Saturday, 29 June 2013

Speaker Matibini Must Stop 'Cuddling’ Edgar Lungu

Parliaments are useless, unless they have at their command, in the last resort practical means necessary to make the laws they make effective even in the face of an obtuse government system like we have as at now

Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu violating Rupiah Banda's Rights (picture Daily )

By Nyalubinge Ngwende
We are in times when the country’s governance style has crossed the border-line. The rule of law is being obliterated and there is no one to stop the decadence by the ruling Patriotic Front.   

We are seeing the dominance of the executive over the other arms of government become incredibly pervasive. While this is happening, the other two arms of government, legislature and the judiciary, have drifted so much in the literal meaning of separation of powers so much so that even when practice demands that they provide checks and balances to the executive, and censure its agencies for excessive action, they feel not duty bound to do anything.

The symptoms of obliterating the laws passed by parliament and enshrined in the constitution are there. But because those charged with the responsibility to ensure absolute observance of these statutes are ‘scared’, the rule of law is being insulted.

One case coming to mind is the violation of the constitutional entitlements of former President Rupiah Banda, who has recently seen his freedom of movement involving his trips abroad on genuine invitations curtailed. Government has denied Banda access to his passport that is being held by law enforcement agencies under court order pending his cases of alleged corruption. 

On Friday June 28, Lawyers representing former President Banda were still lost about where to find and collect the passport to their client, who was invited by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to attend the Global Dialogue, whose theme is: ‘Leveraging technology for Africa’s social economic transformation: The smart partnership way’.

High Court judge Anessie Banda-Bobo on Thursday ordered the Government Joint Investigating Team (GJIT) to release Rupiah Banda’s passport to enable him to travel to Tanzania for a four-day partnership dialogue.

But by Friday afternoon the lawyers to Banda were being tossed round. At first the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions informed them that Banda’s passport was at the DEC (Drug Enforcement Commission). At the DEC, the lawyers were told that the Passport was with a Mr. Nyirongo the Registrar General. At the Registrar General, the lawyers were told that the Passport was with Mrs. Easter Banda the Chief Passport Officer. At the Passport Office, the lawyers were told that the Passport was with the DPPs office.

This matter may just end up this way with Banda being grounded once again as it has happened when he was supposed to attend, as special guest, the inauguration of Kenya’s President elect Uhuru Kenyatta and the most recent Boston University organised symposium in South Africa.

In other countries, such heavy-handedness would attract serious intervention not only from the human rights institutions, but the legislative board of the country would have made heads roll at Home Affairs ministry and  its operative wings, with parliament admonishing all the sadists. 

Unfortunately, in Zambia, when the matter concerning Rupiah Banda’s right to diplomatic title entered parliament, it received a lukewarm response from the speaker.

On Thursday June 27, 2013 Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini ruled that Parliament cannot interfere in the matter concerning government revoking former president Rupiah Banda’ diplomatic passport, saying: “there are other government wings to determine the legality of the issue”. Chadiza MMD Member of Parliament Allan Mbewe raised a point of order, asking if the government was in order to cancel the diplomatic passport which is enshrined in the Constitution as part of benefits for the former head of state.

"This democracy we practice entails that we have separation of powers. There is another wing of government that can determine the legality of this matter, and it is not for me to do anything on this matter," Matibini was quoted in one of the country’s daily tabloids.

If these are not matters of individual rights which parliament, as a legislative body, is supposed to dissect and give guidance in the minds of the Zambian people, then we wonder where else the citizens of this country would seek wisdom from.

It is in parliament where actions that violate human rights must be the last thing to be treated with negligence. Even when we know that there are courts where citizens must go and complain, but when this heavy-handedness involves government ministers who are part and parcel of formulating these laws and swear to uphold them, parliament and the Speaker, in particular, must take greater exceptions to such. Operatives in government ministries and their respective wings act on behalf of their ministers who are accountable to parliament or National Assembly. No single operative can choose to hide a passport of a former head of state without the knowledge of a minister. And there is no way parliament can sit and listen to one of its Acts being violated without giving it space for debate as is the case concerning Banda’s diplomatic passport which is a constitutional entitlement. When such action of abuse takes place or breaches the laws enacted by parliament, the House must evoke the code of conduct that strongly censures the minister concerned and punitive measures need to be instituted.

