Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swazi anger at prince's HIV exaggeration claim

COMMENT - The King and his adviser are completely correct. National HIV infection rates in Africa are massively exaggerated for several purposes, but mainly for big farma to make lots of money. The claimed HIV infection rates are not reflected in the population growth rate, as they never are in Africa. No accurate national HIV infection rate will be known, until a DHS survey using Western Blot confirmation tests will be used. Until then, all HIV figures for Swaziland are overestimates.

(IrrinNews) SWAZILAND: New survey shows much lower HIV infection among youth

(Washington Post) How AIDS in Africa Was Overstated
Reliance on Data From Urban Prenatal Clinics Skewed Early Projections
By Craig Timberg - Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 6, 2006

Estimates on HIV called too high
- New data cut rates for many nations
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff | June 20, 2004

Swaziland Population:

1976 494,534
1986 681,059
1997 929,718

Swazi anger at prince's HIV exaggeration claim
By BBC News
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 11:30 CAT

Aids activists in Swaziland have criticised a top adviser to King Mswati III for saying the country's HIV epidemic is being exaggerated for the benefit of pharmaceutical firms.

Prince Mangaliso said public awareness campaigns against HIV amounted to little more than scare tactics. He added that male circumcision was no more a preventative measure than bathing after sexual intercourse. Swaziland For Positive Living told the BBC the remarks were "irresponsible".

According to UNAids, Swaziland - Africa's last absolute monarchy - has one of the highest levels of HIV infections in the world, with a prevalence rate of 26 per cent in the adult population.

'Bad example'

"The prince he has just exhibited high standards of ignorance," Tengetile Hlophe, a co-ordinator of the charity Swaziland For Positive Living, told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

She said that statistics could not lie and that 42.6 per cent of pregnant women in kingdom were infected with HIV.

"Male circumcision is scientifically proven to lessen the risk," she added.

Trials in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa have shown that the operation reduces by 60 per cent the risk of a man contracting HIV - the virus that causes Aids.

Prince Mangaliso, who chairs the king's advisory council, made the remarks in an interview published in Swaziland's Times newspaper.

He told the paper he was "not scared of HIV".

Ms Hlophe said that his attitude was setting a bad example.

"I think he should apologise to the Swazi nation," she said.

Forty-two-year-old King Mswati, who has 13 wives, has also come in for criticism from aids campaigners for sending the wrong message to his subjects by promoting polygamy.

From the Swaziland DHS:

Swaziland Demographic And Health Survey 2006-2007


The population census is the major source of historical demographic data. The first detailed population census was conducted in 1966 and since then, censuses have been conducted every ten years, i.e., 1986, 1997, and 2007. Table 1.1 shows that in 1976 the population of Swaziland was about half a million. Two decades later in 1997, the population had almost doubled. The high growth rate of the population is brought about by high fertility and declining mortality levels. According to the 1997 Population and Housing Census, life expectancy at birth is 60 years.

Swaziland population:

1997 929,718
2007 1,018,449

1. Spatial Distribution of the Population and Urbanization
Population Growth of Swaziland, 1904-2007

(2007) 1,300,000

(Source: US Census,, Swaziland, 2007)

Someone is playing Statistricks with the population of Swaziland. It is not only odd that the DHS in Swaziland in 2007 puts the population in 2007 at 1 million, but that the US Census bureau puts their population in the same year at 1.3 million.

It is also odd that the DHS in Swaziland has put equal importance on 'reducing fertiliy' (population control) and the 'massive HIV/AIDS epidemic' that they say afflicts 26% of the adult population. Why is controlling fertility important in a population that is being 'decimated' by HIV/AIDS?

Unless there are other agendas being played out. The DHS is a representative sample of the general population, far more so than the Antenatal Clinic Surveys of pregnant women at antenatal clinics. But that does not mean it is not open to manipulation, ill will or ulterior motives and agendas.

If the Swaziland census was correct about the 1997 population, and the US Census Bureau is correct about the 2007 population, then the population of Swaziland grew from 929,718 (1997) to 1,300,000 (2007) in ten years, which means they grew 39.9% in 10 years.

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Our judiciary and criticism

Our judiciary and criticism
By The Editor
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 04:00 CAT

We cannot call others to virtues which we ourselves do not make an effort to practice.

It is very easy to accept criticism and defend it when it is targeted at other people and act very differently when the same is aimed at oneself. But let’s allow dignity and decorum, courage and manliness, spirit and honesty to take the floor. Let criticism of defects be a constant and be directed at all alike.

If we have shortcomings, we should not be afraid to have them pointed out and criticised, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we should correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we should act upon it. We should allow ourselves to be taught by mistakes and setbacks. We will become wiser and handle our affairs better if we open ourselves to criticism and allow it to flourish. It is hard for anyone to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible. Once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly, the better.

But there is a difference between a mistake and deliberate action. It is much easier to accept criticism of one’s mistake, a mistake that arises from oversight. But it is not that easy to accept criticism that arises from one’s deliberate action to do that which he knows is wrong and goes and does it because in one way or another, it is beneficial to him or members of his league.

And when it comes to criticism of state institutions and public officers, no one has the monopoly of doing so. All citizens have that divine right to criticise the decisions, actions and inactions of their public officers, of those who receive a salary from taxpayers’ contributions. Every taxpayer is a master of every public officer who receives a salary from his taxes. And here there can be no special qualification for one to be allowed to criticise public officers. And we should remind ourselves of the views that were expressed on this score by Queen Elizabeth: “No section of the community has all the virtues, neither does any have all the vices. I am quite sure that most people try to do their jobs as best as they can, even if the result is not always entirely successful. He who has never failed to reach perfection has a right to be the harshest critic. There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution – city, monarchy, whatever – should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don’t”.

And it doesn’t matter whether one is a president, a priest, a judge or magistrate, a king or a chief, an editor or reporter of a newspaper – all should accept to be subjected to criticism because criticism is good for public institutions and individuals. We did not say that criticism is nice, we said it is good. It is not pleasant to be criticised but it is necessary. Criticism can be very painful and can cause sleepless nights. If one is honest with oneself, one will try to examine every criticism and try to find out what earned them that criticism and whether it is valid or not. If criticism is valid, it should be made without delay.

An honest and humble reflection over criticism that we receive would teach us something regardless of the intention of a critic. There is something to be learnt by listening to others, not just those who make sense. Even those who don’t make sense need to be listened to because their nonsense might teach us what to avoid if we do not want to become nonsensical like them.

It doesn’t make sense to let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled criticism because the person involved is an old acquaintance, a fellow tribesman or townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. It doesn’t also make sense to touch on the matter slightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the institutions and the individual are harmed if criticism is withheld for any of such reasons.

It doesn’t make sense to let things drift simply because they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek to avoid blame. It doesn’t make sense to indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggling against incorrect views for the sake of unity. It doesn’t make sense to hear incorrect views without rebutting them, but instead to take them calmly as if nothing has happened. It is betrayal to see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue. And it doesn’t also make sense to be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them, taking a liberal attitude towards oneself.

We accept that it is not hard for one to do a bit of good. What is hard is to do good all one’s life and never do anything bad, to act consistently in the interest of the great masses and to engage in a arduous struggle for decades on end. That is the hardest thing of all. And we should bear all this in mind when we make criticism of others.

We ourselves are not strangers to criticism. We are criticised and sometimes very strongly and unfairly so by people who come to us asking us to convey their views and their news. We cover them and on some occasions use our right to defend ourselves in our comments. With that experience, we know that criticism is rarely a nice thing. But we have learnt that it is always good for our institutions and ourselves as individuals. We say this bearing in mind that criticism forces the criticised to stop, think and reflect on what is being said. This constant reflection is what results into growth and improvement - and can also act, and it should do so, as an effective engine for change of behavior.

Some of our people may feel that commenting on what we consider the grave errors and unbecoming practices that have beset the judiciary is wrong. We do not agree. We, like all our people, have a duty to communicate the truth of our feelings and observations to those that exercise public functions on our behalf. The judiciary is not an exception and should not be. We understand that our brothers and sisters who perform those very difficult functions may not always appreciate criticism of their decisions and conduct. But that is not the point. They are not criticised so that they accept and appreciate the criticism. We don’t expect them to enjoy the criticism and praise their critics. But the truth is, we will do ourselves, the nation and even themselves a great disservice if we joined in a conspiracy of silence when things are going horribly wrong. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it was this same critical spirit that helped bring out the corruption and abuses of office by the former chief justice Matthew Ngulube. Ngulube was drinking from a poisoned chalice of Frederick Chiluba. And knowing what we now know, can anyone expect the Zambian people to accept the favourable decisions Chiluba got from Ngulube and those who were under his supervision and direction? The judiciary, like all other institutions of our state and civil society, is not run by angels who don’t need to be checked or to be corrected.

What is unfortunate about this whole Chiluba matter, is that, whether the judiciary like it or not, they are on trial. At the time that the offences that Chiluba is facing in court were being committed, Ngulube, the then Chief Justice of our country, was on Chiluba’s corrupt payroll. It could be said, with some justification, that Chiluba had the judiciary in his pocket. This is the difficult matter that the judiciary has to face. When we criticise, we always have in mind a troubled feeling that this very important institution of our country has been discredited and disgraced. We cannot do without a good judiciary because that is a recipe for anarchy. In the situation where we find ourselves, those who run the judiciary need to do more to restore the dignity of this very important state institution. We are worried because we observe a certain naivety, if not carelessness and arrogance about the way the judiciary is viewing the public incredulity. If the judiciary was listening more to the criticism, they might realise that those that are criticising them are not malicious but have legitimate basis for distrusting their own judiciary. How many chief justices in the Commonwealth have had to step down because of receiving bribes? There is a crisis of confidence surrounding the relationship between the judiciary and the presidency. And this is not without cause.

