Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Civil Servants and a Cup of Tea

Whenever, I feel stressed at work and the pressure is coming in from all directions a common response is, “I need to join government.” I have never worked in government before but among my peers there is just a sense that people who work in the civil service have it easy. It is a relaxed environment, no deadlines, you knock off at 5pm on the dot and life is just generally easier on the other side. I already know that this is a misplaced misconception but the fact is it is a general belief especially for some of us who have never worked in government.

Before, I get chewed up by anyone in the civil service allow me to pull out my disclaimer card right away. This piece is merely to get the discussion going and in no way is it intended to belittle anyone. It is through this discussion perhaps I can be enlightened and my misconception corrected. Now that we have gotten that bit out of the way, we can get to the thorn of this matter. Writing about this has always been on my mind but for some reason I never had the courage to actually let it out, mainly because I was afraid of offending some of my friends in the civil service. An article in the Post newspaper is what has prompted me to actually be bold enough to spit it out. The article, “Patients accuse Kanyama clinic staff of priotising tea” really made for sad reading.
Its an issue of tea
It was reported that the clinic staff spend two hours having their tea before attending to patients some of whom went there as early as 5 am. It is expected that the staff would begin work at 8 am and attend to the patients but clearly that was not the case. Now, this attitude is not only at Kanyama clinic, try visiting other clinics or other government departments and pretty much you need to make an allowance for a long time queuing up.  Queuing up because of lack of staff is understandable, but queuing because someone is sipping some Quick Brew chatting about Shree is another.

There is a joke that goes around, “Government workers report for work at 9 am, have a tea break at 10:30 am, go for lunch at 12:30, leave the jacket on the chair at 2 pm and return to pick it up at 5pm to knock off.” People wonder what time they spend in the offices. It is purported that they are busy with other ventures after all it is BOMA, they will get paid anyway.  I have had my fair share of frustrations through government offices; it almost feels like we have to work around their time. Some start working late but are always on time to go out for lunch no negotiations, anyone experience that?

During the discussion ‘Is Zambia, Africa’s Emerging Economic Tiger?’ on ZNBC, deputy minister of Finance and National Planning Hon. Miles Sampa bemoaned the work culture in government. He stated that coming from the private sector where when you ask for something in the morning by close of day you have it. In government, it was not the case it comes two months later. He said that if he had his way there would be a lot of firing done but it is not that easy. There is a certain perception that in government things are done at your own pace and when you feel like it. It is like there is no sense of urgency. Yes, they may say a passport will take three weeks to come out, will it? The doors will open at 8 am but how many do? Or as in the case of Kanyama Clinic perhaps the tea is more important than serving the people.

I do not know whether there is something wrong with the work culture or there is a feeling of entitlement that government owes the civil service workers something. Maybe the civil service is just too large to manage and this is causing some of the inefficiencies and under delivery of services. Arguably, the deputy minister during his discussion probably gave us a better perspective in this matter. It is not so easy to fire a civil servant because of all the bureaucracy involved. In the private sector you underperform or do not do your duties you are shown the boot no questions asked, start applying for another job. It appears in the civil service there are too many channels to go through before someone is fired which can take months. Therefore, I think some of them have become too comfortable.

This negative attitude that some people have towards their work is very unfair to the dedicated and committed civil servants who do their duties diligently. I have met many of them who are committed to their work and actually improving the lives of others. Unfortunately, because of clusters who are giving the civil service a bad name the rest of them are dragged down with them. The way I see it a serious shake up of the civil service is needed. Nurses cannot be having tea while someone is surely in pain on the queue, seriously? Being in the civil service should be an honour, it is not a debt that government is paying to anyone or it is volunteer work. And for the sake of the thousands of civil servants that do justice to the civil service we salute. Wouldn’t it have been something if those nurses offered those patients on the queue some tea too?

Oh by the way the private sector does have its flaws too in case someone was thinking of putting that as a comment.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

'Lady' Dora and the Case of the Middle Finger

Wow! So much can happen in a week. For the umpteenth time the youth marched and heard promises that we are bound to hear for the next two decades, white smoke appeared from the Vatican (killing any intrigue that was there), and then you had the one and only her ‘highness’ Dora Siliya showing the finger in parliament. Say what you want about this woman but she sure does know how to get Zambia talking. I have to admit this but in the wrong way Dora’s gesture was absolutely sublime.

How do you like that?

After the motion to remove former president Rupiah Banda’s immunity was introduced in parliament, the MMD honourables decided to walk out in protest. On the way out, our M.P from Petauke must have had enough of it and she decided to flip the middle finger, not once but three times. In case the others did not see it the first time. If Dora was seeking attention she definitely got it and a whole lot more. I have no idea what Dora was thinking to do that. I wonder what crossed her mind or maybe she thought that the cameras would not capture the gesture. Unfortunately, for her it was caught on camera and it has hit the headlines of the press and people have something interesting to talk about.

Should we be shocked that Dora did that? Really. I am not; this is the same woman who invited villagers to admire her butt, laid bare her ex-husband’s dirty laundry in public by accusing him of not performing in bed. Add that middle finger gesture to her infamous resume. The hand gesture was classic and a typical example, that there is only so much shove a person can handle. She was merely showing her ‘gansta’ side. I do not remember the last time I was this interested in a politician, they should make a movie about Dora Siliya.

