Tuesday, 17 September 2013

'Sata Unsurpassed Political Wisdom'

President Sata had waited for too long to allow the differences to boil into a civil war between the two factions of the ruling Patriotic Front that emerged over his endorsement. Some party supporters see this as outstanding political wisdom that has finally settled the battle. However, Brutal Journal brings to surface fault lines that may still destabilise the ruling party

By Nyalubinge Ngwende

All along it was dead silence from President Michael Sata. It was though he was basking in the glory of being endorsed as sole party candidate for the next presidential election that is still four years away in 2016.

Secretary General of the party Wynter Kabimba (Justice Minister) openly differed with a senior member Geoffrey Mwamba (Defence Minister) who has been going round the country mobilising party supporters to endorse Sata. And till yesterday, with the intervention of Sata, the differences grew more noisy and violent by day.

Those who were with Kabimba were beaten by cadres who were with Mwamba’s for opposing the endorsement calls. At one time, the cadres from the two factions fought at Northmead School in Lusaka, injuring one another and destroying school property.

The silence from the President was numbing, bringing to memory of a King Nero who was fiddling while Rome was on fire. Amidst all this, was our own President Sata playing a King who ensconced himself in the luxury of State House fiddling while his party was ablaze from implosion? Why did he wait only till yesterday, September 16 to come out speaking in tongues to stop the all hullaballoo about his endorsement?

“Unless you don’t understand English, you can only endorse if someone proposes. No one has proposed my name as candidate, there is no need for anyone to endorse me for 2016,” Sata told his party, asking them to stop the debate forthwith.

Those Patriotic Front supporters, who watched from the sidelines as the two factions—the endorsers and those against—viciously attacked each other in public, went agog on social media, ululating and praising Sata as a man of vast political wisdom.  They are elated that President Sata has finally settled the battle. They are toasting the glasses filled with relief, happy that the public display of uncivilised politics has been stopped.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Defiling sanctuary of the courts for personal interests

While it is right to protect the sanctuary of our courts from special interests corruptly finding sanctuary there, President Sata is wrong and faces serious ethical questions over the manner he is trying to clean the courts of perceived corrupt elements because he as a leader has not proved to be immune from settling scores for personal friends against judges he has suspended thus far

Zambia Supreme Court: Is it  habouring corrupt special interests in its chambers?
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
Taking the words Theodore Roosevelt spoke in New York 101 years ago today, it is not denied that ‘democracy has a right to approach the sanctuary of the courts if the special interests have corruptly found sanctuary there’.

Zambia is no exceptional to this truth. Only that, here in the Southern African nation, it is not democracy making an intrusion into the courts of law to ensure all people get fair justice. Instead it is a single callous hand of the head of state disheveling that sanctuary. 

Hardly full two years in office, President Michael Sata already has three tribunals running and wants five judges removed, one from Supreme Court and four from the High Court,

On May 1, 2012, Sata appointed a tribunal headed by a Malawian high court Judge Lovemore Chikopa to probe the alleged misconduct of three Zambian justices Philip Musonda (Supreme court), Charles Kajimanga and Nigel Mutuna (both of the High Court).

 The Chikopa tribunal has yet to sit because its legality is being challenged by the affected Judges.

Meantime while the first tribunal remains suspended awaiting court ruling, Sata has appointed two more tribunals to probe two Ndola High Court Judges, Emelia Sunkutu and Timothy Katanekwa.

Well he may have justification that he is doing so within the confines of the legal authority provided him by the constitution.

But in the face of moral questions of a single hand that cannot be immune to serving special interests of acquaintances or corporate friends, Sata would have restrained himself and allowed the process to start with the Judicial Complaints Authority established by the Judicial Code of Conduct Act number 13 of 1999.

The institution's mandate is to regulate the conduct of the entire adjudicator through investigation of allegations of non-impeccable misconduct in a bid to promote professionalism, among others things.

It would have been only after this Authority establishes the merits of the complaints, ensuring that such misgivings about the judges are not frivolous, vexactious and malicious, that they were to submit recommendations for the President to act.
The spirit with which this important arrangement is being overlooked raises moral and legal questions.

