Tuesday, 17 December 2013

We Possibly Overrated Mandela


Nelson Mandela has finally been put to rest, he was 95 years old; the tributes and eulogies were all that we heard the past couple of weeks. From presidents to celebrities they all paid glowing homage to the man whom the almost universally accepted had no measure among us mortals who still walk this earth. Nelson Mandela has been deemed as slightly below the heavenly angels. Here in Zambia, we even honoured the man with seven days of national mourning. I only watched part of his funeral on 8 December 2013. When our former president Kenneth Kaunda took to the podium to add to the chorus of tributes, I thought to myself why they haven’t ever made a movie about this man. He did more for the liberation struggle in Southern Africa than any man. Then again our former president had flaws. Nelson Mandela too had flaws, so why don’t we hear of them.

Nelson Mandela
 

I first came to know that there was a man called Nelson Mandela from watching Sarafina. Then he was just some figure in the song that went something like, “Bring back Nelson Mandela. Bring him back to Soweto. I want to see him walking down the streets tomorrow.” It took a Social Studies class in primary to finally put together what the man did. Among the things that he was famous for was spending 27 years on Robben Island. It was at such a point I thought that maybe if Kaunda spent 30 years in prison maybe he too would just have been as famous.

 

Nelson Mandela arguably became famous because of what he did when he came out of prison. In the case of most African leaders who had liberated their countries from their colonialists the next thing that followed were years of turmoil. Uganda’s Idi Amin chased the Asians, Nigeria had coup after coup, Democratic Republic of Congo had a greedy dictator and Zambia had a president who declared a one party state. Even though the world did not want to say it at the time, they must have been anticipating a civil war after Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. The expectation should have been that the blacks would get sweet revenge for the apartheid torture they received. The whites would also be bundled up and shacked up on Robben Island for 27 years too.

 

The reporters must have been preparing to write their headlines of doom, blood and gloom for the gold rich African country. The world was just waiting for the man called Madiba to make a declaration of retribution starting with the prison wardens. Unfortunately, for the doomsayers none of that happened, instead the aged man preached forgiveness, reconciliation and singing kumbaya while holding hands. It was billed the rainbow nation. It was almost at this very moment that Nelson Mandela was catapulted into the stratosphere of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. He had a forgiving, kind, generous, humble, loving personality. There is no amount of hurt or damage that you could do to him that could make him hate, loathe or pour his wrath on you. After 27 years in a cell and he was still able to forgive his oppressors, he must have been a saint.

 

However, this is where I attempt to flirt with my imagination. One of the possible reasons Mandela came out as a forgiving and reconciliatory man by the time he was released the brutal thing called age had caught up with him. He was already 72 years old the time we saw him walking and waving to the crowd with Winnie Mandela. How many 72 year-olds do you know who still have the fight left in them. Nelson Mandela was tired by this time. The 27 years on Robben Island must have broken him in more ways than one. By the time he was released, he had nothing left to give. Pretty much all the other African presidents at the helm of their countries when they gained independence were between 40-60 years old. These are ages that are fit enough to do damage. Kenneth Kaunda was 40 years old, Idi Ami was 46 years, Julius Nyerere was 39 years, Robert Mugabe was 56 years, Mobutu Sese Seko was 35 years and the list goes on.

 

Had Nelson Mandela stepped out of Robben Island during his prime and given the reins of South Africa, we would have been paying different tributes. Over a quarter of a century is a long time to hold a grudge. I have watched people who have been acquitted from prison after decades of being locked up, and the moment they come out they do not talk of revenge, or hatred. They are just grateful to be out and want to live the remainder of their lives peacefully. This may have been the case with the great Madiba. Perhaps it is only people who have been locked away at some island for 27 years who would be able to relate and probably come close to being the man that Mandela was if they too became presidents.

 

Nelson Mandela was a great man no doubt. He defied expectations and showed that forgiveness has power to heal a nation, build bridges and make an impact on the world beyond comprehension.  One half of me still thinks that Nelson Mandela may have been overrated. This was no fault of his own, the world had chosen to gloss over his flaws and present a superhuman. Therefore, the greatness of this man needs to be put in context of the circumstances that surrounded him at the time of his release. Mandela’s age can definitely not be ignored in many of the decisions he made after he walked out of Robben Island an old man.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Why Our Politicians Don't Resign


American president Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate Scandal was exposed; British MP Patrick Mercer MP resigns over lobbying scandal, Australian MP Scott Driscoll resigns after sending explicit images from his phone, and in Zambia Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport, Steven Masumba....

 
Former American President Richard Nixon


The Member of Parliament and minister was convicted of obtaining pecuniary (financial) advantage by false pretences in a case in which he is accused of forging a NIPA certificate. I can safely predict that we will huff and puff, crawl and roll on the ground, protest and quack all we want, but to see Steven Masumba resign from his post on a moral ground is like waiting for the ocean to run dry. It will have to take something extraordinary for that to happen. I doubt he is going to resign; it is either he will be shoved out of the office or the courts would have to nullify his position as Member of Parliament. Any way who can blame him, people who have gone before him and have been found in graver scandals have not stepped down, so why should he.

