Monday, 20 February 2017

Here We Beat People Who Attempt Suicide

Last week, a man jumped from the unfinished building along Katondo street in Lusaka. This was a suicide attempt and fortunately even though the man jumped from 11 storeys he survived. However, you would think the first thing that the crowd would do was be willing to help, call an ambulance or break into prayer, but instead they wanted to beat up the man. The crowd wanted blood. It was a clear representation of how suicide is still viewed by some people in our society. It was a shame of the highest order.

 
Abandoned building along Katondo
Suicide is still viewed as a weakness. Forget the fact that it might be as a result of a number of issues such as depression, mental illness, emotional troubles and other problems that cannot be seen like a wound. This has been my contention for a very long time. We know how to be empathetic towards someone who is sick, who has a bandage or someone who is injured, but we are miles away from understanding mental wounds and scars.


I do not know what would have caused the man to want to take his life. Regardless of the reason, I would never view his action as cowardice. However, that is how many have been programmed to view suicide, as an easy way out. When someone has malaria, tuberculosis, or a headache, we immediately urge them to go to the hospital. You buy them fruits, give them medication, sleep by their bedside and tend to their every need until they get better. But where does someone who is depressed go, someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia? Who is there to take care of them? In this rainy season, there are public announcements reminding us to boil or chlorinate our water. We are warned to visit the nearest health centre if we have any symptoms of cholera. However, I have hardly heard any such public announcements for people who are depressed or are facing mental challenges. Where is their hotline?


Do we assume that because it is in the mind and there is nothing bleeding it is not a serious illness? Worse still do we even believe that it is an illness? When people believe that the best way to treat the man who attempted suicide is to beat the hell out of him, we should be ashamed of ourselves as a society. Who in their rightful mind would beat someone who is sick of malaria or cancer? Yet we want to teach the person who wants to take their life a lesson. The crowd wanted to land punches and kicks before they asked the reason why? Some in the crowd could even be heard urging him to jump. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.

video



We need to make it okay for people to talk about depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar, or the voices they hear in their heads. This is a health problem, and it cannot be shooed away like a mosquito. People need someone to talk to. Others might require medication, and some might require checking into a hospital. We need more health centres with the capacity to treat mental illnesses. This is not a problem for the church or government to deal with; this is our problem. I sincerely hope that the man who wanted to end his life gets the right kind of help he needs.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Horse Shoe's 'Steaky' Mess Continues


Since the Horse Shoe Steakhouse scandal broke late November, I have been holding my reservations on commenting about it. This is one that I had decided not to put out a public statement because I did not know the full facts. Mika Mwambazi accused the owners of being racist after she claims to have witnessed an employee being abused. She then went on social media to share her disgust accompanied by the hashtag #ShutDownHorseShoe. Well the latest on this is that the Minister of Labour Joyce Simukoko has stated that there is no racism at the Horse Shoe Restaurant and that Mika Mwambazi should be arrested. I have an issue with both statements.



According to the report made by Lusaka Times, the minister said that investigations revealed that there was no racism at the Horse Shoe Restaurant. Wait a minute, the term investigation means a formal or systematic examination or research according to the Oxford dictionary. However, the information released by the press is that many teams from the Ministry of Labour were sent to the affected area to investigate the matter. It would have been great to know what constituted the investigation. Did they talk to the staff? Did they interview the owner? Did they inquire with the people who complained on social media? The people who signed the Shut Down Horse Shoe petition? Did they go with hidden camera? Did they interrogate Mika Mwambazi? Did they use a polygraph test? How did they go about this investigation? Getting to understand how the investigation was under taken would help the public appreciate the conclusion that was arrived at that there was no racism. By the way it is not like racism is packaged in a bottle that can be found on a shelf.

Mrs. Simukuko also stated that racism is as bad as tribalism as it can breed into war. Now even though I recognise the gravity of racism, the minister’s statement was out of context and unnecessary. I do not see any relation between the Horse Shoe incident and how a war could come into the picture. It is an issue of discrimination at most which must be dealt with. The minister took time to meet with the Horse Shoe management and the workers, but it does not mention her meeting Mika Mwambazi. If she did meet her I would have liked to know what was discussed. However, it seems unlikely they met because the minister has ordered her arrest.