Surprising Matibini does not see things this way. It is not our business to doubt his legal understanding and interpretation of his parliamentary duties. Opposition NAREP (National Restoration Party) leader Elias Chipimo Jr. makes that case clear for us. In a statement issued on June 27, 2013, Chipimo, a lawyer of over 20 years practice, asked government to hand back Rupiah Banda’s passport, calling the decision by the PF administration to revoke the diplomatic passport of former president as not only illegal and improper but undermining the separation of powers as set out in the republican constitution.

“As a matter of law and procedure, therefore, the government should immediately hand back President Banda’s passport in order to uphold the law, preserve the integrity of parliament and maintain whatever goodwill Zambia is still able to muster amidst a long and ongoing series of social, political, economic and diplomatic blunders. The Benefits of Former Presidents Act, passed by Parliament makes clear that every former president is entitled (among other benefits) to a diplomatic passport along with one return air ticket for such former president and their spouse. The only instance in which any of the benefits of a former president can be revoked is if Parliament decides by two-thirds majority to do so. Parliament can only take such action if the former president has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than 6 months. This is clearly not the case. The action by the PF administration amounts to a violation of the separation of powers as contemplated under our constitution.

Where it that parliament is a manufacturer of the tools that shape the decorum of governance, the Speaker must then be the chief engineer who should ensure that the operational manual is clear to all those under whose hands these tools come by constitutional duty. Any violation of this manual must be admonished. These are deliberate acts by the executive to which parliament, which has its role in ensuring rule of law, must not fail to take responsibility and show the country that it means business. But while individual parliamentarians can make the effort to do so, the oversight by the Speaker seems to frustrate their noble cause.

The revoking of Rupiah Banda’s diplomatic passport is the work of Home Affairs ministry. Home Affairs minister Edgar Lungu is finding it a fanfare to violate rights of private and public individuals. It is here where parliament must step in and stop these excesses. However, it is surprising that Matibini can choose to sit and ‘cuddle’ individuals like Edgar Lungu in parliament even with these clear violations.

The wig that the Speaker of the National Assembly wears is not just a decoration for his attire, but it is a symbol of constitutional status accorded to him to superintend not only on the processes of parliament but
Zambia National Assembly Speaker, Patrick Matibini
even defend the laws which parliament formulates. In defending those laws he must exert on the house and those mandated to enforce the laws the duty to uphold these laws. We know he does not take sides in debate, but he is there to provide the truth by stating what is right as right and wrong as wrong. This why we agree when Chipimo urges that: “should the government fail to hand back former president Banda’s passport, Parliament must immediately take this matter up as a breach of our constitution. It is imperative that the Speaker of the National Assembly demand an explanation from the Minister of Home Affairs as to the legality of this action. Should Parliament fail to act, the courts will be able to intervene”.

There is no way a parliament, with a speaker worth his sort, can continue functioning and remain relevant when the laws it makes are not being respected. In the normal sense, it is the speaker who should express indignation of excessive acts by the executive and can do so by tendering in resignation and the MPs who feel aggrieved, in this case those from the opposition, can follow suit.

But when the speaker continues to hide in the name of separation of powers, when even on clear cases he knows are being not judiciously handled so, it leaves much to be desired.

Matibini is a lawyer and state counsel for that matter, holding a PHD in media law as far as our memory serves us better. In this view he must help to educate fellows on the bench and government ministers by providing broader parliamentary views on national matters. This does not make him to override his jurisdiction, but only makes him become relevant to the equation of separation of powers. How can the in-charge of the assembly line for tools fail in his duty to provide a manual that educates how each of those tools must be used? Why should he even choose to keep quiet by failing to educate from his position the careless manner he has seen the tools under his production are not being properly used by the home affairs operatives?

At present the Zambian people are better represented in parliament because they voted the opposition in majority, but it is regrettable that we are not being governed properly.