 

The difference between us and developed countries is that Mr. Masumba would have resigned the moment the allegations were made. He would not have waited for the courts to find him guilty. The courts would have found him guilty when he was already out of the public office.  Politicians found in some form of scandal resign from public pressure, media outcry and the usual moral grounds. Try telling that to a Zambian politician. Truth of the matter is we are two worlds apart.

 

I think we put politicians on such a high pedestal and we pretend like they can do no wrong. This is the first blunder that we make. We make them our pillar of strength and our shining example of what a model citizen should be. This is one of the reasons why our friends in the western world will resign from their political positions after a scandal because they feel they have let down those who looked up to them. They will go in front of the press, offer a sincere apology, shed a tear or two and then resign to the expectation of everyone. Here in Zambia, it is the exact opposite. We do not hold our politicians it such high regard apart from the notion that they live lavish lifestyles on tax payers money. It is a general belief that politics is a dirty game and if a minister or MP does not have a blemish, we begin to wonder why.

 

In Zambia, for some reason the public pressure and media too is not as strong as it is in the western world. We do not make enough noise that someone out of their own guilty conscious will step aside so that they can sleep in peace at night. Honestly, we often forget too quickly and we move on with our mundane lives until another scandal or Chipolopolo take over our discussion. Trust me Hon. Masumba has nothing to fear, he will be out of the headlines in a few weeks time. We enjoy forgetting and get easily destructed, if you want to be a politician in this country that will always work in your favour. People will not always hold you accountable for your past and present mistakes. When that constant reminder that a holder of a public office is not acting accordingly is not available, the consideration of giving up the seat should not cross politician’s minds.

 

There are many small pockets of groups who try to be heard but it is hopeless rhetoric and it feels like an attempt to appear in the press. There is no consolidated voice and usually even though the noise will be talking about the same politicians many will be speaking from different points of view. When some speak we conclude they are speaking from a bitter place, others because they are donor funded, and for the rest we do not care. It is hard to gauge who is really shouting from a genuine place and is making valid points. Then there is my fellow youth, even though we make up the bulk of this nation’s population, we are not interested in politics. We develop our opinions from morning breakfast shows and then we assume that we are experts. The unfortunate part is that when some begin to speak their shallowness in understanding politics is exposed. Few read policies, the constitution, budgets, listen to BBC or take up the mantle to be better politicians.

 

Politicians who are involved in some form of scandal should not be automatically called upon to give up their seats. Each case needs to be considered as a separate case and sometimes the gravity of it too. However, if we want politicians to be more accountable for their actions and resign on moral grounds, there should be people to demand it. It is not enough to have one headline in the papers and hope that someone will resign. You need to make sufficient constant noise and probably the most important, a valid reason to leave their seat of privilege because someone wants to impose their moral ideas on them.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Great Business Going Pathetic: Case Study- Mercury Express Logistics


I am not in the habit of calling out businesses for their crappy service but Mercury Express Logistics have provoked me beyond breaking limit. It actually pains me to write this piece because I am a supporter of businesses that are doing something good. It is a business that is providing us an opportunity to purchase goods from the United Kingdom, United States of America, India and South Africa and having them delivered in Zambia. Mercury Express Logistics took advantage of a problem, most sellers abroad would not ship to Zambia, however, Mercury have made that possible. Items are shipped to Mercury in the respective countries and they in turn bring them to Zambia. It is supposed to be a fairly straight forward logistical issue. Mercury used to provide an efficient service, the goods would get here within the stipulated time, and they would even send you a text that your items have arrived, that was once upon a time.

 

Mercury Express Logistics have in recent months been the source of my many frustrations. It is an annoyance that the management appear to have repeatedly ignored. I have purchased many items online from Ebay UK and used Mercury to deliver them. To the best of my knowledge there were three direct flights from the UK on a weekly basis before British Airways suspended their route to Lusaka. So I would expect to receive my items at the latest within two weeks. However, rarely have my items arrived within two weeks. It took months for my items to get here.  This is only part of the problem. When I call Mercury to inquire if the item has arrived I am put on an endless hold. When I pay them a visit, I am asked to write my name down and it takes close to 45 minutes for someone to come and tell me that my item hasn’t arrived. If you are expecting multiple items they will perhaps come out with one item and tell you that the rest have not arrived when you bought them at the same time. I am still baffled. I am then told they will send me text messages when the other items arrive which they never do. At the point of writing this piece items I had purchased over a month ago, have not yet arrived. I have wasted fuel, time, stress levels have gone up and I have further lost business as a result of the items not arriving on time.

 

Just in case you may think that I am exaggerating read some of the comments from other people who have used their service and judge for yourself lest am accused of being this bitter chap.
 