Against this background, one needs to understand why decisions of our courts are being held to a much higher level of scrutiny than would probably be the case. Moreover, what has the judiciary done to repair or mitigate the damage done to its credibility by Chiluba? This is the judiciary whose standing was brought down by Chiluba and it is still today being pushed deeper and deeper into discredit by the same Chiluba. What does our judiciary owe Chiluba? We would like to believe that they owe him nothing, except justice like all of us.

But this apparently careless approach to cases that have done more damage to the judiciary than can ever be calculated is a worrying indication of naivety.

Our people are not criticising the judiciary because they don’t want to respect them, the criticism is because there are a lot of things that do not appear right in our judiciary. The judiciary would do well to dispassionately analyse all the criticism. It might do them some good.



Executive, judiciary not stood by Levy’s vision – Patrick

Executive, judiciary not stood by Levy’s vision – Patrick
By Kombe Chimpinde
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 04:02 CAT

THE executive and the judiciary have not stood by what Levy Mwanawasa stood for, Patrick Mwanawasa has charged. In an interview with Post Online after his late father’s second memorial, Patrick observed that the main arm of the government had not fought and stood firm in the fight against corruption, which his father strongly believed in.

“You see in terms of the issue of corruption I cannot say it’s just not about one arm of the government. I think I would say that the executive and the judiciary have both not stood and fought for what the great man stood for,” Patrick said.

“I know we should allow for different people to take up leadership as this is part of any democratic dispensation. But what is unfortunate is that when Levy was around they those in the current government were the ones who were in agreement with him and what he stood for, but now they have gone in the opposite direction.“

Patrick said coincidentally, the Lusaka High Court’s decision to dismiss an application to register the London judgment which found former president Frederick Chiluba and others guilty of embezzling public funds came shortly before his father’s memorial, a man who relentlessly fought against corruption.

“We keep on using August 19 to bury bad news because if you remember even last year Dr Frederick Chiluba was acquitted on the eve of August 19 last year. The registration of the London judgment has been thrown out during the same period and we really don't understand the motive behind all this,” he said.

“It’s so unfortunate that what we Zambians were supposed to achieve when the big man was alive has been abandoned. But as a youth I'm still optimistic that things in future are going to change. What is more important is that the people of Zambia are inspired and more determined to make Zambia a better place and for me this will not start from our leaders but it must start from house to house.”

Patrick said he had not lost hope over what his father intended to achieve.

However, Patrick reminded Zambians that they ought to respect the incumbent President, Rupiah Banda, saying peace and unity were inevitable for democracy to survive.

And in her speech during the second memorial service for Mwanawasa, former first lady Maureen shared what he had recorded as his last message to the nation as part of his will.

In the statement recorded on March 23, 2005, Mwanawasa regretted that he had lost close friends because of his fight against corruption.

He explained that his campaign against corruption was not driven by malice but the desire to improve people’s lives.

“I believed that national development could only be sustained if good governance, respect for the rule of law and democracy were encouraged and not taken for granted. To spur these virtues, the fight against corruption had to be waged relentlessly and without treating anybody as a sacred cow,” Mwanawasa said.

“I regret that in my zeal to facilitate this fight, I lost friendship with a number of some of my best friends, and at many times my own life and that of my family members were threatened. I want to assure the nation that no malice or ill will was intended in these initiatives.”

He said his fight against corruption was purely driven by his love for the country and the urgent need to transform it from poverty to prosperity and that he had always been grieved to see so much poverty, hopelessness and anguish in the faces of the children.

Mwanawasa said, in the broadcast, “I do hope that the party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, can continue with this vision for our nation pursuing the fight of zero tolerance to corruption ... It is my desire that all future governments will continue to wage this fight. If in my endeavours to provide only the best for my country I offended some of my compatriots, all I can ask is that they should find a place in their hearts to forgive me as no deliberate intentions to harm their feelings without just cause was intended.”

Mwanawasa said he was grateful for the opportunity he was given to serve as Republican president, a privilege he cherished up to his death.

“To those who attended my funeral and to those who mourned with my family, I say I am extremely grateful to all of you. I am certain that I speak on behalf of my family that their burden had thereby been lightened.”

Mwanawasa died on August 19, 2008 at Percy Military Hospital in Paris, France where he had been evacuated after suffering a stroke while attending an African Union (AU) summit in Egypt.

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Rampant abuse of resources justifies retaining ‘abuse of office’ clause - NGOCC

Rampant abuse of resources justifies retaining ‘abuse of office’ clause - NGOCC
By Chibaula Silwamba
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 04:01 CAT

THE Auditor General’s revelation of rampant abuse of public resources in parastatals justifies the public’s demands to retain the abuse of office clause in the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Act, Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) executive director Engwase Mwale said yesterday.

Commenting on the Auditor General’s report that revealed financial irregularities of over K1 trillion with 95 per cent being non remittance of statutory contributions, Mwale said there was need to strengthen the ACC to curb siphoning of public resources.

“At the pace that our country is going in terms of reported fraudulent activities especially in parastatal institutions, it is alarming and very detrimental to the development of our country. It is important that the government must prioritise the work of the Anti Corruption Commission,” Mwale said.

“In this vein we want to reiterate that the provision of the abuse of office is quite an important part of the (ACC) Act. Government maneuvers to remove this particular clause will be taking our country backward especially looking at what is being reported in the Auditor General’s report that people are rampantly abusing their offices in terms of siphoning of resources from public institutions.”

She said it was for that reason that the abuse of office clause should be strengthened to provide policy mechanism to improve upon the accountability of public offices.

Mwale queried parastals’ failure to remit taxes to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), pensions and insurance bodies.

“When individuals or privates companies are not paying up their taxes these institutions ZRA are quite active in pursuing the divisions but it is so surprising that similar energies are not being shown in order to pursue these parastatals and public institutions when they are not paying up their tax remittance,” Mwale said.

“It is important that government must ensure that there is equity when it comes to tax remittances and pension contributions so that at the end of the day all individuals are held accountable but also equally benefit.”

She said it was unfair to see individuals fined heavy penalties for delays to remit taxes or pension contributions.

She said the cash flow problems of pensions and insurance bodies emanate from parastatal institutions that were not paying their dues.

“The revelations by the Auditor General’s report with regards to public institutions and parastatals make sad reading for us as NGOCC,” she said.

Mwale said the civil society had demanded that the governments back the Task Force on Corruption with the law but the government decided to make it a loose body.

She said the fact that the Task Force on Corruption was not legalized, it might not have had policy mechanism of expenditure hence the reports about failure to properly manage public funds.

Mwale also expressed concern about the government’s failure to make follow ups on the revelations of the Auditor General’s report.

“We, therefore, call upon the government to overhaul the entire public and parastatal management especially in the use of public funds,” said Mwale.

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Rupiah has instilled fear in the judiciary – Sata

Rupiah has instilled fear in the judiciary – Sata
By George Chellah
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 04:01 CAT

PF leader Michael Sata yesterday said President Rupiah Banda’s administration has instilled a lot of fear in the judiciary.

Reacting to chief government spokesperson Lt Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha’s statement that the government will not appeal against Lusaka High Court judge Evans Hamaundu’s ruling on the registration of the London judgment, Sata observed that President Banda’s government was embarrassing the judiciary.

“There is no one undermining the judiciary apart from the government itself. In fact, the judiciary has been over-undermined by Rupiah and his government, that’s why they are saying don’t appeal against the ruling,” Sata said.

“But their position on these matters is understood because how do you expect this government to appeal against such decisions?”

He said President Banda’s administration was not helping the judiciary in any way.

“There is so much fear in the judiciary at the moment. Rupiah’s government has instilled so much fear in the judiciary, which is very sad. Our men and women in the judiciary are working with a government which does not support them,” Sata said.

“They are working with a government which is determined to publicly humiliate them to our people. I honestly sympathise with our men and women in the judiciary. This government would like to go with the judiciary as far as they can so long as it makes decisions in its favour. They know that as long as the judiciary makes decisions in favour of the government, Rupiah will be very happy.”

He said it was clear that President Banda’s government had no regard for the country’s judicial processes.

“Just from disgraced Shikapwasha’s statement you can see that they are determined to completely run down the judiciary. How can Shikapwasha say that they will not appeal against this judgment?” Sata asked.

“Isn’t that embarrassing for the country to have a government that is more than willing to publicly make such statements? They are doing things with impunity.
“But tell them that we know that they have now run out of lies to tell our people on these matters. So the best they should do is to openly suspend the entire appeal process. Let them scrap it off because these people have no shame and it appears they would really love to see the appeal process suspended or removed.”

He said no Zambian takes President Banda’s government seriously on matters of governance and the rule of law.

“Disgraced Shikapwasha is just wasting his time to justify the unjustifiable. Whenever he opens his mouth, Zambians know what to expect,” said Sata.

On Thursday, Lt Gen Shikapwasha said the government had no intention of appealing against judge Hamaundu’s ruling on Chiluba.

Lt Gen Shikapwasha said the government had more important things to pursue than appeal the matter and subsequently undermine the work of the judiciary.

