UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE
Edition: #23 21 July 1997
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A fortnightly update of news from Zambia
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE is written by Zambian journalists in Zambia and brings you the news from their point of view. It is assembled and edited by South Africa Contact, the former anti-apartheid movement in Denmark, publishers of i'Afrika, a quarterly magazine concentrating on Southern Africa.
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE MALAWI NEWS ONLINE, MOZAMBIQUE NEWS ONLINE, ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE and TANZANIA NEWS ONLINE in providing up to date news from our established network of journalists in Southern Africa. These newsletters will be followed, in the very near future, by individual news updates from other countries in the region.
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE is brought to you through a co-operation between South Africa Contact and Inform, Denmark's leading alternative information network.
GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS ROCKED BY FINANCIAL PRESSURES
Government's commitment to stick to a cash budget is beginning to have an adverse effect on many government institutions and the situation is evidently getting worse. The supply of food to these institutions has been reduced to a trickle while the effecting of agreed new conditions of service for civil servants has long been delayed. The result has been riots in institutions like schools and a threat by civil servants to withdraw their labour to pressure government to pay their dues.
The government admits that it cannot meet all its financial obligations because it just does not have sufficient money. Finance deputy minister Godfrey Simasiku said recently that the flow of income into government coffers was insufficient to cover all required expenditure. He also said that the government would not bend its own set economic recovery plan of sticking to a cash budget. ``We can spend only what we have," Simasiku said.
With no evident sign of the cash flow situation improving, it is now feared that the already tense situation in government institutions could blow into an uncontrollable problem. Food, water and electricity supplies have either been cut already or the suppliers have threatened to terminate because of high unpaid bills.
Most major suppliers of food to government institutions, especially schools, colleges and hospitals, have decided to stop the supply because of a debt of about US$7 million they are owed by government. The suppliers, some of whom have not been paid for supplies made in 1993, had hoped that the debt would be covered in this year's budget presented in January. But six months on, the debt remains unpaid and many now have no choice but to sell their food elsewhere.
The chain reaction has been more serious with the institutions which require the food. Initially, prisons were the most affected by the slow, if any, flow of food from the suppliers. In order not to accumulate the debt, suppliers resorted to providing the food only on a cash basis. But because of the limited finances, even this has not been a guarantee of sufficient food getting to the prisoners.
Today, the chain reaction has reached schools and colleges. With suppliers either unable or refusing to bend backwards any further in supplying food on credit, government is now contemplating premature closures of some of the institutions. Already some schools have cut down on the number of meals pupils are to have in a day. In other schools the situation has been worse as pupils have turned violent in protest against a poor diet, forcing authorities to contemplate premature closer of the institutions.
At St Marks Secondary School in Choma, a Southern Province town, over 700 pupils rioted to protest against a food shortage at their institution. The pupils were particularly angered that school authorities were saying that the institution had no money for food and yet each pupils had paid K75,000 (about $50) towards the purchase of food. The angry students burnt two classrooms, damaged a storeroom and destroyed a school laboratory. They demanded that the school headmaster and the boarding master, whom they have accused of pocketing their contributions, be removed before classes can resume. At Zambezi Secondary School in North-Western Province, school authorities have suspended the provision of breakfast to the pupils because the school can no longer afford three meals per day for the pupils.
Lack of water or its insufficient supply is also driving some institutions, again especially colleges and schools, closer to the brink of closure. About 400 boarding pupils at David Kaunda Secondary School in Lusaka have all been sent home because the local water suppliers have cut supply due to a huge unpaid bill. And Lusaka's Evelyn Hone College which caters for about 200 hostel students is also faced with closure because water supply has been cut, also because of a huge debt of K100 million (about $78,000). Students are now having to depend on water from a borehole within the campus grounds.
But while government could have the option of closing the learning institutions if the worse comes to the worst, concern is on how to tackle the need to feed prisoners and patients in government hospitals. An even bigger problem is how to deal with the obligation to honour a worker-employee collective agreement to improve emoluments for civil servants. Pressure is mounting on the government to pay these dues by July 31 or a nation-wide strike, as threatened by the public service workers, would take effect.
