Friday, 23 September 2011

Zambia Defies The Odds

20 September 2011 came and went and in the next couple of days the nation was gripped with tension of a thriller movie. Everyone clung to every word, rumour or speculation that could satisfy the appetite for the results. And there were plenty sources to satisfy this need from Facebook to the rumours kept rolling. Finally the results that everyone was waiting for were announced on 23 September 2011 at exactly 00:34hours that Michael Chilufya Sata would take the helm as the next president. A nation breathed a sigh of relief.
Prior to the election there were conspiracy theories of vote rigging by the MMD that even the legendary author Robert Ludlum would have been proud of.  From the disappearing ink to the right way to fold the paper it was something that got a nation hyped. Whether the conspiracy theories were true or not there is no disputing that it created election monitors of everyone. Every person was so alert at anything and anyone that was fishy and investigated everything that looked suspicious. This played a critical role in ensuring that it made it very difficult for would-be riggers. However, this also had negative implications for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in that they had ballot papers burnt and the election process delayed in some areas due to the heightened suspicion. 
It was this distrust in the electoral process that led many to believe that the delay in announcing the results was a plot by the MMD to rig the elections. This led to pockets of riots in Kitwe, Ndola and Mufulira.  In all fairness the ECZ must be applauded for doing a commendable job despite the hurdles. They were able to give us the results only a few hours later than promised. Other African countries take weeks before a winner is announced. We must note that we are developing our electoral process and we are making progress in the right direction. They tried their best to be transparent and they have definitely learnt something from these elections.
After the announcement was made by Chief Justice Ernest L. Sakala, the jubilation that swept across the nation was increased. It is as if people were in their beds and woke up in disbelief at the announcement. Vuvuzelas, honking, singing, boom blasting music and dancing all characterised the celebrations. These are pictures that I have envisioned when Zambia we win the Africa Cup. People were thinking there was one more trick that had yet to be played but there was none. It was finally over ‘Donchi Kubeba’ had worked.
Now I am not a PF supporter but somewhere at the back of my mind I wanted Michael C. Sata to win. I wanted to know whether it was possible that we could defy the odds and write a new chapter in African history by the opposition winning an election. To me it was also going to symbolise that the electoral process does work in Zambia. It would also be a warning to current and aspiring politicians that if they do not perform we have the power to book them out.
These elections besides showing that there can be a smooth transition of power of which Rupiah Banda should be commended for they have also proved a point. They have proved that this young country of Zambia is at a different level of democracy than most African countries. The Western media is so quick to make headlines of African countries whose election processes fail and the nations erupt in civil wars and chaos i.e. Ivory Cost.  Hardly will they put a real success story like Zambia’s a headline story. It has barely even made international news, how pathetic it. However, should we have been killing each other and burning up the town you would have seen how they would have sent all manner of camera men and reporters. We have shamed them, something good can come out of Africa and we have shown it.
Finally the reason for the ecstatic jubilation is that people have very enourmous if not gigantic expectations of the PF government. People are expecting more money in their pockets, lower taxes, reduced poverty and a fight on corruption. Therefore, the biggest challenge that PF now has is to manage people’s expectations. They need to explain to the people of Zambia that this is a process and it may take time to do certain things. They may not have the chance to do everything but they can get the ball rolling. It is also our responsibility as Zambians to get involved in the development process; it is the duty of every individual and not just the government alone. I look forward to this new chapter we have entered.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rise of the Alcoholic Pandemic

