Saturday, April 07, 2012

Let's value the health of our older people

Let's value the health of our older people
By The Post
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:30 CAT

TODAY is World Health Day and it is being commemorated under the theme ‘Ageing and Health'. This is a befitting theme, given the state of old people in the world, especially in our poor world. While young people have more and special access to health services, old people are often left to die without the necessary healthcare.

We have programmes for the under-five, who need much attention, who are much more open to all sorts of health problems or complications. But we don't have such programmes for older people, who are equally more open to all sorts of health problems and complications. It is clear that we value the lives of young people more than we do for the lives of old people. This may be understandable when one looks at the future and the position of young people in it.

It is said that the future belongs to all of us but much more so to young people. But there is no future without a past, without the present. Today was yesterday's future. Today's future has to be constructed on the threshold of what we do today.

The standards, values and principles we set today will be the ones on which the future will be built. We all know, or we must all know if we didn't know, that a society that doesn't value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future.

The present we enjoy today is something that has been built for us, that has been given to us by these old people whom we are today neglecting, marginalising and cutting off from our health services.

More humane societies, more just nations, more fair people attach a great deal of value to and care for old people. They don't see old people as useless beings not worth of their resources, especially resources spent on providing efficient, effective and orderly healthcare.

We sometimes wonder what type of Christian nation we are building in this country that doesn't care for its older people. There is no special treatment for older people in terms of health services or indeed any other services required in an organised society.

We have many old people who have no access to proper nutrition. We have many old people who have to walk long distances to fetch water and firewood. And with the advent of HIV and AIDS, we have many old people who are looking after many orphaned grandchildren and sometimes even great grandchildren without any support from society.

These are old people who have been retired and are unemployable, meaning they are living without any meaningful source of income. But at the same time, they are carrying such a heavy burden on their shoulders without any meaningful help from society. And some of these duties that they have to undertake are having a serious toll on their health.

They are forced at very advanced ages to do the work or carry out the duties of very young people, who have better access to health facilities. By health facilities, we do not only mean access to a doctor or medical care. We also include access to other social amenities that help keep their bodies fit and healthy.

Young people have more access to financial resources that enable them to eat more and better food, purchase the necessities of hygiene. They also have better access to modern sanitation facilities that make their environments much cleaner and their lives much healthier.

Older people do not have much access to some of these things and are, therefore, very vulnerable to disease. For some old people, even a bar of soap is something that is not easy to acquire. Yet, to live a healthy life, one needs to have uninterrupted access to soap for washing their hands after using the toilet and for washing their bodies to remove not only dirt but also germs that may grow on the skin and open them to ill health.

They also need soap to wash their clothes. All these things need a lot of money which old people do not have access to. We generally value and respect older people we love or know well. We sometimes seem to forget that all these old people at one time or another were of service to the entire broader community in which they lived.

We also seem to forget that the good lives we lead today, including the national life we are enjoying today, are all a product of their selfless lives and efforts. The things which we are excluding them from today are a product of their struggles.

Without their efforts, we wouldn't have a country that today can produce healthy young people who are able to even win the African soccer championships. Let's increase the respect and care for our old people.

We know that people often equate women's worth with beauty, youth and the ability to have children. The role older women play in our families and communities, caring for their partners, parents, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is often overlooked.

Our old women often tend to be the family caregivers. Many take care of more than one generation. These women are often themselves at advanced ages. We should not ignore this great contribution our old women are making to the general wellbeing of the nation.

Treatable conditions and illnesses in older people are often overlooked or dismissed as being a normal part of ageing. This is wrong. This is unacceptable, morally or otherwise.

Age does not necessarily cause pain, and only extreme old age can be said to be associated with limitation of bodily function. The right to the best possible healthcare does not, and should not, diminish as we age: it is mainly society that sets age limits for access to complex treatments or proper rehabilitation and secondary prevention of disease and disability.

It is not age that limits the health and participation of older citizens. Rather, it is individual and societal misconceptions, discrimination and abuse that prevent active and dignified ageing.

Let's learn to love, respect and care for our old people. If we live longer, with the preferential healthcare we are receiving or we are able to give ourselves, we will also one day be old and be subjected to this type of treatment, discrimination and marginalisation.

Let's treat our old people the way we would like to be treated when we ourselves become old.

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A part of me has been cut off - Wina

A part of me has been cut off - Wina
By Mwala Kalaluka and Kombe Chimpinde
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:30 CAT

A part of me has been cut off, says veteran politician and one of the key leaders of Zambia's independence struggle Sikota Wina following the death of his wife, Princess Nakatindi, on Thursday night. Wina described Princess Nakatindi, 63, who died away at Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital as a loving wife and patriot.

According to the family spokesperson, Princess Nakatindi's son Wina, and the Zambian High Commission in South Africa, Princess Nakatindi passed away at around 22:00 hours on Thursday following a heart-related operation.

"She was so much a part of me. I feel a part of me has been cut of," Sikota said.

"She was very close to me for more than forty years. It is something that I am finding hard and difficult to comprehend."

Sikota said Princess Nakatindi took him not only as a husband but as her total responsibility, saying he would find it difficult to cope without her.

"She was so many things to many people. I will remember her as a loving mother who gave me five children. At my age of 81, she completely took me as her responsibility," Sikota said.

"A part of me has left me."

He said Princes Nakatindi was so passionate about the country.

Sikota said Zambians should remember her as a great woman that contributed to the struggle for independence and the political dispensation of Zambia.

Zambia's High Commissioner to South Africa Muyeba Chikonde said the mission recognised Princess Nakatindi as an important figure in the country's history.

High Commissioner Chikonde said the Zambian High Commission in South Africa would do its best to lighten the Wina family's burden following Princess Nakatindi's demise.

"We have received news of her death with great shock and our heartfelt condolences go to her family. As regards details of the transportation of her body, the family has asked for a post-mortem and further details of the transportation will be issued later," said High Commissioner Chikonde.

"And also considering that this is an Easter Holiday which is being celebrated world over and South Africa is not an exception."

And family spokesman Wina said the family was devastated by his mother's death.

Wina said the family was devastated by her sudden death and thanked President Michael Sata for the timely manner in which Princess Nakatindi was evacuated to South Africa after it became evident that she required urgent specialist medical attention.

"Arrangements are being made for Mr. Sikota Wina and body of the deceased and members of the family who accompanied Princess Nakatindi to South Africa to return home to Zambia at the earliest opportunity.

Funeral gathering is at the farm," said Wina.

Princess Nakatindi, a member of the Barotse Royal family, was a politician, who served the country as cabinet minister in the MMD government of Frederick Chiluba.

She was a member of parliament for Kanyama Constituency in Lusaka on the MMD ticket and was at one time member of parliament for Sesheke Central on the UPND ticket.

Princess Nakatindi was during Chiluba's regime arrested and detained at Kabwe's Mukobeko Maximum Prison on tramped-up treason charges related to Captain Steven Lungu's 1997 attempted military coup and her health was affected since then.

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Malawi confirms president's death

Malawi confirms president's death
By BBC News
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 11:00 CAT

MALAWI'S government has confirmed that President Bingu wa Mutharika has died and declared 10 days of mourning. Mr Mutharika, 78, suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday and was taken to South Africa for treatment.

Medical and government officials said on Friday that he was dead but there was no formal announcement, leading to fears of a power-struggle. Under the constitution, Vice-President Joyce Banda takes over and she has said the constitution will be followed.

The delay in announcing Mr Mutharika's death had sparked speculation that Mr Mutharika's allies might try to prevent the vice-president from taking over.

Mrs Banda fell out with Mr Mutharika in 2010 and was expelled from the ruling Democratic People's Party (DPP).

The president's brother, Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika, had been lined up as the DPP's presidential candidate in the 2014 elections.

Both the UK and the US have called on Malawi to respect the constitution.

On Friday, Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said Mrs Banda could not take over as head of state because she had gone into opposition.

At a news conference held within hours of the official confirmation of Mr Mutharika's death, Vice-President Joyce Banda said the constitution would be followed, but she held back from saying directly if she would be taking over as interim president.

"I don't think there's any way we can discuss who is caretaker and who is not," she said. "The constitution is prevailing right now."

The heads of the army and the police, the attorney general, and several cabinet ministers and MPs were standing near her as she spoke.

"The paramount issue to be discussed at the cabinet meeting is on the funeral of the father of the nation," she said. "In the meantime, I call upon all Malawians to remain calm and to keep the peace during this time of bereavement."

She said arrangements were being made with South Africa for the return of Mr Mutharika's body.

"We are sad to announce that the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, has died," Bright Msaka, secretary to the president and cabinet, said in a statement carried by state radio.

"The Milpark Hospital in South Africa has also confirmed his death," Mr Msaka said. He announced 10 days of national mourning and said "the constitution will be adhered to in managing the transition".

Mr Mutharika governed Malawi for eight years, but was recently accused of mismanaging the economy and becoming increasingly autocratic.

He fell out last year with former colonial ruler Britain, which withdrew its direct aid, accusing the Malawian government of mishandling the economy and of failing to uphold human rights.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.

The country has suffered shortages of fuel and foreign currency since the UK and other donors cancelled aid.

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Kitwe doctor blames medical personnel for Robiana's case

Kitwe doctor blames medical personnel for Robiana's case
By Fridah Nkonde
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:28 CAT

KITWE district medical officer Dr Chikafuna Banda says the case of Livingstone's Robiana Muteka was a result of negligence on the part of the medical personnel. And Dr Banda says the referral system in Zambia needs improving.

Commenting on health minister Dr Joseph Kasonde's statement in Livingstone this week that Robiana's case was a wake-up call for Ministry of Health staff, Dr Banda, in an interbiew, said doctors in Livingstone, especially those that knew about Robiana's case, could have done something before the tumour grew.

"It was going to be better if the tumour was dealt with before it grew that big. The young man had to carry that mass for years. He could not sit or sleep for a long time because of his condition. Honestly, it is evident that Robiana used to go to the hospital, but was never attended to, hence his family giving up on his case. This simply shows that the referral system in our country is not good enough," he said.

Dr Banda said 14 kilogrammes of a tumour "was just too much".

"One doctor does not hold an opinion for the whole Ministry of Health. It must have been only one doctor who thought the case was complicated and kept quiet about it. When you are a doctor and you feel you cannot work on a patient, maybe because you are not that qualified for a specific case, the best you can do is to call others to help," he said.

Dr Banda said doctors had an obligation to inform higher and more competent authority to attend to cases which proved too complicated for them.

He said if UTH failed to work on a patient, it was also their responsibility to evacuate patients abroad for specialist treatment.

