Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 The Year in Frustration & Not So Frustrating Events

I have decided to hold onto releasing this list till the very last day of 2012. I was anticipating that something very frustrating would happen to cap my year off in style. Unfortunately, nothing of any grandiose proportion happened hence, we can safely sum up the year. I reckon we have already said our Goodbyes and Au revoirs to 2012. However, as a Frustrated Brotha I decided to reflect on a year that has been. So below are my top 10 events that marked my year of frustrations and others that tried to transform me into a more content brotha.

This is one show that we love to hate. The 2012 show was known for both voluntary evictions and expulsions due to physical altercations, one most prominent DKB slapping Zainab. This violence was not condoned by Big Brother and they were both booted out. And yes how could we forget the escapades of our very own Talia in the house.  I will still stick to my suggestion; they need to put some ex-prisoners in that house to add some real tension and drama. It is what we all want after all isn’t it?
As long as you own a mobile phone, I am sure you have been subjected to some pretty pathetic service by our network providers. In 2012, the mobile networks took customer careless services to another level. We had to endure congested networks, dropped signals, unreachable customer care, rude customer service operators, irritating promotions and the list is endless. Surely, the theme for 2012 was ‘The Year of Ultimate Sucking’. I fear what their 2013 theme is, I cringe at the thought. Vodacom please come to our rescue, I begg’O.
Who can forget the backlash that government had to endure when they announced the minimum wage for maids? People were almost jumping onto the streets protesting this unpopular move. Some threatened to fire their maids because they could not afford to pay the K525, 000. The sad part about all this was that these were people who blow that amount on a bottle of perfume or in a night binge drinking. It was absolutely ridiculous, the work that maids do was not appreciated and it was as if they were some feeling less machines. Gladly, the government did not badge to the threats and maids could finally smile.
This is a sex tape that bruised this Christian Nation’s image some claimed. The infamous Iris Kaingu guilty verdict and the fact that she spent a few days in jail were received with polarising views. One section of society was in jubilation claiming that it served her right while others claimed it was unfair justice. The amazing part about this court case is the debate of Zambia’s double standard Christian morality that was brought to the forefront of most discussion. People use that card whenever, it suits their situation or argument. I just hope that in 2013 we speak and protest everything un-Christian Nation and not being selective if that is the tag we want to have.
How many tears do we have to shed before this torture stops? I cannot stand it anymore; putting pathetic adverts on TV should be a crime against humanity. I mean surely save for a few adverts nearly all adverts on ZNBC, TV2 and Muvi TV have been devoid of creativity. The ads have been characterised with jingles, stupid jokes, childish speech and meaningless concepts. Somebody please put an end to this; I cannot take it no more.
Facebook forced me to get onto that lousy timeline after resisting to be on it for so long. Then I still kept adding friends I did not know, had to read peoples diaries on Facebook and then explain those embarrassing moments when you get tagged in an obscene picture. Yes, in as much as I love my Facebook it has added to my share of frustrations. Now I have to think twice about what I post on it due to the new privacy settings. Anyway some things we just have to accept because we are Facebook addicts after all.
When I first wrote this blog I never imagined that it would be the most popular blog I ever typed. It has been read nearly three times as much as the second most popular blog. It is also the blog I have received the most comments and questions on. Clearly based on this it deserves a spot on this list. It is satisfying to know the power of information and how enlightening that information can be. This is what this blog aims to do, sometimes of course.
I pray that may we never get tired of telling these stories and immune to listening to them. It is an utter shame and despicable that some men still choose to rob girl children of their innocence just to satisfy their devilish sexual appetites. Nearly every single week the press reports of a girl child who has been defiled. The most heart breaking issue is that many of the girls defiled are usually abused by their fathers, uncles, cousins and neighbours people who are supposed to protect them. If girls cannot be safe in their own homes where can they be safe? I hope that in 2013 more is done to sensitize girls who are abused to speak out and the perpetrators feel the wrath of the law. Castration wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Technically I should have made this number 1 but hey this blog is called Diary of a Frustrated Brotha so it just has to end on a frustrated note. The Chipolopolo victory at the 2012 AFCON was by far the happiest moment of the year for me. I cannot recall the last time I was engulfed by such a wave of jubilation. I will admit I had not expected much from the boys, however, they defied the odds and showed us that it doesn’t matter how big your Goliath is if you believe in yourself. We have been celebrating that win for the whole year and who can blame us. I reckon the only time that joy can be surpassed is by Chipolopolo winning the World Cup and may that be soon.
Yaba, do we need to say more about these chaps. I am even exhausted rooting for them to succeed but once again they showed us everything that an awards show is not supposed to be. It is as if the producers live in a cave and do not watch shows like the Grammys, Kora Awards, Channel O Awards and hey even the Ngoma Awards were better. One of the things I would love to lock, leave behind and throw away the key in 2012 the Born and Bred Awards would be one of them. Sadly, deep down in my heart I know they will be back again in 2013 with a bang! A bang of MEDIOCRITY! How is a Frustrated Brotha supposed to get happy like this?


Monday, 17 December 2012

Hello Messi, Introducing Godfrey 'Ucar' Chitalu

Lionel Messi (L) and Godfrey 'Ucar' Chitalu (R)