We may argue that former president Rupiah Banda’s case is isolated and is a matter of courts of law, but the disrespect of rights of one individual citizen must be seen as an attack on all. If today this government can deliberately insult the statutes passed by parliament by violating the rights of Banda, what will stop it from doing it on Hichilema, Chipimo, Milupi and Mumba? Choosing to sit and cuddle Edgar Lungu in his eyes during parliamentary sittings and allow him violate with impunity the laws that the same legislation made and vowed to defend, Mr Speaker, is being a bad steward of our national assembly.

Matibini has that power to summon the Lungu before parliament so that he can be cited for breach of citizens’ constitutional rights. He can constitute a committee to investigate the excesses happening at Home Affairs. Parliament does not just make laws it is also a defender of those laws in the face of gross abuse by the executive. Parliaments are useless, unless they have at their command, in the last resort practical means necessary to make the laws they make effective even in the face of an obtuse government system like we have as at now.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Zambeef: a victim of well planned, extremely centralised attack

Playing on the stupidity of a regular man who cannot know that aromatic chemicals are used in most processed foods, the communists at Bwinjimfumu Road have found it appropriate to help their friends to pronounce Zambeef as a company that deliberately uses leukemia causing,  dead bodies embalming chemicals to keep its meat fresh for long at the expense of people’s health

Zambeef, Zambia biggest meat firm comes under scathing media attacks

By Nyalubinge Ngwende

The communists at Bwinjimfumu Road have succeeded to get us right into the frame of mind they desire: to join a crusade to believe that Zambeef has been feeding us on a dangerous chemical that is not only used to embalm dead bodies, but potentially dangerous to human health.

The Post Newspaper story of Friday 21, 2013 writes:

“According to the analysis by the Ministry of Health's Food and Drugs Control Laboratory conducted in Lusaka last week, aromatic aldehyde was detected in all the samples. The analysed samples included packed ox-tail marked CNN/001/F/2013, packed ox-tail marked CNN/002/F/2013, packed ox-tail marked CNN/003/F/2013, packed ox-tail marked CNN/004/F/2013, packed ox-liver marked CNN/005/F/2013, packed ox-liver marked CNN/006/F/2013, packed ox-hooves marked CNN/007/F/2013 and packed ox-hooves marked CNN/008/F/2013. Health experts told The Post yesterday that aromatic aldehydes, which they compared to Benzene or jet fuel, are powerful preservative chemicals that are dangerous for human beings as they cause diseases such as Leukaemia.”

This paragraph does not tell us where the samples were collected and if they were collected to help Zambeef be aware that there suppliers were delivering them products that have a dangerous chemical.

All it does is to make us believe they have real Zambeef products in their hands which are intoxicated with strong, benzene like chemicals (that can even fly a jet).   

If those who are investigating this case were in anyway doing it independently without detailed instructions at the back of their mind, what the public would have been informed about is their intervention at Zambeef to ensure the meat they supply to the public is safe from unpalatable amounts of aromatic aldehyde. They would have told the public that any excess aromatic aldehyde could lead to cancer such as leukaemia. But there is extreme sourness in the content accusing Zambeef of deliberately injecting the chemical in the meat.

The story quotes a source: "For example, if someone dies here in Zambia and they come from the UK, in order for the body to reach the UK fresh, we inject the aromatic aldehydes in the veins. So it is clear that they use it to keep their beef fresh for a very long time," the health experts who opted to remain anonymous said.

It further states: "Aromatic aldehydes are very dangerous chemicals and it is unfortunate that Zambeef is actually using that chemical to keep their beef fresh. It is common knowledge that the only reason Zambeef is using that chemical is because they want to keep their products fresh." They said the presence of large quantities of aromatic aldehyde in the beef Zambeef Plc imports would be a clear indication that the substance was deliberately put there to keep their beef fresh.