"It is like the way we do it in Kitwe; we have patients with brain problems. So we identify those that have serious cases and we take them to UTH. We can't just keep them here because we know that there are experts that can work on them at UTH," he said.

Dr Kasonde told The Post in Livingstone that UTH had had historical records of Robiana's plight and that he should have been returning to the institution for reviews.

And last weekend, former permanent secretary in the MMD government Peter Mumba observed that Robiana's case was a result of bad attitudes in public health facilities.

"It is quite embarrassing on the part of our health providers that it had to take the entire President to step in the matter that should not have been allowed to grow and reach the proportion it did…What this successful operation shows is that the problem in the country is not capacity or skill or even the money. As a country, we have got medical doctors with unparalleled levels of skill and expertise as they demonstrated in that operation but the problem is attitude," said Mumba.

"These problems are not just discovered, they are there. What happened to the hospitals where he Robiana was going? Did they see the need to refer him Robiana to UTH? Why did they allow the problem to escalate to the levels it reached? They need to explain…So, what is happening to other cases, especially in the lower rungs of society, those that don't have the money - the poor? These operations don't even need colossal sums of money. So, we need to change the attitudes of our health providers."

And Dr Banda said it was sad that 16-year-old Eunice Katukula of Chingola succumbed to breast cancer after being evacuated to UTH.

He said it was very unfortunate that Eunice died at 16 years when the breast cancer would have been treated if medication had been administered early enough.

"The young girl was not supposed to be kept at home. She was supposed to be in hospital undergoing treatment. The breast cancer she had reached a very advanced stage," said Dr Banda.

"…The other problem was that Eunice's family gave up and she also gave up because there was no improvement whatsoever."

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Rupiah lacks moral right to discuss upholding Constitution, says M'bao

Rupiah lacks moral right to discuss upholding Constitution, says M'bao
By Misheck Wangwe in Kitwe
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:29 CAT

RUPIAH Banda has no moral right to speak to the world about upholding the Constitution and democracy as his three-year rule was a disaster for Zambia, says Rev Richard M'bao.

Commenting on former president Banda's inaugural lecture at Boston University in the US where he said his administration chose to uphold the Constitution and allow the legal system exercise its authority, Rev M'bao, the chairperson of the Pastor's Forum for Eastern and Southern Africa, said Banda was generally a bad leader for Zambia, saying that was the main reason the electorate voted him out of government.

He said Banda's first lecture at Boston University could have made more sense if he confessed that his administration failed to build a Zambia that many poor people wallowing in poverty desired.

Rev M'bao said it would have made a lot of sense for Banda to use the Boston University platform to apologise to the Zambian people over the misery they were subjected to due to bad governance of his regime.

He said memories were still fresh in the minds of the Zambians that Banda, during his time as Republican president, spent more time persecuting the people he perceived to be his political enemies by abusing the legal system than attending to the plight of the poor.

Rev M'bao said there was no way the former Republican president could be talking about upholding the Constitution when he extensively abused the public media, fought hard to muzzle the private media and leaders of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who were perceived to be anti government.

"We observed with sadness how individuals perceived to be anti-Rupiah Banda were ill-treated. We saw malicious schemes on targeted individuals. He is the very man who is at the centre of late former president Frederick Chiluba's acquittal of all corruption charges. How can he tell the world today that his administration upheld the Constitution? No! The three years was a disaster for Zambia," Rev M'bao said.

He said if Banda was doing justice and if he was a very popular leader, Zambians wouldn't have voted for the current President Michael Sata who was the main opposition leader during his tenure.

Rev M'bao said a little integrity would be added if Banda begins to tell the nation the truth that his governance system was inept and did not meet the aspirations of many Zambians.

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Chongwe calls on government to build bigger, modern prisons

Chongwe calls on government to build bigger, modern prisons
By Bright Mukwasa, Masuzyo Chakwe and Henry Sinyangwe
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:30 CAT

DR Rodger Chongwe says the government should build bigger and modern prison where inmates should be kept as human beings and not like "animals". And Non Governmental Organisa-tions Coordinating Committee (NGOCC)board chairperson Beatrice Grillo says prisons should be places where people go to reform and not die.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission has stated that the deprivation of liberty does not make prisoners less human than everyone else. Vice-President Guy Scott on Wednesday visited Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe where pathetic conditions of the facility were revealed.

Vice-President Scott, who described the state of Zambia's only maximum security prison as hell, said there was need for a total rehabilitation of the system.

During the visit, it was discovered that the condemned section of Mukobeka Maximum Prison had 281 prisoners against a holding capacity of 48.

Vice-President Scott's visit to the facility was the first of a high-ranking official since independence.

"Accommodation in these prisons has never been expanded considering the rise in our population. Chimbokaila in Lusaka, that prison was built for a population of Lusaka which had half a million and the same with Maximum Prison in Kabwe…," said Dr Chongwe, a prominent Lusaka lawyer.

"And we are 13 million people in Zambia today and we cannot, with that population, expect to use those prisons which were built at a time when numbers were less than what we have. The solution is to build bigger and modern prison infrastructure so that the inmates are kept there as human beings not as animals as described by the Vice-President that Mukobeko Prison is merely hell on earth."

He also said one of the things that should be done which had been hotly debated for sometime in the country was to perhaps consider abolishing capital punishment which was today on the statute books.

"The other thing is instead of imposing custodial sentences for minor offences like stealing a cob of maize, petty thieving…It's better to fine them and if they can't pay the fine, let them serve under some community service," advised Dr Chongwe.

And Grillo said there was need to decongest the Zambian prisons because the conditions were deplorable and inhumane.

"It is no wonder some prisoners do not reform and end up going back to the life of crime because of the conditions they were subjected to in prison," she said.

Grillo said people are supposed to come out of prison reformed and better. She said it was very unfair for a person to wait for 10 years for an appeal to be heard, describing it as inhumane as it took away all the human rights of a person.

"We need to decongest the prisons; and how can someone wait for 10 years for a case to be disposed of, how come? It's either they have a case or they don't. If the police are not able to bring a case to court within a certain period, then maybe there is no case and these people should be released," she said.

"Can you imagine if you spent 10 years and in the end you are later released because there is nothing, you have already gone through the trauma and everything."

Grillo urged the government to ensure that there was a fasttrack court to decongest the prisons so that less serious cases were dealt with as quickly as possible.

She said there should also be a law in place to ensure that cases that go beyond a certain period are disposed of because that would mean that the police had no case.

Grillo said there was need for more open prisons and urged the government to build more modern prisons as the country could not afford to be using prisons that were built 20 years ago.

And Human Rights Commission acting chairperson Palan Mulonda stated that prisoners were human beings deserving of decent existence and equal respect of human rights.

"The Commission is greatly concerned that today, Zambian prisons still echo the times when such facilities were viewed as places of punishment instead of being centres for rehabilitation of offenders who would later be integrated back into society after serving their respective sentences," he stated.

Mulonda stated that the commission was therefore delighted that the government had taken steps to address problems facing Zambia's prisons following Vice-President Scott's visit to Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe.

He stated that the gesture by Vice-President Scott was a sign that the government was concerned about the horrible conditions in prisons, hence their willingness to take corrective measures to finding a lasting solution to the problem.

"The Commission reiterates its call for improvement in the conditions of detention facilities countrywide and in the treatment of people detained in these facilities to ensure human dignity is preserved," Mulonda stated.

And Mulonda welcomed the government's pronouncement that it will address the issue of corporal punishment.

"The commission wishes to restate its position on capital punishment and urges government to consider acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as the first step towards the abolition of capital punishment in Zambia," stated Mulonda.

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Farmers urge decentralisation of animal testing centres

Farmers urge decentralisation of animal testing centres
By Gift Chanda in Namwala
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:29 CAT

FARMERS have called for the decentralisation of animal testing centres to boost the livestock sector growth. During the first ever livestock field day held in Namwala on Wednesday, farmers condemned the current situation where testing of animals for diseases is only done in Lusaka.

They observed that since the outbreak of the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) animal disease, the testing of blood samples for disease screening before cattle is moved from one district to another is still done in Lusaka at Balmoral, a situation they said was hampering the growth of the country's beef sector.

"There has been some progress in disease control but at a huge cost to the farmers," said Zambia National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba, who spoke on behalf of farmers.

"Farmers have to bring their blood samples at their own cost to Lusaka for testing…this has been a major cost and hurdle. But going forward for the livestock sector to be vibrant, there is need to decentralise the testing of animals to bring the services closer to the farmers in the districts or regions as a matter of urgency."

Zimba further noted that livestock theft was another challenge hampering the growth of the sector, especially the beef industry.

"Our farmers continue to live in fear of losing animals, which is their main source of livelihood and store of wealth, not to mention that even their lives are at the mercy of cattle rustlers," Zimba said.

"We would like to appeal to the government to put in place legislation which should make cases of cattle rustling to become non-bailable offence. The government should introduce stiffer penalties such as ‘any vehicle caught with stolen carcass' should be forfeited to the state. This would go a long way in deterring cattle theft."

He said the sector was still in its infancy and required support to develop and grow.

Zimba also noted that the increased maize bran exports had pushed up stock feed prices.

"The farmers are facing difficulties in accessing maize bran for supplementary feeding of animals. If this situation is not addressed, Zambia could become a net importer of beef instead of increasing local production…this problem requires a permanent solution from the government," said Zimba.

"The farmers are also concerned that there is little support towards research for the livestock sector development."

And agriculture deputy minister, Brigadier General Benson Kapaya said his ministry had formulated a draft Livestock Development Policy to guide effective implementation of priority programmes and activities needed to fast track the development of the sub sector in Zambia.

Brig Gen Kapaya said the government had embarked on programmes to establish livestock service centres in all districts to improve service delivery and establish breeding centres to increase stock at affordable prices to farming communities.

He also explained that the livestock development policy would provide a secure and conducive environment for production, marketing and trade.

Brig Gen Kapaya said the policy would also promote diversification of livestock production base, build and maintain national capacity to deal with adverse climatic variations, disease outbreaks and other emergencies.

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Sampa urges raising of $100m through a Diaspora bond

Sampa urges raising of $100m through a Diaspora bond
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Sat 07 Apr. 2012, 13:30 CAT

THE government and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should consider raising US$100 million from Zambians working abroad through a Diaspora bond, says finance deputy minister Miles Sampa.

And Sampa has implored local authorities to "put their houses in order" and start raising finances from Lusaka Stock Exchange instead of endlessly looking up to central government for operations finance.