For now government can only appeal to the workers not to take such action and the promise that their dues will eventually be paid. Labour and Social Services Minister Peter Machungwa says that strike action would not only be illegal, but would also be destructive. He says that the trade unions should opt for a more constructive course of action and must appreciate the difficulties government was going through.
But the civil servants and public service workers argue that that they have had enough of promises that are not being fulfilled and contend that the only way in which to prompt government to effect the agreed conditions of service was through the pressure of withholding their labour.
Finance deputy minister Godfrey Simasiku points out though that there are promising signs of an improved flow of income. He says that the Zamiba Revenue Authority (ZRA) has greatly improved its ability to rake money through taxes and this could in turn help settle the many local outstanding bills.
Unless these debts and improved emoluments are paid out soon, however, there is bound to be more chaos in some of these government institutions.
1. CHILUBA OPTS NOT TO GROOM SUCCESSOR
President Chiluba says that he has no intentions of grooming or backing anyone to take over from him at the end of his second and final term of office in the year 2001. Chiluba says that grooming a successor would be unhealthy for a democracy in which competition for office should be free and fair. He says that he has opted to allow and encourage free campaigning by anyone wishing to contest the post.
While the opposition parties continue to demand a "level playing field" in presidential and parliamentary elections, some members of the ruling MMD party are said to have already started campaigning for the presidency. Among those said to be in the race are the current vice-president Godfrey Miyanda, party secretary general Michael Sata, Defence Minister Ben Mwila and Finance Minister Ronald Penza. None of them, however, publicly confirmed their interest in the post.
To apparently prevent accusations of backing any of these presidential contenders, President Chiluba recently appointed another other cabinet minister, Kelly Walubita, to act as vice-president when the incumbent Miyanda was committed elsewhere.
2. a - ZAMBIA'S POVERTY LEVELS WORSEN
In an unprecedented admission, President Chiluba has said Zambians were today generally poorer than they were 10 years ago. Speaking at a poverty alleviation workshop, Chiluba said it was evident that most Zambians today cannot afford what those a decade ago could afford. He said that 78 per cent of Zambians live below the poverty line.
b. CHILUBA BACKS STRIKING WORKERS
Worker are generally justified in withdrawing their labour as a way of pressing for better emoluments because the economic hardships are too much to bear for most of them. President Chiluba said this in his first public reaction to sporadic workers' strikes and threats to withdraw labour, especially in public institutions.
A nation-wide strike by public service and government workers is looming following a decision by respective unions to have their members withdraw their labour because government has not honoured its obligations to improve conditions of service as agreed in a collective agreement.
3. a - KAUNDA MEETING WITH ARMS SUPPLIER WORRIES GOVERNMENT
The government is worried and suspicious about the reasons for a recent meeting between UNIP president Kenneth Kaunda and a chairman of a leading South African fire-arms company. President Chiluba says government is probing the incident while defence minister Ben Mwila described the meeting as suspicious.
However, Kaunda says that his meeting last month with the Armscor chairman was in no way sinister as is being suspected by the government. He said he met the arms dealer and South Africa's defence minister Joe Modise at the invitation of "a young Zambian" working for Armscor. He says that the meeting, during a football match between Zambia and South Africa in Johannesburg, was normal and that nothing subversive was discussed. He also said that although his goal is to remove the MMD from government, he has no intention of doing so through violence.
3. b - POLITICAL VIOLENCE RE-EMERGES
After the recent collapse of inter-party talks between the ruling MMD and opposition parties, political conflicts have become violent. At the centre of the new conflict is UNIP, the former ruling party, and its president Kenneth Kaunda. A clash involving sticks and stones erupted in Ndola recently between UNIP members and MMD cadres. This followed the burning down of a tent in which Kaunda was to shelter at a political rally. The MMD youths were suspected of the arson and were attacked by the UNIP youths, resulting in a fracas in which several people were hurt.