There are in fact some tale-tell events that may put President Sata in the spotlight of not doing what he is doing in the interest of fair justice.

The Lovemore Chikopa tribunal is one obvious case of President Sata trying to punish judges for his friends.

Mutuna, Kanjimanaga and Musonda are victim of their bold decision in a case in which Mutembo Nchito (now DPP) and Fred M'membe (owner of the Post Newspaper and confessed friend of Sata) were told to pay back K14 billion they had borrowed from a public bank, Development Bank of Zambia.

The head of State confirmed this when he appointed the tribunal to probe the three justices. 

“My office has received numerous complaints about Justices Philip Musonda who is a Supreme court Judge, Charles Kajimanga and Nigel Mutuna who are High court Judges, from the Law association of Zambia, Lawyers within the judiciary and members of the public”.

“The terms of reference would be based on the allegations that the trio interfered with a case involving the Post newspapers, Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ and JNC holding limited and Mutembo Nchito”.

It must be noted here that LAZ has not agreed with President Sata on this tribunal. This makes it a blatant lie for Sata to claim LAZ was one of the institutions that complained to him about the misconduct of these judges.

Now we have the recent two tribunals that are pursuing cases against the two Judges that President Sata referred to as “criminals who are frustrating the work of the acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda”.

Chibesakunda has been at the centre of the judicial crisis in the country as she has continued to act in the position of Chief Justice despite the parliamentary committee rejecting her as unfit. She already reached retirement age of 65, but President Sata has continued to keep her in the position, arrogantly ignoring advice from the legal bodies to remove her and appoint an eligible judge to fill the position.

“You have been long in this game and I’m sure you are going to do a good job,” Sata told the two Judges when he sworn them to head the two tribunals that are investigating Ndola High Court Judges Emelia Sunkutu and Timothy Katanekwa.

The tribunal to probe Justice Sunkutu will be headed by former Chief Justice Mathew Ngulube while the tribunal to probe Justice Katanekwa will be headed by Justice Frederick Chomba.

Is it is a tragedy that President Sata is using a thief to catch a ‘thief’? Ngulube was forced to leave office as Chief Justice in 2002, after he was discovered to have been a beneficiary of US$168,000 that second republican president Frederick Chiluba had unlawfully taken from public funds.

It is strongly believed Chiluba gave the money as an inducement to buy Ngulube’s loyalty.  It is true he made a number of questionable rulings in favour of Chiluba and his aides, including throwing out a petition that wanted to establish the former president’s nationality.

Sata was then minister without portfolio and a confidant to late president Chiluba. He knows about the questionable character of Justice Ngulube, but why he has chosen to ignore ethical questions surrounding this man is because such issues of ethos do not trouble his conscience.

It is such implications that make it difficult for Sata to escape accusations of special interests. Roosevelt, who was an advocate for judging the judges, warned against this. He said implying that it is not democracy for the same hand that wants a judge recalled to appoint a tribunal to judge the case of the Judge(s). He insisted that that democracy that reflects the interest of the justice that the whole people clamour for must probe the case.

Even in Zambia’s case it is very difficult to justify a single hand of a president to represent that right of democracy to approach the sanctuary of the courts. This is especially that the available legal arrangements that would ensure that democracy prevails are to a great extent being deliberately trampled on.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Subsidies Savings Building Presidential Monuments?

When selecting those projects government was not supposed to target the kind that concerns its own image—the monuments associated with a leader who struggles with a disorder of greatness
President Sata: Is he constructing his own monuments to reflect man of action tag?
 By Nyalubinge Ngwende

There are many ways to subsidise different sectors in an economy and there are also many ways to ensure balanced tangible benefits accrue to the welfare of the population from savings as a result of rolling back subsidies.  

However, this can be prudently done if a country has a government and leadership that presses elaborate planning and budgeting for all its development decisions and targets. 

For example, if your target is to build 8,000 km of tarred rural roads, you do that calculation, find the cost and then get back to stakeholders (businesses) to discuss how you can collect that money. You do not need to do things as though it is in the jungle..."I am King Cobra and I will just strike"; business people tend to flinch on such moves that threaten their ventures to remain afloat and they will just say: "we will fix you". 
Unfortunately, the PF, government behaves exactly like in a jungle. It is doing things in a haphazard manner and has shown the arrogance of taking abrupt measures ignoring the fact that this economy to function properly needs planning. 