 
 
 


The terrible customer service currently being provided by Mercury is one that needs to be addressed urgently before it leads to their collapse. I would advise them to heed Sam Walton’s advice, “There is only one boss. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Therefore, these are my suggestions for Mercury Express Logistics

1.      Don’t Take the Customer for Granted

Just because Mercury may be blossoming with business and they are considerably cheaper than the rest of the competition they must not allow that to get to their heads. At this point I am willing to pay an extra K20 with any other provider as long as I am assured that my item will arrive within the stipulated time. They should not for a moment think that they are irreplaceable currently there is Post Couriers, FedEx, DHL and others who are coming up. We may soon forget the name Mercury Express Logistics.

2.      Expand and Hire If Traffic Increases

From the clear look of things Mercury have way too much business and they seem to be overwhelmed that they are unable to handle it. They to do not have enough staff to handle the calls, go search for the packages besides this their storage facilities have become inadequate. Despite them still having a large yard and enough expansion space I wonder why they cannot expand the facilities they currently have.

3.      Invest in Technology

Mercury is still using Stone Age methods of looking for packages when you go there. You write your name on a piece of paper, someone spends thirty minutes looking for your item before returning to tell you that they could not find it. Hello this is 2013. It is as if Mercury have never heard of a device called a computer and software. What should be done is that you provide your name, they search in the computer if your item is there or not. And we all move on with our lives no time wasted.

4.      Small Things Make a Difference

In business it is the small things that can differentiate you from your competition. This is a tenet that Mercury seem to have forgotten. The simple text message was enough for me to be satisfied, because I did not have to waste my time and fuel going to Mercury when my item has not arrived. Then they stopped sending text messages for small parcels that I was expecting and now they have stopped altogether sending me any text messages. It is even no longer worth it calling their offices to inquire if your parcels have arrived, it’s a hopeless cause. They seriously need to go back to basics.

I may be one of only a handful of disgruntled customers, but my best advice is until they improve only use Mercury Express Logistics if what you are purchasing is not urgent, inexpensive and you have all the time in the world for the nonsense of a service they provide. At this moment, I have no further plans to waste any of my time or fuel for their lousy service. When someone decides to use the word Express in their company name, I expect the service to be express and not a situation where my item takes two months to arrive. Where is the difference between them and the Post Office? There should be a reason why I am paying more money. I can live with a few weeks delay as long as my time and money as a customer is recognised and valued by fantastic customer service. Mercury Express Logistics need to lock up, go away somewhere and really reflect whether they still want to be in business. In the meantime, anyone with the FedEx, Post Courier, DHL and DotComZambia contacts?

 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Can Supermarkets Stop Being Generous with Plastic Bags

Towards every month end, I do the usual grocery shopping. I visit my favourite supermarket, Shoprite this is not a shameless plug and do my usual rounds through the aisles. When I am eventually done I end up leaving with my groceries in on average 10 different plastic bags. In case you haven’t already realised that is a lot of plastics for one household. I am no environmentalist but clearly unless the undue generosity of supermarkets comes to an immediate halt, we have an environmental crisis waiting to happen.
  
Plastic bags from one month grocery shopping


According to experts, plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade and in the process they release harmful toxins into the soil, rivers and lakes. Do not worry that is as much a geography lesson I will go into. In Zambia, the desire to pack everything in plastic bags is increasing by the day, buy an apple from the vendor in the street she will put it in a plastic, buy a coke from a store it will come in a plastic, purchase a pencil be rest assured it will probably be given to you in a plastic. It appears as if the size of the item does not matter, if it can fit in a plastic you are most likely going to be given one. I reckon if a fridge could fit in a plastic bag, it would be delivered that way.

My best guess at why plastics are dished out so generously is that they should be very cheap to produce. They should cost a couple of ngwees each. Therefore, they can be purchased in bundles to be given out freely. I have often taken a conscious step to avoid getting a plastic bag when I am purchasing a singular item from a supermarket or store. However, I will admit that sometimes I cannot resist the urge to accept the plastic bag that is given to me. May the environment forgive me, as I have been part of the problem 

The scenerio in most supermarkets
 
In as much as plastic usage is currently a huge problem, it can be easily reduced in great proportion by a simple solution. In 2008, I had the privilege of visiting Germany and I realised their solution to reducing this plastic generosity was rather simple, charge people for every plastic bag at the supermarket or store. The tellers and packers would deliberately ask you whether you needed a plastic or not, if you said yes the price of your plastics was added to your final bill. The result of this is people often carried their own bags or re-used the plastic bags they already had. The other striking thing was that by the tellers asking you whether you required a plastic, you were deliberately made away to think twice.  Now this does not take an Einstein to implement in Zambia, this should be fairly easy.

My proposal is not that plastics in supermarkets should cost 2ngwee that is too cheap. Plastic bags should cost say K1 each for the pinch to be felt. I can almost guarantee you that the number of plastic bags coming out of the supermarkets would be drastically reduced. If not this then plastics should carry a heavy tax on them so that charitable givers reconsider the next time they hand out a plastic bag. Perhaps if this gesture was implemented the almost extinct baskets will return. I do remember carrying bottles of soft drinks and bread in a straw basket. Alas, my young siblings are absolutely clueless of the existence of a basket because it has been replaced by the plastic bag.