Speaking at the launch of SEC strategic plan 2012-2015, Sampa said there was need to leverage the over 2,000 Zambians working abroad to ensure their earnings contribute to national development.

Sampa, who is also Patriotic Front Matero member of parliament, said there was need for SEC and the government to work on a mechanism to structure the bond.

"It has been determined that worldwide, there are about 2,100 professional Zambians abroad doing good jobs at United Nations (agencies), Africa Union, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others," he said.

"Assuming that each one of them can save up US$30, 000 to US$50, 000, there's a US$100 million in the hands of Zambians abroad. So, we need to target that money through a Diaspora bond that can be spiced with some other features that will attract them to bring that money here than invest it abroad. US$100 million raised by the government from Zambians abroad is sweeter than US$100 million that would be raised from foreigners. We need to take advantage of our Diaspora."

Sampa also urged SEC and the Bank of Zambia to harmonise the local bond structure so that a pricing could be determined and properly marketed to the capital market and become a chief source of finances for the country's economic growth and long-term investments in infrastructure projects.

"Because only if pricing for long-term debt is known, it sets a benchmark for short-term borrowing and predictability in the market," he said.

"About 70 per cent of the finances needed in our country can be generated from the capital markets to facilitate mobilisation of funds meant for long-term investments. We need to move from an era where we keep thinking of investment in a short-term, in a one month to five years. We need to have abilities to raise finances for as long as 20 to 50 years because only then will companies be able to borrow to invest in infrastructure."

And Sampa said decentralisation could be accelerated if the local authorities started raising finances from the local bourse.

"These councils…they can actually raise their own funds through municipal bonds like it is done in other countries," said Sampa.

And SEC chief executive officer Dr Wala Chabala said the local capital market was set to grow further and needed support of all key stakeholders in the economy.

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Friday, April 06, 2012

(LUSAKATIMES) RB greatly mismanaged Zambia-Kabimba

RB greatly mismanaged Zambia-Kabimba
TIME PUBLISHED - Friday, April 6, 2012, 6:49 pm

PATRIOTIC Front (PF) Secretary-General Wynter Kabimba has advised former president Rupiah Banda against misleading the international community on economic achievements allegedly scored by his administration. Mr Kabimba feels that the former government “greatly mismanaged the country” adding that Mr Banda should not attempt to ‘white wash’ the MMD administration and himself.

He was speaking in an interview yesterday following Mr. Banda’s revelation that he is still shocked at the fact that Zambians denied him another mandate to govern “despite the various achievements” his administration supposedly scored.

The former President still could not believe that President Michael Sata was chosen over him last September in a lecture he delivered to students as a visiting associate lecturer at Boston University’s African President’s Resident Centre.

But Mr Kabimba said Mr Banda should come to terms with the humiliating defeat and move on.

“Let Mr Banda get back to reality. You cannot be in a state of shock for six months because you are likely to slide into a coma,” Mr Kabimba said. “The reality is that the PF have been given the mandate to govern the nation and we (PF government) will deliver according to people’s expectations.”

He said the former President is trying to ‘clean’ the image of his administration, which he knew was highly corrupt and that his administration failed to deliver development to ordinary Zambians.

He observed that the much preached about 6.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the economy achieved by the MMD government did not benefit many Zambians.

“It was growth that benefited a few politicians. It benefited Mr Banda himself and a few of his colleagues while the majority of Zambians remained poor and grew poorer everyday,” he said.

Mr Kabimba said Zambians liberated themselves from Mr Banda’s administration because of the syndrome of corruption. He said the MMD government was “tainted with high levels of corruption”.

Mr Kabimba alleged that Mr Banda’s fight against corruption was hypocritical, adding that the vice was being perpetrated by people close to him.
“So let him not mislead people in Boston about the things which his administration did not do,” Mr Kabimba said.

He said the road projects that were embarked upon prior to the general elections are shoddy and were marred with corruption.

“The hospitals that were constructed had no personnel and equipment. Mr Banda’s regime duped Zambians and they (Government) lived off the Zambian people,” he said.

Mr Kabimba explained that the MMD administration failed to deliver a people-driven constitution despite spending billions of Kwacha on the National Constitutional Conference (NCC).

He alleged that the former regime wanted to amend the Constitution to serve the interests of a few individuals.

“We would have ended up with a Constitution without the legitimacy from the people,” he said.

[Zambia Daily Mail]

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Lubinda seeks shorter stay for accountants at missions abroad

Lubinda seeks shorter stay for accountants at missions abroad
By Moses Kuwema
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:54 CAT

FOREIGN affairs and tourism minister Given Lubinda says he will be seeking President Michael Sata's authority to recall all the accountants that have overstayed in Zambia's missions abroad. In an interview, Lubinda said the accountants had to be replaced with new ones.

"Generally what I have said to our officials is that a lot of our accounting officials in missions abroad have overstayed in these missions. You can imagine there are some missions where accountants have been there for 11 years; that is too long for a person to be away from Zambia in the mission," he said.

"And this time I don't want any accountant to go in our missions abroad without that person being sanctioned by the Accountant General."

Lubinda said the Accountant General must second staff for missions abroad.

"That way, they will have control over their staff. The idea of the past of sending cadres to go and do accounting functions in missions is wrong and this government will depart from that. I want to ensure that we create a career diplomatic service and if there is any starting point, it will start with the accounting staff because those are the ones who have the financial responsibility and I would like to make sure they are people who can be punished," he said.

Lubinda said there were some cases of bad practices in the different missions abroad.

"I don't think that they bad practices can be attributed right now to abuse, they might have been misapplication and so on but not necessarily outright abuse," he said.

Lubinda said he expected to see some improvement in accounting processes and procedures in missions abroad once civil servants occupy the missions.

"If it is a person who is on contract and their contract comes to an end, that's it; but if it is a person employed by the civil service, then at least you can hold on to their terminal benefits. That way, I expect to see an improvement in accounting processes and procedures in missions abroad," said Lubinda.

The Auditor General's reports have consistently revealed financial irregularities in most of Zambia's missions abroad.

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(NYASATIMES) African leaders mourn Mutharika, condole Malawians

African leaders mourn Mutharika, condole Malawians
By Charles Kufa, Nyasa Times
April 6, 2012

African leaders have started sending condolence messages to Malawians through acting President, Her Excellency Joyce Banda following the death of Head of State Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday April 5.

Kenyan President Mwayi Kibaki and Botswana President Ian Khama were the first leaders to send the condolences through Her Excellency Banda. Kibaki in a message extended “heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathies” to the government and people of the Republic of Malawi as they try to come to terms with the loss of their ruler.

Botswana’s Khama expressed “deep sorrow” on the death of the 78-year-old President.

Mutharika suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday morning and reportedly died soon after 1pm.

As government officials and cabinet ministers are locked in the meeting on the way forward, reports indicate that the process to bring back the President’s body has started.

Mutharika’s dead body remains at Milpark Hospital morgue where the process of embalming is expected to take place before the remains are flown back to Malawi for burial.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s flagship daily The Nation has criticised government’s handling of Mutharika’s condition.

“It is time to do things well through provision of timely information,” the paper said, adding that the government “could have done better than the sketchy statements broadcast on state radio – as almost everyone was left guessing”.

Former President Bakili Muluzi has called for a constitutional order and allows the Vice President Joyce Banda to assume the office of the President.

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Malawi's President Mutharika dead

COMMENT - Not only is Zimbabwe under economic sanctions, but Malawi came under economic sanctions because they extended a loan to the government of Zimbabwe, and refused to apply 'free trade' principles to the Malawi food supply, which had already caused thousands of deaths from starvation when the IMF had the bright idea to monetize (sell) the food reserve to pay off loans to them.

Malawi's President Mutharika dead
06/04/2012 00:00:00
by Mabvuto Banda I Reuters

MALAWI President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday, although few of his countrymen mourned a leader widely seen as an autocrat responsible for a stunning economic collapse.

The 78-year-old was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing but was dead on arrival, the sources said. State media said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment although his immediate whereabouts remained unclear.

Medical sources said the former World Bank economist had been flown out because a power and energy crisis in the nation of 13 million was so severe the Lilongwe state hospital would have been unable to carry out a proper autopsy or even keep his body refrigerated.

Many Malawians blamed Mutharika personally for the economic woes, which stemmed ultimately from a diplomatic spat with former colonial power Britain a year ago.

"We know he is dead and unfortunately he died at a local, poor hospital which he never cared about - no drugs, no power," said Chimwemwe Phiri, a Lilongwe businessman waiting in a snaking line of cars for fuel at a petrol station.
There was no official announcement. State media said a statement would be made at midday (1000 GMT).

As rumours of the death of the self-styled 'Economist in Chief' swept the capital on Thursday night, there were even pockets of drunken jubilation among locals who saw him turning back the clock on 18 years of democracy in the 'Warm Heart of Africa'.

"I am yet to see anyone shedding a tear for Bingu," said Martin Mlenga, another businessman. "We all wished him dead, sorry to say that."

The constitution says Vice-President Joyce Banda will take over as head of state. Analysts said there would be a smooth transition even though Banda was booted out of Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession.

Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his Foreign Minister brother Peter as his successor, although there was little question of the army and police not respecting the law, said former Attorney General Ralph Kasambara.

"The army has been very professional," Kasambara, now a human rights activist, told Reuters. "He was very unpopular. People were praying for his death. We can't get any worse than we are."

The next election is due in 2014.

Police deployed in force across the capital immediately after Mutharika's hospital admission, although it was business as usual on Friday as residents went about their daily struggle to get by.

Mutharika came to power in 2004 and presided over a seven-year boom - underpinned by foreign aid and favorable rains - that made Malawi one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

The good times came to a halt last year after a dispute with Britain, Malawi's biggest donor, that led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and the freezing of millions of dollars of aid.

The cause of the row was a leaked diplomatic cable that accused Mutharika of being "autocratic and intolerant of criticism".

The aid freeze exacerbated an already acute dollar shortage, hampering imports of fuel, food and medicines, and leading to a fall in the value of the kwacha against the dollar.

Malawi's diplomatic isolation and economic plight worsened in July 2011 when the United States shelved a $350 million overhaul of the dilapidated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests.

Mutharika hit back in typically combative style, urging his supporters last month to "step in and defend their father rather than just sit back and watch him take crap from donors and rights groups".

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(NYASATIMES) Malawi leader Joyce Banda to address the nation

Malawi leader Joyce Banda to address the nation

Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda who will be sworn-in as Head of State following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika is scheduled to address the nation.
Banda has been furnished with the reports that Mutharika is formally declared dead following a heart attack on Thursday.

