit in seven years led by aid chief Karel De Gucht. The team will visit the nation to meet with Mugabe and his one-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who joined him in a unity government in February.
The EU and the United States imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle following a disputed presidential poll in 2002, which western nations as well as independent local poll monitors described as flawed.
"Why are they sanctions? Why are our people being punished? It is because the imperialists want our heritage," he said
He also insisted he would not back down from his controversial land reforms launched nine years ago, which saw white-owned farms resettled with blacks in a bid to redress colonial-era inequities.
The chaotic reforms were tinged with political violence, while agricultural production plunged, leaving the nation dependent on food aid.
"There is no reversal of the land reform programme at all," Mugabe said.
"The land reform exercise is irreversible. Those who have sought relief from outside Zimbabwe should know that land acquisition is through legal means and for that reason, the noises they make will simply frustrate them more," he said. - AFP
Labels: MUGABE, SANCTIONS, ZDERA
US public diplomacy: a tool for domination
Farai Mushayahembe -
Fri, 11 Sep 2009 02:53:00 +0000
DEAR EDITOR - I would like to commend public diplomatic officials in the United States of America for managing to dupe millions of people around the world that their country is the best symbol of democracy in the world.
US propaganda in this century has produced some astounding results with many people failing to see through this country's public propaganda. The idea of dropping "bombs and burgers" in Iraq has gone undetected by many people who think the US provides salvation to poor countries.
I joined the UK Army in 1999 and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. I resigned from the army last year after having seen the disastrous effects of US and UK propaganda about these two countries. I have to admit I went through some indoctrination which made me not understand what was going on around me and what I was fighting for. But, the human mind is very complex. I managed to find out the truth about what exactly was transpiring in these countries; albeit some years after.
The US destroyed the infrastructure of these countries. Some sacred buildings and monuments were destroyed and millions of women and children killed in the so-called War On Terror; in the name of democracy. It is disheartening that in the 21st Century we witness such atrocities.
I did not know that democracy kills people with such impunity. I did not know that democracy did not respect people's shrines and monuments. I did not think that democracy instilled fear and terror in people; and produced untold misery.
As a Zimbabwean, I have to say that I will no longer be used by these two countries to fight a war that has nothing to do with improving my welfare.
The reconstruction of Iraq today is being handled by companies that benefit US politicians; e.g. Dick Cheney's former company Haliburton which got reconstruction deals in the Iraq. In addition to that reconstruction, they are now building symbols of American culture: e.g. Starbucks, MacDonald's and various movie houses showing Hollywood movies. This is not only sad public diplomacy; but is pathetic. You cannot kill a people and replace their sacred monuments with these meaningless structures, at least to the Iraqis and Afghans.
In Zimbabwe, the move is less conspicuous. There are a number of so-called "human rights activists" who have won medals from US institutions. In the last ten years, Zimbabweans have topped the list of awardees in media, human rights and other "democracy related" activities. This is part of an orchestrated onslaught on Zimbabwe - to try and discredit our institutions and our capacity to find solutions to our own problems.
I just hope Zimbabweans will see the irony in receving accolades from people who violate the rights of others and claim to be champions of democracy. I hope Zimbabweans will resist such public diplomacy stunts.
*Farai Mushayahembe is the acronym of a Zimbabwean man who served in the UK army. He is retired from the army and works as a teacher in inner London.
Labels: COLOUR REVOLUTIONS, NEOCOLONIALISM
Speech at launch of H-Metro newspaper
Webster Shamu - Speech at launch of H-Metro newspaper
Fri, 11 Sep 2009 03:30:00 +0000
THE following is the full text of the speech delivered by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, at the the launch of H-Metro, a new title in the Zimbabwe Newspapers stable on September 4, 2009:
I am delighted to be part of this happy gathering marking the launch of yet another product in the Zimpapers stable, Harare Metro/ H-Metro and of course the celebration of the fifth Anniversary of the Southern Times, itself a product of a joint venture company, NAMZIM, combining the vision of two sister Republics of Namibia and Zimbabwe in the information field.
Both events mark real growth in the information sector at a time of great challenges both for the sector and for our Southern African region.