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Changwe must face consequences of her actions – Mulafulafu

Changwe must face consequences of her actions – Mulafulafu
By George Chellah
Sat 21 Aug. 2010, 04:01 CAT

CARITAS Zambia executive director Sam Mulafulafu yesterday said gender deputy minister Lucy Changwe must be compelled to face the consequences of her actions. Commenting on the delay by the police to arrest and prosecute Changwe for bouncing a cheque amounting to K10 million, Mulafulafu described the situation as baffling.

“It seems there is reluctance to deal with the matter. A precedent has been set by a court in Ndola,” Mulafulafu said.

“But now here is a case with merit but we are not seeing similar effort to bring her to book for willfully bouncing a cheque. Changwe should be compelled to face the consequences of her actions.”

He condemned the manner in which the George Mpombo case was handled.

“There are double standards being set. And we are more and more losing faith in our courts of law. The Mpombo case was manipulated, it was used to enhance political fights,” Mulafulafu said.

“A cheque was withdrawn so all those issues were supposed to have been taken into account.”

He said Changwe’s case casts a dark cloud on the country’s rule of law.

“Some of us have long lost faith in the courts of law. The application of the law has not been fair. There has been no consistence. Everybody can clearly see including an illiterate person,” said Mulafulafu.

“And it’s dangerous if people lose faith in the courts of law because they will take things into their own hands and that can be a recipe for anarchy. There has been abuse of the courts of law especially by politicians.”

Changwe, who is also Mkushi North MMD member of parliament, bounced a K10 million cheque in a house purchase transaction.

Roger Musonda, the owner of the property in question has already reported the matter to police.

Musonda said he was convinced that there was a strong case against Changwe. He said he was very suspicious about the delay by police to arrest and prosecute Changwe for bouncing a cheque.

Recently, Mpombo was convicted by the magistrate’s court in Ndola on one count of issuing a cheque on an insufficiently funded account.
Mpombo was slapped with a two months jail sentence and a K4 million fine.

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(ALLAFRICA) Namibia: Be Citizen, Buy Citizen - Shaanika

Namibia: Be Citizen, Buy Citizen - Shaanika
Jana-Mari Smith
26 July 2010

The Namibian Government, and especially the Tender Board of Namibia, came under fire on Saturday for their support of foreign companies over local ones.

Taarah Shaanika, Team Namibia Board Chairperson, accused Government, and in particular the Tender Board, of being the "biggest culprits" for giving the big jobs to foreign companies and denying local companies opportunities within the country's borders. He said "by keeping the dollar local, you can create jobs."

Shaanika said it was logical that Namibian companies "cannot compete with the Chinese" companies when it comes to offering prices, but that it is crucial "promote and support" local companies and enable them to create a local and export market.

"Do you want cheap or do you want to create jobs?" he asked, challenging Government "to make up their minds". "Are we serious about job creation?" he asked.

Shaanika, who is also the CEO of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was speaking frankly at a gala Team Namibia's launch of its third directory on Saturday night.

Dr Elijah Ngurare, Swapo Youth League Secretary, one of Team Namibia's chosen six 'Friends of Team Namibia', a flagship campaign launched this year, supported Shaanika's opinion and demanded that Government, and the Tender Board, where possible, be given to local companies.

"Let us rather empower our own people first. Be Namibian, buy Namibian", he demanded.

Dr Christina Swart-Opperman, another selected 'Friend of Team Namibia' added to the argument when she said that she believes "passionately" in the support of local companies.

She said it was critical, and up to the leaders of Namibia, to show trust in local products as this can "impact the future ... these initiatives give every Namibian the chance to become a nation builder."

Swart-Opperman suggested that joining Team Namibia, which provides a platform for local companies to stimulate demand and services, should be seen as part of every company's corporate social responsibility policy.

Yanna Erasmus, Team Namibia's general manager, said efforts to promote Namibian products require more than advertising and the guarantee of quality.

"They require a firm and unwavering sense of patriotism ..." she said.

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Our Good Earth
The future rests on the soil beneath our feet.
By Charles C. Mann

On a warm September day, farmers from all over the state gather around the enormous machines. Combines, balers, rippers, cultivators, diskers, tractors of every variety—all can be found at the annual Wisconsin Farm Technology Days show.

But the stars of the show are the great harvesters, looming over the crowd. They have names like hot rods—the Claas Jaguar 970, the Krone BiG X 1000—and are painted with colors bright as fireworks. The machines weigh 15 tons apiece and have tires tall as a tall man.

When I visited Wisconsin Farm Technology Days last year, John Deere was letting visitors test its 8530 tractor, an electromechanical marvel so sophisticated that I had no idea how to operate it. Not to worry: The tractor drove itself, navigating by satellite. I sat high and happy in the air-conditioned bridge, while beneath my feet vast wheels rolled over the earth.

The farmers grin as they watch the machines thunder through the cornfields. In the long run, though, they may be destroying their livelihoods. Midwestern topsoil, some of the finest cropland in the world, is made up of loose, heterogeneous clumps with plenty of air pockets between them. Big, heavy machines like the harvesters mash wet soil into an undifferentiated, nigh impenetrable slab—a process called compaction. Roots can't penetrate compacted ground; water can't drain into the earth and instead runs off, causing erosion. And because compaction can occur deep in the ground, it can take decades to reverse. Farm-equipment companies, aware of the problem, put huge tires on their machines to spread out the impact. And farmers are using satellite navigation to confine vehicles to specific paths, leaving the rest of the soil untouched. Nonetheless, this kind of compaction remains a serious issue—at least in nations where farmers can afford $400,000 harvesters.

Unfortunately, compaction is just one, relatively small piece in a mosaic of interrelated problems afflicting soils all over the planet. In the developing world, far more arable land is being lost to human-induced erosion and desertification, directly affecting the lives of 250 million people. In the first—and still the most comprehensive—study of global soil misuse, scientists at the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC) in the Netherlands estimated in 1991 that humankind has degraded more than 7.5 million square miles of land. Our species, in other words, is rapidly trashing an area the size of the United States and Canada combined.

This year food shortages, caused in part by the diminishing quantity and quality of the world's soil (see "Dirt Poor"), have led to riots in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 2030, when today's toddlers have toddlers of their own, 8.3 billion people will walk the Earth; to feed them, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, farmers will have to grow almost 30 percent more grain than they do now. Connoisseurs of human fecklessness will appreciate that even as humankind is ratchetting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before. "Taking the long view, we are running out of dirt," says David R. Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Journalists sometimes describe unsexy subjects as MEGO: My eyes glaze over. Alas, soil degradation is the essence of MEGO. Nonetheless, the stakes—and the opportunities—could hardly be higher, says Rattan Lal, a prominent soil scientist at Ohio State University. Researchers and ordinary farmers around the world are finding that even devastated soils can be restored. The payoff, Lal says, is the chance not only to fight hunger but also to attack problems like water scarcity and even global warming. Indeed, some researchers believe that global warming can be slowed significantly by using vast stores of carbon to reengineer the world's bad soils. "Political stability, environmental quality, hunger, and poverty all have the same root," Lal says. "In the long run, the solution to each is restoring the most basic of all resources, the soil."

When I met Zhang Liubao in his village in central China last fall, he was whacking the eroded terraces of his farm into shape with a shovel—something he'd been doing after every rain for more than 40 years. In the 1960s, Zhang had been sent to the village of Dazhai, 200 miles to the east, to learn the Dazhai Way—an agricultural system China's leaders believed would transform the nation. In Dazhai, Zhang told me proudly, "China learned everything about how to work the land." Which is true, but not, alas, in the way Zhang intended.

Dazhai is in a geological anomaly called the Loess Plateau. For eon upon eon winds have swept across the deserts to the west, blowing grit and sand into central China. The millennia of dust fall have covered the region with vast heaps of packed silt—loess, geologists call it—some of them hundreds of feet deep. China's Loess Plateau is about the size of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined. For centuries the silt piles have been washing away into the Yellow River—a natural process that has exacerbated, thanks to the Dazhai Way, into arguably the worst soil erosion problem in the world.

After floods ravaged Dazhai in 1963, the village's Communist Party secretary refused any aid from the state, instead promising to create a newer, more productive village. Harvests soared, and Beijing sent observers to learn how to replicate Dazhai's methods. What they saw was spade-wielding peasants terracing the loess hills from top to bottom, devoting their rest breaks to reading Mao Zedong's little red book of revolutionary proverbs. Delighted by their fervor, Mao bused thousands of village representatives to the settlement, Zhang among them. The atmosphere was cultlike; one group walked for two weeks just to view the calluses on a Dazhai laborer's hands. Mainly Zhang learned there that China needed him to produce grain from every scrap of land. Slogans, ever present in Maoist China, explained how to do it: Move Hills, Fill Gullies, and Create Plains! Destroy Forests, Open Wastelands! In Agriculture, Learn From Dazhai!

Zhang Liubao returned from Dazhai to his home village of Zuitou full of inspiration. Zuitou was so impoverished, he told me, that people ate just one or two good meals a year. Following Zhang's instructions, villagers fanned out, cutting the scrubby trees on the hillsides, slicing the slopes into earthen terraces, and planting millet on every newly created flat surface. Despite constant hunger, people worked all day and then lit lanterns and worked at night. Ultimately, Zhang said, they increased Zuitou's farmland by "about a fifth"—a lot in a poor place.