Mutharika's sudden death and the government's silence have lead to confusion about who will take over as acting president.

Former president Bakili Muluzi told a news conference on Friday that Vice President is constitutionally mandated to take the job, adding that Banda's ascension is necessary to keep order.

There are reports of some people in the ruling party trying to force Parliament to convene and change the constitution not to allow the Vice President to assume office.

Lawyer Wapona Kita says “its automatic” that Her Excellency Banda takes over the presidency.
Kita said the constitution “clearly states that in the event of incapacitation or death of the president, the vice president takes over.”

He said: “The reality on the ground is that Joyce Banda takes over until the remainder of the term in 2014, unless someone wants to change the rules,” he said.

Most ordinary Malawians have yet to receive the news due to an official silence in the state media.

Banda formed her own People’s Party after being sacked from the ruling party. Mutharika then filed a case at the High Court seeking to force her from office, arguing that his running mate had become an opposition figure.

Meanwhile, the civil society activist have told a news conference at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe that they are calling for a peaceful succession and constitutional order, allowing Banda to take over power.

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Time for some good news

Time for some good news
By The Post
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:55 CAT

AT Easter, followers of Jesus wonder again at the good news of God's love which was announced on the very first Christmas - that Jesus came to be saviour of the world. This is why, despite the trauma and trouble that humanity inflicts on and in our world, Easter can deliver a continuing message of hope and meaning.

In the Easter truth, we find a God who comes close to us. That is good news for all who feel isolated and alienated. In the Easter truth, we encounter a deliverer who wore our flesh, entered our life, and encountered our death. That is the good news for all who feel that no one understands their struggles of life.

In the Easter truth, we see one who had the power to overcome death. That is good news for all who fear their own mortality and wonder about any hope for the future.

Easter then, is really good news, because it announces that by the death and resurrection of Jesus, people may receive his love and enjoy a restored relationship with God.

A tone of uncertainty is evident in society today. Winds of change are blowing and their effects are being felt on many fronts - politics, business, finance and even personal relationships. So many factors, once thought predictable, are no longer rock-solid. Thankfully, there are some things that never change.

The Easter message remains a constant source of confidence in every season of life. Last September, we voted in a new set of people to take charge of the affairs of our country. In those elections, we saw the harsh reality of political struggle and the toll it takes. Many times we have been reminded that it is a tough, even violent, game.

In the end, though, our life and health depend not only on governments but also on each other. What matters is the quality of our community life - that shared life, which grows up between us, and within us. If we share nothing, if we stand only for self-seeking and gaining power, then no government can serve us.

When Christ rose, he transformed human relationships. A new kind of world was born. We can still meet the arisen one among our brothers and sisters, in the new community he began. Just as the resurrection of Christ brought new understanding and consciousness into the world, let us also use it to resurrect
ourselves and elevate our nation to another plateau of compassion.

May this Easter celebration be a time of reflection to honour our Heavenly Father with renewed commitment to revere, follow, love, serve and obey him.

And let's not forget that it is our fellow human beings, and especially those who lack life and who need justice, in whom God wishes to be loved, served and obeyed. They are the ones with whom Jesus identified. Therefore, there is no contradiction between the struggle for justice and the fulfillment of God's will. One demands the other.

In his Lenten message this year, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of a brief biblical passage in the Letter to the Hebrews which says: "Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works."

The words are part of a passage in which the author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. In examining the words, Pope Benedict reflects on the need for us to be concerned for one another and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters.

All too often, our attitude is just the opposite - an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness or masked as a respect for privacy. Yet the great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God.

If we believe that there is only one God, who is the Father. If that is true, we should all live as brothers, but the brotherhood that God wants doesn't exist in our society. It's denied by all sorts of discriminations, inequalities
and economic contradictions, by the fact that some people are very rich, while most people are very poor.

So for us, basing ourselves on the very roots of our faith, fighting for brotherhood means fighting against all those things that concretely and historically hinder social equality, justice, freedom and the full dignity for everyone, no matter his job, tribe, colour or ideas.

This Easter, as we prepare to enjoy our four-day break with friends and families, let us not forget that there are many of our brothers who cannot enjoy, who cannot laugh, who cannot eat, who are helpless.

How do we show concern for all these people, for so many of them? It is easy to despair about our powerlessness to help others, but the way to show our human solidarity is to follow God's commandment to love one another in our own lives and through our interaction with the people around us.

By showing concern for those who are suffering in our midst, we are reaffirming that goodwill prevails over evil. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness. Sometimes our affluence and well-being prevents us from seeing, and responding to, those in need and we can become complacent in showing compassion and empathy.

On Good Friday, the crucifixion of Christ reminds us of our responsibility to be guardians of our brothers and sisters, to care for one another and to follow the example of the way Christ lived. His resurrection on Easter Sunday is the ultimate symbol of hope and the very essence of our faith which gives meaning to our lives.

We can't
necessarily change what is happening everywhere but we can show the world that by living in Christ's footsteps and with God's love at the centre of our lives, we are brothers and sisters in humanity. Our love of Christ is powerful and enables us to do good.

Easter reminds us of the story of a little boy rescued after being lost at sea. When found clinging to a rock, he was asked if he was afraid. He answered, ‘I sure was. I shook all night…but the rock didn't move.' The same can be said of the Easter message - it is timeless and secure.

Our prayer is that you discover the real hope and genuine security through the life-changing message that Easter brings. May this auspicious occasion of Easter bless our nation and the masses of our people with peace, love and prosperity! The overwhelming theme of the gospels is that evil exists, but it can be overcome.

Let's overcome it in our homeland!



Kachingwe annoys Dora

Kachingwe annoys Dora
By Roy Habaalu
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:55 CAT

RICHARD Kachingwe is more likely to steal than me, says Dora Siliya. Major Kachingwe on Wednesday said the party was considering tabling the issue of whether or not Siliya must remain as party spokesperson in view of her court case in which she has been accused of abusing public office.

But Siliya, who has since been granted a K50 million bail by the courts, said Maj Kachingwe should be the last person to talk about morals. She said Kachingwe must learn to consult the National Executive Committee (NEC) members before issuing statements that would embarrass the party.

"Those who live in glass houses must not talk about morality. Between Kachingwe and I, who is more likely to steal? Ask the MMD cadres. My advice to him is that he should stop issuing unwarranted statements that will embarrass the party," Siliya said.

"In Zambia and in MMD, people are innocent until proven guilty. Kachingwe must consult his superiors, the NEC to avoid embarrassing the party further such as unilateral suspension of…Austin Liato," she said.

Siliya said Maj Kachingwe must stop misapplying himself and concentrate on having a crack-free MMD.

"…Now it's our own party members that should find us guilty. Is Mr Kachingwe saying that Felix Mutati should be suspended because he appeared before the Task Force on corruption for allegedly influencing Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane over Pepsi tax rebate? Should he stay away from NEC? Should George Kunda, Austin Liato, Maxwell Mwale, Kenneth Konga, Kenneth Chipungu, Gabriel Namulambe be suspended because they are being investigated? If Mr Kachingwe doesn't know what he's doing, he must consult his superiors in NEC," she said.

Maj Kachingwe, in an interview, had said Siliya's matter was a moral issue that was of interest to the party and that her fate would be tabled before NEC and acted upon until her case was cleared.

Meanwhile, the MMD has lifted the suspension slapped on its national youth chairman and Chisamba member of parliament Moses Muteteka.

And Muteteka yesterday said the lifting of his suspension had given him impetus to go flat-out to campaign for the party presidency.

In a letter dated April 5, 2012 and signed by Maj Kachingwe, the MMD decided to dispose of Muteteka's case to avail him an opportunity to realise his ambition of vying for the party presidency.

The MMD had suspended Muteteka for alleged insubordination, misconduct and contravening party regulations, among other offences.

"I make reference to my letter of instant to you and the charges contained therein which also carried suspension from the party pending the disposal of the case by the disciplinary ad-hoc committee. I wish to again to invoke the powers vested in me by article 50 (3) of the MMD constitution in line with the general amnesty which had been effected due to ongoing convention to lift your suspension and that you are free to participate in any party activities," read the letter in part.

But Muteteka said he was aware that some MMD youths celebrated upon hearing his suspension.

"This is the spirit which must be encouraged in the party or in any other club where people must be allowed to exercise their freedom of expression and also corrected where they go wrong. I want to appeal to all MMD members and supporters to appreciate the step taken by the MMD to lift my suspension. This has given impetus to me to go out in the country to campaign for the position of president for the party. Therefore, all members of MMD should unite and work together to recruit the membership," he said.

Muteteka promised to continue pointing out the wrongs in the party.

"I am going to continue pointing out the wrongs but there are issues now which I have also learned. There are things we can do administratively and there are things we can do publicly. As a citizen of this country, I am protected by the Constitution to speak but as a member of the club, MMD, we have administrative channels on how to deal with international matters," he said.

Asked on the interest shown by former Republican vice-president Enoch Kavindele to contest the MMD's top position, Muteteka appealed to Kavindele to "back-off from the race".

"…I would appeal to him to be my campaign manager because we are looking at tomorrow. We are looking at 2016 elections, how old is Kavindele? How old I am going to be, 46. If you want the party and the leader who can inspire the party longer, look at the youths…Those youths who have been cooked; who have gone through the systems and I am the one, it is me available in the MMD now," said Muteteka.

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Sampa foresees stronger kwacha

Sampa foresees stronger kwacha
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:55 CAT

THE anticipated inflow of about US $935 million in Zambia mid this year is expected to reverse losses suffered by the kwacha against major convertibles in the last 12 months, says finance deputy minister Miles Sampa.

The kwacha last year posted a nine per cent depreciation against the US dollar and the local currency in the first quarter of this year lost a further three per cent to trade around K5,300.

Analysts blame the local currency's loss on unclear and uncertain policy statement by the PF government in the aftermath of their defeat of the MMD in the September 2011 polls, coupled with the current economic malaise in the Eurozone which is driving global demand for US dollars - a safe haven.

Sampa said a expected surge in dollar inflows into the country by June this year from a combination of debt and grants would help to prop up the domestic currency.

Sampa said the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) approved US $354.8 million compact aid to address water and sanitisation sector in rapidly urbanising Lusaka and the planned US $500 million Eurobond mid this year would help to boost kwacha's performance against major convertibles.

Sampa, who is also Matero PF member of parliament, said the US $50 million Line of Credit from India for the construction of about 650 rural health posts throughout the country and the Chinese government's recently pledged US $35 million for various projects for immediate implementation would also increase foreign exchange inflows into Zambia.