This is deliberate aim to cause disturbance in the minds of members of the public.  By choosing a highly toned language saying aromatic chemical is used for embalming bodies is not in any way meant to inform but to alarm—a well calculated choice of discourse ...dead bodies conjure a lot of ghostly feeling in the mind of a human being and those living do not want to be associated with lifeless things ...therefore Zambeef products will be shunned.

There is every reason to believe that The Post Newspaper was used to deliver a dirty parcel bomb to blow up Zambeef, after well packaged at the Ministry of Health's FDCL (Food and Drugs Control Laboratory) and CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission).

These public institutions, joined by CUTS international (Consumer Unit Trust Society International), were particularly selected as sources because they are already known to be part of the scheme and had rehearsed what to say—force as truth on the minds of the public a theory of aromatic aldehydes being used in Zambeef meat.

The communists at Bwinjimfumu they are part of this group that is why they pronounced it. They know delivering the pronouncement with all these institutions in consent will help to lull people into false security. First they make us feel insecure by portraying Zambeef as a villain, then bring into the picture FDCL and CCPC as greatly concerned ...serious with protecting the public from dangerous meat that Zambeef is putting on their plates. It triggers public outrage against Zambeef. In whatever manner the meat firm will try to prove that aromatic aldehyde is not poisonous, the sales of its imported meat would already have been severely hurt.

It is not surprising that today’s Post Newspaper edition (June 22, 2013), carries a story of Zambeef pulling imported meat off the shelves.

Zambeef public relations officer Justo Kopulande said yesterday: "In the light of recent media reports to the effect that there are dangerous levels of Aromatic Aldehydes in our imported beef products, we have immediately recalled all imported beef products from sale from all our outlets country-wide with immediate effect. Only local beef and beef products are currently being sold in all our outlets. Zambeef has never and will under no circumstance ever knowingly supply sub-standard products to the public."

Post Newspaper Owner Fred M'membe

But this is not what the whole clandestine campaign is all about. We cannot tell as for now where all this is coming from and how far it has to go. We just look back at how The Post Newspaper has been hinting, in a more cantankerous manner, about opposition leaders UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema and NAREP Elias Chipimo Jnr. thinking they have a lot of money that they can run political parties out of their pockets.

These opposition leaders, or others in the political circles, could have direct links to Zambeef as shareholders or they could be suppliers or, maybe, some of their financiers could be linked to Zambeef.

The other way round is that the communists at Bwinjimfumu could be doing this to soften Zambeef to help out their declared friend, Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front to gain access to the meat company’s opportunities. We have heard that the newspaper will not do anything unless it has to serve its interests. Its interests now are to make the Patriotic Front achieve its ends, regardless the means.

Zambia has a lot of consumer risk products, some that are even more dangerous than the aromatic aldehyde chemical suspected to have been introduced in high dosages by the country’s meat company to keep its imported meat fresh for a long time.

However, the FDCL and CCPC look to have been on a well detailed mission, planned, centralised and extremely organised battle against Zambeef.

"We received correspondence from the provincial medical office in the Copperbelt in which they are talking about this matter. One of the inspectors took the samples to Food and Drug Control laboratory and they informed us about the meeting yesterday Tuesday," said Brian Lingela, CCPC director.

It has never been a practice by health inspectors to work with CCPC. When they bump into meat or any food product that is unwholesome, they do their own report and take it to court for disposal.

The idea to leave out the Veterinary authorities at Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and Zambia Bureau of Standards who also have a direct hand on these issues confirms a calculated battle, with CCPC and FDLC being the battle rooms where they are launching the public bombardment campaign against Zambeef.

Lingela says: “the provincial office in the Copperbelt also requested the commission to attend a meeting that took place in Ndola yesterday.  ...and his office had since sent a representative to attend the meeting in Ndola ...with the commission was hoping to hear the matter and also find a solution”.

If Lengela was still waiting for information from his officer who attended the meeting at Ndola medical office, why did he choose to pass a strong verdict indicting Zambeef as guilty?

He is quoted in the same story saying: "What Zambeef has done is unacceptable...”