Alas, the actual effect was to create a vicious circle, according to Vaclav Smil, a University of Manitoba geographer who has long studied China's environment. Zuitou's terrace walls, made of nothing but packed silt, continually fell apart; hence Zhang's need to constantly shore up collapsing terraces. Even when the terraces didn't erode, rains sluiced away the nutrients and organic matter in the soil. After the initial rise, harvests started dropping. To maintain yields, farmers cleared and terraced new land, which washed away in turn.

The consequences were dire. Declining harvests on worsening soil forced huge numbers of farmers to become migrants. Partly for this reason, Zuitou lost half of its population. "It must be one of the greatest wastes of human labor in history," Smil says. "Tens of millions of people forced to work night and day on projects that a child could have seen were a terrible stupidity. Cutting down trees and planting grain on steep slopes—how could that be a good idea?"

In response, the People's Republic initiated plans to halt deforestation. In 1981 Beijing ordered every able-bodied citizen older than 11 to "plant three to five trees per year" wherever possible. Beijing also initiated what may still be the world's biggest ecological program, the Three Norths project: a 2,800-mile band of trees running like a vast screen across China's north, northeast, and northwest, including the frontier of the Loess Plateau. Scheduled to be complete in 2050, this Green Wall of China will, in theory, slow down the winds that drive desertification and dust storms.

Despite their ambitious scope, these efforts did not directly address the soil degradation that was the legacy of Dazhai. Confronting that head-on was politically difficult: It had to be done without admitting Mao's mistakes. (When I asked local officials and scientists if the "Great Helmsman" had erred, they changed the subject.) Only in the past decade did Beijing chart a new course: replacing the Dazhai Way with what might be called the Gaoxigou Way.

Gaoxigou (Gaoxi Gully) is west of Dazhai, on the other side of the Yellow River. Its 522 inhabitants live in yaodong—caves dug like martin nests into the sharp pitches around the village. Beginning in 1953, farmers marched out from Gaoxigou and with heroic effort terraced not mere hillsides but entire mountains, slicing them one after another into hundred-tier wedding cakes iced with fields of millet and sorghum and corn. In a pattern that would become all too familiar, yields went up until sun and rain baked and blasted the soil in the bare terraces.

To catch eroding loess, the village built earthen dams across gullies, intending to create new fields as they filled up with silt. But with little vegetation to slow the water, "every rainy season the dams busted," says Fu Mingxing, the regional head of education. Ultimately, he says, villagers realized that "they had to protect the ecosystem, which means the soil."

Today many of the terraces Gaoxigou laboriously hacked out of the loess are reverting to nature. In what locals call the "three-three" system, farmers replanted one-third of their land—the steepest, most erosion-prone slopes—with grass and trees, natural barriers to erosion. They covered another third of the land with harvestable orchards. The final third, mainly plots on the gully floor that have been enriched by earlier erosion, was cropped intensively. By concentrating their limited supplies of fertilizer on that land, farmers were able to raise yields enough to make up for the land they sacrificed, says Jiang Liangbiao, village head of Gaoxigou.

In 1999 Beijing announced it would deploy a Gaoxigou Way across the Loess Plateau. The Sloping Land Conversion Program—known as "grain-for-green"—directs farmers to convert most of their steep fields back to grassland, orchard, or forest, compensating them with an annual delivery of grain and a small cash payment for up to eight years. By 2010 grain-for-green could cover more than 82,000 square miles, much of it on the Loess Plateau.

But the grand schemes proclaimed in faraway Beijing are hard to translate to places like Zuitou. Provincial, county, and village officials are rewarded if they plant the number of trees envisioned in the plan, regardless of whether they have chosen tree species suited to local conditions (or listened to scientists who say that trees are not appropriate for grasslands to begin with). Farmers who reap no benefit from their work have little incentive to take care of the trees they are forced to plant. I saw the entirely predictable result on the back roads two hours north of Gaoxigou: fields of dead trees, planted in small pits shaped like fish scales, lined the roads for miles. "Every year we plant trees," the farmers say, "but no trees survive."

Some farmers in the Loess Plateau complained that the almonds they had been told to plant were now swamping the market. Others grumbled that Beijing's fine plan was being hijacked by local officials who didn't pay farmers their subsidies. Still others didn't know why they were being asked to stop growing millet, or even what the term "erosion" meant. Despite all the injunctions from Beijing, many if not most farmers were continuing to plant on steep slopes. After talking to Zhang Liubao in Zuitou, I watched one of his neighbors pulling turnips from a field so steep that he could barely stand on it. Every time he yanked out a plant, a little wave of soil rolled downhill past his feet.

Sometime in the 1970s, "Sahel" became a watchword for famine, poverty, and environmental waste. Technically, though, the name refers to the semiarid zone between the Sahara desert and the wet forests of central Africa. Until the 1950s the Sahel was thinly settled. But when a population boom began, people started farming the region more intensively. Problems were masked for a long time by an unusual period of high rainfall. But then came drought. The worst effects came in two waves—one in the early 1970s and a second, even more serious, in the early 1980s—and stretched from Mauritania on the Atlantic to Chad, halfway across Africa. More than 100,000 men, women, and children died in the ensuing famine, probably many more.

"If people had the means to leave, they left," says Mathieu Ouédraogo, a development specialist in Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation in the heart of the Sahel. "The only people who stayed here had nothing—not enough to leave."

Scientists still dispute why the Sahel transformed itself from a savanna into a badland. Suggested causes include random changes in sea-surface temperatures, air pollution that causes clouds to form inopportunely, removal of surface vegetation by farmers moving into the desert periphery—and, of course, global warming. Whatever the cause, the consequences are obvious: Hammered by hot days and harsh winds, much of the soil turns into a stone-hard mass that plant roots and rainwater cannot penetrate. A Sahelian farmer once let me hack at his millet field with a pick. It was like trying to chop up asphalt.

When the drought struck, international aid groups descended on the Sahel by the score. (Ouédraogo, for instance, directed a project for Oxfam in the part of Burkina where he had been born and raised.) Many are still there now; half the signs in Niamey, capital of neighboring Niger, seem to be announcing a new program from the United Nations, a Western government, or a private charity. Among the biggest is the Keita project, established 24 years ago by the Italian government in mountainous central Niger. Its goal: bringing 1,876 square miles of broken, barren earth—now home to 230,000 souls—to ecological, economic, and social health. Italian agronomists and engineers cut 194 miles of road through the slopes, dug 684 wells in the stony land, constructed 52 village schools, and planted more than 18 million trees. With bulldozers and tractors, workers carved 41 dams into the hills to catch water from the summer rains. To cut holes in the ground for tree planting, an Italian named Venanzio Vallerani designed and built two huge plows—"monstrous" was the descriptor used by Amadou Haya, an environmental specialist with the project. Workers hauled the machines to the bare hills, filled their bellies full of fuel, and set them to work. Roaring across the plateaus for months on end, they cut as many as 1,500 holes an hour.

Early one morning Haya took us to a rainwater-storage dam outside the village of Koutki, about 20 minutes down a rutted dirt road from Keita project headquarters. The water, spreading oasis like over several acres, was almost absurdly calm; birds were noisily in evidence. Women waded into the water to fill plastic jerry cans, their brilliant robes floating around their ankles. Twenty-five years ago Koutki was a bit player in the tragedy of the Sahel. Most of its animals had died or been eaten. There was not a scrap of green in sight. No birds sang. People survived on mouthfuls of rice from foreign charities. On the road to Koutki we met a former soldier who had helped distribute the aid. His face froze when he spoke about the starving children he had seen. Today there are barricades of trees to stop the winds, low terraces for planting trees, and lines of stone to interrupt the eroding flow of rainwater. The soil around the dam is still dry and poor, but one can imagine people making a living from it.

Budgeted at more than $100 million, however, the Keita project is expensive—Niger's per capita income, low even for the Sahel, is less than $800 a year. Keita boosters can argue that it costs two-thirds of an F-22 fighter jet. But the Sahel is vast—Niger alone is a thousand miles across. Reclaiming even part of this area would require huge sums if done by Keita methods. In consequence, critics have argued that soil-restoration efforts in the drylands are almost pointless: best turn to more promising ground.

Wrong, says Chris Reij, a geographer at VU (Free University) Amsterdam. Having worked with Sahelian colleagues for more than 30 years, Reij has come to believe that farmers themselves have beaten back the desert in vast areas. "It is one of Africa's greatest ecological success stories," he says, "a model for the rest of the world." But almost nobody outside has paid attention; if soil is MEGO, soil in Africa is MEGO squared.

In Burkina, Mathieu Ouédraogo was there from the beginning. He assembled the farmers in his area, and by 1981 they were experimenting together with techniques to restore the soil, some of them traditions that Ouédraogo had heard about in school. One of them was cordons pierreux: long lines of stones, each perhaps the size of a big fist. Snagged by the cordon, rains washing over crusty Sahelian soil pause long enough to percolate. Suspended silt falls to the bottom, along with seeds that sprout in this slightly richer environment. The line of stones becomes a line of plants that slows the water further. More seeds sprout at the upstream edge. Grasses are replaced by shrubs and trees, which enrich the soil with falling leaves. In a few years a simple line of rocks can restore an entire field.