I am not advocating for the abolishing of plastic bags from our supermarkets and stores, absolutely not. The point I am trying to cut across is that most of the times we don’t really need the plastic bag in the first place. We need to start developing a society that is more conscious about its environment and the repercussions for our present and future generations. If nothing will move you go to a compound and look at any drainage. I dare you to return and tell me you found a plastic free drainage. So yes this is my first step towards the campaign to make supermarkets start charging customers for the plastics bags they generously offer.

Are you willing to join my campaign?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

10 Painless Rules for the Zambian Borrower

I have had enough of this crap. There is a problem with being a nice guy, people take you for granted. Yes, we live in a world where we need to give a helping hand when someone is in need. One of those times is when someone requests to be lent some money. I usually find it hard to say no to someone when I have the cash, but more often than not it ends up biting me in the butt. The chaps never give me back the money. Hello! If my last name is not Gates or Dangote, I need my money back, period. I think there has been some miscommunication between us; I am now putting a few golden rules down.


This is not a donation, so it better boomerang


1.      Don’t Borrow If You Don’t Plan to Pay Back
The moment you say, “Lend me some money,” it automatically implies that you have the intention of paying it back. The last time I checked my dictionary, “Lend me” did not mean grant me or donate. So you better tell me straight up front whether I am lending you the money or giving it to you. Because if I am lending you the money, I expect it back. Don’t believe that just because I don’t ask for it, I have forgotten.
2.      I am not Oprah Winfrey
Never assume that the money I am lending you is not needed and it is fine if you don’t return it. I am not Oprah Winfrey who tosses cars for fun. When I discover the tree that grows money, I promise you I will be dishing out money like there is no tomorrow. Till then, you know what to do.


You owe Me! You owe me! You owe me! You owe meeeee!


3.      Is an Apology too Hard
Look I am a reasonable person, I understand that plans will change and situations may prevent you from paying on time. Is it too much to show some courtesy by informing me in advance and asking for an extension? I am only a call, text, Facebook, BBM, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter, away. So I do not buy those excuses that you were trying to reaching me but failed. Next excuse please.
4.      How Dare You Ignore Me
It is bad enough that you don’t tell me when you will pay me back, but to ignore my phone calls that is just rude. Abomination! (Nigerian voice). We do not need to bring the police up in here. Let me lay it down for you in simple English, you will pick up my calls and reply to every text. Comprendez!
5.      Remove Family and Friendship From the Equation
If at all you respect the relationship, it is only decent that you don’t abuse it. Friends and Family are the worst culprits. I would like to keep this equation that way, let us remain friends or family. It is absolutely embarrassing and shaming for us to start quarrelling over a petty issue as nkongole.
6.      Don’t Magnify Your Problem
You have bills to pay; I have bills to pay too. Do not try to make it sound that your problems are more pressing, urgent and important than mine. Please do not come all melodramatic that you are about to be jailed because other people you owe money are threatening you. Do you want me also to share my big problems too?
7.      Sorry the Guilty Trick Won’t Work
You already in the wrong by not paying me on time or desiring not to pay me at all. If for a moment you think that you will use the Guilty Card on me, think again. Calling me stingy, inconsiderate, shorthanded, ungenerous, will definitely not help your cause. My advice is just be humble because quite frankly, I don’t care what adjectives you use to describe me. Money please.
8.      You Had My Cash But....
Oh really so you just had my money an hour ago, and miraculously the Landlord showed up at your door therefore you can’t pay me. And how is this supposed to make me feel better again? This is such a recycled excuse that it is hard to believe any more. Bash your head into the wall and tell me that you just got mugged and they got away with my money as you spit blood. Now that lie I will believe.
9.      You Have a Reputation to Protect Too
A bad name spreads quickly; a bad borrowers name spreads even quicker. To the serial borrowers who are in the habit of not paying back, you are simply crushing your own reputation. There will come a point where everyone will be afraid to lend you money, no matter how dire the need is. But then again who am I fooling some people don’t even have reputations to guard, yaba.
10.  My Little Black Book
There comes a point where I have to face the reality that I am never getting my cash back. This is just a bad debt that I have to write off and forget. Wait forget, no ways. Fool me once shame on you, but fool me twice stupid me. I aint gonna be stupid. My Little Black Book of blacklisted borrowers will faithfully remind me of all your crimes. Trust me, you don’t want to enter my Little Black Book, just obey the rules above and you will be safe.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Wow! Did We Just Lie to the World About Livingstone?



I had heard the rumours that Livingstone town had cleaned up good. I was told that it had transformed into a clean and neat town. I was sceptical of the reports, how many clean towns can you mention in this country? As this information continued to trickle then flood in, I did the logical thing and went to visit Livingstone to see and prove for myself. I had to have evidence that the town was truly transformed. However, after a four-day visit/vacation of the town, I left it feeling rather upset and disappointed. How was it possible that a once vendor and litter filled town could be that clean? 
 