After making worldwide headlines in February for winning the African Cup of Nations 2012, Zambia has once again successfully bulldozed it way back into the spotlight. This time around claiming that the record for most goals scored in a calendar year does not belong to Argentina’s Lionel Messi, but it is actually owned by a Zambian namely Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu. At the time of writing this Messi took his tally to 90 goals. It is still a long way from Chitalu’s 107 goals. It is a tally that Messi is unlikely to break with a couple of weeks left before the close of the year. So how did we find ourselves in this mess?
This story is a strange one, and it is almost amusing to think about. So in 1972, there was a German fellow called Gerd Muller, who scored 85 goals in a calendar year. He was hailed as the record holder until a minute fellow called Lionel Messi came along. Well apparently in the very same year that Muller set his supposed record, a fellow in a Southern African country called Zambia was smashing goals as if his life depended on it. His name was Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu and he scored a staggering 107 goals for club and country. Before, Messi broke Muller’s record Chitalu was hardly known by the world and would have probably remained so if Messi hadn’t broken Muller's record, and the rest of the world was applauding him for it. It is at this moment that the name Godfrey Chitalu emerged.
Some clever people decided to put the record straight and thankfully, Twitter and Facebook were around to lend a helping hand. Chitalu who plied his trade for Kabwe Warriors when the 107 goals were scored deserved the record and not Messi. Backed by the Football Association of Zambia, the world media was forced to take notice of this nation that was making noise. Many thought that it was one of those stories that could not be proven because there were no records, therefore, it would die away naturally. However, as proof began to emerge one of the most significant being the black-and-white picture with Chitalu holding a ball printed 107 goals on it; the world could not ignore us anymore.
The debate around the world was whether Zambia’s league could be considered as a worthy league to be taken seriously. Therefore, any achievements accomplished in what many consider an inferior league cannot be taken into consideration. Then others claimed that we did not have the records but once the research done by Jerry Muchimba was revealed that argument was no longer as strong. On the other hand, some believe that Godfrey Chitalu deserves the honour and should be recognised for his accomplishment. The matter at hand is goals scored in a calendar year. It is not accompanied by a disclaimer of only in stronger leagues or the player must hail from Europe or South America. Therefore, 107 goals is the record which was set by Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu.
If I may play devil’s advocate here, where were we for 40 years? Where were we when Messi reached 50 goals, 60 goals, 70 goals? As soon as Messi broke the Gerd Muller record then we realise Chitalu's record exists and choose to blow our horns. We should have been talking about Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu’s record way before Messi came along or was even close to reaching Muller's goal tally. Here in Zambia itself except for a few football pundits very few people knew of his record. Frankly, I only knew of this record when we were contesting Messi’s record. If we ourselves did not celebrate Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu’s record why on earth should the rest of the world celebrate him? Also spare a thought for Lionel Messi. The chap had Gerd Muller’s record in sight all along because that is the only record that he knew. Imagine the celebration that was there when he shattered that record, and he achieved what seemed impossible only to discover shortly after that someone, somewhere had scored 107 goals. I would be furious and throwing a tantrum. Maybe if someone had taken the liberty to let him in on that little fact, he would have scored more hat tricks.
Apparently, FIFA has taken the wise choice to neither ratify Lionel Messi nor Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu’s record. This, in my opinion, is to avoid any further debate about this matter. So this still remains an open case and subject to debate depending on who you ask. Sadly, Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu died in the 1993 Gabon football disaster when he was the coach of the national team, so we do not have the luxury of hearing from the legend. All we have are the bits of history and records we have left.
Regardless of what people say, finally the world knows of the legend that Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu was and what accomplishments he achieved. For people choose not to accept it that is their problem. This must also be a lesson to us as Zambians to start honouring own people and documenting their lives. These are the times to start writing biographies, producing documentaries, shouting their successes so that the rest of the world may know. On the other hand, Messi is still young he has next year to target breaking the 107 goal record. Until then, I do not consider him as the record holder, that accolade belongs to our Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu.

Congratulations to Christopher Katongo for winning the BBC African Footballer of the Year Award. I just had to add that in.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

ZNBC Can Do Something Right After All

 Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) has become synonymous with what bad television is. Despite the mandatory TV licences that we are made to pay, there seems to be very little difference that can be seen. We are subjected to the outdated programmes and even the programmes that the station innovates leave much to be desired. Apart from watching the Main News, ZNBC is losing its relevance in my life. The live broadcasts on most instances have bordered on embarrassing for a station that has been around for over 40 years. However, maybe just maybe ZNBC is beginning to turn the leaf.

 I am a firm believer in giving praise where it is due, and in hopes that the praise will be a motivating factor for better things to come. I am not talking about ZNBC finally showing movies and series that were actually produced in this decade, that day, we still wait to see. The improvement has been in the recent live broadcast of the Supreme Council of Sports in Africa Zone VI Games. The picture quality has been rather impressive. The camera men and women are finally doing a good job. This impressive live broadcast has been across the sporting disciplines- football, basketball, swimming, judo, and boxing among the multitude of sports. ZNBC claim that they invested around K12 billion to ensure that they deliver live broadcast of the game fit for a station of its status. I guess the money did make a difference

This new shift of ZNBC towards delivering excellent live broadcasting pictures has forced me to actually look forward to the games when they are on air. My only frustration is the commentators. Eish, those people are boring. If it wasn’t for the action, they would have been the perfect dosage for a sleeping pill. Surely, we have failed to find a replacement for the highly entertaining commentator Dennis Liwewe.  I am sure in the 13 million-plus Zambians, there should be some commentators worthy of the mic. Anyway until such a commentator comes along I just have to endure. I pray that ZNBC will continue towards the step of progress they have made and not go back to do what they do best, which is returning to television when it was 1970. In the meantime, bravo ZNBC for a job well done this time around, BRAVO!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Trevor Noah- He Came, He Saw, He Laughed at Us

Attending comedian Trevor Noah's That's Racist show was an experience. His two shows were sold out months before the actual show. The tickets for the New Government Complex show were the most sought after with people willing to pay triple their recommended price. Trevoh Noah has built quite a formidable reputation of making people laugh at themselves.

The Golden Tickets
I do not think that I have ever laughed as hard as I did at the Trevor show. It all began with the Zambian curtain raisers in Kapalu Mutenda and HK. They were funny in their own right and definitely comedians to watch in Zambia, however, they were only appetisers for the main man. Immediately, Trevor Noah hit the stage there was no stopping the onslaught of laughter that was to befall us. I do not think I have ever laughed that hard to the point at which my lungs hurt. I apologise to the people seated next to me.

 The brilliant part about Trevor is his ability to come up with jokes based on the culture of the people. In this case, he was having a field day at laughing at us. I mean he found things that we take as every day normal such as selling puppies at the traffic lights and made a joke about it.

"So what do you guys do? You are driving on the road and when you see the puppy then you go 'Oh that is what I forgot to buy on the grocery list a puppy'..." he joked. It is paraphrased. If you haven't laughed I understand. My niece who did not attend the show asked me to tell her the jokes if it was so funny. But the truth is, it is hard to repeat Trevor Noah jokes, they do not sound as funny if someone else tells them. His delivery is unique and it is part of the joke too. It is the way he builds to the punch line, the pace of the joke and then add the accent. You just can't replicate those things.
Comedian Trevor Noah "That's Racist"
 I know some people were probably offended by his use of stereotypes to poke fun at us. For example, why black people are not fans of water, white people do unnecessary stuff like jumping from space or coloureds are known for their short tempers. I mean truth be told whether we like it or not, the reason hundreds of us laughed so hard was because we could relate to many of the things he was talking about. In my opinion, one of the most effective ways of breaking down issues of stereotypes and racism is to laugh about them. And laugh about them we did.