Today in our Zambian society to mention you had a great weekend without intoxicating yourself would be treated as a joke or attending a wedding without alcohol is utterly boring. The classroom talk on Monday morning is who got ‘high’ with the strongest ‘dope’ and in the office the champion is the one who arrived at dawn after a night of booze and more booze. The perception of a person who does not drink is either they are a born-again Pentecostal fanatic or there is some loose screw in their head. Of course, the breweries and COMESA markets have continued to thrive. Regardless of the economic situation, recession or depression as long as the Zambian is alive they can never go bankrupt. Even though we have not yet realised there is a pandemic that is brewing in our country.
Everyday there are more bars, taverns, pubs and nightclubs opening than there are schools, parks, recreation facilities or sporting clubs. Our society is so consumed with the intake of alcohol that someone does not have to walk a few metres before they come across an opportunity to purchase alcohol. What was once an activity reserved for adults has been stripped of its respect and anyone regardless of age can partake. The restriction that ‘Do Not Sale to Anyone under 18’ are hardly enforced. With children now starting to drink as young as 10 years there is a serious time bomb in our back yard that is going to explode if we do not take a critical look at it. We are likely to face a generation of alcoholics in the near future.
In recent years alcohol has been made more accessible and consumable with the introduction of the infamous Tujilijili, how I loathe those bloody things. This deadly liquor is now sold side by side with groceries and can easily be stored into the pockets. The alcohol levels in Tujilijlis are north of 40% which is way more than your average lager at 5%. These Tujilijilis are so cheap that all that someone needs is K2, 000 to get high; this is an amount even a child can afford. If we thought we had an alcohol problem with the lagers we have seen nothing yet with the rising phenomenon of the Tujilijilis.
Zambia is already suffering for the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to add a population of alcoholics on top of that is likely to cripple this nation and bring it down to its knees. According to the World Health Organisation, “There are 2.5 million alcohol related deaths every year.” Sadly, Zambia does not even have statistics in regard to the gravity of the matter of alcoholism in this country. All we know is that we are renowned for our drinking and honestly this is nothing that we should be proud about. Besides the deaths alcoholism has led to road accidents, contracting of STIs and HIV, breakdown of families, psychological trauma in children, health problems and many other related issues.
                All of us perhaps know a friend, family member or relative who has or has had alcohol problems. We have experienced the effects it has had on the people around them and pain such an addiction have caused. We may have witnessed them throw bright futures away, drink away all their money, physically and verbally abuse their families and abandon their children for the company of the bars. We have made people with alcohol problems the discussion of gossip, the laughing stocks of the town and believing that they are just weak. We then hope that it is a phase that they will grow out of and their addiction to alcohol can be solved as simple as 1, 2, 3.  It is this rather passive attitude towards this social issue that is slowly cultivating the crisis that is being foreseen.
                The first thing we need to do is realise and admit that we do have a problem in this country. We should not be living in denial and sweeping things under the carpet or sugar coating them as a hobby someone will get bored of. Let us call it for what it is whether it is alcoholism or an alcohol addiction that is what it should be called. Then only can we begin to look for solutions towards this.
                Like everything else in this country we are blaming everything on the government and claiming that they are not providing jobs or that they are not building recreation facilities for the young people. The question is what are you doing about it. Why aren’t you building a recreation facility instead of the bars? Why isn’t the community complaining about the bars that are opening next to their houses? All we do is complain in silence and hope that someone will hear our quietness. We need to be more proactive in addressing this issue. Challenge the councils, Members of Parliament, councilors and any person who makes the decisions. The more we all begin to speak about it the more people will begin to hear.
                The sad part is that there are few places where the addictions that some people already have can be treated. There are no rehabilitation centres in Zambia where these people can go to get help. The only one that I am aware of is Chainama Hills Hospital. Even this one it is difficult to get people to go there for fear of being labeled crazy, mad, psycho or a lunatic.  The churches as well are not really doing enough to address the problem as well. We can preach that give your life to Jesus and boom the addiction will go away but that is not true. For some that miracle can happen but for others it does not happen that way. It is a daily struggle that they need to be helped through and guided to come out of this addiction.
                To wind this up it is high time that we realise that this current generation is digging a deep hole for itself than it will be able to come out of. With a junior secondary school kid to be able to advise you what to drink between a Mosi or Castle and what the side effects of each are is a tragedy. We are not building a country of beer tasters.  It is time we took a stand and began to take notice of the crisis we are in. Finally as I always say where there is a problem there is always money to be made. I reckon setting up a rehab clinic will be a booming business in the near future.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Political One Night Stand