Vendor Free


The last time I visited Livingstone was about five years ago. Then it was a town with potholed roads, vendors on every street forcing their merchandise at anyone who dared glace their way and the buildings that hadn’t seen a paint job in probably a decade. To put it simply it was not a pleasant sight for the glorious tourist town that we were always boasting of. Then by some magical wand called the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Congress the town gets a facelift. And for what, so we could lie to the rest of the world that Livingstone is this pristine town that it really isn’t?
 
If the only time you choose to clean your house is when visitors are passing through then there is seriously something wrong with you. Livingstone is a classic case of pretending to have a clean house when we all know the reality. This country has been talking about the diversification of the economy to tourism ever since the collapse of the mines in the 1990s. Therefore, you would expect that Livingstone should have been already nothing short of an amazing town but alas. I am still failing to understand why it had to take the UNWTO for us to realise that the roads in Livingstone have potholes, the buildings needed a new coat of paint, maybe it would be a good idea to take the vendors to the market, and what of putting proper signs.  




Livingstone Museum

No hawkers on the roads

I am fuming, what this simply showed me is that it is okay for me a Zambia born, bred and will probably die here to live in towns with potholes, rubbish, see ugly buildings and use a large tree to locate a place. It’s absolutely unacceptable. I mean let us take a step back here and look at this issue with objective eyes. Most of the things that were done with the exception of the roads are fairly reasonable and cheap to do. Things such as asking shop owners to paint their buildings, put better roofing, remove the vendors from the town centres, sweep the streets, and put road signs. C’mon how hard can that be? All it will require is political will.

Another View of Livingstone
  I
Canopied Roof


Yes, I applaud the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Sylvia Masebo who worked tirelessly in putting a town together to present to the world. I would really like to commend her for the effort she put in. I thought she stood her ground and was firm enough to get the job done. But above all there is one thing that she showed, that we can have clean and neat towns if we want. If Lusaka could only be a fraction of what Livingstone has become, that will be a day indeed. I will not apologise by saying that this city is a mess, and town centre is short of a dumping site. If it takes the UNWTO to clean up a city, then may Lusaka host it next time.

Why should it take the coming of a congress before Livingstone could be cleaned up or in this case given a cosmetic façade put together for the rest of the world? Did it have to take the UNWTO to realise that Livingstone’s roads needed to be done up, the vendors deserved modern trading spaces or that it was about time the city had a total makeover. I am correct to imply that now every town in Zambia should pray to host an international conference in order for them to get some form of sanity? The next question is what are the people who are in-charge of all this doing? We deserve better and we can have better, Livingstone just showed me it is possible.

In Memory of blogger Flolics Kasumbalesa





Tuesday, 17 September 2013

My Dental Visit Horror Story

I have not usually been afraid of a dental visit. From the time my Dad would take me to pull out my milk teeth, a visit to the dentist was not something to cause any fear in me. I have no phobia of injections and once the anaesthetic is injected removing the tooth is almost painless. I had heard my friend’s dental horror stories countless times and always thought that they exaggerated and they were not true. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would have my own dental visit horror story to tell.


A decayed tooth had broken in half and I visited the Dental Training School in Thorn Park to have it removed. I had previously visited them and since they were experts in dentistry I expected that the minor extraction of a tooth would go well. In fact, I used to faithfully recommend them to people who needed to visit a dentist. So Last week Wednesday, I paid them another visit, I requested for high cost treatment which meant my tooth would be extracted by a consultant. Yes, a consultant. What I perceived would be a simple operation turned out to be the script of my first dental horror story.

I sat on the dental chair, removed my glasses, clasped the hands and I opened my mouth wide. I had been through this routine a number of times and I knew it well. The consultant who was of Asian descent, my best guess from Philippines or Malaysia wore his gloves and got the injection to get the anaesthesia ready. I thought he was taking his sweet time, didn’t he realise that some of us are busy people. The injecting of the anaesthesia around the tooth was barely a pinch and I waited for it to be numbed out.

The consultant then took what looked like a pliers, (excuse for my lack of knowledge of the medical term) and he held onto the tooth and began to pull. A bit of the tooth broke off, he then said something in frustration. He then reached for what looked like a screw driver and dug into my gum, immediately a sting of pain hit me and I told the consultant that I was feeling pain. He then asked me if I wanted more anaesthesia and nodded my head in affirmation. He injected more and he reached for the pliers once again and held on to the tooth. He pulled, he pushed, side to side. He gritted his teeth, asked me to open my mouth wider, pushed my head back and roughly moved me from side to side with the pliers. I screamed in pain. He deliberately ignored my screams and continued to assault my tooth in whatever form or fashion he knew how. The pain was so excruciating it felt like a torture sensation in a Saw movie and I almost saw myself drifting away, if it wasn’t for me trying to be all macho, tears would have started rolling.