So Trevor Noah laughed at us and made us laugh at ourselves too. We laughed about how too friendly Zambians are, how the escalators seem to mersmerise some, how chaotic our driving is, how we name roads after cities i.e. Addis Ababa Road, Cairo Road and how we answer questions with questions. I mean that is so true and should I be upset about it? Hell no, that is what makes Zambia so unique and we should be proud of it. It is just who we are. I am sure Trevor got a bucket load of jokes from being in Zambia for his other shows and the rest of the world will be laughing at us. We don't care because we will be laughing at others too. Hey, it is all a joke.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

BORN and BORED Awards Do It Again

I am beginning to think that the Born and Bred Awards organisers put up terrible show on purpose. I think they get a kick out of us complaining. After all that is the best publicity the show can get when people are frustrated and whining about how disappointing the show was. The organisers really do a great job hyping up the awards, I guess that is the only credit that they deserve to get but when they come to the main event, it is tragic. It was around this time last year that I wrote a piece entitled ‘Born and Bred Awards Sucked, Sucked and Sucked!’ and true to my promise then; I did not bother waiting around for them this year. I was only able to watch the last twenty minutes of the show and thank God that is all I saw.

Based on the few minutes that I watched the Born and Bred Awards, it was not difficult to deduce that we were yet again treated to a sub-standard and mediocre event. The awards stage was embarrassingly dull and boring that if that is the best the organisers can do then we are in trouble. In fact it should be criminal to have an awards stage like that, I have seen better stage setups at high school events than that. Even putting up balloons there would have made a difference. It was as if the guys did not watch the CNN Journalist Awards held at the same venue. I know that the excuse is that they B&B Awards did not have the same kind of funds but in my opinion even if they did they would not have done anything outstanding. There are certain aspects that do not require billions of kwacha all it requires are creative brains. The presenters failed to hold their own on that stage busy sharing a mic. Seriously, they could not find an additional microphone. The sound quality was poor, the video directing and the camera’s used felt like we were still in the Stone Age.

I believe that the organisers have already received more than enough flack, and I am sure they have got the message loud and clear, so I will not dwell on this matter too long. The one thing that I would like to add, is why the organisers felt that there was a need for a long speech at awards show like B & B. Quite honestly; it was absolutely unnecessary for the Honorable Minister of Tourism and Arts Slyvia Masebo, to make a speech. I think for such awards certain traditions need to be avoided. This issue of speeches deserves a blog of its own. It should not be mandatory for government dignitaries to read speeches at every event they attend. Presenting the Video of the Year Award was enough reverence for the minister; I do not think people were too impressed to have to sit through a speech.

My opinion is that Innocent Kalaluka and company are doing a tremendous job by providing musicians a platform to air their music videos. However, when it comes to the organisation of the Born and Bred Awards, it is time they stopped living in denial and admit that the task is too Herculean for their capabilities. It is in the best interest of the Awards that the organisation is outsourced to individuals who have the capacity to deliver a show of international standard. At the moment, Zambia does not have a show that is even of an international calibre and I am so rooting that Born and Bred Awards can be that show. So it’s time the Born and Bred Award organisers stop living in denial and repeat after me,
“Hi we are the Born and Bred Organisers, and we are not good at organising!”

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cheers! To the Loser in Us

I recall my primary school days when my father would scold me for passing tenth in class. I always used to wonder why he fussed so much about it.  My usual response to him was I beat 16 other pupils and only nine got better results. He would then tell me I needed to be number one. Yes, the pupils with bad grades made me feel better about myself at least I was not a failure. There were others far worse than I was. This is how most of us are, we love being around the losers. After all, among losers we are a success story.

Even in our adult lives nothing much has changed. We consider ourselves as doing well when we compare ourselves to our relatives and friends. If you got a job and your friend doesn't you feel a little bit better. Maybe you are making your way up the ladder of success. In the same vein if I am walking and a friend is driving they are entitled to feel a level of accomplishment, right? Nothing stops them from using me as a yardstick for the measure of their achievement.
I do not find anything wrong hanging out with the losers if all we ever want is to satisfy our egos and maybe gain some kind of hero worship. But then some deliberately choose to mingle with them because they are afraid to chill with the successful ones. If we decide to hang around successful people we then turn out to be the losers. We are the ones the successful people use to feel good about themselves and measure their level of success. I know people say that do not compare yourself to others but that is something hard to do. I have tried and I have come to accept that sometimes I cannot help it, I love comparing myself to others.
Of course it hurts being the loser of the bunch. It is, however, dependant on how someone will take the loser status. Some people will become too uncomfortable and revert to their other loser friends of which they are the best of crew. Then for some they will use this as impetus to strive harder and also attain a level of success in order to break free from the loser tag. It is hard to dispute that if you hang around successful people long enough some traits may rub on you (unless you are just stubborn) and who knows maybe you could be on your way to the top too.
It is difficult to accept that at some point in our lives we were, still are or might become losers. As long as we continue to live in denial nothing much can be done about the situation. The moment we admit that we are losers can the journey to some level of success begin. It is the same in football. Prior to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations win, there was no point in Zambia claiming that they were winners. The fact was, we either lost on our way to the final or in the final until the day we entered the winner’s circles on 12 February 2012. Still when it comes to the World Cup, Zambia are losers. We have never qualified.
           I know that the definition of success is subjective, some measure it in monetary terms, others in good relationships, some in perfect health; each person does have their own perception. Regardless of what view we hold, at some point, in order to progress we need to embrace the loser in us. That means knowing that there is a lot more we can do. Yes, the philosophical readers of this blog will say stuff like, “I am a winner”, “I am a positive thinker”, “Success is my portion” and all that mumble jumble, well and good tell yourself all that good stuff. Go ahead have happy thoughts and do nothing, when I want to hang around with losers I know who to call. The journey towards success whatever that is to you begins with realising the loser in you. So let’s raise a toast to the loser in US!