            On 20 September 2011 the nation will not only go to the polls to vote for a president, we shall also be choosing Members of Parliament popularly known as MPs or honourables. It is in this light that I have taken a keen interest in the debates on radio and television among our potential MPs. I honestly wish that I had something good to report, alas from the debates I have heard thus far my heart cringes at the thought of the MPs that would possibly represent us. As I sit down to hear them speak all I can do is say a prayer up to heaven, “Oh Lord, help us.”
            MPs are people who are supposed to represent the people of their constituencies. They are supposed to be our go to guys and ladies. People we can count on who are fearless to take on the world for their constituency. They are supposed to be our voice. However, what I hear is far from any representation of the constituencies they desire to stand on. It is almost as if they are attempting to redefine the meaning of what an MP is supposed to be. It nearly feels like the people who are vying for parliamentary seats are seeing an opportunity that they cannot just seem to let it pass by. Some are seeing it as a golden jackpot and another a way out of poverty. It is such type of leaders who we only get to notice every 5 years when it is time to collect votes and once they have won that is the last of them until 5 years later.
            I am amazed at how some of the candidates who wish to stand are na├»ve and shallow about what their constituencies need. They have too much talk with no substance. Some seem to forget the fact that Zambia is a developing country. The reality is we do not have enough money to tar every single road, to build high schools at will or to bring Manda Hill to every area. In our current state that is just not possible.
Therefore, when I hear the candidates say, “I will bring development to this constituency,” it clearly shows that they do not know what they are talking about. Reading the Post Newspaper or Times of Zambia for the trials and tribulations of people in the constituency and believing that you can change these with words is a lie.
The way they plan to bring about development is self-centred; it is always about ‘I’ instead of “WE’. Development is not an individual task it is a collective effort. It is the efforts of the people in the communities together with the policy makers that bring about development. Development is a gradual process it cannot be done in 5 years nor can it be done in 10 years. It does not have to take you to be an MP to go and clean the drainages in your area, to advocate for better sanitation or support a local women’s group. It takes a person with a heart for the constituency to do that. This is the caliber of an MP I am looking for, unfortunately there are very few around with this nature. Hence, I will have to make do with whatever better evil is around when I go to cast my vote on 20 September.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Zambian Time My Foot

                 There is a common saying that, “Late comers always eat bones”, in the literal sense Zambians have been eating bones for a very long time. I know this is a farfetched assumption but realistically speaking if there is anything that Zambians are good at it is being late. We have created a culture around it which sadly we are passing on to generations to come. The fact of the matter is that most Zambians just fail to keep time. The million dollar question then is why on earth don’t most Zambians keep time?
                When visitors from Europe or Asia visit Zambia the first thing that they come to realize is that when a Zambian says that they will meet you at 14 hours, 14 hours could mean anything from 14:15hrs - 15:00hrs and that is if you are lucky. There is no manner of respect for other people’s time whatsoever.  We have even foolishly yes I have said it foolishly developed a phrase for it which we use so casually to explain why we are late that, “It is Zambian time.” How pathetic.
                You may have a lot of time on your hands to waste but not everyone has that luxury of time. I mean really is keeping time that very hard to do? The excuse that you did not have a watch does not apply. In this modern day and age you get the time from almost anywhere. The watch on your hand that clearly people do not seem to utilize, the mobile phones, even flipping channels on DSTV will give you the time. So it is time to think of much more valid reasons. The only one that I can think of at the moment is that we just do not care.
                For example how possible is it that you are supposed to meet someone in town at 12hrs and you stay in Kabulonga. You want to leave for town on a bus at 11:45 hrs and expect to make it in time for the meeting. When the person asks you why you were held up you blame it on the bus. Honestly this even fails logical thought. We are all aware of the inconveniences of getting on public transport with all the traffic and bus stops in Lusaka. Why is it so hard to start off at 11:15 hrs instead? Some people do not even have the decency to inform the people waiting that they will be late. Instead they expect them to be telepathic, psyche or something to guess that they will be late. A text message or a call will not kill you.
                I have come to realize that the failure to keep time is more of a deliberate attitude than anything. People are rarely late when they need to collect money, attend a job interview or have to catch a flight abroad. People are always conscious of the time when it comes to these issues. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too difficult to translate this same awareness to other time issues. I must admit that I am also to blame in pushing the late culture. I have tolerated friends and family that have wasted my time one too many times. I say, “No more! I will not allow myself to be abused in this manner anymore”. So this is my resolution for the year, four months is still long enough to make a difference.
                Therefore, allow me to take this opportunity to send out a warning to would be late-comers. I will only be giving an allowance of 5 minutes. After which I will not be waiting for you. And should you have the audacity to call me to find out why I left, I am arranging some good French for you as a response. I challenge the rest of you to follow suit. Abash Time Wasting!!!