"With these additions on the supply side while demand has remained constant in the absence of maize importation, basic economics entails that the Zambian kwacha will soon regain the six per cent lost late last year and in the first quarter of this year," Sampa said in an interview.

He said the large foreign exchange inflows indicated huge confidence the international community had in the PF government as was imprinted by Standard and Poors' that maintained a B+ grading for Zambia's current future outlooks.

"Some arguments on the drop in the levels of portfolio investment into our domestic debt are baseless," Sampa said.

"Foreign investors in our economy in our money market are generally loyal to pricing and exchange rates. When Treasury Bills rates drop, and exchange rate fluctuates, these cash money investors always flee until the government increases its interest rates for domestic debts. In the meantime, our priority has been to reduce commercial lending rates, higher treasury bills are inversely related with that objective. On the other hand, as soon as the kwacha starts to appreciate as anticipated, these flight investments will be back in the country faster than they declined."

Separately, BoZ assistant director of market operations, Jonathan Chipili, said foreign holdings of Zambian debt have fallen to their lowest since 2005, reflecting uncertainty over the direction of policy following elections last year and the spillover from the global financial crisis.

Chipili said BoZ also wants to consolidate the 170-plus bonds in circulation to spur trading in the secondary market.

He said offshore investors' holdings of ambian government bonds are less than five per cent of outstanding debt, the lowest proportion since foreigners were first allowed in to the market seven years ago. The participation of foreign investors in our securities market has reduced, even prior to the elections," Chipili was quoted by Reuters.

"They want to be sure how the government is going to steer its policy."

And Sampa said the government was confident to grow the local economy above the current average 6.7 per cent.

"In the medium to long-term, we are determined to keep inflation in the single digit levels and as we create employment, we are confident to grow the economy to unprecedented levels of double digits from current median of around 6.7 per cent," said Sampa.

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Man on death row complains of poor justice system

Man on death row complains of poor justice system
By Kombe Chimpinde and Bright Mukwasa
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:55 CAT

A murder accused inmate currently on death row at Mukobeko Maximum Prison pending his 1993 appeal case has asked the government to intervene in the dispensation of justice in Zambia.

And Vice-President Guy Scott, who described the state of Zambia's only maximum security prison as hell, said there was need for a total rehabilitation of the system. Meanwhile, home affairs minister Kennedy Sakeni said the rights of prisoners must be respected.

In an interview after Vice-President Scott toured Kabwe's Mukobeko Maximum Prison, Benjamin Miti, 43, said the continued pilling of prisoners, especially those on remand for capital offences who were awaiting clearance by the courts of law, was contributing to the congestion in prisons.

Established in 1954, Mukobeka Maximum Prison has a capacity of 1062, representing both females and males. Vice-President Scott's visit to the facility is the first of a high-ranking official since independence.

Benjamin, who was condemned to death for murder when he was 20 years old, explained that there were many inmates whose appeal cases had not been disposed of while others had been told that their files had gone missing.

"My fate is yet to be decided because the Supreme Court where my appeal case is has informed us that it is unable to trace my case. So I will have to wait. Imagine, I have lived for 19 years without knowing my fate," he explained, naming many others who were in a similar situation.

And Vice-President Scott said a lot of things had gone wrong in the system and there was need for a total overhaul.

"The President heard of the conditions here and he directed me to come to you and report back. Others have had your appeals rejected. We have to find a solution because this is hell on earth," Dr Scott said shortly after he toured the condemned section of the prison where 281 prisoners are held against a capacity of 48.

"As the government, we can't allow the present situation to continue."

Vice-President Scott was astounded to learn that six to seven prisoners were sharing a cell meant for one inmate when he demanded to see how the prisoners were sleeping.

"Indeed the congestion is visible even for the press to see and indeed, that's not the way it is supposed to be. It is inhuman that a cell where one person is supposed to sleep is occupied by seven people. We know your toilets are in the cell in form of a container, that is surely inhuman," he said.

And Bwacha Parish Priest Fr Bernard Bohan who has been working with the prison for 23 years said the death penalty was inhuman because no human being had a right to take away another's life.

Fr Bohan prayed that killing of the condemned never occurs in Zambia again after witnessing the brutal ritual conducted in the gallows of the prison.

And Sakeni said the situation at Mukobeko gave a clear picture of the situation in the rest of the prisons in the country.

And Zambia Prisons Commissioner Percy Chota said the national total holding capacity of 7,500 prisoners had been suppressed by the current total number of 16, 500 inmates countrywide.

Chota said over 150 people on the death row had not had their cases disposed of by the courts of law, saying if such was avoided, it would assist in reducing congestion at the prison.

And touring Mwembeshi prison yesterday morning, Vice-President Scott said the government would bring reforms to stop congestion in most prisons in various parts of the country.

He said the completion of the Mwembeshi Prison under construction would boost efforts in decongesting Zambia's only operational Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe.
"…There is only one maximum security prison working in Zambia at the moment and this will make two…," said Vice-President Scott.

He said there was a trend in the past where governments started building structures and without completing, they embarked on another.

"I don't know why we start something, we stop, we restart, we stop instead of finishing one and then move onto the next. I have to get on my knees and plead in front of Minister of Finance to see what we can manage but unfortunately as

Vice-President I have no power and money but maybe I can put some persuasive influence so that this actual block is finished and so are those other two. We should try and get it finished this year. Then now we can decongest some of what we saw yesterday (at Kabwe maximum prison)," said Vice-President Scott.

"I mean you should be decongesting the other maximum security facility. It will be very useful if you can expand an open area..."



Sata is a hardworking President - Chikwanda

Sata is a hardworking President - Chikwanda
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:54 CAT

MICHAEL Sata is a hardworking Republican President who reports for work before seven in the morning, says finance minister Alexander Chikwanda. And Chikwanda says the government is grappling with unemployment levels which he described as "a ticking time bomb" in a population where 70 per cent are below 30 years old.

Appearing on a Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation special television interview with economist Dennis Wood last night, Chikwanda said the PF government had shown it was a hardworking administration going by its achievements and pronouncements in the first six months of its rule.

"Six months is enough for any serious government to get organised and to launch things that have a bearing on the development of the country," Chikwanda said.

"We are a hardworking government. We have a President who works hard, he is on his desk as early as before 7 am and when we ministers send our letters to the President in the morning, you can get a reply in the afternoon."

He said the government was working on a mechanism of creating labour-intensive public construction projects to absorb the swelling number of unemployed youths in the country.

"Unemployment is a worrying factor given that Zambia's population distribution is that 70 per cent of our population are people who are 30 years and below," he said.

"This concentration of young people people who are in the sensitive areas is a very dicey matter. It is a ticking time bomb, we are sitting on. We must move to create employment opportunities."

Chikwanda revealed that the government would start constructing roads using pavements - the technology of over 1,000 years which was abandoned in the advent of new technology.

"We will be paving the roads, the same way the Romans paved the roads, not only urban roads but also rural roads," he said, adding that,

"although the move might not be financially efficient, it is a cost that is supportable because if you pay a guy K1 million a month, we are creating more income earners who have spending power. K1 million isn't much because when a government minister and a government official when they travel, we give them per diem allowance of US$400 a day which means that what the government official is being paid can pay two guys."

Chikwanda also said there was need for Zambia to produce more entrepreneurs if the country was to record significant economic development, unlike the current trend where more politicians were churned out.

He said the PF government would not abandon the planning set by the MMD.

"We are not discarding what our predecessors did but they have to be some serious realignment. The resource envelope is significantly different and new demands have been thrust upon the new government," he said.

"The Sixth National Development Plan is there as a guide."

He said some of the adjustments done to the SNDP include the upping of funding to the health sector, 46 per cent higher than the outlay in the 2011 national budget.

Chikwanda also said Zambia's inflation was expected to trend downwards, premised on reduced food inflationary pressures and expected fall in bank lending rates.

"It inflation could be lower than six per cent by the end of the year," said Chikwanda.

"We have just ended the first quarter of the year at six percent. There are certain things that could bring the inflation down. On the food front, although the maize and output of other foods maybe slower, but they will still be above our national needs. So, the expectation, inflation of food prices would be tolerable and also the Bank of Zambia have since effected new regime of making their lending rates which mean interest rates would go down. Of course the banks would add a few things, but I hope they have a serious sense of responsibility so that they don't add exorbitant amounts on top of the nine per cent so that we can see the interest rates drop from the current high levels of 26 per cent to significant lower levels."



Chiefs mourn Chitimukulu

Chiefs mourn Chitimukulu
By Christopher Miti in Chipata and Fredrick Mwansa in Itezhi-te
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:53 CAT

THE House of Chiefs says it is saddened by the death of Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people in Northern Province. And Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people in Eastern Province says he is shocked by the chief's death. In an interview yesterday, House of Chiefs chairperson chief Madzimawe said Chitimukulu's death was a big blow to the institution of traditional leadership.

"We are so saddened as House of Chiefs and actually a dark cloud has befallen the country because him (Chitimukulu) being one of the four paramount chiefs that we have in the country, his death has affected the entire country. You know as the institution of traditional leadership we look up to these four paramount chiefs for guidance so his demise is a big blow to the country and indeed the institution of traditional leadership," chief Madzimawe said.

He said chief Chitimukulu's death was also sad to the Ngoni people and him in particular.

"This is sad to the House of Chiefs and indeed personally because I used to interact very well with the late king of the Bemba land so it is a very big loss to all of us. I had developed a personal rapport with the paramount chief because sometimes my paramount chief used to send me to Kasama to represent him on certain things," he said.

Chief Madzimawe said the House of Chiefs was praying for the late chief's subjects so that they could mourn him in peace and dignity.

And chief Mpezeni said it was sad that chief Chitimukulu had died.

"You know I visited him (chief Chitimukulu) in Hospital when he was just brought to UTH and I spoke to him and his condition was not very bad," said chief Mpezeni.

Chitimukulu died shortly after being taken to UTH's Renal Clinic on Tuesday. The late Ackson Chilufya Mwamba ascended to the throne in 2007 and was officially recognised as Paramount Chief Chitimukulu on May 7, 2007 through Statutory Instrument No.36 of 2007.

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Nurses get increment

Nurses get increment
By Kondwani Munyeka
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:53 CAT

GOVERNMENT has awarded health workers salary increments ranging between K852,000 to K2,200,000 depending on an individual nurse's salary scale.

Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation president Thom Yungana said following negotiations with government, nurses and midwives had been awarded the highest salary increment in comparison to other professionals.