I am not a legal expert and I would like my readers to educate me on this one. What right does a minister have to demand the arrest of a citizen? Shouldn’t that be the jurisdiction of the police or the courts? If a minister can command the arrest of someone who genuinely believed that an injustice was being done, what assurances are being given that another person who complains does not risk being jailed. Mika may not have used the right channels to address this matter yet it does not by any means warrant the accusation of her alarming the nation. It was probably only people on social media who were aware of it. I am certain my uncle in Nega Nega did not hear of this.


This case has a lot of learning points. Arguably the most important of them all is to have evidence to back up any claims or accusations you make. Imagine if Mika had used the video camera on her phone to film the alleged worker being abused. This case would have been closed a long time ago. We have Facebook Live so “racism” can be filmed live now. Secondly, I will consider writing to Santa to give the management of Horse Shoe all the seasons of Scandal. They need to learn a thing or two from Olivia Pope on how to handle stuff. This situation should never have reached the levels that it did. This was an utter mess.

How do you think this issue should have been handled?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & Not-So-Sure 2017 Budget Summary

On 11 November 2016, we had the 2017 budget presented by the new Minister of Finance Honourable Felix Mutati. This is perhaps the first budget in which the most important thing I wanted to hear was not the Pay As You Earn adjustments because I have been out of formal employment for over a year now. I was more interested on the impact of whatever pronouncements he would make on small businesses, or a start-up like the one I am in the process of setting up. So like I have done for the past few years, I present what I think were the interesting parts of the budget and as usual ignored quite a lot.



Let me begin by saying that the K64.5 billion 2017 budget begins with pretty much the same rhetoric we have heard year in year out and quite frankly it is becoming boring now. We are told that we need to diversify, agriculture is the 'holy grail' to our diversification agenda and this budget proved that. We are also told that the government aims to be prudent. The budget is spiced with low inflation aspirations, stable forex (which based on 2016, we need to put it in a straitjacket) and a warning of difficult times ahead. With that little preamble, I present to you the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Not-So-Sure 2017 Budget Summary.

The Good
  • In the first nine months of 2016, mobile users increased from 11.5 million from 10.9 million in 2015. This is quite impressive considering we are a population of about 15 million that is 77% of the population people with mobile phones.


  • It is about time the cashew nut industry was raised from its doldrums in Western Province. Government has launched the Cashew Nut Infrastructure Support Programme, valued at US$55.4million. The project will target 600,000 beneficiaries in Western Province.


  • Government will by the end of 2017 move to cost reflective electricity tariffs to attract private sector investment while maintaining the life line tariff to protect poorer households. It will further, implement the phased removal of electricity subsidies. We must brace ourselves for electricity to become more expensive. I just hope that this devilish loadshedding will end.


  • Youth Resettlement Schemes will be established through which land and start-up kits will be provided to the youth to enable them engage in agriculture and agri-business for their livelihood. If there is a place with no loadshedding, free wifi, and fuel is K5/litre sign me up.


  • Most of the land in Zambia is not on title as only about 200,000 parcels of land are on title. Government will in 2017 commission a pilot programme in Lusaka that will commence the process of titling all land in the Province. It is about time.


  • Government will in 2017 commence distribution of free sanitary towels to girls in rural and peri-urban areas. The minister should have even gone a step further by making them tax free.


  • Timely and quality statistics will be critical in order for us to monitor and evaluate the progress we are making. The minister implores all Government Agencies to compile and maintain credible statistics. The minister should have also told them that they should share the statistics. Does he know how painful it is to get data from government ministries?