As expected in this nation, some sections of society are finding her uncouth behaviour disgusting and stating that it is demeaning to the integrity of women and other rhetoric that is an attempt for some people to get some press time. C’mon, how is Dora’s gesture really bringing a bad name to women? Who by the way made Dora the pillar of woman integrity in this nation? People should find something better to say than that. I think that as an M.P she should not have made that gesture. The excuse that she is a role model can be used, but please do not go ahead telling us a bunch of rubbish that she is the dent to the female folk.

The question that most people seem not to be asking is that why did Dora raise the middle finger? Since she has decided to remain quiet thus far on this issue, I am allowed the luxury to speculate the reasons. Maybe some other parliamentarian raised a finger at her too and she was only reciprocating? Or she wanted to point at something and the wrong finger did so instead? Perhaps she actually wanted to insult someone but they were too far so the only way to relay the message was to use the finger? Maybe it was a reflex action? Kaya. Whatever the reason, I love a bold woman who doesn’t care what the world thinks at times, though in this situation I will admit it was rather misplaced.

Obviously in this case, the honourable thing for Dora to do is apologise, even though I don’t want her to as an act of defiance. She must admit that she did not mean to raise her finger and promise us that it will never happen again. She must ask for forgiveness from the nation and her fellow parliamentarians even shed a tear for a good show. The question I keep asking myself, do I really want Dora to do the honourable thing? The answer is, NOPE!

Which Dora do you like? Gangsta Dora or Honourable Dora

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Lights OUT Zambia

Wake up Monday morning no electricity, “One of those days it happens.”
Wake up Tuesday morning no electricity, “Again someone must have mistaken which hood to loadshed.”
Wake up Wednesday morning no electricity, “Okay, now this is becoming a habit, ZESCO should get their act together.”
Wake up Thursday morning no electricity, “ZESCO what the hell is going on kanshi?”
Wake up Friday morning no electricity, “ZESCO $%^$$#^**&^%$%$$$##%%^*Fyola*!”
            The erratic electricity supply this past week has definitely contributed to the increased stress levels around. Once again ZESCO know how to get into the spotlight without trying. I stay in a neighbourhood that does not experience too much load shedding. It is one of those once in a while affairs. So you can imagine the great inconvenience when suddenly, I flick on the switch and it does not turn on. I go into another room flick the switch still the bulb refuses to light up, and then I know ZESCO must be up to no good. We probably all know that load shedding has now become a mainstay in this country but last week ZESCO had graduated to higher proportions.
            I was forced to have bread and juice for supper, clothes could not be pressed in the morning and I had a constant fear that my electrical appliances would blow as a result of this. A mbaula and some malasha might soon become my best friends because I foresee this becoming an unwelcome habit for ZESCO. People have been fuming at what they call inconsiderate load shedding wondering what crime they have committed to deserve such treatment.
            “Dear ZESCO, how you do not care that you send me to work with unpressed clothing is amazing. I could swear you do it on purpose,” Kapembwa lamented.
There are many others who do not have kind words for ZESCO after their food went bad in the fridge, they missed the football games, parties were forced to use candle light and shops like Woodlands Pick n Pay had to close as a result.  And then someone is dreaming of bringing an electric underground train in Zambia, with which electricity, that’s a joke.
            I now reckon that ZESCO have a default apology statement stashed away somewhere that they pullout when the complaints reach boiling point. We are ever maintaining something or a station has blown up. This time around was no different.
            “ZESCO Limited wishes to inform its esteemed customers that the current increased power outages being experienced around the country has been as a result of failure of the  large generating units at Kafue Gorge Power Station (KGPS) on 21st February 2013 and Kariba North Bank Power Station (KNBPS) on 25th February 2013....” a press statement said. Yeah, yeah, yeah, heard this story before.
            The mere fact that ZESCO almost has monopoly of the supply in this country, we are simply forced to suck it up and tolerate whatever, they dish out to us. It is not like we can switch suppliers we do not have that luxury. We just accept it, live with it and complain about it to whatever and whoever is interested in hearing. I can only imagine people who live outside the cities, what kind of electricity supply they get? If in the capital city where the rich, ambassadors, politicians, diplomats are subjected to the kind of supply that ZESCO provides, what influence can a person in a hut somewhere in Shangombo have.
                The more bizarre thing is that clearly ZESCO should have seen this coming. They should have been investing in hydro power stations or other alternatives like solar well in advance. The more puzzling thing is that Zambia has over 30% of the water bodies in Southern Africa, so water for hydro power is not a problem. So who should we begin pointing fingers at? I do not need a crystal ball, to know that in the next 10 years we will need more electricity supply in Lusaka, Kitwe, Solwezi and perhaps all the other towns, so we can start now.
            But hey I am no engineer, so I do not know much about the intricacies that go with supplying electricity to an entire nation. One thing that I do know for certain is that there are thousands of disgruntled people who do not hold ZESCO in high esteem. In other news, place your orders now for generators and solar panels, you will be needing them more in your households very soon because we all know ZESCO will disappoint us again.