We thus meet to celebrate defiant growth, one shaping itself under harsh circumstances and with little outside goodwill. Needless to say growth managed under harsh conditions hardens a plant for all weather and for all times. We expect no less from these two developments.
I have had occasion to look at dummies of H-Metro. From the editorial focus and the quality of journalism which the dummies promise, I have no doubt in my mind that H-Metro will be a winner. Zimpapers has identified a niche which this popular tabloid is set to occupy and, I am sure, set to dominate when competition eventually comes. It is a niche to do with the popular in our townships, encompassing the full gamut of popular activities (politics, social and cultural issues, sport, etc, etc), all treated for easy and light reading but from a position of hard facts, honesty and human sympathy.
The great temptation with this niche in the publishing industry is to push for sensation at the expense of truth, accuracy, fairness and balance.
Always remember that beneath the sleaze and sensation is a human being susceptible to hurt, injury and suffering. Yes, always remember that beneath those circulation statistics and healthy sales are lives that are either edified or ruined. Journalism cannot be about any sales, any stories, any slant, and still claim the status of a whole Fourth Estate counterbalancing the three other Estates which have to do with the way our society is organised and run.
Journalism – when all is said and done – is about serving our societies with vital information and values necessary to save and improve them. It cannot be a vehicle for profitable decadence and ruination of personalities. This is the balance which Zimpapers is now being called upon to establish and maintain, particularly given the niche it is now about to enter.
Elsewhere on the continent, newspaper enterprises in which governments have a stake have not done well. Not so in Zimbabwe where Zimpapers continues to rule the roost. As the minister responsible, I am very happy that this is so. I hope Zimpapers maintains its market leadership founded on commercial soundness and the need to serve all with information while defending the national interest.
My predecessors, starting with the founding Minister of Information of Independent Zimbabwe, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, wisely kept Zimbabwe Newspapers a public company quoted on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
Through the dominant shareholding in a public quoted company whose core business is printing and publishing, Government sought the rigour of the market as a funding formulae. I stress this point because there is quite a disturbing misconception – politically self-serving in some respect – to suggest Zimpapers gets money from Government. It does not. It has never got money from Government since its transfer from the South African Argus Group following a take-over donation from the Federal Republic of Nigeria at Independence.
Quite the contrary, Zimpapers has given money to the State or its agencies by way of a dividend when the going is good. Let it be pronounced here that Zimpapers is not a State enterprise.
Let it be proclaimed here and now that Zimpapers is governed by rules of the Stock Exchange, never by checking institutions of government such as committees of Parliament. There is a whole Chinese Wall between Zimpapers and wholly State-owned media companies like Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, New Ziana, etc, etc/which run on public funds. While Government is the major shareholder, Zimpapers has an equally compelling obligation to many other shareholders.
This habit of relating to it as if it’s a parastatal, or as if it is a Government department whose behaviour must meet with popular approval is not just mistaken and unlawful, but seems measured to incapacitate and hurt Zimpapers ahead of competition we see gathering on the horizon. Let Zimpapers fail in the market through fair competition. Let it not be failed through unprofessional interference done in the name of legislative oversight.
That the State has a largest shareholding in Zimpapers does not justify undue pressure to it. What is more, why is it that the pressure is only concentrated on the publishing arm of Zimpapers, never in its other areas of activity, if the interest is sincere and balanced?
And why is that interest in the editorial side not extending to many other publishers in the country whose conduct should meet expectations of the Global Political Agreement? Are public hearings set for these publishers as well? Why this appearance of selective treatment? I hope those concerned will avoid such mistakes in future, if mistakes there have been. Equally, I hope arms of Parliament are also clear that their entry into Ministries is not through the backdoor or by stealth.
Often invitations to organs that are under given ministries are done behind ministry leadership who then only get informed either just before or well after the event. This does not make for a healthy working relationship. Committees of Parliament are not instruments for inquisitions or witch-hunt. Rather, they are mechanisms for improving management of public affairs and resources.
There is a way of doing this in a procedural way, without appearing to be encouraging insubordination, conflict, or confusion in Ministries and parastatals.