Monday, 12 November 2012

A Tale of Two Democracies- ZAMERICA

The build up to Barack Obama’s re-election was not as grand, emotional or even as highly anticipated as his first election. The same excitement was no longer there and here in Zambia it was almost a, by the way, thing. This could be because he had already broken the glass ceiling of being the first African- American president, anything else after that was a bonus. Nonetheless, pretty much the entire Africa was still rooting for him to win purely on the fact that he was black. And we say Africans are not racist. During the American campaigns I had the chance to see on television how he campaigned and also had the opportunity to listen to one of the presidential debates and political analysts make predictions. This got me reflecting can the American democracy style work for Zambia or do we need to develop a democracy that works for us?

The United States of America has primarily two political parties, the Democratic and Republican parties. These are evidently two distinct parties that have clearly defined values, and they stand upon these same values. The Republicans are perceived to be more conservative, and it would not be wrong to state that most Christians would associate themselves with this party. On the other hand, the Democrats take a more liberal stance to their values. They support issues such as gay rights, abortion and are less cut throat on immigration. It is upon their party values that Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney stood by. They could not just stand on a podium and speak their mind. They had to be a reflection of their respective party’s values. Therefore, as an electorate you are able to select a party that speaks to your values. In contrast to the current situation in Zambia, it is very difficult for me to tell someone what the core values of the Patriotic Front (PF), Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) or even United Party for National Development (UPND) are. This is because they are always shifting goal posts, and the parties are held together based on the personality. The closest I can get to a core value of a political party is Patriotic Front's ‘More Money in your Pocket’, other than that I am blank. The problem we have is that the parties are highly inclined to the individuals at the helm. Therefore, when people go to the polls, it is often the person rather than the political party views that they are representing that people are voting for.
I personally would prefer that Zambia has two or three political parties that are distinct and they preach this distinction to the electorate. The only problem is that we have opportunistic political parties that are silent and literally non-existent until the year of the elections, then they decide to poke their noses once again. If we had fewer political parties that say, for example, were conservative, liberal or socialist when someone was to ask me what values I look at when I am voting for a party in power it is based on what I believe the party will deliver. There will be no double standards, where someone campaigns on one thing and once voted into power does something completely different.
When it comes to obtaining political mileage perhaps the Americans are more ruthless than our politicians in Zambia. They put out advertisements against their opponents about all their inadequacies and dig up every dirty laundry that is available; if it means getting to the archives, they do so. Therefore, politicians have to be very careful what they say because one day it might come to haunt them. Even if it was ten years ago when you were only a university president, they will find a way of sucking it out and squeezing it for any political ammunition. Here in Zambia we have not yet reached the elaborate levels of advertising during campaigns and for some reason, politicians are not held accountable for what they say. Perhaps it is the electorate that easily forgets and is so willing to move on. It is no wonder that a presidential aspirant can make a lot of promises and rarely be crucified if they accomplish none of them when they become president. However, if there is anything to admire it is the way the presidential debates are conducted. It is done in such an orderly manner and it is only issues that are discussed. Each candidate lays out their plans on how they believe the country would best be governed. Sadly, in Zambia, whenever there are presidential debates organised by the television stations the ruling head of state does not bother to attend or one of the main opposition leaders is also unavailable. Therefore, you have a bunch of pretenders deceiving themselves about what they will do when they come into power when they know very well that they will not even have a sniff of the state house.
During the American presidential campaigns which each party had passionate supporters, there was never an occasion when I heard a mob of Democrats or Republicans attacking each other. Neither did I hear Romney tell Obama that bring your cadres, and we are ready for war, no such nonsense took place. The rallies were civil and there were no machete carrying overzealous cadres around. Sadly, in Rufunsa, Crispin Zulu a PF supporter lost his life allegedly at the hands of MMD/UPND cadres. The amount of hooliganism among some cadres is absolutely appalling. The poverty level in this country is one of the hindrances to our democracy. The political aspirants appeal to people’s stomachs rather than their intellects. The offering of a bag of mealie meal or bottle of cooking oil cannot only buy you votes but minions who are willing to perform brutal acts on your behalf.
So clearly our democracy has made tremendous strides over the years, and it is one of the few countries in Africa that has relatively peaceful transition of government. However, our democracy still has some fundamental flaws that need to be fixed, panel beaten and overhauled all together, if we are to follow democracies such as America which are light years ahead. Then again, why should we aspire to be a democratic nation like America? Maybe it is time that Zambia and the rest of Africa redefine their own democracies. Perhaps we should accept the imperfections in our democracies and find a way to live or work around them. It could be about time that opposition political parties accept that they will always be disadvantaged against the ruling party and need to be proactive in overcoming this challenge. We should come to accept that the stomach speaks louder than logic, and political parties should speak where they will be heard the loudest. Maybe the only way we show passion for our political parties is by clobbering each other and we should set up boxing rings where the scores can be settled. This is perhaps our democracy, and the Americans are not doing it right. Democracy is simply an ideology. Ideologies can be changed. Is it about time Zambia has its own special definition for democracy?

Monday, 5 November 2012

When Mediocrity Becomes An Addiction

I have tended to develop apathy for Zambian events. Do not get me wrong, I do support ‘Proudly Zambian’ products. I buy Boom products, Maheu, Amanita Oil and the list goes on. However, when it comes to events organised in Zambia that is a different league altogether. After attending a few horrible events that I was left nearly in tears, I decided not to attend anymore. I was not shedding tears for the money but the time I had wasted that I would never get back. Fortunately, this past Saturday I attended an event that gave be a flicker of hope in this dark doldrums.