This man wants to kill me I thought to myself. Finally, I could not stand the pain any longer and I held on to his hand and told him it hurts. His response was to get angry and shout at me that it’s my fault I let the tooth decay. From his implication it sounded like I deserved every bit of pain that was coming my way. What happened to patient care? Too traumatised to argue I let him attack my tooth with all the ferocity he could muster as I winced and endured the pain. I bet he was only seconds short of putting his foot on my neck just to remove the tooth. As I was on the brink of fainting, with the pliers and a tooth at the end he told me done. He inserted cotton wool into my mouth and told bite for 40 minutes. He then put what was left of my tooth in some cotton wool and handed it to me.

I left that Dental Training School with no medication for the pain whatsoever, and too traumatised to think straight. I could not believe the amount of anguish I had to endure just to remove a tooth. I do not know whether I am the only one to experience such but there is one thing I know for sure. I am never going back ever; someone will have to drag me by my feet and in chains before I step foot into that dental room again.

Share your dental horror story?

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Blackness of the #GhanaVsZambia Twitter War

In the aftermath of the loss to Ghana that all but resigned us to watch the World Cup from our television screens, I am in no mood to get into the blame game at this moment. The disappointing results the Chipolopolo have garnered so far have smeared any faith I had in them. So much was my unbelief in them that I honestly did not watch the game. I did not want a bunch of 11 chaps to wreck my weekend. I just feel sorry for my sisters. They have been denied the chance to get Brazilian hair straight from the source. However, even before Zambia was embroiled in the football match on Friday. Some Zambians already took the battle to twitter using the hash tag #GhanaVsZambia. You know it was serious when it makes BBC news.


The twitter war between Ghanaians and Zambians began just after it was reported that the Ghanaians refused Zambia to land their chartered plane in Kumasi. Kumasi was the town that was to host the decisive game. In no time, the Zambians took to twitter to air their frustrations. When I first read the tweets, I thought of them as humourous and I will admit some left me in stitches. I do not mind some harmless banter, and if that was the case, I doubt if I would have written about the twitter war. This fiasco developed into some form of racial stereotyping. It was not about white folks thinking that blacks were inferior. Oh no, this sadly was blacks on blacks.

Nearly all the disses that were thrown Ghana's way were about how black they were and for some absolutely idiotic belief, the notion that because of their darker blackness, they were inferior. At the moment, when I thought, we were burying such ideas they reared their ugly head again in the most public way. It appears that there is quite a lot of work that needs to be done. There are still some sections of our society that think that because they are lighter skinned are more superior than the darker skinned individuals. By superior, I mean lighter toned individuals are viewed as more handsome, beautiful, prettier, vava voom while the "inferior" darker toned are seen as uglier, unpretty, average and lower than the other blacks.


 


If you are an individual who habours such retrogressive and uncouth beliefs, my suggestion is that you need help. It is not like when we are created, we go into a boutique and choose what skin colour to be. There is definitely nothing inferior and degrading about being black and let alone dark toned black. And I dare you to challenge me on that. I am even ashamed to even think that it was just sheer banter. When you have hundreds of the same tweets about how black a certain group of people are, it is just plain wrong.   

This issue of blackness is perhaps further perpetuated by men who think that having a fairer skinned girlfriend that they have landed the jackpot. Darker skinned ladies are often frowned upon and not perceived as beautiful. It is no wonder that skin bleaching companies are still in business.  The media should also bear their portion of the blame. The unfair majority of advertisements that market lotions and makeup typically use fairer skinned women. Tell me how many darker toned women have you seen? It could be this bombardment of advertisements that subconsciously engrain into the minds the view that lighter skinned blacks are better.

No one has the right to feel that they are a better human being because of their skin colour. There are many different shades of black and whatever shade you are, it does not make you any worser or better than the next person. When fellow blacks perceive other darker toned blacks as lesser than they are then we are in serious trouble. It is time that societies get talking and breaking down some of these stereotypes. In the words of James Brown, “Say it Loud,  I'm BLACK, and I'm PROUD!"

Monday, 2 September 2013

5 High Risk Start-Up Businesses in Zed

 One of the advantages that having so many unemployed people in a country like Zambia is that many are forced to become entrepreneurial minded. It is now important more than ever to think of ways in which you can earn an income. Even for people who are employed, they are not ruling out entrepreneurship as a source of extra income. The trouble that many novices to the business world are faced with is what business to get involved in. I have rather become bored with the common question, “I want to start a business, what should I do?” Therefore, I have taken the liberty to mention five businesses that if you are thinking about them; you should reconsider.
1. Cross border Trading

I know that some may view this as a low-risk business simply because there are many people who are involved in it. However, there are a number of factors that certain people overlook when they choose to engage in cross boarder trading. These include the place where to source cheap merchandise, their goods will be sold hire purchase and chances of default are high; almost everyone is going after the same market (working class), and selling similar items. The other aspect that most people do seem to consider is that some cross border traders evade taxes. This is done by smuggling the goods across the boarders or finding ways not to declare their purchases. It does not matter whichever way you choose to look at it if you do not pay taxes it is evasion. Business needs to be done honestly.
2. Publishing a Magazine