  • If you needed any more evidence that the agriculture sector is the most loved, here it is. It has been proposed to increase the capital allowance for plant, equipment and machinery used in farming and agro-processing to 100 percent from 50 percent. Farmers should be mightily excited


The Bad

  • The key sectors have been identified for intervention as agriculture, industrialisation, tourism and mining. This is in the bad section because we now need to start asking the tough questions. Are we getting our policies right? Mining still accounts for 70% of export earnings what are the other sectors doing nkanshi. From the days of Kaunda we have known we cannot depend on the copper mines. But still here we are as dependent as ever.


  • There is yet again the creation of other funds. The Agricultural and Industrial Credit Guarantee Fund, Skills Development Fund and the Tourism Development Fund. The principle of these funds is awesome; however, often these funds rarely reach the intended targets. There are questions around the disbursing of funds and who actually receives it.


  • It's been proposed to increase the exempt threshold for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) from K3,000 to K3,300 per month and increase the top marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 37.5 percent. This will hardly make a dent on the low income earners. That additional exemption has been swallowed up by inflation. I feel even a K500 difference would have been worth talking about.


  • Customs duty on plastic shopping bags will increase from 25 percent to 40 percent. This is one tax I am a little disappointed was only increased by 15 percent. I would have loved it increased by say 50 percent. Supermarkets give plastics for everything, a toothbrush in its own plastic, toothpaste in its own plastic, imwe. No wonder our streets are littered with plastics because they are so cheap and carelessly dished out.


The Ugly

  • The annual inflation which reached a peak of 22.9% in February 2016 has declined to 12.5% in October 2016. The minister expects inflation to fall to single digit by year end (boza is not a good thing). How? Just how is inflation expected to reach a single digit by year end when fuel prices just sky-rocketed to close to 40% increase. Ask for forgiveness for lying.


  • Government to stop policies on export bans and it will refrain from using these instruments to regulate agricultural markets. My concern here is that so many subsidies go to the agricultural sector, aren't we just subsidising other countries? Until I am convinced otherwise this will remain in the ugly.


  • Excise duty on air time will increase from 15 percent to 17.5 percent. Just great, as if airtime and bundles are not already expensive. This will make us resume sending text messages instead of calling.


The Not-So-Sure

  • The theme of the 2017 Budget is "Restoring Fiscal Fitness for Sustained Inclusive Growth and Development”. This theme sounds like a PhD or master's degree thesis. I feel the words 'sustained inclusive growth' have been over used. Couldn't they have found an edgier theme like "Get Off Your Behind and Work"?


  • The minister announced that he wants to support the creation of 100,000 jobs. He was sharp here. He did not say what type of jobs are to be created. Is it low skilled jobs like sweepers, grave diggers, or formal high skilled jobs like astronauts, marine biologist or neurologists?


  • It will now be required that every person changing ownership of a motor vehicle to obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Zambia Revenue Authority. This will most likely make second hand vehicles more expensive and this is more administrative work.


  • Vehicle carbon tax has been revised upwards. Owning a car will further becoming a liability. There are just too many things to be paying on it. The expected increase in spare parts and now carbon tax.


This budget had one central theme which I can liken to the movie, 'Taken'. This is the government telling us that, "If you do not pay your taxes, we will find you and you will pay." It is about the government raising revenue and squeezing us for every ngwee possible. As always the people with the widest smiles are the people in agriculture, their incentives just keep getting better. Overall, I was rather disappointed in this budget because there was very little in it that inspired me, especially when it came to the diversification agenda. At this point I will not be surprised if once again next year we have a similar budget.


So what things in the budget would have made your The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and Not-So-Sure list?


I strongly encourage you to read the full budget here >>> http://www.parliament.gov.zm/node/6051

Friday, 23 September 2016

An African Man Trying to Understand US Cops Killing Black Men

It is another week and CNN is reporting another shooting in the United States of America. It is followed by protests in the streets that extend into the wee hours of the evenings. Placards and clenched fists are raised in the air. It is clear from the scenes that I am watching that the people are upset. This is not the first time, I have witnessed such scenes. I have seen these familiar scenes before. The only difference is that the names have changed. This time around it is Terrence Crutcher and Keith Scott who have been shot dead by police officers in separate incidents. Like I said earlier these scenes are familiar there is something else that is familiar, the men who were shot are BLACK.