Caitlin's electric violin performance

If an event is organised in Zambia, please do not have high expectations of it. Prepare your mind for something to go wrong. Events in Zambia, border on poor sound system releasing white noise, the microphones not working, the master of ceremony boring as hell, the stage not being ready in time, the programme running late, the performers putting up an amateurish exhibition of their talents and asking the DJ to increase the volume on their CD. Sadly, these are expectations that I have come to live with, in my beloved Zambia.
The previous Saturday morning, I had a date with the beautiful Caitlin. For many people, she is still an unknown except for the few who have heard this talented beauty perform. She is an internationally renowned electric violinist. And yes she is Zambian. It gets me wondering what was I doing while she was learning to play the violin, busy with Sojo? She was having a free performance at Manda Hill by the escalators. It was a chance I couldn’t miss. In true punctual style, I was there in anticipation waiting for her to strum that instrument. Shortly after 11:30 hours, she came down the escalator while caressing the strings of the violin to a booming beat from the speakers. There was a stage at the bottom which she strutted from one end to the other while performing pieces like Serengeti Sunrise and Neyo’s ‘Let Me Love’, among others. By this time, the crowds began to gather mesmerised by the foreign sound they were hearing. It was something different from the Fruity Loops laced ubiquitous tracks we are forced to listen to.
Immediately, Caitlin’s first performance was done, Chi the Hot FM DJ laid down the morning’s programme. It was not known to me before the announcement that there was also some fashion show at which different clothing shops at Manda Hill were going to be showcasing their Summer Wear.  It was supposedly the conclusion of the Month of Fashion. The models began coming down the escalator in various postures and stepping on the runway with authority and poise, and up the escalator they went before the next model did the same. In my opinion, the use of the escalators as part of the runaway was absolutely genius on the part of the organisers. Clothing shops like Total Sport, Mr. Price, Ndanji Fashions, Identity and others showed off their clothes (both men's and ladies wear) and it culminated in a local designer showcasing her summer designs.

Models on the runway

I must admit that I am not one for fashion and my fashion taste is almost non-existent. As long as I do not look like a clown or a flower when I wear something then I am cool with it. So it was interesting to see what was really transpiring before my eyes. I should also confess that the reason I was keen on following the proceedings was that I was waiting for something to go wrong. I had my mobile video camera ready to take the next tragedy in my Zambian event's memories. One of those Youtube like videos that become hits. I was expecting one of the models to tumble, the escalators to stop working, the speakers to just go off, and the models to bump into each other or the master of ceremony to apologise for some technical fault beyond their control.
Amazingly, none of the mishaps I was expecting to happen did. I was shocked, how can an event in mother Zambia go smoothly? It is impossible. I had become so used to mediocre events that I was failing to accept that I could attend an event without some form of frustration when it was all over. It almost felt like I was not attending a Zambian event and a piece was missing. I think I am still in denial. It is what attending many substandard events has done to me. I cannot believe that people can be professional about their work and take it seriously. Even if the event was free, the professional manner in which it was organised was so refreshing, I wished many of the amateur event planners were there to see it. 
I cannot wrap my head around why most events in this country are pathetically organised? Is it that hard to start an event on time, have a proper sound system, perfect transition between breaks, an MC who actually knows how to do their job and performers who do not get out of bed and realise that they have a show but actually rehearse for it weeks in advance? Even when renowned musicians such as Salif Keita and Oliver Mtukudzi performed here last month, they had to endure the bad sound system they were provided. It is not only musicians who are culprits but pretty much everyone who organises an event- comedians, poets, theatre houses and even conferences.
The team behind the well organised event on Saturday are R & G Events. They successfully hosted the Beer fest last month and are building a formidable reputation for themselves. These guys are giving me hope at last. Things in this country can be done better and we should not accept mediocrity at whatever cost. So until the other event organisers up their game and stop trying to outclass the other in second-rate events my new motto is, “If it aint organised by R & G, I am not attending.”

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Holier Than Thou Zedians

The Iris Kaingu’s story was making headlines, on most people’s lips, social media was abuzz and it was the topic of office gossip in the last week. The eventual conviction by the courts and the fact that Iris had to spend two nights behind bars as she waited her sentencing was received with polarising views. Some people rejoiced in jubilation at the presumed consequences of her actions while others cried foul at the injustice of being denied bail some blaming it on her politically vocal father. The case in which she was convicted was the making of obscene material tending to corrupt morals. When she was fined K10 million some thought it was not worth the crime. There were sections of society that were calling her all sorts of names and calling for her to feel the wrath of the law. How dare she defile a Christian nation like Zambia?

Zambia is a Christian nation and should not be associated with any manner of immorality such as the kind that Iris was involved in. Some were even saying that these are the end times and what on earth are Zambian children up to? Oh Lord help us. This is where I have an issue with some of the comments that were filtering through the published press and social media, we always pull out the Christian Nation card when it suits us. We find falling on the Christian Nation bandwagon as a default for everything else that does not conform to our own moral compasses.

I do not support whatever Iris did, neither am I writing this piece to judge her, that is not my duty. However, her case revealed many flaws in our society. It was very easy for us to judge her for her shortcomings because what she did was made public. Many of the people who were pointing fingers forgot to look at the long hard logs in their eyes. Some of the people who were calling for Iris’ head did not find anything wrong with the fornicator, adulterer or the people who are cohabiting. Simply because to them that could not be categorised under the same sentence as what Iris did. We choose to place a blind eye to our own shortcomings and pounce on others to draw the attention away from ourselves.

The amazing thing is that the people who are judging this girl some of them watched the video, did it make them any better than her. I was baffled that this girl had already suffered enough humiliation, ridicule and shame, still people found the need to drag her through the dirt. How is it that we find pleasure in someone’s down fall and wish them nothing but the worst in life? Very few people were offering advice on ways to help her, counsel her or even how to move past this. We all make mistakes in life. I have done some things in my life that I am not proud of and would wish to forget. I cannot even begin to imagine how it would feel like when every time I try to move forward someone keeps reminding me of my past. One person reminding me of my past would be a pain, now imagine a whole nation reminding you of your past that must be torture.

Allow me to delve a bit out of topic here, but I just felt that I have to say this. Where was the guy in all this? There was barely a mention of him. He still remains anonymous and even if he was known he would not have experienced the same barrage of insults that Iris has. In fact he would have been viewed as a hero and ‘A Real Man’. It is such attitudes in our society that find a man sleeping around ok, but for a woman it is an abomination. There is something seriously wrong here.

In my opinion, Zambia is a double standard Christian Nation. We choose to hide behind the blanket of it when it suits us. We choose to see our own sins far worse than others. People will not get to the streets to protest against the adulterers but are willing to lynch someone who makes an obscene video. We need to accept that people will make mistakes and we need not be quick to judge but instead find ways to assist people through their mistakes. We do not know what drives people to certain actions and maybe if we did take the time to know we could be more empathetic. Now may all those who have never made mistakes, who do not have an ugly past, and are the epitomes of perfection throw the first stone.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Diluted Independence Celebrations

We are at that time of the year again, the flags come out, ZNBC brings the people who were around during the independence struggle, the freedom statue has the spotlight and there is all this patriotism in the air. Every 24th October is supposed to evoke feelings of the price that was paid during the struggle for independence from the British colonialists.