The violence has, however, been roundly condemned with several interest groups warning that it should be stemmed before it degenerates into wide scale confrontation. UNIP has said it would step up its campaign of burning voters cards at public rallies to protest against alleged irregularities in the election process. UNIP also says it will defy the requirement of having to get a police permit to hold public rallies. The Ndola rally was held without a permit. MMD secretary general Michael Sata says that UNIP's continued campaign of burning voters cards could further jeopardise inter-party dialogue.
4. UNIP COFFERS RUN DRY
Costs of financing the on-going a petition against President Chiluba's legibility for presidency has dried up the coffers of UNIP, one of the political parties petitioning Chiluba. Party administrative secretary Basil KAbwe says UNIP has failed to pay close to 400 of its workers around the country because most of the party's income has gone towards funding the petition. The costs include legal expenses, paying lawyers and taking care of witnesses.
Some workers say that they have been reduced to beggers because they have not been paid in the past 12 months. Kabwe admits that most of the party members were now surviving on "personal efforts".
5. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DRAWS 100 CASES
Despite some local and international skepticism about impartial abilities of the recently constituted Human Rights Commission (URC) in Zambia, the body has already received about 100 complaints on human rights violations. The Commission has already disposed of one major case in which it secured the release of 14 South Africans who were detained by police after straying in Zambia.
Commission chairperson Lombe Chibesakunda says that most of the complaints would be settled by conciliation because the commission cannot render judgements. She says, though, that the commission would be firm and vigilant in dealing with human rights abuses regardless of who was perpetrating the abuse. She adds that the fact that the commission is partly funded by government did not mean that this would compromise the body's independence.
Earlier, an international Human Rights group called for the replacement of the Zambian HRC commissioners because they lacked robust human rights credentials. The Human Rights Watch also stated that there was need to elect commissioners to ensure transparency.
6. ZAMBIA BEGINS MAIZE IMPORTS TO COVER FOOD SHORTAGE
Dwindling stocks of maize grain, Zambia's staple food, has prompted government to import 120,000 metric tonnes of the crop to increase stocks. The Food Reverse Agency has imported the maize to prevent an anticipated grain shortage. Despite good rains in the last season, it is expected that Zambia will not be able to meet its needs. The Food Reserve Agency director says that Chance Kabaghe says that Zambia requires 270,000 metric tonnes of grain in reserve to be able to meet the demand until the next crop season. 7. ZAMBIA'S ONLY HARBOUR TO BE SOLD
Zambia's only harbour, Mpulungu, is to be sold after it is upgraded to international standards. The European Union has offered to spend US$2 million on rehabilitating and upgrading the harbour on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Northern Zambia. Zambia shares the lake with Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi.
A Zambia Privatisation Agency Spokesman said that after the initial works, the harbour will be placed under an independent commission to enhance the performance of the country's gateway to Central and Eastern Africa.
8. WOMAN EXPOSE FAKE REPORTING IN FOOD FOR WORK PROGRAMME
A highly popular programme in which unemployed Lusaka residents are engaged in community work in exchange for food, is said to be riddled with fake reporting on performance and food distribution. A grass-root supervisor in one of Lusaka's townships, says that while work is done and distribution of food is on alternative weeks, some superiors in charge allegedly report that the programme goes on without break.
Ms Prisca Mwale claims that she is aware that some reports submitted to the World Food Programme who fund the project, indicate that work is continuous and that the food too is supplied regularly. She says that in actual fact work and food distribution is done in weekly intervals. The programme is highly popular among housewives who are engaged in chores like resurfacing gravel roads in exchange for food like maize meal and beans.
9. SOCCER FANS GET CONSOLATION
After being eliminated from the World Cup soccer competition, the national soccer team has consoled Zambians by qualifying for the Africa Cup finals. The team booked it place in the finals to be hosted by Burkina FAso next February after beating Malawi 3-1 in Lusaka.
The local soccer governing body, FAZ, has meanwhile voted out its executive committee and replaced it with one headed by a Lusaka chief executive of a National Tender Board. The change of leadership has elated the government which says it expects the new executive committee to bring honours to Zambia.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 15:51:58 +0200 Subject: Zambia News Online #23 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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