I am an African born in Zambia and I am black. In my country decisions about whether I succeed or fail, be free or go to jail, live or die are not based on the colour of my skin. In my country the talk is not much about the colour of my skin perhaps tribe. Even though Keith Scott and Terrence Crutcher were not Zambians, I received the news with sadness. It is more than the loss of life that was bothering there was something much more. I did not know them or their family, they were not Zambians, and our only connection was that they were black men like me. And that is probably where all these mixture of emotions are coming from. I am failing to understand how being black made them most likely to be shot dead.

Terrence Crutcher with hands raised


Terrence Crutcher was shot when his car broke down; he had his hands raised when the cop shot him. This man was not a criminal, he did not show any aggression and yet he lost his life. His only crime was being black. Terrence has now become a statistic that can be added to the list of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and others all killed by cops. The other familiar thing about all the names I have mentioned, the cops are never indicted for killings. This is despite the fact that the evidence is clear to me who is oceans apart that the victims did not deserve to die.


I am now asking myself questions such as, "What is it about a black man that some people find threatening?" Surely those individuals did not deserve to die. Is it that their lives are not valued and do not matter? Don't the cops see the wives, husbands, children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers behind the people whose lives they shorten by the pulling of the trigger? I was recently in the USA and I was afraid each time I saw a cop. I did not make eye contact with them, held my breath, and walked upright. Random thoughts raced through my mind preparing myself to raise my hands if they uttered a word to me... Coming to think about it now would raising hands have helped it clearly did not help Terrence. At that moment I knew that I was conscience of the fact that I was black, something I never do in Zambia.


As an African who is witnessing the murdering of blacks in America by cops, I can empathise with black people who live in America but I doubt I can ever fully grasp the pain, fear, struggles, injustice and loss they go through. And I still do not know what to do or say in solidarity. Is there anything that Africans can do or say that will make a difference? Should our presidents be calling on the United States America to uphold human rights as they often do when it comes to African countries? Should we hold solidarity marches for our brothers and sisters who are killed? The sad part about all this, it will not be long until I turn on CNN and see the same news again. Another black man shot dead by the police, and once again I will be left wondering if there is anything I can do? At this moment, all I can do is think of Martin Luther King's words, "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character."


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Are We All Tribalists?

These past few days have been exciting, nerve-wrecking, challenging, and depressing all wrapped in a box as we waited for the 11 August 2016 election results. Zambia was waiting to know who would lead Zambia the next five years. Social media both Facebook and Twitter were lit with various commentaries as the results began to filter in. Some results were predictable while others not so. One constituency, however, opened a can of ugly worms that might be very difficult to put back. Dundumwezi.


When the results for Dundumwezi which is a constituency in Kalomo were announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), they showed that Hakainde Hichilema (HH) from the United Party for National Development (UPND) had obtained 30,810 votes while the incumbent and current president Edgar Lungu (EL) got 252 votes. Almost instantaneously, social media erupted with tribalist accusations and most of this targeted towards Tongas who primarily hail from Southern Province. The hate speech that was targeted towards Tongas was filled with such venom that not even a cobra would have stood the sting. The things mentioned will not be dignified by having them reprinted in this blog.


This is the elephant in the room that has appeared that many people do not want to discuss but discuss it we must. It is sad that an entire tribe gets to be victimised, marginalised and insulted based on a voting pattern. Many of us were not present when the people in Dundumwezi were voting. We do not exactly know why they voted the way they did and were they not within their rights to vote as they wanted. Shouldn't elections be a personal decision? Who are we to tell them how they should have voted? Also at what number would it have not been considered tribalism, 300 votes, 750 votes or 1001 votes? The subjectivity in this matter is one that is up for debate.