Every time I visit a book shop, I notice a new publication on the shelves. I wonder why many people have not yet realised that publishing a magazine is very risky because the chances of success are very low. There are only a handful of magazines that are able to still stay afloat such as Bulletin and Records (in my opinion, the best publication in Zed), AfroBride, Lowdown and Zambian Traveler. The challenge with starting a magazine is that the readership is very low. Magazines thrive on customer loyalty, and that is hard to obtain in Zambia. The pricing is also critical, the only way a magazine can be cheap is if you have enough companies advertising. Printing costs in Zambia are still high and therefore, the only way to print cheaply is to do it in huge numbers, which can be costly.
3. Internet Café
A few years ago, the Internet café business was booming. There was an Internet café on almost every corner in Lusaka. However, with the peaking of the telecommunication industries in Zambia with it came the inevitable death to the Internet café business. The reduction on the price of the smart phones and portable Internet modems has become more convenient alternatives to the Internet cafes. I personally cannot remember the last time I went to an Internet café. Internet cafés have to rely on low per minute costs and rely on volume of customers to make their money. However, if there is a low inflow of customers it becomes really difficult to break even. Besides this, you have chaps who download movies and eat at your bandwidth hence reducing the speed. Nothing is more frustrating than a slow internet connection. I foresee a situation where internet cafés will be the reserve for tourists.
4. T-Shirt Printing

This is one of those businesses that is seasonal and does not always guarantee a flow of income. T-shirt printing is usually centred around events where companies need to wear T-shirts such as on Labour Day or Teachers Day. Other than these events, the next business will come from schools. The trouble is that this is already a saturated market and people have stopped asking for customised T-shirts that can see you through the periods when there is no business flowing in.
5. Owning a Mini-Bus

I deliberately left this for last. This one is rather controversial and people will definitely have divergent views. Regardless, I still classify running a mini-bus as risky business. The prevailing conditions are what make mini-buses risky business. There are way too many buses around and there are always battles for passengers. There is also the risk that the drivers may not take care of the mini-buses well; therefore, instead of the bus bringing money it spends a huge amount of time in the garage or pounded at some police station. The transport industry is perhaps one of the most heavily regulated not only from the Road Transport and Safety Agency but also from the police. The only way that I see a minibus being less risk is if the owner of bus is the driver. Aside from the operational costs, it is also one of the most stressful businesses.

The fact that something is a high risk does not necessarily mean that it cannot be profitable, or it will not succeed. The challenge is how to reduce the risk and finding a way in which it can succeed, after all this is the point of entrepreneurship. Before starting any new business it is important to do your research well, just because you see someone else succeeding at a business does not imply you will too. I am open to be challenged on my list.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Facebook is One Big Therapy Session

Dear Sis Dolly,
I am man aged 35 and my wife is 26 years old. We have been married for three years but we do not have any children together. I have two kids from a previous relationship so I know the problem is not with me. I want more children but it seems that my wife cannot have any children because of complications. A month ago, she confessed that when she was a teenager she fell pregnant and aborted. The doctors have also confirmed that she cannot have children because of the abortion. I love my wife very much but I also want more children. What should I do? Do I divorce and marry another woman? Please help.*



If you do not know or remember Sis Dolly, then that means one of two things. Either you are not of my generation or you never read a Drum magazine in the 90s. Essentially Sis Dolly, was a columnist for Drum magazine who dished out advice on various topics to individuals. I sometimes naively marveled at the grand scale of problems people had. In a mature and objective tone, Sis Dolly would then give out her advice on the situation. Whether her suggestions were helpful, I do not know. Sis Dolly is long gone, but people still have issues. A few years ago people used to take their problems to the magazines, today people take their problems to Facebook.

Facebook has started to become one big therapy session with the wise and idiots giving their advice to the problem. Joy FM usually posts personal issues under what is called Kuseniseni and Hot FM have the Hot Issue. Both these begin with people requesting to hide their IDs and asking people for advice. Some people do provide advice that someone can use, and then there are the bunch of fools and idiots who say the stupidest things one can imagine.  Here is someone who is in genuine need of assistance and then someone out there who has nothing better to do, chooses to expose their childish and idiotic senses by rubbishing the situation or making fun of it. These are perhaps some of the things we need to live with on Facebook these days.

Maybe we should be blaming the people for airing their problems on Facebook. But if not Facebook where do people go in Zambia to discuss their issues? It’s not like in the developed countries where you have shrinks and psychiatrists where you go and lie on a plush sofa while you talk about your adulterous and lying wife. The closest I know of such is Chainama but imagine me telling my friends that I go to Chainama to see a psychiatrist; first thing that will pop in their minds is that I am mad. We do have the church but not everyone is comfortable going to church, for fear of Mulomo and judgement. I guess Facebook may just be the best alternative they have.

For the people who are fond of posting their problems and issues on Facebook, people need to realise that not everyone on Facebook is of right mind and they must be prepared to receive the junk of advice too. In the meantime, I am still trying to figure a place where to take all these frustrations that I habour.

