Friday, 6 October 2017

The Gun, the Man or the Woman?

This morning I woke up to a discussion in one of the Whatsapp groups I am in about another murder that happened last evening. Nshinka Kaputu shot dead his girlfriend Precious Mangesana outside his house in Ibex Hill Meanwood. Their two-year-old daughter was also shot too but survived and is currently in hospital. When such incidents happen, we often know when, what and how it happened, but it is why it happened that is perhaps the most difficult question to answer.

There are a number of theories that emerge as we the unknowing public try to put the pieces together. In order, to find some plausible explanation that will satisfy our conscience, it is easier to find someone or something to blame. We hope that by finding the reason perhaps we can be able to prevent future incidents from happening. However, if the latest trends are anything to go by we are nowhere near to finding the solution.

In this case, there have been three parties that have already shared the blame- the gun, the man and the woman. Why did the man have a gun? If he did not have a gun, then he would not have killed the girlfriend. Any other tool would have made it much tougher for him to execute his plans. The death by a bullet is swift and often people do not survive. Therefore, all those with guns in their households need to reconsider whether it is worth having one.

Then some of the blame has been on the man. Why did he have to make such an irrational decision? Did he think about the repercussions of his action? His girlfriend is dead and the daughter has now been left motherless and potentially an absent father. Friends and family have lost a loved one. Why didn’t he have his emotions in control? The list of questions can go on and on, but until Nshinka tells us what happened in those few minutes and seconds before he pulled the trigger all we can do is speculate. Then there is one thing that most people avoid talking about, what was the mental health situation of Nshinka? Often times we assume that we are a homogenous bunch when it comes to our feelings, emotions and reactions. The truth of the matter is we all react differently to different situations.

The woman. Why didn’t she just walk away? Why did she go there at night? Didn’t she see the signs earlier that she was with an unstable man? She should have known better. The sad reality of all this is that the person who could give us the answers is no longer around. There is the temptation to blame the victim in such situations, the same way we blame the woman for not walking out of an abusive relationship. I have read and heard far too many stories of women staying with a man who pounds them topulp. I ask myself, why don’t they just pack their bags and leave? What many of us fail to realise is we over simplify issues of this nature. Walking out of a relationship should be as easy as saying our ABCs. We forget the role that societal pressure plays, sometimes children are involved, the emotional investment, or hope that things would get better. However, one important thing that we forget is that other people are not us. We cannot place our own expectations on them and expect them to behave the way we would when placed in certain situations.

Nshinka is currently in custody, and the police are doing their investigations. We may choose to slice and dissect this incidence in many ways as we attempt to put the pieces of this puzzle together, but we may never arrive at the whole truth. We can come up with valid reasons to blame the gun, man or woman and how all this could have been prevented. We can wish that a similar incidence never happens, but it will. We cannot ignore the state of mind of both Nshinka and Precious at the time that this tragedy took place. It is difficult to attempt to understand what led Nshinka to do what he did, but if we begin to label him as an insane, evil, or a mad person, we should not end there. We should equally go further and ask what led him to that, and how do we help others from reaching that point too.

How do you think we can prevent another incident from happening?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Not Another Whatsapp Group Again

The other day I was having a meeting for an event. Then someone suggested we form a Whatsapp group for communication purposes. In my heart, I cringed.

Immediately I broke into binding and loosing whatever spirit had come up with that thought. Banishing it to the deepest of the farthest pit of oblivion and rebuking all other forces (ok I am exaggerating this part).

I am well aware of what happens in Whatsapp groups I already belong to 22 of them and believe me it is a full-time job keeping up to date with all of them. Quite frankly only a handful of them make sense and have real significance to my life. For the rest, I am this guy below.

I pop in and out of the groups just to make sure I have not missed anything. Most times I do not miss anything at all. A group that was created for business is sharing about football, one created for church is sharing food recipes and another simply has no direction it is open season- politics, entertainment, education, job adverts, baby pictures all thrown in for good measure. The day my entire clan decide to form a Whatsapp group that will the death of me. My family is something special they need a reality TV show on an exclusive channel of their own.

The last I checked the worst part about groups is that it does not need my permission to be added into a group. Whether I like it or yes, someone can just drag me in.

Once added to a group, I brace myself for that one individual who will post some recycled picture, joke or video that has been circulating in about all the other 1000 groups around. Then the ambush of nonsense will come flooding in.

 I cannot count the number of times I am tempted to click 'Exit group' but I am not brave enough to do it most times. It feels like openly denying an invitation to belong to a select group of people. And when I see someone leave a group, I am breaming with envy because they are finally free. They have escaped the Mukobeko of Whatsapp groups. In all their genius, I do not know why Whatsapp did not create a discrete way of leaving a group without making a public announcement.  It is long overdue and can someone tell Zuckerburg to get on it.

The next thing I do is mute the bloody thing for one year. If it had an option for 10 years trust me, I would be clicking that option too.

I get to bed in the evening at 23: 00 hours and my phone has no messages. I wake up in the morning only to discover 125 unread messages. I then wonder how people manage to text at the witching hour of 02:30?
What is even more amazing is that others have the time to get into a conversation, argue and make up all while I was still asleep.

For all the ease in communication that Whatsapp comes with, there are piles of Whatsapp groups that I am sure we can all do away with. And I definitely do not need another Whatsapp group whose notifications will just drain my battery. Forgive me if I am not skipping in joyous applause at the creation of a group. I am certain I have left many other horror stories about Whatsapp groups, I sure you can help me out.

DISCLAIMER: I have created Whatsapp groups and I behave like a headmaster in them.

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.

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 >>>

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?