Whether we want to admit it or not we shall support the person we most relate closely to. If your brother and a stranger were in an Olympic race, of course you would be expected to show support for your brother and no one would condemn you. However your allegiance would change if your brother spat, shunned and kicked you, where the stranger called showed you love and compassion. In a sport where no Zambian or African is participating, the chances that most people will support the next team closest to Africa are high. Most Africans are likely to support the African American or individual from the Caribbean. This is not necessarily wrong everyone is entitled to their preferences. It is a known fact that a number of African Americans voted for Barack Obama purely based on the fact that he was black and not that he had better policies than John McCain or Mitt Romney.


The depressing part about the aftermath of the Dundumwezi results is how some people saw it within their senses to vilify an entire tribe and assault them with all manner of filthy words. Generalisations can be dangerous and this is one point where it is. People cannot assume that Tongas, Bembas, Lozis, Tumbukas or any other tribe are a homogenous people who think alike, do similar things and have same patterns. We need prayers. Some of my closest friends are Tonga, my mother is Tumbuka but speaks Tonga because she grew up there and let me not forget the in-laws. Trust me they are very different people and never would it cross my mind to think just because of an action they have done, I can then assume that definitely that is how all Tongas are.


Election time can be a very emotional and polarising period because individuals have invested time, resources and have vested interest in the candidates they support. It is not the wisest thing to speak when one is emotional because things might be said that cannot be taken back. Some Politicians perpetually continued to draw tribal lines as they have noticed the best way to appeal to voters is through kinship to remind the voters that they are a brother, sister, son or daughter or come from the same province. This appeals to the electorate because once again they feel some kind of connection. This method can also be a weapon used to marginalise, discriminate and paint a certain group of people as selfish, greedy, uncouth and tribalistic. This further, breeds a mentality of us against them. Some people believe they have more right to be Zambian than others. This is disappointing because we all have friends or family who belong to other tribes. We celebrate weddings and mourn at funerals together, then how dare we turn on them just because of an election.



It is not my duty to explain or rationalise what happened in Dundumwezi. But it is by duty to call out anyone who attempts to marginalise, discriminate and hurt others based on their tribe. We did not go to a shop to choose a tribe or race we were born into it. By keeping silent, we are telling the people who wish to spread such ideas that it is ok and applaud from the sidelines. By keeping silent we tell victimised groups that there is no place for them. Never should it be acceptable that one individual or a group of individuals should be used as a barometer for all others. Human beings are complex people. Many people have been hurt and wounded during these election results and we need to heal. A good place to start is by addressing the elephant in the room and not pretending it is an inconveniencing fly that can be swatted away. 

How best do you propose we can address the problem?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

I Finally Figured Out Louise Lie-ton

You know, we Zambians love attention. Even though we will not openly admit it. As such we enjoy reading about ourselves in magazines, or newspapers. Watch ourselves on satellite television on the hundreds of channels. Once in a while hear Oprah gush about how she had a wonderful vacation in Mfuwe. Ok I am lying about the Oprah bit. So you can imagine when I got wind that there was an article on Zambia in the Telegraph UK.  My timeline on Facebook and Twitter feeds were buzzing with some Louise Linton apparently the person who wrote the piece. I decided to read the famed article to discover the awesome praise that my nation was receiving from yet another visitor to Zambia. Manje,  what ba Ru-eese wrote, iye imwe.



First, of all let me ask how on earth the Telegraph agreed to feature your article in their newspaper? Had they run out of stories or there was not enough bad news coming out of Africa for them. Anyway, I blame whoever, let you near a computer in the first place. They need to read the warning next time 'NOT FOR USE FOR CHILDRED UNDER 3 YEARS OLD'. All the same, I am keeping an open mind about your article and will try my best and I stress my best to understand it.




Ba Louise where did you find the jungle? I have been looking for the same jungle for ages. Kindly drop me an email I go see it. This is such wonderful news, contrary to popular belief I had always known Zambia had a jungle somewhere.


'Skinny white muzungu with long angel hair' kwena you are have some descriptions. But just a correction muzungu means white person. So what you have essentially said is 'skinny white white person with long angel hair'. So I advise you to remove the first white. Out of curiosity what does long devil hair look like?