For a time Ouédraogo worked with a farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo. Innovative and independent-minded, he wanted to stay on his farm with his three wives and 31 children. "From my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather, we were always here," he says. Sawadogo, too, laid cordons pierreux across his fields. But during the dry season he also hacked thousands of foot-deep holes in his fields—zaï, as they are called, a technique he had heard about from his parents. Sawadogo salted each pit with manure, which attracted termites. The termites digested the organic matter, making its nutrients more readily available to plants. Equally important, the insects dug channels in the soil. When the rains came, water trickled through the termite holes into the ground. In each hole Sawadogo planted trees. "Without trees, no soil," he says. The trees thrived in the looser, wetter soil in each zai. Stone by stone, hole by hole, Sawadogo turned 50 acres of wasteland into the biggest private forest for hundreds of miles.

Using the zaï, Sawadogo says, he became almost "the only farmer from here to Mali who had any millet." His neighbors, not surprisingly, noticed. Sawadogo formed a zaï association, which promotes the technique at an annual show in his family compound. Hundreds of farmers have come to watch him hack out zai with his hoe. The new techniques, simple and inexpensive, spread far and wide. The more people worked the soil, the richer it became. Higher rainfall was responsible for part of the regrowth (though it never returned to the level of the 1950s). But mostly it was due to millions of men and women intensively working the land.

Last year Reij made a thousand-mile trek across Mali and then into southwestern Burkina with Edwige Botoni, a researcher at the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, a regional policy center in Burkina. They saw "millions of hectares" of restored land, Botoni says, "more than I had believed possible." Next door in Niger is an even greater success, says Mahamane Larwanou, a forester at Abdou Moumouni Dioffo University in Niamey. Almost without any support or direction from governments or aid agencies, local farmers have used picks and shovels to regenerate more than 19,000 square miles of land.

Economics as much as ecology is key to Niger's success, Larwanou says. In the 1990s the Niger government, which distributed land in orthodox totalitarian fashion, began to let villagers have more control over their plots. People came to believe that they could invest in their land with little risk that it would be arbitrarily taken away. Combined with techniques like the zaï and cordons pierreux, land reform has helped villagers become less vulnerable to climate fluctuations. Even if there were a severe drought, Larwanou says, Nigeriens "would not feel the impact the way they did in 1973 or 1984."

Burkina Faso has not recovered as much as Niger. Sawadogo's story suggests one reason why. While villagers in Niger have gained control over their land, smallholders in Burkina still lease it, often for no charge, from landowners who can revoke the lease at the end of any term. To provide income for Burkina's cities, the central government let them annex and then sell land on their peripheries—without fairly compensating the people who already lived there. Sawadogo's village is a few miles away from Ouahigouya, a city of 64,000 people. Among the richest properties in Ouahigouya's newly annexed land was Sawadogo's forest, a storehouse of timber. Surveyors went through the property, slicing it into tenth-of-an-acre parcels marked by heavy stakes. As the original owner, Sawadogo will be allotted one parcel; his older children will also each receive land. Everything else will be sold off, probably next year. He watched helplessly as city officials pounded a stake in his bedroom floor. Another lot line cut through his father's grave. Today Yacouba Sawadogo is trying to find enough money to buy the forest in which he has invested his life. Because he has made the land so valuable, the price is impossibly high: about $20,000. Meanwhile, he tends his trees. "I have enough courage to hope," he says.

Wim Sombroek learned about soil as a child, during the hongerwinter—the Dutch wartime famine of 1944-45, in which 20,000 or more people died. His family survived on the harvest from a minute plot of plaggen soil: land enriched by generations of careful fertilization. If his ancestors hadn't taken care of their land, he once told me, the whole family might have died.

In the 1950s, early in his career as a soil scientist, Sombroek journeyed to Amazonia. To his amazement, he found pockets of rich, fertile soil. Every Ecology 101 student knows that Amazonian rain forest soils are fragile and impoverished. If farmers cut down the canopy of trees overhead to clear cropland, they expose the earth to the pummeling rain and sun, which quickly wash away its small store of minerals and nutrients and bake what remains into something resembling brick—a "wet desert," as these ruined areas are sometimes called. The certainty of wrecking the land, environmentalists argue, makes large-scale agriculture impossible in the tropics. Nevertheless, scattered along the Amazon River, Sombroek discovered big patches of (black Indian earth). As lush and dark as the plaggen of his childhood, it formed a rich base for agriculture in a land where it was not supposed to exist. Naturally, Sombroek paid attention. His 1966 book, Amazon Soils, included the first sustained study of terra preta.

Later Sombroek worked across the globe, eventually becoming director of ISRIC and secretary general of the International Society of Soil Science (now International Union of Soil Sciences), positions he used to convene the first ever world survey of human-induced soil degradation. All the while he never forgot the strange black earth in Brazil. Most restoration programs, like those in China and the Sahel, try to restore degraded soil to its previous condition. But in much of the tropics, its natural state is marginal—one reason so many tropical countries are poor. Sombroek came to believe that terra preta might show scientists how to make land richer than it ever had been, and thus help the world's most impoverished nations feed themselves.

Sombroek will never see his dream fulfilled—he died in 2003. But he helped to assemble a multinational research collaboration to investigate the origin and function of terra preta. Among its members is Eduardo Göes Neves, a University of São Paulo archaeologist whom I visited not long ago at a papaya plantation about a thousand miles up the Amazon, across the river from the city of Manaus. Beneath the trees was the unmistakable spoor of archaeological investigation: precisely squared off trenches, some of them seven feet deep. In the pits the terra preta, blacker than the blackest coffee, extended from the surface down as much as six feet. Top to bottom, the soil was filled with broken pre-Columbian pottery. It was as if the river's first inhabitants had thrown a huge, rowdy frat party, smashing every plate in sight, then buried the evidence.

Terra preta is found only where people lived, which means that it is an artificial, human-made soil, dating from before the arrival of Europeans. Neves and his colleagues have been trying to find out how the Amazon's peoples made it, and why. The soil is rich in vital minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and manganese, which are scarce in most tropical soils. But its most striking ingredient is charcoal—vast quantities of it, the source of terra preta's color. Neves isn't sure whether Indians had stirred the charcoal into the soil deliberately, if they had done it accidentally while disposing of household trash, or even if the terra preta created by charcoal initially had been used for farming. Ultimately, though, it became a resource that could sustain entire settlements; indeed, Neves said, a thousand years ago two Indian groups may have gone to war over control of this terra preta.

Unlike ordinary tropical soils, terra preta remains fertile after centuries of exposure to tropical sun and rain, notes Wenceslau Teixeira, a soil scientist at Embrapa, a network of agricultural research and extension agencies in Brazil. Its remarkable resilience, he says, has been demonstrated at Embrapa's facility in Manaus, where scientists test new crop varieties in replica patches of terra preta. "For 40 years, that's where they tried out rice, corn, manioc, beans, you name it," Teixeira says. "It was all just what you're not supposed to do in the tropics—annual crops, completely exposed to sun and rain. It's as if we were trying to ruin it, and we haven't succeeded!" Teixeira is now testing terra preta with bananas and other tropical crops.

Sombroek had wondered if modern farmers might create their own terra preta—terra preta nova, as he dubbed it. Much as the green revolution dramatically improved the developing world's crops, terra preta could unleash what the scientific journal Nature has called a "black revolution" across the broad arc of impoverished soil from Southeast Asia to Africa.

Key to terra preta is charcoal, made by burning plants and refuse at low temperatures. In March a research team led by Christoph Steiner, then of the University of Bayreuth, reported that simply adding crumbled charcoal and condensed smoke to typically bad tropical soils caused an "exponential increase" in the microbial population—kick-starting the underground ecosystem that is critical to fertility. Tropical soils quickly lose microbial richness when converted to agriculture. Charcoal seems to provide habitat for microbes—making a kind of artificial soil within the soil—partly because nutrients bind to the charcoal rather than being washed away. Tests by a U.S.-Brazilian team in 2006 found that terra preta had a far greater number and variety of microorganisms than typical tropical soils—it was literally more alive.

A black revolution might even help combat global warming. Agriculture accounts for more than one-eighth of humankind's production of greenhouse gases. Heavily plowed soil releases carbon dioxide as it exposes once buried organic matter. Sombroek argued that creating terra preta around the world would use so much carbon-rich charcoal that it could more than offset the release of soil carbon into the atmosphere. According to William I. Woods, a geographer and soil scientist at the University of Kansas, charcoal-rich terra preta has 10 or 20 times more carbon than typical tropical soils, and the carbon can be buried much deeper down. Rough calculations show that "the amount of carbon we can put into the soil is staggering," Woods says. Last year Cornell University soil scientist Johannes Lehmann estimated in Nature that simply converting residues from commercial forestry, fallow farm fields, and annual crops to charcoal could compensate for about a third of U.S. fossil-fuel emissions. Indeed, Lehmann and two colleagues have argued that humankind's use of fossil fuels worldwide could be wholly offset by storing carbon in terra preta nova.

Such hopes will not be easy to fulfill. Identifying the organisms associated with terra preta will be difficult. And nobody knows for sure how much carbon can be stored in soil—some studies suggest there may be a finite limit. But Woods believes that the odds of a payoff are good. "The world is going to hear a lot more about terra preta," he says.

Walking the roads on the farm hosting Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, it was easy for me to figure out what had worried Jethro Tull. Not Jethro Tull the 1970s rock band—Jethro Tull the agricultural reformer of the 18th century. Under my feet the prairie soil had been squashed by tractors and harvesters into a peculiar surface that felt like the poured-rubber flooring used around swimming pools. It was a modern version of a phenomenon noted by Tull: When farmers always plow in the same path, the ground becomes "trodden as hard as the Highway by the Cattle that draw the Harrows."

