Thursday, 30 April 2015

Over A Thousand Mufulira Residents Living In Fear Of Demolition

By Paul Shalala in Mufulira
One of the demolished houses

Over one thousand residents of New Kalukanya area of Mufulira District are leaving in fear following threats by the Mufulira Municipal Council to demolish their houses.

The residents built their houses in an illegal settlement, which the Council has described as an encroachment.

One of the residents who lost her houses in a recent demolition exercise Emeldah Mulenga tearfully complained to ZNBC News that her house which she built from retirement benefits was demolished without notice.

"I constructed a slab for my house using retirement benefits my late husband left me with. Now the council has demolished it. I have even suffered a stroke which has left me with a painful eye," cried Mrs Mulenga who spoke in Bemba.

In November 2014, the Council demolished houses which were constructed illegally. 

But residents are up in arms with the local authority for allowing them to pay fees for land which has now been deemed illegal.

"We are suffering here. We need the President Edgar Chagwa Lungu to intervene in our plight. Why should we suffer in our own land?" said Elizabeth Chungu, who also lost a house.

The land issue in New Kalukanya has taken a new twist as the local authority is now re-demarcating and selling the plots to new owners.

Chairperson of the displaced residents Henry Chanda says the action by the council is suspicious.

"Why are they shifting beacons? Why are they selling our plots to people we dont know? This is a syndicate. We will not accept this," said Mr Chanda.

But Mufulira Municipal Council Assistant Public Relations Manager Melvin Mukela says the local authority is doing everything possible to legalise the area but residents have not been cooperative.

"We have called for several meetings but the residents don't show up. We have now asked them to pay K12,500 as penalty fee so that we can give them plot numbers and start processing their title deeds as a way of legalising the settlement," said Mr Mukela.

On Tuesday, the residents effected citizens arrest on two buildings inspectors from the Council who were found analysing plots in New Kalukanya and they were handed over to the Police.
New Kalukanya area has been contentious and it started growing in 2008 when some people who masqueraded as land owners sold plots in the area to unsuspecting Mufulira residents.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Shortage Of Doctors In Zambia Now Hits 3,000

By Paul Shalala in Ndola
Patients queing at Kanyama Clinic in Lusaka

Long queues at clinics and hospitals are a normal occurrence in Zambia, a country that is plagued by various diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cholera and malaria.

The lack of enough man power at health facilities is part of the problem that has led to patients queuing at health facilities for long hours.

In rural areas, the situation is even worse as patients walk several kilometers from their villages to the clinic and spend more hours waiting to be attended to.

Some critically ill patients die on their way to the hospitals due to lack of proper roads and ambulances in rural areas.

And in some health facilities, there are no trained medical personnel to attend to patients.

In some areas, cleaners and office orderlies who are not trained in medicine, attend to patients and give out prescriptions.

Currently, Zambia has 1,500 doctors and has a shortage of 3,000 more.
At the University Teaching Hospital, Zambia’s largest health referral center in Lusaka, doctors are overwhelmed with work.

Some give out appointments to patients six months or a year away.

This situation has led to patients dying as they wait for their appointments.
And some doctors have also started running their own private clinics to cash in on the shortage of doctors.

According to some patients, doctors give them long appointments or encourage them to visit their private clinics where there are no queues and they can be attended to the same day.

According to the World Health Organisation, the normal doctor-patient ratio is 1 doctor per 5,000 patients but Zambia has one of the most abnormal doctor-patient ratio which now stands at 1 doctor per 12,000 patients.

At present, Zambia only has two government run institutions that train doctors plus a few private ones and their output is not enough to reduce the deficit in the coming years.

The University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University produce about 200 doctors per year and at the rate at which these medical personnel seek greener pastures abroad, the number of doctors in Zambia may not reach the required level.

To try and mitigate this problem, the Zambian government and the Jewish Council of Zambia have partnered to construct a school of medicine in the northern city of Ndola which is projected to produce doctors on an annual basis.

The School will be under the Kitwe-based Copperbelt University whose current School of Medicine is squatting at the Ndola Central Hospital were there is inadequate space for students.

The US$5 million project has already progressed and is scheduled to be completed in June 2015.

Sogecoa Zambia Limited, the Chinese construction company which is constructing the school, is scheduled to complete phase one of the project in June and hand it over to government.

Professor Kasonde Bowa
Dean of the School of Medicine at the Copperbelt University Professor Kasonde Bowa says it can take Zambia over 15 years to produce the 3,000 needed doctors if nothing is done to improve the training of doctors.

“Currently, the University of Zambia and Copperbelt University will take over a decade to offset the deficit. But with the new school of university under construction, it will only take less than 7 years to normalize the doctor-patient ratio,” said Professor Bowa.

According to the plans by the Copperbelt University, the School of Medicine will be producing 250 doctors and 50 dentists on an annual basis.

This effort, though a bit insignificant, will help beef up the numbers for medical personnel in Zambia to reduce the long queues patients have become used to when they are seeking medical attention.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Zambia Launches MDGI To Reduce Maternal, Child Mortality

By Paul Shalala in Masaiti
Emmerine Kabanshi

Community Development Minister Emmerine Kabanshi has launched the K400 million Millennium Development Goals Initiative (MDGI) which is aimed at reducing the deaths of women and children in two provinces.

The four year initiative which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Zambian government and UNICEF, will be implemented in eleven districts of Lusaka and Copperbelt Province.