This is not the normal language of an independent mind on a case like this. He comes out incriminating Zambeef before hearing the conclusion of the Ndola meeting? Sounds like he was well informed ahead of the meeting what was expected to be their conclusion

This is confirmed by the way Lingela sets loose his hounds for a vicious attack on Zambeef by saying, “...and what health inspectors have done is a commendable job which needs support from consumer organizations."

He deliberately sets the hounds on Zambeef so to strengthen their case.

The Post Newspaper tried to recruit the Lusaka City Council into strengthening its case against Zambeef. It was done in futility, but the public health director Greenford Sikazwe at the local authority distanced himself from the kill.

"It is not true that Lusaka City Council inspectors are the ones who were investigating this issue, so your story is not true," Sikazwe said.

The Post uses its own sources within Lusaka City Council who confirmed that “it is true the samples in question were not sourced by the local authority but by a council from the Copperbelt and that all at Lusaka City Council were aware of the results from the samples”.

We find this truly unusual way of working by public health inspector in councils and at the ministry of health. They hardly collaborate and share this information. They act independently and without any volition of the specific business to target. It could be happening under the Patriotic Front, but without any public announcement of this new policy of collaboration exposes sourness in the whole ‘scum’.

Asked if his department has ever received complaints relating to Zambeef products, Sikazwe answered in the affirmative. "We received complaints (in May 2013) but the issues were being dealt with at Ministry of Health," he said. Asked why they could not carry out an independent investigation on the products as a department, Sikazwe said his department works on delegated legislation from the Ministry of Health. "That's why we couldn't act there and then because it was being addressed by the Ministry of Health," said Sikazwe.

If it is not Bwinjimfumu and its friends who after getting at Zambeef, who else could have delegated them and those who took the complaint to city councils in Lusaka and the Copperbelt? We are yet to know who did, and the country is already questioning?

We know that a normal public health concern does not take a vicious attack by  mobilised group of watchdogs a rehearsed consent on an issue like setting awash the Zambeef products with unpalatable statements like ‘leukaemia  and embalming dead bodies’.

The Post Newspaper story is nothing but a pronouncement by those who are part of the group bent at pulling down Zambeef or softening it to go crawling to the palace and conform to their needs. It was planned and Zambeef could only be a victim of ill intentions not necessarily that it is guilty of gross negligence.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Zambians Get Political Over Aromatic Chemical in Meat

A non-entity discreet lab has stirred the country's that usually has people who hardly mind to read the labels of the food packs they eat into believing the country’s big meat company has been feeding them on a chemical used to embalm dead bodies
Zambeef staff checking carcasses of meat at their abattoir

By Nyalubinge Ngwende

Usually the aftermath of the ruling Patriotic Front trouncing opposition political parties in by-elections is dominated by debates how the government is wasting resources on parliamentary by-elections it is inducing by offering positions in government  to opposition MPs if they defected.

Yesterday the ruling party scooped the Feira constituency by election with a landslide victory, with former MMD MP retaining his parliamentary seat which he re-contested on the patriotic Front.  

But both the political pundits from the ruling party and the opposition are not preoccupied what went right or wrong over the poll, but the issue of meat allegedly containing a poisonous chemical aromatic aldehydes, imported from Europe by the country’s biggest company—ZAMBEEF—has dominated social media discussions and debate.

Hullaballoo about the aldehydes chemical in ZAMBEEF meat follows a story by the national broadcaster ZNBC main news report which quoted a Copperbelt based laboratory findings.

In the usual manner of manufacturing consent reporting style aimed at raising public outrage, ZNBC called aromatic aldehydes as a chemical used to embalm dead bodies.

And Zambian health minister Joseph Kasonde said government was instituting its own tests on the meat and warned of consequences if it is found true.

Following up debate on the matter gives the insight about the aromatic adelhydes and their long use in the processed food products.

A legal academician Elias Munshya Wa Munshya in his comment posted on the Zambian People’s Parliament FaceBook social page at 21.01 hours last night argues:

“We have been having these aldehydes for years. This is the same chemical that gives ice-cream that vanilla aroma. This is the same chemical that is used in most spices. This is the same chemical that is used in processed foods to give them that fresh meaty smell. I do not know why you are trying to create a storm where there is none.”