To one’s guess planning is done in a single morning meeting at State House and only for the purpose of President Sata to fulfill his wish list or vanity as a man of action.

What Sata has failed to appreciate is that the economy of this country cannot thrive on unidirectional decisions from State House and only meant for building his name.

Decisions taken by elected leaders, especially things to do with bread and butter of the masses, also affect the private sector in many ways. 

As such when these decisions are coming abruptly and without consultation they tend to create shocks in operations of businesses and create distrust among consumers. 

If the Patriotic Front were a sort of government that consults, it would have not gone full lengthy to pull back subsidies. 

It must have known that when the tax regime or price of inputs is suffocating business, government can waive a certain percentage on inputs to allow breathing space as long as the benefits are for the good of all citizens. 

Government intervenes with an incentive in order to leave breathing space for the producer and consumer, considering at the back of the mind that consumer and producer are important two actors to the functioning of an economy. 

If subsidies take away more money, reducing public infrastructure development, government can still make adjustments to ensure that there is balance in the manner the economic arrangements of the nation are functioning—releasing money from subsidies to build infrastructure.

But this must come after a thorough analysis and explanation to the public how much the government intends to save from these measures. Further they needed to be clear about how much will be spent on every major project they feel is priority from the savings. 

And when selecting those projects government was not supposed to target the kind that concerns its own image—the monuments associated with a leader who struggles with a disorder of greatness; self worship of being man of action.

Instead the projects government was to undertake are those that are supposed to empower the people so that they can think of how they can uplift their own livelihoods and not mere vanity-glory of their leader. 

But this not being the case, it will remain difficult for people to appreciate government decision on subsidies removal and more election bashing should be expected from now on. 

It even becomes more difficult to do so when government is undertaking non-essential projects. Lusaka has UNZA-Great East Road Campus University and it has also benefited from a lot of the private ones. 

Since there are already two universities under construction, Lewanika in Mongu and Mulakupikwa in Chinsali, President Sata needed not to launch two other university in Chongwe. 

University institutions are not community schools that can mushroom anyhow, they need to be planned for in terms of purpose and how they are going to be run.

At least Mulakwipikwa was one of the universities planned in the education policy and was to train teachers in science. But I do not know if the Chongwe one will manage to educate leaders over the wrongs of having illegitimate relationships in the church and politics. Its purpose is yet to be defined.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The untruth about removal of subsidies emerging

By Nyalubinge Ngwende
In May this year the ruling Patriotic Front in Zambia decided to remove subsidies on fuel and maize grain and rolled backwards the same incentives on farming inputs.

And when government woke up without any warning to remove subsidies on fuel and maize grain, and later reduced similar incentives on farm inputs, it offloaded to the media statements riddled with huge figures of money that it purported it would save and direct to financing infrastructure development.

On Wednesday, May 15, 2013, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, President of the Republic of Zambia, assured Zambians that the PF government was taking bold steps to facilitate practical and equitable distribution of national resources amongst the general populace.

“Our people have to understand that maize subsidies have been a pillar for the huge economic inequality in our society as they only benefit the already well to do middlemen and not the targeted vulnerable groups of our society. We are simply channelling resources to the very poor citizens of our society and we are certain that for real economic and well distributed growth to occur, these changes are necessary. Therefore, all well-meaning Zambians need to look at days beyond today and tomorrow,” he said.

And according to justice minister Wynter Kabimba, in 2012, the government spent about K750 million on fuel subsidy and the estimated cost in 2013 would have been in excess of K1,100 million.

Kabimba said, after removing subsidies government was going to make a saving of K2.3 trillion annually and that the money would be invested in major sectors to trigger development.

He arrogantly insisted that government will not bow to pressure to remove the subsidies on both fuel and maize.

According to the ministry of finance, government was to gain over K300 million every month from the removal of subsidies on fuel alone, money that was to be used in driving the nation to economic reliance.

Did the government tell the truth about removing subsidies to save money and use it to develop infrastructure like roads? It looks a VERY BIG LIE following the facts that have emerged about gross fiscal indiscipline on part of the Patriotic government, immediately after taking office and leading to increased international and domestic debt.