Tull knew the solution: Don't keep plowing in the same path. In fact, farmers are increasingly not using plows at all—a system called no-till farming. But their other machines continue to grow in size and weight. In Europe, soil compaction is thought to affect almost 130,000 square miles of farmland, and one expert suggests that the reduced harvests from compaction cost midwestern farmers in the U.S. $100 million in lost revenue every year.

The ultimate reason that compaction continues to afflict rich nations is the same reason that other forms of soil degradation afflict poor ones: Political and economic institutions are not set up to pay attention to soils. The Chinese officials who are rewarded for getting trees planted without concern about their survival are little different from the farmers in the Midwest who continue to use huge harvesters because they can't afford the labor to run several smaller machines.

Next to the compacted road on the Wisconsin farm was a demonstration of horse-drawn plowing. The earth curling up from the moldboard was dark, moist, refulgent—perfect midwestern topsoil. Photographer Jim Richardson got on his belly to capture it. He asked me to hunker down and hold a light. Soon we drew a small, puzzled crowd. Someone explained that we were looking at the soil. "What are they doing that for?" one woman asked loudly. In her voice I could hear the thought: MEGO.

When I told this story over the phone to David Montgomery, the University of Washington geologist, I could almost hear him shaking his head. "With eight billion people, we're going to have to start getting interested in soil," he said. "We're simply not going to be able to keep treating it like dirt."

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Friday, August 20, 2010

(HERALD) Things falling apart in MDC-T

Things falling apart in MDC-T
By Zvamaida Murwira

Last Sunday’s MDC-T provincial elections in Chitungwiza gave Zimbabweans a foretaste of what to expect at the party’s national congress due next year. Zengeza East legislator Mr Alexio Musundire, sprung a surprise to beat Chitungwiza Senator James Makore and three others to land the province’s top post.

What is more intriguing is that Mr Makore, a close ally of MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and said to be his blue-eyed boy from their days at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, was last month the favourite to land the post.

He was riding on the back of the ban imposed on Mr Musundire and former chairperson, Mr Martin Magaya, from contesting the polls.

But in a dramatic turn of events, MDC-T secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti wrote a letter rescinding an earlier decision barring Mr Musundire and the Magaya-led executive from taking part in the race.

The party’s organising committee, led by Engineer Elias Mudzuri, gave the green light to Mr Musundire to contest the polls, a gesture party insiders say is a rare unison of mind between the organising secretary and his secretary-general.

Last month, Mr Biti wrote to the Magaya-led executive advising them that they were not eligible to contest the polls.

This was after their suspension for allegedly failing to reign in former Chitungwiza mayor Israel Marange.

But in an about turn, Mr Biti wrote another letter saying they were free to contest if they so desired.

Party insiders who spoke to The Herald this week have seen the gesture allowing Mr Musundire to contest as a way to elbow out Mr Makore ahead of the congress next year.

Mr Musundire is viewed as an ally of Mr Biti and wields a lot of influence in the party because of that.

According to the party’s constitution, the provincial executive constitutes an integral element at the congress where national leaders are elected.

"This looks like a strategy to clip the wings of people aligned to Mr Tsvangirai who have been on the ascendancy.

"In particular, it appears there are attempts to sideline people like Mr Makore because they don’t want him to have constitutional influence by the time the congress starts," one insider said.

Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Eng Mudzuri said the Chitungwiza polls were conducted above board and dismissed claims that the playing field was tilted in favour of some candidates.

"I do not even know who is affiliated to who, that is if there is any affiliation to talk about.

"Before the election started, I asked everyone present if they were happy with the set up and I did not receive any complaints — tell me who is making those allegations?"

Asked why the party rescinded an earlier decision to ban suspended officials from contesting, Eng Mudzuri said they had found it prudent to clear them in "the name of democracy".

"We wanted to give all people a fair chance of contesting the election. I am one of the fairest people.

"We did not want to exclude people on the basis of unproven allegations. There is nothing like manoeuvering by anyone as is alleged," he said.

In his letter overturning his earlier decision to ban the officials, Mr Biti warned them to behave well during the elections.

"I am pleased to advise that the National Standing Committee in its meeting of July 27th 2010 upheld your appeal and will now allow each one of you to participate in the election now scheduled for the August 15 2010," wrote Mr Biti.

He said that the decision to allow them to contest was subject to strict conditions.

"None of you shall be engaged in violence, intimidation or duress and that the commission of these acts will result in automatic disqualification.

"No one shall engage in rowdy disruptive behaviour. In particular no one shall attempt to disrupt the scheduled provincial election.

"I trust that each one of you shall behave accordingly with the decorum befitting of provincial leaders," said Mr Biti.

The next MDC-T congress is elective and expected to come up with a new leadership for the party.

Mr Tsvangirai will have served his constitutional two terms as party president and there is an attempt to amend the constitution to let him lead again.

This has seen the Matabeleland provinces reportedly saying Mr Tsvangirai should continue at the helm.

However, there is a strong lobby opposed to him and insiders claim there is an attempt to position Mr Biti as the party president.

"This is where the significance of the provincial elections lies. Everyone wants to position themselves appropriately ahead of the congress.

"It is quite interesting that Mr Biti is the one who wrote to the suspended guys telling them they could contest.

"The green light resulted in Mr Tsvangirai’s allies losing out in the race," a source said.

There have long been indications that Mr Biti is himself not opposed to the idea of taking over from Mr Tsvangirai, but will not campaign openly for the party presidency.



(HERALD) MPs: Put people first, not benefits

MPs: Put people first, not benefits

WHEN this column was in its infancy, I pointed out that Members of Parliament, as representatives of people mandated with the oversight role, should take Parliament business seriously because they play a critical role in the development of the country.

Last week, a local NGO, Veritas — a grouping of lawyers that monitors Parliament’s activities — released a report that among other things painted a gloomy picture of how the legislature carried out its activities during the second session of the seventh Parliament that ended in July.

During the second session, only six Bills out of 15 that had been presented by President Mugabe when he opened the second session, were brought before Parliament.

Three of these are mandatory Budget Bills that have to be passed every year.

The group also noted that the House of Assembly sat on 30 occasions while the Senate sat 16 times.

However, some of the sittings were for short periods during which no meaningful debate took place.

Even ministers were cited for not giving meaningful responses to questions by backbenchers in the instances that they did or simply did not respond to questions raised.

Some may remember that I once raised this issue of ministers, not turning up to answer questions by backbenchers and the effect it has on their oversight role.

Because the current rules do not make it mandatory for ministers to respond within a certain time-frame, some legislators simply get away without responding to questions.

There are also a few ministers who periodically update Parliament on activities carried out by their ministries and again this affects the role of the House to represent their constituencies adequately.

Government incurs high costs when Parliament sits, to cater for the accommodation, meals, transport and sitting allowances of MPs, therefore it does not make sense that when they sit, no meaningful business transpires.

During this third session that was opened in June, President Mugabe laid out the legislative agenda saying 23 Bills would be up for debate.

Obviously, with the ongoing outreach programme for the constitution-making process that is expected to end in October, it is highly unlikely that Parliament would be able to debate all these Bills.

Given their performance in the second session, it would be a miracle if five of those 23 Bills are fully debated and passed before the end of the third session.

I therefore repeat the call for Parliament to ensure that its business is taken seriously and that the general public that voted is represented adequately.

Last year, MPs were vociferous in demanding good cars and better allowances and I believe they should exhibit the same zeal in carrying out their mandate.

They should not make us think that they simply wanted to enjoy the benefits that come along in obtaining a seat in the august House.

One hopes that the ongoing constitution-making process will come up with ways that ensure that Parliament is made more effective in its mandate so that taxpayers’ money does not go to waste.

Turning to other matters, the outreach programme is at its halfway stage and over 350 000 people have taken part so far.

The Parliament Select Committee launched a website this week that will especially assist Zimbabweans in the Diaspora contribute their views to the process.

It will also benefit those tied up by work commitments and have no time to attend meetings to also have their views recorded.

This should increase the levels of participation, which are at the moment not what is expected.

The process has been marred by a number of logistical problems that have made it difficult to proceed smoothly.

The introduction of the website should therefore allow more views to be included.

The chairperson of Copac’s media and publicity sub-committee, Ms Jessie Majome said during a Press briefing this week that people were also not aware that they could write to Copac and air their views without necessarily attending outreach meetings.

Therefore, the public should take advantage of these and other facilities and air their views so that they, at the end do not complain that they were not afforded the chance to speak.

The difficulties facing Copac mean that it is impossible to convene meetings where everyone can attend so people should use the alternative channels.

Still on the constitution making process, it was disturbing to hear reports that an MDC-T councillor and legislator were accused of inciting violence against Zanu-PF supporters in Masvingo North constituency.

Police confirmed they had received reports that the MDC-T supporters disrupted a Zanu-PF gathering convened to discuss the constitution making process with a gun petrol bomb.

This is worrying news and the police should be urged to deal with all those perpetrating violence without fear or favour.

When the outreach programme was launched, the three principals to the inclusive Government spoke passionately against violence and therefore rogue elements should not be allowed to derail the progress of this important exercise.

Zimbabwe is on a path to recovery and people who want to continue portraying a negative picture of the country should not be allowed to disturb this progress.

People should be allowed to freely air their views and while it is understandable for political parties and other civic groups to canvass for support on their view points, this should not be done through coercion.