He said these increments could easily be explained in block figure terms and not in the usual traditional ‘percentage across the board'.

"We have seen our members going away with additional cash ranging from K852,000 to K2,200,000 depending on an individual nurse's salary scale," said Yungana during a briefing in Lusaka yesterday.

He also thanked government for making allowances flexible and not fixed with housing allowance on 20 per cent, newly introduced transport allowance at 10 per cent and commuted night duty allowance at five per cent of the basic salary.

"This means that every time the basic salary shall be adjusted upwards, allowances shall also automatically increase upwards," said Yung'ana.

He commended government for putting up a comprehensive and elaborate public service pay policy.

Yungana said the policy highlights the principles that guide the negotiations between government and trade unions in the public service for the coming 10 year period.

"This is aimed at getting the best of our collective bargaining process to the benefit of our members and the public service," Yungana said.

Yungana also highlight the 2012-2021 collective bargaining guiding principles as equal pay for equal work, life cycle of conditions of service, graded salary increase, introduction of compulsory health and funeral and life assurance schemes, retention of duty facilitating allowances, maintenance of housing and commuted night duty allowances and introduction of transport allowances as a percentage of basic salary to eligible employees.

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Government, CBU agree on 15% increase in tuition fees for 1st-year students

Government, CBU agree on 15% increase in tuition fees for 1st-year students
By Allan Mulenga
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:53 CAT

THE government and Copperbelt University management have agreed on a 15 per cent increase in tuition fees for first-year students from the initial 25 per cent approved in 2008.

And the government is in the process of introducing the Student Loan Authority to cover the cost of students' education. Education minister Dr John Phiri yesterday said his ministry and CBU management agreed that the 25 per cent increase in first-year tuition fees be spread over two years - 15 per cent this year and 10 per cent next year.

"The ministry has noted that the fees for first year´s will disadvantage the already disadvantaged to enter Copperbelt University.

The Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education will source financing to bridge the budgetary gap which will be created at the Copperbelt University as a result of the reduction in the rate of increase of tuition fees," he said.

"…There have been concerns raised over this…These concerns have come from Copperbelt University Students and the Copperbelt community in general. The fees have reached to some K14,000,000 and K18,000,000 for Social Science and Natural Science programmes, respectively. This is far above what the majority of our people can afford."

The 15 per cent increase in fees this year means Social Science students will now pay K12.8 million instead of K14 million while Natural Science students will pay K16.9 million from the initial K18.4 million.

In 2013, another 10 per cent increment will be effected on first-year students.

There was public outcry over the proposed 25 per cent increase in tuition fees, with students warning that they would boycott classes if management went ahead to effect the increment.

But CBU management said the 25 per cent increment was approved in 2008 after consultation with the government as a solution to many financial problems the institution was facing.

And Dr Phiri said the ministry was working on a draft bill for the establishment of the Student Loan Authority which would be presented to Parliament for enactment into law.

"The ministry also recognises that the only solution to the funding of public universities is through a non-discriminatory organ which will manage a loans scheme for students. The Student Loan Authority will enable students who are admitted to higher education institutions to access loans to cover the cost of their education," said Dr Phiri.

"This will be part of the overall efforts that the ministry will be undertaking to ensure that our higher education system is positioned to respond to the development needs of our country, and to ensure that science, technology and innovation provide a basis for finding solutions to those issues which hinder our efforts towards social and economic development."

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Present evidence against Henry to SA -Saccord

Present evidence against Henry to SA -Saccord
By Bright Mukwasa
Fri 06 Apr. 2012, 13:54 CAT

SACCORD has urged police to begin legal proceedings against Rupiah Banda's son, Henry, using the South African legal system if they have a solid case against him. Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes information officer Obby Chibuluma said in an interview that if police had sufficient evidence of wrong doing on Henry's part, they must travel to South Africa and interview him.

"South Africa is not very far, they can go there, interview him and possibly begin proceedings within the South African judicial system of getting Mr Banda here in Zambia. The idea of running to Interpol and hoping Interpol is going to force other countries to have him arrested and deported is not going to help us," Chibuluma said.

"They need to focus their energies on South Africa and ensure that if political
processes cannot help, they need to ensure that they go to court and produce the evidence that is required for the courts in South Africa to order for Mr Banda to be deported or extradited to Zambia.

We know that South Africa has been doing that in several countries they have also been requesting other countries to extradite their people who are accused of crimes in South Africa so there is nothing different with Zambia doing the same so let them focus their energies on going to South Africa provide the evidence and ask for Mr Banda to be brought to Zambia so that he can face the charges within our courts and answer to those allegations that the police have against him."

Chibuluma said it would not help the country to seemingly continue politicking on Henry Banda if there was wrong doing on his part.

"Zambia police should stop wasting taxpayers' money looking for Henry Banda in places where they clearly know that he's not there. There has been consistent information within the public that Mr Banda is in South Africa and he has been there for quite some time and they have decided to mislead Zambians by talking of him in places where he clearly he hasn't been for some time," said Chibuluma.

South African High Commissioner to Zambia Moses Chikane told the Zambia Daily Mail that the Zambian authorities would need to use Interpol to secure any law breaker, including Henry.

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(WASHINGTON POST) BRICS summit: Emerging economies condemn military threats against Iran, Syria

COMMENT - Commentary on The Keiser Report (E271).

BRICS summit: Emerging economies condemn military threats against Iran, Syria
By Rama Lakshmi, The Washington Post

NEW DELHI — Leaders of five of the world’s fastest-growing economies called Thursday for an end to the rhetoric of military action against Iran and Syria, as they met in India to develop measures to boost mutual trade in their local currencies. The leaders of the coalition known as BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — said unilateral sanctions against Iran would affect their trade and economic growth.

Syrian crackdown continues:Protesters opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad face violent responses from security forces, and the United States has closed its embassy in the country as the violence grows.

A look at the Syrian uprising one year later. Thousands of Syrians have died and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, despite numerous calls by the international community for him to step down.
Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A look at the Syrian uprising one year later. Thousands of Syrians have died and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, despite numerous calls by the international community for him to step down.

“We must avoid political disruptions that create volatilities in global energy markets and affect trade flows,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. “We agreed that a lasting solution to the problems in Syria and Iran can only be found through dialogue.”

Echoing Singh’s concerns, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she does not “support any embargo policy” and “escalation of pro-violence rhetoric.” She called for “opening a room for compromise solution” on Iran.

The statements come at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning of a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In Syria, a violent government crackdown on an opposition uprising has killed about 9,000 people, according to U.N. estimates.

The BRICS leaders, meeting in a five-star hotel under heavy security, discussed adjusting the balance of the global economic order and decision-making. They signed new trade agreements, made frequent reference to their shared goal of growth, decried the lack of parity in international organizations and called for reforms in the U.N. Security Council.

But analysts say that it is not clear whether the disparate, patchwork coalition of emerging economies — with very little in common apart from their recent economic growth, size and aspirations — can be an effective platform to influence global policies.

The coalition, which represents countries that have more than 41 percent of the world’s population and contribute 20 percent of the global economy, is beset by mutual suspicion and disagreements. And members have not always taken the same stance on international efforts to address uprisings in Libya and Syria.

The term “BRICS” was coined by Goldman Sachs in 2001 to categorize the emerging economies as the drivers of international growth. The group came together formally in 2006 at the initiative of Russia. In 2011, South Africa joined it. In recent years, the BRICS countries have worked at forming common positions to determine the outcome of climate-change talks in Copenhagen. But many analysts say that it is unlikely to be a formidable bloc in international negotiations.

“The BRICS grouping has economic heft, but their political clout is yet to be tested,” said Lalit Mansingh, former Indian ambassador to the United States. “They don’t see eye to eye on many international issues. There is no common cementing principle among them. All the members in the group have problems with China. They have made all the right noises today at the summit, but each country will have to make its own calculations as to how far they can defy the United States.”

The New Delhi BRICS summit, the fourth since 2009, is taking place under the shadow of the euro-zone crisis and the impasse over Iran, which supplies oil to India, China and South Africa.

On Wednesday, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming, in a thinly veiled reference to the United States, said China will not allow domestic laws of a country to get in the way of its trade ties with Iran.

The five leaders signed a pact that they hope will reduce the demand for fully convertible currencies, such as the dollar, for trade among BRICS nations. The agreement will allow credit in local currencies among BRICS export-import banks to boost trade. The internal trade among the BRICS nations, now at $230 billion, is growing at an average of 28 percent a year, and the coalition hopes to increase it to $500 billion by 2015.

“The BRICS group is trying to tie five boats together in the midst of an enormous global economic storm,” said Rajiv Kumar, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “They are trying to hedge their bets by promoting trade among themselves and creating a fall-back plan in case the dollar-denominated global trade falls apart in the future.”

The group also agreed to work toward setting up a development bank — like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — that would finance projects in their member countries.

Kumar said he was less optimistic about the potential of such a bank, saying similar efforts by other countries have failed to take off in the past.

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(GLOBALRESEARCH) BOLIVIA: The Morales government: neoliberalism in disguise?

BOLIVIA: The Morales government: neoliberalism in disguise?
by Federico Fuentes
Global Research, April 5, 2012
International Socialism - 2012-03-27

For more than a decade Bolivia has been rocked by mass upsurges and mobilisations that have posed the necessity and possibility of fundamental political and social transformation.1 In 2005 the social movements that led the country’s water and gas wars managed to elect a government that since then has presided over a process of change that has brought major advances.

Among these are: the adoption of a plurinational state structure that for the first time recognises the country’s indigenous majority; regaining sovereign control over vital natural resources and initial steps towards endogenous industrialisation; an ongoing agrarian reform; and the development of social programmes that have substantially improved the lives of ordinary Bolivians. Democratic rights have been reinforced; forms of self-government by indigenous communities established; and electoral processes expanded to include popular election even of the judiciary. Not least in importance, Bolivia has also become a prime participant in the movement for Latin American anti-imperialist unification and sovereignty and emerged as a major leader in the international fight against capitalist-induced climate change.

In his recent article in this journal, “Revolution against ‘Progress’”,2 Jeffery Webber offers a harsh critique of the MAS government, illustrating it by reference to recent conflicts between the government and some indigenous groups involving environmental and development issues. His conclusion: the government remains committed to a neoliberal programme based on “fiscal austerity”, “low inflationary growth”, “inconsequential agrarian reform”, “low social spending” and “alliances with transnational capital”, among other policies. As such, it shares “more continuity than change with the inherited neoliberal model”.

