Saturday, July 30, 2011

Swindlers’ list

Swindlers’ list
By Dr Guy Scott
Wed 20 July 2011, 14:00 CAT

The probability of MMD winning this year in a free and fair election is, as we mathematicians wittily put it, “a close approximation to zero”. Economic growth and stability which leaves the great number of voters un- or underemployed is not something you can sell to them electorally. And you cannot make up for it with hollow social sector or infrastructure projects, many of which remain uncompleted due to lack of financial planning. The MMD cannot win – by honest means.

Which leaves only one interesting electoral question: Can the MMD employ dishonest means to a sufficient degree to “win” the election?

I have been compiling a “Swindlers List” of illegal – or at least unethical – activities which have been or might be implemented on the part of the MMD. I should perhaps emphasise that I am not here talking about the possibilities for rigging of the actual vote totals on the day – which remain a worry – but pre-voting activities, many of which are contrary to codes of conduct, old and new, not to mention ethical common sense. The list is getting very long – longer than this article will accommodate but let’s at least make a start,

1. MMD and the state media: It must be admitted that the standards of journalistic and editorial responsibility in the public media have fallen to an all-time low. And that is saying something, given the history of coercive journalism in this country from colonial times. Stories which cannot possibly have any bhasis in reality spring from the ground like warriors from dragons’ teeth and effortlessly morph into accepted fact and thence into common usage (e.g. a stupid allegation than the PF has sold future Zambian soldiers to the Afghan government is treated as fact and gives rise to casual headlines like “Afghan Sata Condemned”). Where do these fictions originate? Some say in the head of Edward Deadwood Mumbi but I doubt it – I worked with him quite a lot when he was PF Secretary General and he sowed no imagination then.

Whether state sector journalists really are as stupid as their products would lead us to believe is an open question. Could you, gentle reader maintain a high standard of reporting in the teeth of Ronnie Shikapwasha and the increasingly foul-mouthed Dora Siliya – a lady whom my Scottish aunt would have obliged to gargle with soap to correct her language? Well, Lewis Changufu got himself fired from Government Printers back in the colonial days for bravely standing up to pressure; and my father bravely employed him on the Central African Post – incurring the wrath of the authorities. So it is possible to stand up and be counted and still to live another day....

2. MMD and the private media: Our leaders may have failed to intimidate The Post but the same bullying Dora (who is MMD spokesperson) succeeded in blanking out Michael Sata’s paid-for programmes in Petauke and Katete while he was travelling to Chipata on Friday. The electronic media are in the very vulnerable position of depending upon the Ministry of Information for broadcasting licences that can be withdrawn at any time without reason. Her justification is that Sata would do the same in her shoes – which implies that a putative future crime justifies a present one, and also that she can mind-read Sata.

3. Ministers, cadres and all that provincial ministers seem to have been authorised to tour their provinces, accompanied by MMD cadres who they have put on the Government payroll as protocol officers. The said “protocol officers” are busy campaigning and distributing the hard-copy version of Chanda Chimba III’s psychotic TV programme Stand Up for Zambia. In this you can read about nothing but Michael Sata and why you should not vote for him (he is selling Zambia to Taiwan, he is going to make homosexuality compulsory etc. etc.). Unfortunately there is a shortage of good reasons for voting for anyone else.

It looks like district commissioners, who are basically politically appointed pseudo-civil servants, are set to play an important part in the run-up of these elections. They are being provided with brand-new vehicles as I write these words and are also presumably going to take along protocol officers! The fact that quite a few District Commissioners have transmogrified into MMD parliamentary candidates gives an interesting twist to the tale.

4. Nkalamo yakutuma: For the sake of visitors I will just say that this phrase denotes a “lion” that is the agent of a sorcerer, punishing or killing selected victims, a one-beast hit-squad. MMD has become adept at persuading agencies of Government to pursue criminal investigations into the affairs of its perceived enemies. Police and prosecutors act much quicker than normal when under political pressure – though the Drug Enforcement Commission seems to take the Nkalamo’s Cup in its fishing for “money launderers”. Investigations into alleged illegal land deals at PF-controlled councils, originally adjudged hollow by professional investigators, have been taken over by investigators yakutuma. It is claimed the consequent report will result in arrests, perhaps of MPs while they are attempting to file their nominations. (I remember this trick being used against Mwamba Luchembe to prevent him filing in 1991 so I suppose it can work on someone unready for it.)

Desperate swindlers or what?

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