Zimbabwe hosted a two-day conference for Parliamentarians from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa nations in Victoria Falls last week and Vice President John Nkomo called on Africans to be masters of their own development.

He said this on the backdrop of Zimbabwe being certified to sell its diamonds saying if Africans did not work to uplift themselves no one would.

Given the experiences of this country in this past decade, every country should as much as possible be independent without over reliance on another lest it becomes a vassal of other countries.

The vilification that we faced as a country in the past 10 years has made us a strong nation and we are currently turning around the performance of our economy through our own efforts with assistance from a few friendly countries.

This shows that it is possible for a country to assert its sovereignty and be masters of their own destiny.

The Parliamentarians were gathered to discuss the use of science and technology in the advancement of the region’s economies.

The sale of diamonds last week has raised hopes of many people in the future prospects of the country, but most people urged Government to ensure transparency in the administration of the proceeds.

I think this has been said over and over again and we hope that the benefits of the sale would be enjoyed soon.

machivenyikafari ***


(NEWZIMBABWE) Gukurahundi, Lobengula: Chalk and cheese

Gukurahundi, Lobengula: Chalk and cheese
by Admore Tshuma
20/08/2010 00:00:00

THERE is some fiercely contested memory in Zimbabwe which has resulted in a lunatic fringe that argues President Robert Mugabe must not apologise for Gukurahundi atrocities up until his victims, the Ndebeles, apologise for King Mzilikazi's and his son Lobengula’s raids in Mashonaland during their reign prior to 1890.

I am aware that by exploring this issue, I am treading on a minefield as by Zimbabwean socio-political tradition, the subject is often emotionally-charged and shrouded in great controversy; hence any attempt to explore it can be easily misinterpreted or deliberately distorted.

Nonetheless, my instinct informed me that ignoring such a burning issue will be tantamount to scholastic cowardice and burying our heads in the sand. Perhaps the time has come for a constructive national debate on this topic because we cannot go on like this, that is, if we are to continue calling ourselves an independent country. We need to be independent politically, economically and intellectually.

I can confidently say that while most Zimbabweans today feel Mugabe has presided over a brutal regime that persecuted MDC leaders and supporters, not much attention is being paid to atrocities before 2000, including the Gukurahundi massacres. Political violence in Zimbabwe did not start in 2000. It has a long history.

National Healing Minister Sekai Holland claims the culture of violence was brought by Mzilikazi, but that sort of claim can only come from conflict entrepreneurs or merchants of lies.

The issue of Zimbabwe’s political violence and atrocities must be understood in its context, space and time.

There are those who claim the Gukurahundi massacres were a revenge for Mzilikazi’s and Lobengula’s historical raids in Mashonaland region. By this logic, it is claimed Mzilikazi and Lobengula committed atrocities in Mashonaland hence Mugabe’s retribution mission via the deployment of the murderous Fifth Brigade to Matabeleland and Midlands areas where its killing machine left 20,000 civilians dead.

Of course, Mzilikazi was not the architect of mfecane and attendant violence (the time of trouble and mass migration) and the concomitant territorial wars. Mfecane was there before Mzlikazi but it was fuelled by the rise of Shaka who triggered mass movements across the sub-region, from present day South Africa across Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania.

Prior to the arrival of Mzilikazi in present day Zimbabwe, there were fierce territorial wars between the Shona and others tribes and among the Shona themselves. So Mzilikazi did not introduce violence but struggled for survival within the context and circumstances of the time where the politics of the spear and assegai ruled in the absence of constitutional orders and the rule of law, international laws and conventions to promote peace and stability.

Which brings me to the point that the Mzilikazi era which was precipitated by the rise of Shaka and mfecane belongs to the primitive era where there no nation-states and constitutional orders as we know them today. The period was defined by the law of the jungle - survival of the fittest – and everyone fighting against everyone while the Gukurahundi era falls under the modern era governed by international laws, including four Geneva Conventions of 1949. The primitive territorial wars were obviously backward and they happened under a completely different situation and different circumstances.

It was only after 1945 that the world properly defined codes of conduct of the army or any security agents to prevent primitive-style raids and wars. These codes were put in place to assure the modern world that lessons have been learnt and standards have now been set.

Gutman and Rieff (1999) say the codes were intended to be a firebreak between civilisation and barbarism. The difference between the Mzilikazi era and the Mugabe period is like chalk and cheese in terms of political orders and international law; they clearly belong to different epochs of civilisation.

The Nuremberg tribunals of 1945 set down the principle that there were such things as crimes against humanity, systematic crimes against civilians that can occur inside a country but that might be tried anywhere else.

After 1945, the power centres of the world went further and intertwined the country’s human rights record with the performance of the economy.

The Genocide Convention of 1948 gave legal meaning and force to the worst crime in the lexicon. The 1949 Geneva Convention codified and advanced the rules governing wars between states, differentiating legal conduct from illegal acts of war.

Together with the two Additional Protocols of 1977, the Geneva Conventions are the central summation of the agreed rules governing the conduct of war.

Perhaps it is important to know that the heart of the international humanitarian law are grave breaches such as targeting non-combatants or civilians. These grave breaches or serious crimes are found in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the first Additional Protocol of 1977.

The Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 states that the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts of threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population, are prohibited”.

However, this law turns out to be customary because even if Zimbabwe has not ratified it, its provisions are universally applicable. This probably explains why President Mugabe cannot retire despite signs that he is too old and tired. He knows that these international provisions can be easily applied on him.

Most importantly, the post-1945 world, particularly the international humanitarian law makes it illegal for anyone to support a mass-murderer – doing so one can be easily branded an accomplice of mass murders.

It has been suggested in a certain vein of contemporary thought that if scars of the past are hidden away there will always come a time when those scars will suppurate and become a poison that will engulf all of us even the future generations.

As a student of restorative justice versus retributive justice, I am an advocate of psychotherapy and symbolical healing which comes in various packs such as openly discussing burning issues that continue to blight our beloved nation, Zimbabwe.

There is crystal clear evidence that Zimbabwe today is a deeply-divided nation among the black community than it was before independence, hence the need to come up with mechanisms to establish a stable country that functions in compliance with the international humanitarian law.

I wonder how Mugabe wants to be remembered long before he is gone. The fact that the Ndebele/Shona tribal tension has become intergenerational is symptomatic failure of our politics and more so an indictment of our leaders. It also reveals that our politics has for far too long thrived on ethnic grounds, if not catalyse it. To be precise, our brand of politics has suppressed public debates on burning issues such as the one under scrutiny here.

Those who say Mugabe should not apologise and redress the Gukurahundi situation until Ndebeles apologise for Mzilikazi’s and Lobengula’s raids are clearly politicising and tribalising an issue under which remedies can be found under national and international laws.

I find this argument not just absurd and myopic, not only because it encourages tribal hostilities and more violence in future, but also on account its lack of grounding in current national laws and international conventions.

This irrational argument, which reeks of ethnocentricism, suggests that all Shonas (not Mugabe and his murderous regime) were responsible for Gukurahundi. Of course this is ridiculous. The Shona people did not commit massacres in Matabeleland, it was Mugabe and his regime who were certainly motivated by the pursuit of political consolidation and hegemony to achieve their one party agenda. The campaign had ethnic undertones, no doubt, but to make it appear as if it was a Shona versus Ndebele conflict is just a dull and awful discourse.

For sure, there are serious questions to be asked about the role of ethnicity in Zimbabwean politics and Gukurahundi. We know for certain that ethnic politics are alive and well elsewhere in Africa. Most of the conflicts in Africa today have an ethnic dimension. Ethnicity is usually harnessed by bigoted and reckless politicians to win political power and access to state resources.

Those who support Mugabe and his atrocities for whatever reason are clearly showing cold disregard for humanity. If the law doesn’t, then history will judge them harshly.

Admore Tshuma is a Zimbabwean journalist studying towards a PhD in poverty and social justice in transitional nations in the United Kingdom. This article was originally published by the Zimbabwe Independent

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Zim looks to double gold output

Zim looks to double gold output
by Business Reporter
19/08/2010 00:00:00

THE Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines says the country is on course to double last year’s gold output despite regular disruptions in electricity supplies. In a statement, the chamber said the country had produced just over four tonnes of gold in the first half of 2010.

“The country produced 4.03 tonnes between January and June, and based on six months' production, current projection for the year is 8.047 tonnes,” the chamber added in its statement.

Gold production had plunged to a record low of 3 tonnes in 2008 as mines choked under an inclement local operating environment characterized by hyperinflation as well as acute foreign currency and electricity shortages.

Last year saw a marginal improvement to 4.9 tonnes.

At its peak, Zimbabwe produced 27 tonnes of gold in 1999.

A production target of 20tpa over the next five years has been set by the chamber, but the Chamber said this could be held back by frequent power cuts as well as concern over the government’s empowerment laws, which seek to transfer control of foreign-owned firms to locals.

Mining has become of the country’s growth sector’s driving recovery from a decade-long recession blamed on economic sanctions and political instability.

Last year’s decision to dump a worthless local currency helped tame hyperinflation and stabilise the economy.

The currency change and a spat of positive policy measures by the coalition government saw most mines which had either completely shut down or scaled operations back to care and maintenance come back into production.

The Chamber of Mines says this year's gold output could be higher than the initially projected 7 tonnes.