Since the launch of the Inclusive Government, I, as minister in charge of Media, Information and Publicity have been concerned at an incipient media outlook which appears to be solidifying in certain sections of the Inclusive Government.
There is an attempt to encourage a perception that the GPA is for the “public’’ media only, whatever is meant by that. To begin with, all media, regardless of ownership, are public. Publishing is one industry whose products are public by definition, and hence the tradition of placing the media under laws or values/ethics which come under public scrutiny.
Products of publishers fall under the domain of ‘mass communication’’, which is essentially a public role with clear public consequences. This is the basic understanding of media laws and regulations the whole world over.
In its search for settlement, harmony and stability, GPA addressed the areas of public communication to the extent that this area makes or breaks public political processes. It is very even-handed in its demands and expectations which apply to all media focusing in and on Zimbabwe.
The notion that the burden of meeting the expectations of GPA reside in that part of the media sector which falls under Government influence, is clearly mistaken if genuine, or mischievous if politically motivated. The requirement to refrain from hate language is a standard requirement for all media, for all publishers regardless of who owns them.
The requirement to respect facts is inherent to ethics of journalism; regardless of in whose favour an editorial policy is weighted. Yes, the call to support a nascent and fragile political experiment which is what the Inclusive Government is, is a call to all regardless of ownership.
But it is not an insurance against legitimate criticisms. It is not an invitation to abandon the defence of the National Interest which must be uppermost in every newsroom. Times shall come – assuming they have not already – when best support and defence of the Inclusive Government is not a supine posture, is not by being a chorister in a mindless hymn of unconditional praise of anything in the name of the Inclusive Government. No!
Support for the Inclusive Government does not mean condonation of all done under it or in its name. I hate to think that my role as Minister of Media, Information and Publicity is to beat back editors and journalists from obvious facts, and even more obvious questions, all in the name of fulfilling the GPA and protecting the Inclusive Government.
What is worse, I cannot be associated with a push to create space for the BBC and CNN here while at the same time denying the same to the Herald, the Independent, the Financial Gazette, The Standard etc, etc. The Zimbabwe story must be witnessed, written and reported on by Zimbabweans. That is our duty which we give to no other media. This habit of defending abridgement of media freedom in the name of GPA must stop.
Equally, what must also stop is the continuing situation where some parties in the GPA continue to aid and abet illegal, extraterritorial pirate broadcasts which violate our sovereignty in the name of media freedoms. The GPA the often quoted GPA – disallows this as gross external interference in the affairs of our country.
These stations – all of them sited in countries that have slapped Zimbabwe with sanctions – are a violation of the GPA.
To the extent that they persist well into the Inclusive Government, they amount to an outstanding matter which must be addressed by those who needed them, indeed created and legitimised them in the name of struggling for their own brand of democracy here.
That struggle has now been accommodated in the Inclusive Government, so why not do the right thing by stopping this horrible interference? To then make a case for a liberalisation of the airwaves under conditions of persistent and even enlarging challenge to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, is to be grossly insincere. Let us examine our obligations squarely and fairly.
Last month the ministry, as part of its ongoing programme of reviewing media laws, practices and structures, cleared the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) of any legal impediments for eventual registration.
That action which derived from a Special Committee created by my predecessor at the behest of a High Court Ruling, does not amount to registration of ANZ so it resumes publishing within the law. That will have to be done elsewhere.
My ministry does not register publishers. Equally, my ministry will not condone the breaking of the law. This same position we have communicated to ZimInd, another publisher intent on joining the industry. We are for the growth of this vital sub-sector. We hope the current problems and issues of a legal nature deriving from an interim court judgment, will be resolved so the industry can grow.
We have in our midst guests from Namibia. I want to welcome them in a very special way. Not long ago, I was in Namibia and had wonderful discussions with my counterpart and his deputy. NAMZIM and its child, the Southern Times, expresses a determination by our two Governments to deepen and expand relations beyond historical and political foundations. The two sister countries are one on many matters. We need to validate this oneness in our small way.
But NAMZIM and the Southern Times is a correct reading of the world situation. In terms of the global management and flow of information, we in the South are information underdogs. We are the reported on, the objects of global news whose voices shall never be heard, shall never shape news and information.