He adds: “We have been munching on these for years. No one has ever died or even fallen sick. However, I know several of our people in Butondo who today have respiratory problems because of pollution from Mopani, and what has Hon Kasonde done about it? Nothing. It is not public interest they are trying to protect, it is there own personal selfish interests by stocking fear in Zambians over substances which are by themselves not harmful. The PF government is a directionless government which has no clue and will end up being embarrassed over this so called manufactured scandal. More lies in our pockets”. 

The issue of ZAMBEEF has not escaped outcry of political machinations to fix the company by government as way of trying to hurt one of its shareholders, opposition United Party for National Development leader, Hakainde Hichilema.

Zambeef accuse
If this issue about ZAMBEEF is about settling political scores then we are really a very bad nation that is not being truthful to ourselves.

If it is not, as it has been heard so far that almost all farm products and processed foods are laced with aromatic aldehydes, then what need to be established is what are the effects of this chemical on the health of the people and what amounts are acceptable.

The reputation of the Copperbelt laboratory, which is still discreet, must be scrutinised to ensure its analysis is ethical given that it has made a big food safety scandal work on ZAMBEEF.

ZAMBEEF is a company that has abattoirs under regular public health inspection and whose imported meat undergoes several checks as it crosses the oceans before finally hitting the freezers in Zambian malls. We know this is a country where one has to struggle to find meat that meets all the hygiene and health concerns, but ZAMBEEF is quite responsible.

And if so, what has motivated this lab to go after them, and what is the efficacy of its analysis and is this its first work? These are difficult questions to answer.

But what is also surprising is that on ZAMBEEF the government has taken a different path, expressing unusual interest in the matter. It has failed to outright rebuff the findings as it did with the University of Zambia nutritionist who said Soya beans products had adverse health effects on human beings.

Honorable Haggai Amanda Phiri, contributing to the debate on the virtual social media parliament asked: “Why can't government close Zambeef?”

Another member Colin L Phiri in fact expresses shock at health minister, Kasonde’s reaction.

“I'm saddened with the swift energy at which our Minister of health has responded on the ZAMBEEF calls for concern as to why such pace is not seen on the lack of Oxygen at UTH, malaria medicines and the ARVs in hospitals around the country. It therefore goes without saying that most processed meat contains preservatives that are NOT embalming but to preserve the product before it expires. How such has been reduced to embalming is beyond me.”

The sure reason why people think this is a politically motivated revelation without is how limited the work of food safety testing has been.

They want to see such investigations go beyond ZAMBEEF or else the conclusion of selecting the meat company out of all others will be misconstrued, especially that one of the big shareholders is an opposition political party leader for UPND.

But one member ZAPP, Cheleman Nshitima reacted saying “Mr. Hon Zapp Speaker, I’m sadden[d] by some comments doing the rounds in the house. One thing is quite clear here, Zambeef is not a private company which the govt can take over simply on these simple grounds. As a matter of fact/s, Zambeef is a public company listed both on LUSE and the London stock exchange (LSE) meaning that the company belongs to ordinary people. And some people, out of pure hatred for PF govt are now blaming the gov[ernment] for being decisive and protecting the public, may be because such people live abroad in Canada they don’t feel for the ordinary on the ground. Here in the UK, we have had business people who have been prosecuted for such acts and why not in Zambia?”

He further argues: “On the other hand, hon. Edith Z Nawakwi has alleged corruption and that Zambeef is being shielded by govt officials, so which is which? And oh, HH does not have shares nor is he a major supplier for Zambeef people get your facts right and according to Zambeef itself, HH is in fact their competitor so, where does this nonsense of fixing HH coming from huh?

Logic is that if HH is a competitor then he stands to gain from this whole saga, anyone competitor stands to win if Zambeef is found wanting here.”

As seen so far, the appeal to Zambians is to be level headed as they debate this delicate matter which is the first food safety scam to enter the country’s public domain. At stake is not just business, but the health of many people the mishandling of the issue might cause to freak out over a storm in a cup of coffee.