These are sweeping assertions, and many are questionable. Webber criticises the government’s supposed “fiscal austerity”, yet omits the fact that budget spending has increased almost fourfold between 2004 and 2012. He attacks the government for seeking “low inflation” and “macroeconomic stability”, but what is his alternative: high inflation and macroeconomic instability? These were certainly traits of previous neoliberal governments. Furthermore, is it “inconsequential” that in its first five years the Morales government presided over the redistribution or titling of 41 million hectares of land to over 900,000 members of indigenous peasant communities?3 And if the government’s policy can be simply defined as one of forming alliances to benefit foreign transnationals, why is the Bolivian state currently facing 12 legal challenges in international courts initiated by these same companies?
Profile of neoliberalism

Simply put, Webber ignores the real progress made by the Morales government in rolling back the neoliberal project in Bolivia. Neoliberalism is best understood as a class project that sought to reassert capital’s dominance internationally in the wake of the 1970s economic crisis. Neoliberalism, as Webber himself previously noted, was “set in motion on an international scale largely under the tutelage of the US imperial state” and had as its fundamental strategy not only the “privatisation of formerly state or public resources but their acquisition by transnational capital in the US and other core economies”.4

Furthermore, current Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera has noted that neoliberalism rested on three additional “pillars”: “the fragmentation of the labouring sectors and worker organisations…the diminished state, and impediments to people’s decision making”.5

The impact of neoliberalism in Bolivia includes:6

l The sell-off or dismantling of Bolivia’s largest state-owned companies. In the hydrocarbon sector, which accounted for 50 percent of government revenue, privatisation was accompanied by a drop in royalties companies had to pay from 50 percent to 18 percent. The workforce of YPBF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos) was reduced from more than 9,000 in 1985 to 600 by 2002.

l The state’s dependency on foreign imperialist governments, transnational corporations and their institutions was deepened. International loans and aid covered “roughly half of Bolivia’s public investment”, with each budget deficit bringing further IMF-imposed structural adjustment programmes.

l The removal of state subsidies sent Bolivia’s small industrial sector into crisis. Some 35,000 jobs disappeared in the manufacturing sector alone.

l By 1988 the informal sector had ballooned to 70 percent of Bolivia’s urban workforce, and the few jobs created in the formal sector were subject to labour flexibilisation practices.

l The establishment of power-sharing pacts among traditional parties and restrictions on electoral registration for alternative parties consolidated the grip that neoliberal politicians had on political decision making.

Compare this disastrous record with that of the Morales government. While Bolivia’s state continues to be capitalist, “and the government functions within the framework of deeply entrenched capitalist culture and social relations”, it is equally true that through a combination of successful electoral and insurrectional battles, indigenous-popular forces today are in control of important positions of power within the state.7 From these positions, they have used the increased state revenue, generated through nationalisations undertaken across various strategic sectors, to begin breaking its dependency on foreign governments. This strong economic position has allowed those running the Bolivian state to dictate their own domestic and foreign policy, free from any impositions placed by imperialist governments and international financial institutions in return for loans. Ties of the US military to the Bolivian army have been cut.

A constituent assembly wrote a new constitution that for the first time recognises the previously excluded indigenous majority and has recuperated
state control over natural resources. Since the referendum ratifying the new constitution the process of “decolonising” the state has continued, most recently in October 2010, with the holding of Bolivia’s first popular elections to elect judicial authorities. The result was a record number of women and indigenous people flooding into the judicial branch of the state.

The Morales government also initiated a significant shift in Bolivia’s foreign policy, leaving behind the traditional subservient stance towards the US. Instead Bolivia has spearheaded initiatives in the direction of seeking unity with anti-imperialist forces—both at the level of governments and social movements—within the context of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (Alba), and increasing regional collaboration, through institutions such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Another key focus has been the construction of an international alliance to fight for real solutions to the climate crisis, as evidenced by the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change held in Cochabamba in April 2010.
An alternative model

Webber ignores most of these achievements and instead focuses on the MAS industrial strategy and the social tensions that have been expressed around this. But he misrepresents the strategy. Let us look first, then, at what this strategy comprises, as it is a central component in the government’s economic vision. A succinct presentation may be found in a recent article on Bolivia’s economic model by Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, the minister of economy and public finance.

For Arce, “the New Economic, Social, Communitarian and Productive Model” that the government is implementing “does not pretend to immediately change the capitalist mode of production, but instead to lay the foundations for the transition towards a new socialist mode of production”.8

Unlike neoliberalism, in which surplus value and rents are appropriated by transnational capital, this new model, as the introduction to his article notes, has taken steps towards:

stimulating the internal market and reducing dependency on the external markets. Similarly, it has given the state a watching brief, endowing it with functions such as planning the economy, administering public enterprises, investing in the productive sector, taking on the role of a banker and regulator and, among other things, redistributing the surplus, with preference to those sectors that were not beneficiaries under previous governments.

The priority, Arce says, is promoting communitarian, cooperative and family-based enterprises (together with increasing social spending). Such a strategy is vital to rebuilding the strength of the working class and communitarian forces, pulverised by two decades of neoliberalism.

In summary: reassert state sovereignty in the economy and over natural resources; break out of Bolivia’s traditional position of primary materials exporter through industrialisation and promoting other productive sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture; redistribute the nation’s wealth in order to tackle poverty; and strengthen the organisational capacity of proletarian and communitarian forces as the two vital pillars of any possible transition to socialism in Bolivia today. Such a perspective, which seeks to advance the interest of Bolivia’s labouring classes at the expense of transnational capital, may be decried by some as mere reforms, but it is certainly not neoliberalism.
Changes in the economic structure

So how has the Morales government done in terms of turning these ideas into reality? A key component of this “new economic model” was the nationalisation of the crucial hydrocarbon sector in the first year of the Morales government, which led to a complete overhaul of the rules of the game in the sector, and brought about immediate benefits for the Bolivian people. Whereas under neoliberalism transnational capital was allowed to appropriate 82 percent of the wealth generated by gas rent, under the new regime the state retains between 80 and 90 percent. This has meant that the total amount of gas revenue received by the state during the first six years of the Morales government was roughly seven times greater than that obtained during the previous five years of neoliberal privatisation.9

While transnationals technically extract the majority of Bolivia’s gas, they do so as contractors hired by the state, which determines the quantity and the price of every single drop of Bolivian gas that is produced. When they have failed to comply with their contracts, the government has not been afraid to nationalise them. In the meantime, the MAS government’s objective is to rebuild YPBF, starting with the expropriation of those sections of the company that were privatised, and from there progressively granting it greater direct participation in the sector.

Further nationalisations have allowed the state to become the biggest player in the telecommunications and electricity sectors and begin redirecting these sectors towards ensuring Bolivians have greater access to basic services. As a result, the number of households with gas connections has increased by 835 percent, the percentage of rural households with access to electricity has jumped to 50 percent from 20 percent, and the number of municipalities with telecommunications coverage has gone from 110 to 324 (out of a total of 339).10

By shifting wealth generated in these sectors towards social spending, the level of poverty had fallen from 60 percent in 2005 to 49.6 percent in 2010, while the gap between the richest 10 percent and poorest 10 percent shrank from 128 times more wealth to 60 times more wealth.11 Meanwhile, the redirection of wealth towards promoting other productive sectors led to a fall in unemployment from 8.2 percent in 2005 to 5.7 percent in 2010, and the creation of a number of small-scale enterprises whose management is to be handed over to local communities as part of fostering the communitarian sector.12

This sector has also received priority in the government’s agricultural policies: over 35 million hectares of land has been handed as communitarian property or placed under the direct control of the original indigenous inhabitants.13 The newly-established EMAPA (Empresa de Apoyo a la producción de Alimentos) has ensured small producers have preferential access to equipment, supplies, 0 percent interest rate loans, and state-subsided markets.14

Viewed as a whole, the measures taken to recover sovereignty over Bolivia’s economy have seen the state become the largest player in the national economy. Today more of Bolivia’s wealth stays in Bolivia and is used to expand the internal market through industrialisation, promote the communitarian sector and attack poverty. This is obviously not a neoliberal approach—either in conception or execution.

Moreover, it is one that has continually received the overwhelming support of Bolivia’s labouring classes, and not just at election time. Morales’s election victory, far from shifting “popular politics from the streets and countryside to the electoral arena” as Webber claims, was instead the trigger for an intensification of class struggle, culminating in an all-out battle for power whose result was determined by the decisive intervention of the masses.

Where Webber sees “electoral sclerosis”, Bolivia’s traditional capitalist elites saw a real threat to their political and economic power. They responded according by launching a counter-revolutionary offensive that peaked with their unsuccessful September 2008 attempted coup. The outcome of this confrontation was determined by the profound nature of the class mobilisations of the period, combined with the ability of the MAS leadership to steadfastly expand and unite its support base among the popular classes, within the military, and internationally. The right wing opposition was sent into a tailspin from which it has not yet recovered. In the subsequent elections the Morales government was re-elected with a record 64 percent vote of approval, winning a majority in both the legislature and the senate. Two years later there is still no viable and coherent political alternative to the MAS either to its left or right.
“Creative tensions”

Webber points to recurrent conflicts between social movements and the government over local development projects, resource distribution, wage disputes, etc, as evidence not only of growing popular disaffection with the MAS but that the MAS is fundamentally an obstacle to further progress. He admits, however, that no “articulated revolutionary and socialist project to the left of the MAS” exists, and that none of these struggles resemble a “revolutionary or socialist break” with the Morales government.15

The MAS leadership view the current situation and the nature of the conflicts that have arisen in recent times quite differently. Their view is set out in a 74-page pamphlet by García Linera on what he terms the “creative tensions in the revolution”.16 He argues that the constellation of social forces since the victory in the 2008 confrontations has opened a new period in Bolivia’s current revolutionary epoch “characterised not by the presence of contradictions between antagonistic power blocs, between irreconcilable societal projects”, as hitherto, but one that “will be marked by the presence of contradictions within the national-popular bloc, that is, by tensions between the very sectors that are leading the Process of Change”. These contradictions, he says, “are not simply secondary but are creative because they have the potential to help drive forward the course of the revolution itself”.17

These creative tensions take various forms. One has to do with the relationship between the state’s tendency to concentrate decision making and the social movements’ affinity for “full and ongoing socialisation of deliberations and decisions around matters of common concern”. This is “a creative, dialectical, productive and necessary tension”, he adds.