The fact that I was not around to experience the injustices that Zambians faced during that era, I find it very difficult to relate to the independence celebrations in the way people want it to be celebrated. Perhaps I am just too detached and for me 24th October is another public holiday and time to wake up late in the morning. These sentiments are usually shared by people of my generation and those born after 1964 and did not witness the struggle.

Then you have sections of society who believe that we are not really independent. They claim that we are still in some economic bondage and until we are economically free, then we cannot be celebrating independence. Well, if this is the case then I will not be around long enough to see Zambia become truly independent.  The current political situation in Zambia, leads one to wonder what the freedom fighters would think of the present scenario. There are political leaders like Hakainde Hichilema who stated that he will not attend the Independence Day celebrations and there are reports that Barotseland will not partake in these celebrations too. They both have their reasons why they will not be part of the celebrations.

Zambia has been blessed to be peaceful for as long as it has been in existence. Part of this is attributed to the fact that we have been able to live together in harmony despite our differences. However, recent events are proving that we are not as tolerant as we used to be. Some African countries are only healing from the wounds of tribal divides that have scared their nations; here in Zambia this is when we want to begin the journey along that path. This was something that our founding father Kenneth Kaunda under the slogan, ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ was attempting to avoid.

However, it seems that each day that passes by there is some prejudiced tribal statement in the press that clusters a certain tribe into a group or train of thought. The fact that Hakainde Hichilema is not going to celebrate independence it would be utterly wrong to assume that every Tonga in this country thinks like him. In the same vein, because Barotseland may not take part in the independence celebration does it give anyone the right to cluster all Lozi’s as in agreement with them? I certainly do not think so. If it is not people who have their own agendas of dividing people along tribal lines, it is in political affiliation. There should be nothing wrong being United Party for National Development, Patriotic Front or Movement for Multiparty Development. It’s a choice that someone makes and they should not be victimised to belong to one of them. We should come to a point where UPND and PF can get together without fists and kicks being exchanged. Is it so hard to have discussions without bringing in personal issues and truck loads of emotions? I strongly believe we can and our leaders can be examples to show us.

I do not know if such thing as an independence wish exists, I will make one either way. My independence wish is that we may learn to respect different views. Let’s debate issues and not people. We should also not forget the peace tag we so proudly assign ourselves because it can so easily change. All you have to do is watch the news from around the world to know what I am talking about. Happy Independence, whatever it means to you.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

And the Winners of the 2013 Budget Are...

The 2013 budget was presented by the Hon. Alexander B. Chikwanda, MP, Minister of Finance on 12 October 2012. Many media houses were claiming that this budget was highly anticipated because it was one that was purely prepared by the Patriotic Front (PF). I really did not have many expectations for this budget to be honest; my only concern was the tax free threshold for Pay As You Earn (PAYE). The reality is that budgets are full of promises and it is only the issues that we can really relate to that matter. So this time around I decided to read the budget and see if there was anything for me other than the PAYE in this budget. Therefore, I have attempted to summarise the budget as best as I could.
The minister stated that the theme for the 2013 budget was, ‘Delivering Inclusive Development and Social Justice’ and the primary focus was on the sectors of agriculture, energy and transport. Therefore, as expected these same sectors received the bulk of the budget expenditure.  Hon. Chikwanda also set the macro-economic objectives for 2013 which included a GDP growth of above 7.0%, inflation no more than 6.0% and create at least 200,000 decent jobs. Can’t wait for those jobs to be created.
The PF government seems to have a clear plan for where the jobs that they promised during their campaigns are going to come from and these are in agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and infrastructure. According to the minister these sectors are supposed to account for 550, 000 jobs in agriculture, 300, 000 in tourism, and 20,000 in infrastructure (road making), these respectively are to be created over a period of five years. In the same vein, the successful issue of the 10 year Eurobond of US$ 750 million which was one of the most successful in Sub-Saharan Africa for the first issue, is being channelled towards the selected sectors.
The budget is estimated to be K32.2 trillion. Of this, general public services receives 26.2%, economic affairs- 27.6%, education- 17.5%, health- 11.3%, defense- 6.3% and the rest split among social protection, housing, and public order and safety. Coming to the budgetary allocation, education received K5.6 trillion an increase of 15.5 % from 2012, health had a 40.7% increase over 2012 (K2.6 trillion to K3.6 trillion), there is also recruitment of 5, 000 and 2, 000 personnel respectively.  Based by these it can be assumed all those individuals who have qualifications for these respective fields should not have a no problem finding employment.
The budget then moved into the most interesting territory, well for me that is. This is the part where we get to know who will be getting the tax breaks or coughing up much more than they desired. The first announcement was that the tax free threshold of PAYE has been proposed to increase by 10% from the current exempt amount of K2 million to K2.2 million. This is slightly above the expected inflationary increase for the year. When I first heard this I threw a fit. I thought the increase was absolutely ridiculous because it was so insignificant. It had to take one of my tax pals to calm me down, when he said that the increase by 64.5% tax deduction for pension contributions to K255, 000 per month would probably make an estimated K300, 000 difference.
Further proposals are to remove tax on interest earned by individuals from savings and deposit accounts as well as medical levy in order to encourage the culture of saving. Well in my opinion, I doubt if the removal of tax on interest will encourage the culture of saving, what might encourage the culture of saving is if banks offered better interest rates to saving with them. Otherwise this will only make a significant difference to individuals who have billions of kwacha in the bank. This is one of those tax breaks that has nothing in it for me.  There is also a proposal to have zero rate on bread and wheat for VAT purposes. This is in an attempt to make bread cheaper. So I can expect cakes and doughnuts to be cheaper. However, despite this measure, I wonder how many bakeries will actually reduce their prices, it could only mean better profit margins for them.
With Zambia facing an energy deficit and the demand projected to increase in the future, the minister has proposed to remove customs duty on wind powered engines, gas stoves and electrical capacitors to counter electrical power. This is a good move though I still think that the best alternative for Zambia's energy deficit will perhaps be solar energy. Save for the winter period, this is generally a sunny country. The one proposal that I found ridiculous was the removal of exercise duty on carbonated drinks and packed water. I can understand the packed water but the carbonated drinks? In the first place carbonated drinks are not healthy and most health practitioners will advise staying clear of them. This incentive would have made much more sense if it was for fruit juices especially the ones that use local products. They are much healthier and are most likely to create more meaningful employment than carbonated drinks would.
There has also been the removal of customs duty on both motor cycles and ambulances. This move is perhaps to encourage the purchase of motor cycles instead of vehicles to decongest the roads. The use of motor cycles is popular in many Asian countries and African countries like Nigeria and Uganda have them in their thousands. The only concern would be ensuring that motor vehicle drivers accord the motor cycles the same respect on the road and convincing people that they are safe. I am shocked that ambulances were paying customs duty; it’s about time that it was scrapped. There has also been a 3-year suspension on equipment used for physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics and other sports. We should brace ourselves for gyms to open up on every corner and buffed up chaps strolling in the streets. This should have included all sporting equipment as well. This would have encouraged the development of other sports other than football.
Arguably one of the most commendable propositions in this budget has been the requirement for tax incentives to be granted only when the investor meets their obligations related to employment creation in Zambia. This is to ensure that we avoid investors who want to come and milk this nation and as soon they are done pack and leave. This proposal has been long overdue. We need investors who will actually come and make a profit but also make a positive difference. Hon. Chikwanda also proposed that in order to strengthen our local heritage and culture and support the growth and marketing of the domestic music and visual arts industry, he proposed to remove customs duty on charcoal drawing sticks, palette knives, mixers, microphones and magnetic tapes. As a writer I felt discriminated against by this proposal. There is nothing in it in this budget for writers. We have been constantly complaining that the cost of publishing in this country is too expensive but once again it seems those calls have fallen on deaf ears. Writers can also preserve culture, it is not only music. I think the minister should have encompassed all art forms and provided some form of tax breaks for materials related to the arts.
I have therefore, come to the conclusion of attempting to summarise a 19-paged budget into something that would not be a drain to read. I still do not know what to make of this budget. It has nothing out of the usual and neither is it a wow budget. It is slightly a more focussed budget with the emphasis on the social sectors and improvement on infrastructure. These are the areas that government believes will create the most employment and if they succeed will be the biggest score. This approach is slightly going back to the socialism days where government was responsible for creating jobs; I fear that this approach may not be sustainable. There is little in this budget to suggest that the enterprising spirit will be given wings to flourish. Apart from the increase in the turnover threshold for small and medium businesses, I failed to see anything else of promise. This budget was tailored towards uplifting living standards. Therefore, this is a good budget whether it turns up to be a great budget, the verdict would have to come in 2014 when we review how much it has accomplished.