This is why the story is always told at our expense, indeed at the expense of our nations. But there is a way out of this editorial entrapment, which is itself a manifestation of greater and wider political entrapment. The way out is through combinations. We must pool resources and efforts to found platforms from which to speak and proclaim our own stories, values and interests.
Thank God, technology now makes publishing placeless. We should exploit that technological reality to create formidable multinational, pan-African multimedia response which allows us to strike back at detractors. NAMZIM is only the beginning. The ultimate goal is to grow this small seed into a Southern African media project that balances information on the region.
We dare not fail in this project whose time has come. As co-operating ministers, we have undertaken to realise this dream by taking the project to other Sadc members. We are determined. All of you who are on the NAMZIM board and management must thus realise our two nations have reposed in you this hallowed vision.
Do not betray it.
It now gives me singular pleasure to launch this double barrelled celebration marking the launch of H-Metro and the fifth anniversary of the Southern Times.
I thank you.
Labels: HARARE METRO NEWSPAPER, MEDIA, WEBSTER SHAMU
PM Tsvangirai, what are restrictive measures?
Fri, 11 Sep 2009 04:21:00 +0000
A Zimbabwe Guardian reader commented: "MDC-T flip flops are now the stuff of legends. On one hand, the leadership of that party, i.e. secretary general Tendai Biti is on record saying that sanctions are real and are preventing Zimbabwe from accessing lines of credits and loans from the IMF/World Bank.
On the other hand, you have party president, Morgan Tsvangirai saying there are only 'restrictive measures' in place. Worse still you have the likes of minister of state from the MDC-T party, Gorden Moyo denying the existence of sanctions. "
In March this year, a report came out of the inclusive Government saying a ministerial task force had been formed to engage the European Union "over sanctions." The task force headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi comprises representatives of all the parties to the inclusive Government who are members of Cabinet.
The MDC-T party is represented by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, while the MDC-M party is represented by Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube.
Again in March, minister Mumbengengwi said a Council of Ministers meeting headed by PM Tsvangirai, had noted that it would be difficult to mobilise resources to support Zimbabwe’s economic recovery programme while the sanctions were still in place.
It is ironic that in Cabinet MDC-T ministers agree that there are sanctions against Zimbabwe. They also agreed, in the Global Political Agreement to which they appended their various signatures, that sanctions against Zimbabwe do exist and are responsible for the suffering of millions of Zimbabweans.
Whether one decides to call them sanctions, restrictive measures, or targetted sanctions, is not the issue. They are sanctions, nevertheless.
When did the term 'targetted sanctions' change to 'restrictive measures'? Since President Barack Obama called them restrictive measures when he renewed the notorious ZIDERA legislation in March this year.
President Obama said at the time: “I therefore urge the international community to recognize our efforts and to note progress in this regard, and to match our progress by moving toward the removal of restrictive measures.”
Since then, the MDC-T party has adopted the same term. Seems ironic that PM Tsvangirai started to use that term soon after his visit to the White House.
It doesn't surprise anyone when President Obama uses these terms. He is trying to tone down the language of his predecessor George W Bush, who made the world hate America. President Obama replaced the term 'war on terrorism' with 'war on extremism'; yet he is basically still saying the same thing as GW Bush.
The MDC-T party is now in the hands of yet another US administration and have to play to the tune of yet another US president. This is why their task in Zimbabwe becomes difficult.
As a party, they cannot speak with one voice because they do not have one voice, or agenda, or ideology. This is why Sadc cannot take them seriously. What exactly do they represent in the wider scheme of things on the African continent?
By saying that there are no sanctions, and yet admitting that there are 'restrictive measures', the MDC-T party is exposing its hypocrisy and ignorance. What exactly are these restrictive measures? What do they restrict? Why did they replace 'targeted sanctions' with 'restrictive measures'? Are they remote-controlled by someone? That party's behaviour indeed smacks of an organisation that is struggling to find an identity, a purpose; given the hotch-potch of interests and characters that constitute it.
Labels: MORGAN TSVANGIRAI