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(LUSAKATIMES) FRA owes kawambwa farmers K3 billion

FRA owes kawambwa farmers K3 billion
Friday, August 20, 2010, 12:18

The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) owes farmers in Kawambwa District K3 billion for about 45,000 x 50 kilogramme bags of white maize that have so far been bought in the district. Senior Agriculture Officer (SAO), Samson Chipeta disclosed the development to ZANIS in an interview in Kawambwa yesterday.

Mr Chipeta said FRA has only paid K 77 million to 12 farmers since the maize marketing exercise began in July this year. He said the amount of money paid to farmers is equivalent to about 1,200 x 50 kg bags of white maize.

He said because of the delay to release enough funds, many farmers in the area have started storming his office to air their grievances.

Mr Chipeta said the situation is worrying because agriculture is an income for the farmers and they need to be paid on time to ease their sufferings. Meanwhile, Mr Chipeta has complained at the delay by the transporters to deliver maize from satellite depots to the main depot.

He said his office carried out a survey yesterday and discovered that there is a lot of maize not yet collected at various satellite depots in the district because of the transporters’ slow pace.

And main depot manager, Michael Nonde also confirmed to ZANIS in a separate interview that farmers have not been paid their money up to now and urged them to be patient.

Mr Nonde also said there is slow pace of maize collection from satellite depots in the area because there are few trucks. He said there is need to increase the number of trucks especially bigger ones to speed up the process and to enhance the marketing exercise.


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(LUSAKATIMES) Beira key to Zambia’s business expansion-RB

Beira key to Zambia’s business expansion-RB
Friday, August 20, 2010, 19:26

President Rupiah Banda speaking to Maputo City Governor Lucia Hama at national monument after laying wreath. President Rupiah Banda has said the port of Beira in Mozambique is key towards Zambia’s process of expanding her business through imports and exports.

President Banda said the port of Beira provides Zambia with the shortest sea route as compared to Durban, Cape Town East London in South Africa and Dar- Es- Salaam in Tanzania.

He said Zambia was exploring shorter ways to the sea coast because of her determination to expand business relations with other countries.

ZANIS reports from Mozambique that President Banda was speaking in Beira, Mozambique yesterday where he went to tour facilities at the port of Beira.

“We have already agreed as presidents of the two countries that it is our duty to ensure that everyone is involved in ensuring that these agreements are not only on paper. We really want to expand our business and Beira is our key to all this,” he said.

Yesterday, Zambia and Mozambique signed eight legal instruments, among them an agreement on communications and transport and a Memorandum of Understanding to establish ties of cooperation between chambers of commerce in the two countries.

The President said his visit to Mozambique was a demonstration of his Government’s commitment to expanding business relations with other countries.

He said there was need for leaders of the two neighbouring countries to expose themselves to some facilities that can boost economic growth in the region.

Mr. Banda said once the leaders of the two countries were exposed to such facilities, it would be easy for their citizens to appreciate their efforts of economically developing these nations through expanding business.

President Banda meanwhile noted that many Zambian citizens were ignorant of the port of Beira and what it could offer.

He has since challenged the media in both countries to help publicise the Beira port for the public to understand its potentials.

And speaking at the same occasion, Minister of Communications and Transport, Geoffrey Lungwangwa, disclosed that the Zambian government was contemplating building a rail line from Kafue in Zambia to Lions’ Den in Zimbabwe.

Professor Lungwangwa said the line will link Zambia to the port of Beira through Lions’ Den in Zimbabwe.

He said despite passing through Zimbabwe, the rail line will be the shortest route to the sea for Zambia.

He added that in future, the Chipata-Mchinji rail line may be extended to Tete in Mozambique.

Presisdent Banda is in Mozambique for a three day state visit.


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Let’s do the right thing and avert a crisis

Let’s do the right thing and avert a crisis
By Editor
Fri 20 Aug. 2010, 04:00 CAT

In every society, there are men of base instincts. The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to steal the meagre financial resources of his poor people, to trample on and mistreat the country in which he was born, is not an honourable man. And it doesn’t matter what title he holds, he can be his excellency, honour, lord, grace and so on and so forth. He will still remain a man without honour.

In the world, there must be a certain degree of honour just as there must be a certain amount of light. 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 every day risk their lives to question and denounce that which is wrong; these are the men who denounce those who steal from their people and those who protect thieves who have stolen from the people; that is to say, those who voice out against those who steal human honour itself. In those men, thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained.

And we are using the term “men” not as a means to discriminate against women, rather as a generic term encompassing the species, men and women.

It is understandable that honest people and all those who are against corruption and abuse of power are considered enemies of state institutions and those who manage them in a Republic where the president is best friends with a man who has been found to have stolen millions of dollars from state coffers, and has even hired this same thief to be his political advisor and consultant going round campaigning for him.

We were not surprised yesterday to hear that Ronnie Shikapwasha, the vuvuzela of this corrupt government, has announced that they have no intention of appealing against the decision by Lusaka High Court judge Evans Hamaundu to throw out the Attorney General’s application to register the London High Court judgment which found Frederick Chiluba and seven members of his tandem of thieves liable for theft of about US $46 million.

Shikapwasha says this government has more important things to pursue than appeal against judge Hamaundu’s decision and subsequently undermine the work of the judiciary.

It was not difficult to guess how things were going to turn out in this whole matter. From the time they conspired to have Chiluba acquitted in the corruption proceedings against him and refused to have that acquittal appealed, it was clear to all that these same people were not going to have the London High Court judgment enforced by themselves against this valuable friend of theirs whom they have hired to help them win next year’s elections.

They have not even attempted to cover matters. They have not bothered in the least to conceal what they are doing. They think they have deceived the people with their lies, but they have ended up deceiving themselves. They feel themselves lords and masters of the universe, with the power to get whatever they want – if they want anyone acquitted, this happens; and if they want anyone convicted and sent to jail, this also happens.

This reminds us of Dante who 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. The man who stole from the poorest of the poor of this country doesn’t have even a heart.

To believe for a single moment that what they are doing or what they have done is justice would suffice to fill a man of conscience with remorse and shame for the rest of his life. There is no justice in all this. All there is in this is fraud, deception and abuse of power, so we shall not mince any words about their corruption and their abuse of state institutions to cover up the crimes of their league.

Rupiah Banda has referred to Chiluba as a damn good president and has pronounced him innocent. This being the case, who among Rupiah’s appointees can have the courage to challenge this?

We know that a good part of our judiciary serves at the pleasure of Rupiah. He single-handedly offers contracts to judges who have reached retirement age. And how many judges in this country are today serving at his pleasure under such arrangements? And how many others are looking up to Rupiah for similar contracts? This is certainly not a recipe for an independent judiciary. What we have is a captive judiciary. And how many judges and other judiciary officers are looking up to Rupiah for promotion?
Again, this is not a recipe for an independent and impartial adjudication.

It therefore doesn’t surprise us that the government will not appeal judge Hamaundu’s highly questionable decision to allow Chiluba to keep his loot in Zambia. This is not justice, but a mockery of it.

There are many unpleasant things about our judiciary. But as long as those in charge of the affairs of our judiciary are in good terms with those running the executive, nothing will happen to change things. This will remain for a long time until our people can no longer tolerate it.

We are not alone in this situation. This is exactly what the Kenyans have gone through. And today, the Kenyans have decided to change things for the better and have come up with a constitution that totally curtails the president’s powers to abuse the judiciary.

They have decided to start afresh, and they are dissolving the entire judiciary and will replace it with fresh appointments. The executive and the legislature have also been separated. Ministers in Kenya will no longer be appointed from members of parliament. This will also mean that parliament will be more independent of the executive.
All appointments of judges, and indeed of ministers, will have to be passed by parliament.

And this is not in the way we are doing it now where we have a parliament that is simply an extension of the executive and as such whatever the president wants literally goes through.

We may be still far away from where the Kenyans have reached, but a day will come when things will have to change. We can’t continue on this path and hope to build a prosperous and democratic nation. We are headed for disaster, and one of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency.
The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.

Today, those in charge of our state institutions – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – are all in one way or another abusing the power vested in them with impunity. There is increasing collusion and complicity among these three institutions of our state. The separation of powers among our state institutions is not there in practice – it’s simply a theoretical one. Again, this is not a recipe for governing well.

The country is collapsing, the rule of law is breaking down. At the rate we are going, we will start to witness things we are not accustomed to. Soon, people will be denouncing judges openly without even fear of being locked up for contempt.

And people shouldn’t cheat themselves that going to jail on contempt is something that will keep people away from pointing out the naked transgressions in our whole judicial process. At some point in one’s life, fear is pushed to the background, and the forces of evil are taken on without respite. We are nearing that point; the signs are clearly written on our walls.

But with the leadership and commitment by the best and the most noble of our politicians, of our judges and other civic leaders, this can be avoided. There is no need to pretend that all is well and it’s just a few disgruntled elements at The Post causing problems.

Displeasure and dissent is growing against the way state institutions are being run. And the only way to calm things down and avert a crisis is to do the right thing. Every citizen now knows what is going on in their state institutions, and most of them don’t like it at all. This rot has to stop. Again, let’s pay attention to what is happening in Kenya and learn something from it.

We are not suggesting that we imitate the Kenyans; we are simply saying let’s learn something from their experiences and the solutions that they are coming up with. Look at their constitution review process and compare it with ours. Look at the constitution they have come up with and compare it with the joke, the rubbish, the mediocrity of our National Constitutional Conference.

Let’s do the right thing and avert a national crisis!

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