What do you think should have been included in this budget?

Monday, 8 October 2012

'The Business Idea to Make You Rich'

My research paper in my final year at university was to find out whether graduating students would consider entrepreneurship upon graduating. The finding was that over 80% of graduating students did not consider entrepreneurship upon graduating but 90% thought of being involved in business in some form later in life. After the hardships Zambia faced in the 1990s, it forced almost everyone to be entrepreneurial minded. Whether these enterprising thoughts were acted upon is another question altogether. Almost everyone wishes to have a business that is flourishing so that they can finally quit the jobs they hate. Therefore, many people will work their minds up to have that killer business idea but end up with none.      

I do accept that we are all not at the same level of business knowledge. Some people have grown up in business families while others have not. Some people are generally risk takers while others are not. Therefore, even when someone begins to think of a business, the sort of questions that will cross their minds will be different. There is no hard-and-fast rule to the world of business, if someone tells you that they have a book or DVD called, '10 Ways to Become Rich', do not bother buying that book or DVD because they are lying. People who have excess cash or come across cash want to multiply it and the best way to do this is to start a business. The unfortunate part is that many people want to start a business before they are ready to do so. Asking what type of business you should start is one of the options someone has at their disposal. However, raising such questions is like asking someone what your favourite colour should be. I would tell you blue and another person would tell you red, the next person down the road would say green. We may not necessarily be wrong, and we would give you strong arguments why you should choose a specific colour. Nevertheless, it is only you who would ultimately decide, which is your favourite colour. It might end up being blue or even none of the suggested. 

The danger about asking people what business you should start is that many will give you what business they wish they could start provided, they had the money. They will give you all these numbers and paint such an opportunistic picture that if you are not too careful, you might fall for it. Some will even go further to give you the details and point out successful examples for you. Just because there is a glove, it does not mean that it will fit your hand. In the same vein, because there is a business idea around it does not mean that it is the appropriate one. You need to judge the ideas in the merit in which they are given and be honest with yourself whether you have the capabilities to turn the idea into reality. It goes back to the advice always given, start a business that you are passionate about, or you can find the resources to help you succeed at it.

One of the easiest ways to find out what you are passionate about is to discover what you can do very well that not every Jim and Jack can. It should be something that is nearly effortless to do, and you do not mind spending hours and even days on end until you are satisfied with your work. For example, it takes me about three days to put a blog together from the planning to the time it actually goes online. I will have to think of what to write about, type the draft, and edit it over and over until I feel it is worthy enough. I do it not because I’m forced to, it is because I enjoy and love it. I would want to be a singer but definitely God did not bless me with a voice. So you will not see me releasing any albums. However, someone out there has a golden voice I would pay to listen to. Others are good technicians even without having a degree when my laptop crashes I know they would do a splendid job. Once you have discovered the things you are gifted at, the appropriate question to ask then is, “How do I monetise this?” or if you have the money, “How do I make this a success?” These questions make it a whole lot easier to answer unlike an open ended one where someone wants to be spoon fed a business idea. 

Finally, if you have not come to a point where you already have a business idea, my best suggestion is that you put your money in the bank and get a good investment book like Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. These books will certainly put you in a right frame of mind to come up with a business idea and make a self-analysis, whether you are up for it. Starting up a business is all about risk taking. The idea might be brilliant but still end up failing because of other factors. However, even in the midst of that failure there are a lot of lessons to be learnt that perhaps no book would ever provide to you. My signing off advice to people who are going into business for the first time, invest money you are prepared to lose. All the best.