At the launch of the project in Masaiti District on Wednesday last week, Ms Kabanshi said the reduced child and mortality rates as revealed by the Zambia Demographic Health Survey are still unacceptably high hence the launch of the MDGI.

She said the initiative will help improve health and nutrition among children and women.

As part of the project, UNICEF representative Laston  Chitembo handed over a wheelchair, labour ward utensils and other medical kits worth over K700,000 to Kashitu Health Center in Masaiti District.

During the four year project, the cooperating partners will donate land cruisers, motorcycle ambulances, surgical kits, wheelchairs, stretchers and operating theatre tables to various health facilities.

This equipment will help in increasing access to health by women and children and reduce deaths.

According to the preliminary report of the 2014 Zambia Demographic Health Survey, Zambia recorded a reduction in the maternal mortality rate from 591 to 398 deaths out of 100,000 live births from 2007 to 2013.

However, stakeholders are still worried that the figures are still high for a developing country which is losing a lot of mothers and children during delivery.

Long distances to health centers and lack of medical personnel and ambulances has added to the many challenges needed to reduce the maternal mortality rates in Zambia.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

How ICTs Help Promote Transparency During Elections In Zambia

TIZ's PVT results for presidential elections
By Paul Shalala in Masaiti

In a democracy like Zambia's, transparency is a critical component to good governance.

In the political arena, campaigns and elections are supposed to be held in the most transparent manner if democracy is to be deemed mature.

But stories of vote buying, rigging, voter intimidation and several other electoral malpractices are common in most African countries.

In Zambia, most times when opposition political parties lose elections (including by-elections), stories of vote rigging are common.

But new technologies may soon prove to be a solution to the issue of transparency and good governance in Africa.

Since 2011, all elections in Zambia have come under scrutiny by the citizens through the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICTs).

With the latest figures showing that there are about 9 million Zambians who have registered their sim cards with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), the use of these phones to get election updates has increased over the years.

According to ZICTA, 3 million of the 9 million phone owners have access to the internet and most Zambians use them for Facebook and Twitter.

PF's PVT results for Chawama
Through such ICT platforms like the Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT) which the then opposition Patriotic Front (PF) used to monitor and ascertain the results of the 2011 General Elections, the use of ICTs has become an indispensable tool in elections in Zambia.

On September 11, 2014 the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) piloted the electronic transmission of results for the Kasenengwa parliamentary by-election in the Eastern province.

Using mobile phones and computers to collect and transmit results, the ECZ was able to announce final results within 12  hours of the last ballot having been cast.

This use of ICTs to collect election results made the declaration of the winner faster as opposed to the manual system were the ECZ relied on the Zambia Airforce to transport ballot boxes from remote areas to the collation center on Chipata which would have taken more time.

During the 20 January, 2015 presidential election, the civil society also used ICTs to monitor and update the nation on the election results.

For example, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) gathered election results per constituency and posted results on its Facebook page from time to time as seen in the screen shot above.

Millions of Zambia who are on Facebook, stayed glued online to get updates from TIZ, political parties, individuals and other civil society organisations who were posting results from their PVT centers.

And last week during the parliamentary by-elections in Chawama, Masaiti and Senga Hill, various political parties used mobile phones to gather election results from their dozens of polling agents who were spread across the polling stations in the three constituencies.

As can be seen in the screen shots from PF's Miles Sampa (above) and UPND's Honourable Cheche Kalala (right),  political parties compiled their respective election results before the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced its official results.

Cheche Kalala of UPND posting PVT results
These were authentic election results pasted outside polling stations after being officially announced by electoral officers at each polling station and sent back to each political party's PVT center in Lusaka by polling agents through Short Message Service (SMS).

Using this PVT system has proved to be so effective and political parties in Zambia even know before the ECZ announces its results as to who has won elections and with how many votes.

These ICT tools have also helped increase the confidence citizens have in the management of elections in the country.

With the citizens participating in verifying these election results using mobile phones and the internet, cases of rigging are now being done away with as voters can now compare results announced at each polling station and the official figures announced by ECZ at the collation centers.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Suffering Of 6,000 Ex-Armcor Workers Who Are Still Unpaid

By Paul Shalala in Chingola
Armcor Guards

Unemployment in the mining town of Chingola is an everyday issue which some residents grapple with.

For some months now, 1, 000 Chingola-based former Armcor Security Company workers have been roaming the streets looking for jobs.

These workers are among six thousand from across the country who lost their jobs after Armcor was liquidated.

"We are now being laughed at. Our children have been sent away from school because we have failed to pay school fees," said Mischeck Chinyemba, a former Armcor worker.

Annie Lumuni is a former Supervisor at Armcor who also lost her job last year after serving the company for eight years.

She lives in Chingola’s mine area and has decided not to just sit and wait for her terminal benefits.

"I make crackers and sale to the public to earn a living. Life is hard here. Just this month we have lost two former workers. They have left their money," she said.
Following Armcor Security’s liquidation in 2014, Konkola Copper Mines which had contracted it to provide security at the mines, delivered cheques K1.1 billion kwacha to the Chingola District Commissioner’s office for the retrenched workers’ benefits.

But Acting Chingola District Commissioner Phillip Kalima declined to comment on the matter referring all queries to the liquidators.
And when reached for a comment, Armcor Security Company liquidator Felix Chisambo said the  cheques where in his possession.

Mr Chisambo said he was assessing each of the 6,000 former worker’s benefits before he can issue out individual letters and payments.