Heheheehehehe, twelve inch spiders, really Louise. This is the problem with watching Arachnophobia one too many times. Your brain begins to imagine stuff. Do not worry it happens to me too. Sometimes, I see huge twelve inch lice in my bedroom too.


Wow! Louise you are one special human being. You travelled thousands of kilometres, left your country got on a plane just to come plant a vegetable garden, just to start a school under a tree. You forgot to add also used a pit latrine to tick off your to-do list.



Ba Ru-eese once again you have been watching too many movies like Tears of Sun or Beasts of No Nation. I would like to find out why did you go to the national park if you had no intention of encountering lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes? Hello, that is what a safari is supposed to be. In Zambia, we only have three seasons- June, October and rainy season. I think global warming is causing the monsoon to start reaching Zambia now.


Oh you poor soul. I know nightmares have that effect on people. You went into hiding thinking the Boogie Man was out there to get you. I just want to give you a long, big hug and let you know that it was all in your head.




You should have mentioned earlier on that you are an actress. It much makes sense. Now I have a clearer picture of the parts you wish to play in movies. Almost like Angelina Jolie roles in Tomb Raider or Beyond Borders. I am baffled by one thing though, how come Zimba did not teach you another beautiful word. Bufi. Yes Ru-eese it has one simple meaning LIES. I think it would have been very helpful to add to your vocabulary. In the mean time we shall catch up on #LintonLies. Bye.









Friday, 10 June 2016

Another Zambian-less List

Another list recently came out, and once again it is a Zambian-less one. Yaba. The list I am talking about is the Forbes Africa 30 under 30; this list reveals the most promising entrepreneurs from around the continent, across various sectors. Since no Zambian has made the list what does it mean? Does it mean that we have no potential in Zambia? Or are the people who came up with this list not aware that there are entrepreneurs here too? Or could it be, our entrepreneurs are not breaking as much ground that their peers in other countries are doing. Perhaps it is that Zambians do not like showing off that is why they are missing from the list? Whatever the reason it might be time we called an indaba and addressed this issue.



The Forbes Africa 30 under 30 had entrepreneurs from countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Madagascar, Tanzania, Benin, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and others. South Africa had five entrepreneurs on the list. FIVE. And we could not even have one Zambian on the list? This is serious bane. Perhaps you may help me understand what it is we are doing wrong, so that we can correct this abnormality. What is it that the other entrepreneurs are doing that we here in Zambia are not doing? We are all on the African continent, and we have challenges that are unique and some that are universal. What is the excuse for not even one person representing? Out of 30 entrepreneurs not even one made it.


This list is already out; there is not much I can do about it. So all I am left with is to come up with plausible explanations that will somewhat soothe my soul. I will start with the one that I deliberately choose to believe. Our entrepreneurs were too busy making money to make it on the list. There is so much to do and little time to do it. Too much money to be made and finding time to appear on a list is just not available.


The other explanation is that we are humble people. We do not like showing off what we do and in the same vein, we do not celebrate others who are shining. Why should we celebrate others, lest they become big headed? You know we hate proud people we Zambians. As a result, there is not much publicity for the local entrepreneurs. Perhaps it is time we should reconsider our humbleness and start shouting our successes from the mountain top.


I do not think the next reason if why we did not make the list, but I will put it anyway. I know it might be brutal to think about but there is nothing really WOW! about most entrepreneurs in Zambia. On the list, there is a gentleman from Sierra Leone called Kevin Doe who taught himself engineering and built a radio station from scrap. By the way, Kevin spoke at the TEDxLusaka event a few weeks ago. Now how many of our entrepreneurs are doing something fascinating, groundbreaking, trend setting or earth shattering. If you know of some individuals kindly bring them to my attention so that I can email the list to Forbes Africa.



There are a lot more reasons that I can think about, but my psychiatrist told me not to agitate myself too much so I must stop here. I hope Forbes Africa have a plan to search the length and breadth of Zambia next year to put someone on the list at least even one. Just in case they cannot find one, I know a gentleman who writes a blog, I think it starts with Diary of something.