Monday, 1 October 2012

To Get a Loan OR Not to Get a Loan? That is the Question

This is one of those sensitive blogs that I need to start with a disclaimer before some self-proclaimed "financial guru" goes up in flames. So the views expressed in this blog are my humble opinions based on my average accounting knowledge, my father's wisdom, a number of financial books and friend's experiences. Now that we got that little bit out of the way we can get to the gist of things. There is no denying that the middle class in Zambia is growing by the day. These are a group of individuals who have a fairly good amount of disposable income in their accounts to spend on whatever they wish. Like any country with its population classified in the middle income, so does the need to access more cash arise. More often than not, loans are usually considered. The question that someone has to grapple with is whether to get a loan or not to get a loan?
Accessing loans almost two decades ago in Zambia was a sweat breaking battle that did not always bear fruit. One had to find a financial institution willing to take the risk and provide the loan. The individual had to put up collateral against the loan usually in the form of a house. On top of this they had to pay exorbitant interest rates well above 35%. This was all because Zambia was considered a high risk country when it came to defaulters on loans. Who could blame the banks anyway, with people in employment one day and the next day being a statistic of the unemployed millions, banks had to cover their backs. Meanwhile, developed countries were offering loans to their clients at interest rates within 3-10%. Something only imaginable in our dreams. With such cheap cost of capital, a large percentage of these countries populations had loans. 
  This is now 2012, the middle class is growing once again, banks have reduced their interest rates; collateral is no longer a requirement for permanent employees for some loans, and more banks are expected to flood the Zambian market in the future. Today, banks are literally begging people to get loans with constant advertisements of reduced interest rates and increased recruitment of direct sales representatives. We are so spoilt for choice if you ask me. These generous offers of loans have been well received by the working class. People have started going to the banks in order to finance all manner of activities, from buying land to purchasing a vehicle, starting a business to having a lavish wedding or even going on holiday to Dubai to buying new furniture for the house. Personally, I have not been overly excited by the banks reduced interest rates. I have been rather sceptical and have attempted to stay clear of them. I generally hate debt and always do my best to avoid it.
  I have always lived by the philosophy that only get a loan if it is going to add value or bring in income. If the reasons why I want to borrow does not fill this bill, then it is not worth getting the loan. In whichever way you look at it, a loan sucks money out of your pocket. Every month, you have an obligation to make repayments until such a time that you have repaid the loan with interest.
  The fact that someone is eligible to get a loan does not necessary mean that we have to get one. However, there is a common trend that is developing in Zambia, and that is 'Keeping Up with the Bandas'. Just because my colleague has bought a car, I should also feel compelled to buy one too. So what do I do, I go get a loan for a car without really factoring in the cost implication on my salary and other additional expenditure, I will have to incur. Few people are content with what they have; they always want what the other person has. Some have attached this to status and a symbol to the rest of the world that they are doing well. It is simply boosting and foolishness in all honesty.
Before I rush to get a loan, there are certain questions I ask myself:
·         Can I sustain a Loan?
When many of my peers were getting loans for a car, I was almost tempted to rush to the bank and get one myself. Thank God, I restrained, because in hindsight, my salary at the time (two years ago) could not sustain a loan. When I further, scrutinised the people who were getting these loans for cars, I discovered that they were either staying with their parents or in their parent's houses. Others had other streams of cash flow. These were none of the luxuries I had. I was paying rent and at the time my sole source of income was the salary. You can only imagine the financial stress I would have been under if stupid me decided to kick in and rush to the bank. I would have been living from hand to mouth with no savings whatsoever. Savings are a critical part of me and it is a habit that I have to save for when the well runs dry. Unsustainable loans know, no such foreign words as saving. I would have been definitely forced to borrow from friends to see me through some months; hence the spiral of debt would have tangled its wretched hand around my neck.
·         Will the Loan Add Value?
This is one of the fundamental issues that I seriously consider. Will I use the money that I get from the loan to add value to my life? Am I using the loan for a business, education, building a house or buying land? I have deliberately not included a car in the last sentence. This is because for some people getting a car is more of a liability than an asset. When I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to get a loan for a Toyota Corolla, his response was that I should get a better car like a BMW. Now I knew the exact frame of mind he was coming from while trying to convince me. Yes, I can get a loan to buy a BMW with all its German made aura and big headlights but what is the reason I want a car? At the moment, it is purely for transportation purposes only. I am constricted for time and with increased business ventures forthcoming a car is of the essence. Prestige and a double glance by the ladies is not my priority. If a Peugeot 504 was cheaper than a Corolla and could get me from A to Z, then that is a car I would get.
·         Do I Really Really need A Loan?
Many people have different reasons for getting a loan. I repeatedly chose to ask, do I really really need a loan. If the answer is no, then I will not consider it. Often times, a loan is not needed to finance all of the things people get loans for. They can make some sacrifices and save up for the financial need. However, some lack the discipline to save up but the banks can help with this by setting up fixed accounts and direct debits to this account once your salary is received. There are even some friends and family who are willing to provide the money without charging interest at all, as long you are good on your word. There are just some things that people should not even consider getting loans for, such as weddings (have a small wedding dammit, we will eat and drink and leave you with the loan), vacations (proper saving should be able to cover this), and anything else that has more to do with satisfying your ego than a need.
·         Interest Rates and the Finer Details
The interest rates that are dropping and are expected to drop further, most people may take this as an indication of cheap loans. It may be true, but it is still important to know how much you would have paid above the principle over the period of the loan. This might be a bigger amount than you imagined or are willing to part with. Many people are of the assumption that their salaries can only increase in the future. Optimism is good, but things do change. The world economy is a funny beast. Your salary may end up going in the wrong direction. I also like to know whether the interest rate is fixed or floating. By fixed, I mean that the amount that I agree upon today will not change despite external factors. So if the interest rates wasto increase or decrease I would still pay the interest rate agreed. A floating interest rate is one that varies according to the economic conditions. Furthermore, I find out the finer details that are in small print. What are the administration costs, or any other costs that I should be aware of.
While we can expect the middle class to grow, interest rates to drop, more banks to come into the country, we cannot allow ourselves to be ‘High Indebted Citizens’. It was like yesterday when as a country, we were fighting to remove the label of ‘Highly Indebted Poor Country’. My plea is that people should stop acting on impulses and make a critical assessment on whether they really need to get the loan or not. It does no harm having a second opinion from objective family and friends, people who you know will tell it to you as it is and not mere opportunists. It is you who will be repaying the loan mind you. More efforts need to be done by the communities, government and other related stakeholders in educating the public on the pros and cons of accessing loans. We cannot expect the banks and financial lending institutions to do this on our behalf after all they are in it for the profit. So this brings me back to the beginning, to get a loan or not to get a loan? That is the question and yours to answer.