A second creative tension is between the revolution’s need to incorporate broader sectors and “the need to guarantee indigenous, campesino, worker and popular leadership” in this process.18 A third involves the tension “between the general interest of the society as a whole and the particular interest of an individual segment…between the common, communitarian, communist struggle and the search for individual, sectoral, particular and private interest”.19

And finally, García Linera points to a fourth tension, between the need to develop and industrialise Bolivia’s economy and the need to respect the rights of Mother Earth.20 The starting point for resolving this tension, argues García Linera, must be ensuring people’s access to basic services while protecting the environment.
TIPNIS highway conflict

This brings us to the conflict that developed in 2011 over the government’s plan to build a highway connecting Villa Tunari (in Cochabamba department) with San Ignacio de Moxos (in Beni department) through the indigenous territory and national park known as TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena del Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécurre). Webber sees this conflict as confirmation of his thesis that the “neoliberal” MAS government is now being undermined by the “class contradictions” underlying its development model.

In Webber’s scenario, the struggle over the highway route pitted poor indigenous communities against a cabal of rich peasants and cocaleros allied with “agro-industrial soy producers”, Bolivian financial capital, “Brazilian sub-imperialism”, and petroleum multinationals, all under the aegis of the MAS government—and all determined to dispossess “uppity, partially
non-capitalist indigenous social formations” still in control of the park. These poor peasants and their supporters managed to force the Morales government to stop the road, dealing it a crushing blow. The MAS’s social base, “an eclectic coalition of various urban and rural social movements and trade unions” that had supported the government, “has imploded”.

However, it is important to understand the sequence of events, including those subsequent to the march (and Webber’s article). As a result of Bolivia’s parliament approving a law banning a highway through TIPNIS and declaring the park “untouchable”—a term included at the insistence of NGO advisers working with march leaders—a debate opened up in Bolivia over the highway and TIPNIS’s “untouchable” status. Evidence emerged of contracts that TIPNIS communities had signed with various commercial operations, including timber and tourist enterprises. Important indigenous and popular sectors began organising against the new law, stating their intent to mobilise in support of the highway.

By December a counter-march was initiated by CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), which groups a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS. The CONISUR march received support from a variety of sectors, in particular Bolivia’s three largest nation-wide indigenous campesino organisations. These forces argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonian region with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets to sell their agricultural produce.

When the CONISUR march arrived in La Paz 39 days later, the government asked leaders of the earlier march to meet with CONISUR representatives to try and resolve the dispute. Leaders from CIDOB (Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia), which unites 34 lowland indigenous peoples, and the TIPNIS Subcentral rejected this request. Parliamentarians then began meeting with CONISUR representatives to elaborate a new law that would allow TIPNIS communities to decide the fate of the project. The result was a new law facilitating a consultation process which gives the three indigenous peoples within TIPNIS—the Yuracare, Chiman and Moxe—the right to decide, in accordance with their own norms and procedures, whether or not the highway is to be built through TIPNIS and if the park is to maintain its “untouchable” status.

At the time of writing it is remains to be seen just how this will work out. Whatever the errors of the MAS government with regard to consulting the indigenous communities involved, steps have been taken to respond to the concerns expressed by the marchers, and to open up the question of the highway for further debate, with the ultimate decision now being handed to the very indigenous communities that Webber argues were being steamrollered by the supposedly neoliberal government.

Politics of the TIPNIS protest

Other aspects of this struggle merit examination for what they reveal of the contending forces. They also reinforce the argument stated in my article “Bolivia: NGOs wrong on Morales and Amazon”, which Webber falsely characterises as accusing the protesters of being agents of imperialism.21 The TIPNIS protesters should not be condemned because of the unsavoury character of their friends and backers, but such sinister involvement deserves scrutiny. Despite Webber’s general stance against “imperialist meddling”, his article fails to confront my evidence that behind the international TIPNIS campaign run by foreign-based NGOs lie the very real interests of “rich nations and conservative environmental groups to promote policies that represent a new form of ‘green imperialism’.”

A useful starting point is the politics of the first TIPNIS march. Among the 16 demands of the protest were calls to support converting Bolivia’s forests into carbon credits (in line with the imperialist-sponsored Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation [REDD] scheme) and shutting down 90 percent of Bolivia’s gas industry. The consequences of these demands would have been to auction off Bolivia’s forests to capitalist interests while closing off the major resource in Bolivia’s efforts to industrialise. Far from representing an anti-capitalist programme, these demands could only pave the way for transnational capital to reassert its power over Bolivia. Of course, the international campaign against the Morales government made no mention or criticism of these issues. Webber, on the other hand, admits these demands were “problematic” but nevertheless maintains that the overall agenda of the marchers was “essentially just”. In fact, these demands, along with the subsequent demand by NGO advisers to declare TIPNIS “untouchable”, indicated significant influence of foreign-bankrolled NGOs, most of which promote their own agendas in Bolivia.

The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.22 The reason for their opposition to the road was elaborated by García Linera:

In order to reach the rest of the country, Amazonians must rely on processing and financing by firms under the control of oligarchs based in Santa Cruz. A road that directly links the Amazon with the valleys and highlands would radically reconfigure the structure of regional economic power, breaking down the last material base of the separatists and leading to a new geo-economic axis for the state.23

Moreover, efforts on the part of the Santa Cruz oligarchy to win influence among CIDOB’s leadership both pre-date the march and have continued in recent months. This includes the alliance forged in June 2011 between indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council against the MAS, a favour repaid in the form of US$3.5 million granted by the governorship for development projects in CIDOB communities.24 In January 2012 CIDOB president Adolfo Chávez praised the right wing Santa Cruz governor for signing an agreement that provides the indigenous organisation with a post in the Santa Cruz governorship.25

Washington’s role

Webber is right to state that “we do not yet know the extent of US involvement” in the mobilisation. But there is already much information to demonstrate the links between imperialism and some indigenous protest leaders. These date back to before Morales’s election and have continued since, as demonstrated in US embassy cables made public by Wikileaks.26

Further evidence of ongoing meetings and communication can be found by simply visiting the websites of USAID and CIDOB. While Morales was denouncing capitalism as the root cause of the climate crisis at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009, CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.27 Referring to a USAID training programme run for CIDOB leaders, Chávez thanks the “information and training acquired via different programmes financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.28 The government also revealed how US embassy officials had been in phone contact with march leaders the day their mobilisation began.29

Rather than take up the role of US imperialism, Webber concocts a scenario in which the highway is an “expressway for Brazilian capital” and indicative of the Morales government’s subordination to “Brazilian sub-imperialism”. His argument is that behind the dispute is Brazil’s need to access the Pacific. This fanciful notion has been refuted by García Linera who notes that such critics have “never seen a map of Bolivia”. 30 Not only does the proposed highway go nowhere near the Brazilian border, but its trajectory runs north-south, while Brazil lies to the east and the Pacific to the west. That it is part of the Brazilian-promoted Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) is also a questionable argument, given that Webber raised no such concerns when reporting on the 2010 Potosi “rebellion against neoliberalism” which demanded the completion of a highway that is part of the same project.31

If we were to accept Webber’s argument, we would not only have to question the interests behind the Potosi protests but even those of the TIPNIS communities themselves, who have consistently stated their support for the highway while opposing its current trajectory through the middle of their territory. Like many other communities in Bolivia, TIPNIS residents unserved by roads lack access to basic services and are unable to transport their produce to market. Overcoming this, and the stranglehold that the Santa Cruz oligarchy maintains over the Amazonian economy, is not only a central priority for the Morales government; it has been a key demand of Bolivia’s impoverished majority.

One of the most questionable aspects of Webber’s piece is his effort to divide indigenous movements between “good” ones, which he says are “non-capitalist” communities waging class war against “the dull advance of bourgeois industrialisation”, and “bad” ones allied with the MAS. The truth, however, is that “the coca-growers [supporting the highway] were neither saints before nor are they narcos now; those in TIPNIS are neither agents of imperialism nor are they the vanguard force in the fight for an alternative civilisation”.32 While peasant populations have always, everywhere, been stratified along class and income lines, Webber offers no evidence that the vast majority of indigenous peasants and their organisations are not still in alliance with the MAS government, whatever their criticisms and occasional conflicts with it.

Webber’s animosity to the MAS and its programme has led him to ignore these realities and challenges. He romanticises the road opponents, while overlooking the real role of the Santa Cruz oligarchy and US imperialism. As such, Webber’s approach undermines the defence of Bolivia’s process of social change. In imposing his schema of revolutionary masses versus neoliberal government on each and every protest that erupts in Bolivia, Webber comes up short on the tasks that we share as solidarity activists have in imperialist countries.

We need to do more than oppose “imperialist meddling” in principle. The TIPNIS struggle bears the signs of intervention by imperialist agencies and their clients in Bolivia and abroad. This ongoing involvement infringes on the rights of all Bolivians, including the TIPNIS protesters. It is part of a longstanding pattern of diplomatic, military and economic intrusion that is strongly resented by the Bolivian people. Whether we, like García Linera, regard the TIPNIS controversy as a conflict within the people, or like Webber take sides against the Bolivian government in this matter, we must not fail to use the occasion to oppose the intrusion of imperialist governments and agencies into the internal affairs of the Bolivian people.


1: Thanks to John Riddell and Richard Fidler for their suggestions while writing this article.

2: Webber, 2012. Except as indicated, all quotations attributed to Webber are taken from this article.

3: Rojas Calizaya, 2011.

4: Spronk and Webber, 2003.

5: García Linera, 2007a.

6: The following data is taken from Kohl and Farthing, 2006.

7: Riddell, 2011. The term indigenous-popular is used to refer to the diverse and complex conglomerate of labouring classes in Bolivia today.

8: Arce, 2011, pp1-7.

9: García Linera, 2011c, p61.

10: Telesur, 2012; García Linera, 2011b, p20; García Linera, 2011c, p38.

11: García Linera, 2011b, pp15, 19.

12: Cambio, 2011b; Cambio, 2011c.

13: Rojas Calizaya, 2011.

14: Cambio, 2011a.

15: Webber, 2011.

16: García Linera, 2011a.

17: García Linera, 2011a, p24.Emphasis in original.

18: García Linera, 2011a, p38.

19: García Linera, 2011a, p47.

20: García Linera, 2011a, p63.

21: Fuentes, 2011.

22: See, for example, Opinion, 2011.

23: Hernández Navarro, 2012.

24: Mendez, 2011.

25: CIDOB, 2012.

26: Fuentes, 2011. For links prior to 2005 see Lindsay, 2005.

27: USAID, 2009.

28: CIDOB-USAID, 2010.

29: Opinion, 2011a.

30: García Linera, 2011b, p152.

31: Webber, 2010.

32: Stefanoni, 2012


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Global Research Articles by Federico Fuentes

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