*The above is purely fictional and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Are African Names Embarrassing?

So the world was fussing about a baby born in England, first there was the news that some woman was in labour and after the birth, it was what the little chap would be called. The world press speculated, bloggers predicted, even my workmates too joined in the hullabaloo. Then the name was announced, the king to be would be called George Alexander Louis. You can imagine my disappointment, what happened to his middle name being Akakulubelwa?

African Names

We give our children the names of George, William, Charles, Harry, so why can’t the royal family for once bear the name Musonda, Dabwiso or even Hantobolo. Some of us if we have not been given the “royal” names we shall call ourselves that for all, we care. Therefore, to me, the full names of the soon to be king are George Alexander Akakulubelwa Louis. Please forgive my lunatic side. Even so, there is a serious point here. I have an English or Christian name as well as two Zambian middle names. However, there was a time in my early years when I didn’t like my Zambian middle names that much. It was nothing against the names per se just that the names could be twisted to mean something else. So to avoid being a joke of the classroom, I rarely introduced myself by my Zambian middle names. It was only later in high school that I decided to embrace them, and now they are my preferred names.

Due to all this naming debate that was going around it has left me wondering, why is it that we in Africa can easily embrace an English, American or even toss it far a Russian name, but we do not call our children by other African names? I am yet to come across a Kwame Chanda, Ayobami Muyatwa or Raila Zimba. You may go the length and breadth of this nation, and the Zambezi will run dry before you find someone with such a name. Why don’t we call our children by other African names? Is it that we do not think that the names are not good enough, or sound cool enough, maybe to put it simply we just don’t like African names. Naming our children, Michelle, Ashley, Otis, Nigel, or Beethoven is a much preferred options.

There is another thing that still continues to baffle me, up to this day. There are people who I have called by their Zambian names, all their lives and the moment they go abroad, I see a strange name on their Facebook profile. I would like to understand why some Zambians feel the need to change or have English names the moment they go out. It is one thing, if you have been known by your English name whilst here in Zambia, but to change your names just because you are in USA raises many questions. Are our Zambian names that hard to pronounce? Are Zambian let alone African names more difficult to call than Chinese, Russian, German names? Perhaps even though we may deny it, we may have some inferiority complex when it comes to Zambian names.

It is the parent’s decision to choose what they will call their child. Some parents would wish to have names that have meaning to them while others opt for the unorthodox names. I now have a bias towards Zambian names. For some of us who continue to embrace our Zambian names, I hope we may do so even across the borders. Before I sign off, should my son be born just after I finish reading Things Fall Apart, he will be a lucky lad if his first name is not Okonkwo.

Should Africans be embracing their names more?

Monday, 22 July 2013

WARNING: SERIAL JOB HUNTERS AT LARGE

Take a survey of the thousands of employed individuals in this country and you will discover that the majority of us are a bunch of frustrated job hunters. Forget about employee loyalty that was for our forefathers, this generation is always on the hunt for another job no matter what you offer us. We want more money, the better house, the bigger car, the glossy title and for all it’s worth the respect too. Dare to give us what we want now, and we will be out there seeking more. For we are the Job Hunter Generation and our thirst cannot be quenched.
 

Dear World, please understand us; we have bills to pay, people to keep up with and family to please. We are not an ungrateful, materialist, egoistic breed of job hunters; we just want what we believe we are worth. We do not claim to be the best neither do we suggest that we will settle for less. Deep down we wish and hope that there is a job out there that will truly value us for what we are worth even if it is for a moment. It is for this reason that we live for that day when we will walk into our boss’ office and gladly place that letter on his table with a smile and say, “I resign.” Until such a day comes we shall faithfully read every daily newspaper, purposely beef up the C.V, carefully signoff each letter with the words, “I am sincerely looking forward to hearing from you soon,” and prayerfully send out the applications.

Do not think of us as oblivious and unrealistic to the world around us. We are well aware, that somewhere out there, there is someone who is praying for a job, any job at that. For the one who struggles to make ends meet with a fraction of what we earn, or a person who doesn’t know what it feels like to have experience on your C.V. we do spare a minute for those. Charles Darwin said it best, “Survival of the fittest.” Do not blame us if we choose to take our opportunities and grab them with wide open arms.

If there is anyone to blame, the career choices we made are it. The paths we deliberately or were forced to take. We search for greener pastures out there, if ever they exist. Forgive us if we ourselves fail to define what greener pastures we seek. We masquerade around with ambitions that dig deeper holes that we think will be filled with more money, more time, more prestige and a better boss too. Yet we hide the truth that we are all striving for career fulfillment. Some will be lucky to achieve them, and the rest of us will die Job Hunters.

We are already resigned to our fate. We may never know what loving our job really feels like. Following our passion are dreams we have learnt to crush slowly. In the meantime, we shall pretend to love our jobs, and lick as many boots to get to the top. Smile and lie, that the job we left was worse than the one we have. Every interview, will be attended with a prayer to heaven. We shall not give up our desire for greener pastures wherever they maybe, after all we are serial job hunters.