At the time Sata and the PF took over government from the MMD (Movement for Multiparty Democracy), Zambia had a total debt of US$ 1,667.6 million.

Just in the three months of taking over office, it added US$312.4 million bringing the debt to US$1,980.0 million at the close of 2011. 
A year later in 2012 Sata’s government, which has shown less or no respect to the reason of economics to pursue political ends, increased the debt to US$3,179.6 million.   

No one in government has explained why the debt figures drastically increased. But much of the programmes that preoccupied the new government after taking office included complete removal and replacing of all diplomatic staff from embassies, by-elections caused by bribing opposition MPs with deputy ministerial positions so that they resign to stand on the ruling party.

In addition there has been a clueless rush by the President to open new bureaucratic centres, creating districts in some cases in areas that are only within 15 kilometres of the existing ones.

The government refused to be advised to slow down on its projects despite that most of them did not have clear objectives, apart for political expedience.

Opposition Forum for Democracy and Development leader Edith Nawakwi asked Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda to be bold and admit that his first PF national budget had burst.

“What we have here is a situation where my elder brother at Finance has burst his budget and he has to look elsewhere for additional financing mostly to finance programme that were unbudgeted for such as new districts and bye elections,” Ms. Nawakwi said.

Four months later, contrary to claims that it folded back subsidies to raise money for infrastructure, government has nothing to show for that. Instead of happily telling the country how much it realised from subsidies and unveil projects where it is going to spend those savings, it has shamelessly continued on a borrowing spree.

It has just drawn a K1, 740 trillion from Eximbank of China to do L400 road project in Lusaka that has been given to AVIC International Project Engineering Company. A project it would have funded from the K2.3 trillion it said it would save from subsidies removal annually.

Yet more embarrassing is the decision to take a loan of US$10 million (K50 million) from OPEC-FID to build schools. Borrowing an amount six times less than the K300 million per month it purported it would gain from killing subsidies, proves that Sata and his administration are congenital liars.   
Today we don’t even know as a country how much we are saving from subsidies and how we are utilising those savings.

The leaders are not telling us so and the media that trumpeted the removal of subsidies as a bold and progressive move that would release money for infrastructure development are ashamed to write the success story of the savings from subsidies. The story is not just there.

More desperate measures are brewing. Government now wants to suspend paying pensions to civil servants for the next 10 years, by unilaterally increasing the retirement age from 55 years provided by the constitution to 65. This means the Patriotic Front regime will not share the burden of raising money to pay pension to public workers, and it will keep from the next presidential election the issue of unpaid pensions.

On top of that the government also wants to stop the pension scheme of paying lump sum package to retirees.

Further, to show that it meant the opposite when it promised more money in people’ pockets, the PF has introduced toll gate fees on all road users including Ox-Carts in villages further pushing upwards the cost of transportation as though the removal of fuel subsidy was not enough.

On the backdrop taking away subsidies that cushioned the cost of living on the ordinary Zambian and acted as a stimulus incentive to production, government went to give a K1.5 billion (US$210million) contract to a Chinese technology firm ZTE for procurement and installationof Closed-Circuit-Television (CCTV) in the streets of Lusaka. This deal is now being investigated for corruption, with Transparency International Zambia calling it a wasteful project that is not a priority.

That is how financially undisciplined President Sata and his government can prove to be. But we still want to ask where the savings from subsidies are going.

Is it the same money that President Sata is using to sneak out of the country, and the nation only comes to know about his whereabouts when a photo of his press aide drinking champagne in a London Hotel appears on the online media?

Or is it the same money that defence minister Geoffrey Mwamba has found useful to travel across the country to conduct a useless endorsement campaign for Sata? Is this campaign adding any value to the efforts aimed at ending the poverty in the country?

The exaggerated paving of roads, creating bureaucratic centres within 15 kilometres radius from State House, and building expensive football stadiums where there are no lucrative football leagues will not quieten the well thinking citizens of this country. Especially if these projects leave the economy of the country in a serious basket case of debt and makes citizens paying more tax to compensate for the idiocy of those in power.