Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Kabompo House And Its Significance In Zambia's History

The Kabompo House -Pictures by Tigana Chileshe
By Paul Shalala in Kabompo
The independence of Zambia can not be complete without highlighting the role former President Kenneth Kaunda played. 
Dr. Kaunda's history is not only confined to his childhood town of Chinsali or Lusaka where he has spent most of his adult life.
Kabompo District in the North Western Province is dear to Zambia's founding President.
A visit to Kabompo is not complete without a visit to the Kabompo House where Dr. Kaunda was incarcerated for four months in 1961. 
In March of that year, Dr Kaunda was arrested at his Chilenje House in Lusaka and he was later transferred to Kabompo were he was held until July 1961.
Katiki Sakufola (left) after the interview
This blogger has travelled to Kabompo to track down people who saw Dr. Kaunda while he was in detention.
In a small village, five kilometers away from Kabompo town, i managed to locate Jonas Sakuwaha, the cook who used to prepare food for the then independence leader.
His story is interesting.                                    
"I lived on the Copperbelt with my uncle who was working in the mines in Kitwe. When i returned to Kabompo in 1961, i spoke a bit of Bemba and the British colonialists hired me because they could not understand local languages in Kabompo. I started cooking food for President Kaunda and he was a jovial man," said Mr Sakuwaha while seated on a stool.
The old man, who lives alone in his grass thatched house, added that the former President used to appreciate his food.
"After eating, he used to tell us many stories. He used to assure us that one day Zambia will be free and all of us will have a better life in future. He promised me a job but to date he has not returned, am still waiting," said Mr Sakuwaha.

Mr Sakuwaha also talked about Dr. Kaunda's choice of foods.

"In the morning, he used to drink tea with lemons. He used to refuse coffee or coffee."
Two kilometers away from Mr Sakuwaha's village is the residence of Katiki Sakufola who was a messenger just before Zambia's independence in 1964.
Jonas Sakuwaha (left), the cook who served Dr Kaunda in Kabompo
He and two other messengers guarded Dr Kaunda in his Kabompo House 24 hours a day because at that time, the colonialists had no Police officers in Kabompo.
"We used to take turns in guarding our future President. He used to read a lot and told us too many stories. Whenever we took him to the Kabompo river to work, he would take cover whenever he hears a plane flying past. He was scared of being bombed," said Mr Sakufola.
Mr. Sakufola said he was present when a huge snake is said to have passed in between Dr. Kaunda’s legs as he rested under a huge tree which still stands today near the Kabompo House.
"On a Sunday in March 1961, we did not take Mr Kaunda to the river. So he spent the day under the tree, reading his books. As he sat there, a huge snake came and it passed between his legs. I then whistled for my fellow messengers to come so we can kill it but it ran away," he said.

The tree under which Dr Kaunda used to seat
The National Heritage and Conservation Commission has taken care of the tree where President Kaunda used to rest from.

A Plaque has been placed there with an inscription explaining its significance. 

The Kabompo House caretaker Jean Chipita says youths of nowadays must be grateful to the forefathers who fought for our freedom.
"This house must inspire the young ones to work hard and cherish the freedom that they currently enjoy. Imagine the sacrifice President Kaunda made when he spent four months here just for the sake of our freedom. That was total sacrifice," said Mrs Chipita.
Kabompo may not feature much in the history books but it also has a mark on the freedom struggle.
Despite there being few visitors to this house on an annual basis, its significance is larger than the size of the structure.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Source of Zambezi River Dries Up Due To Climate Change

This is the point where the Zambezi river starts from and
it is totally dry -Pictures by Paul Shalala
By Paul Shalala in Ikelengi
It has never happened before, at least in living memory of this life……as we know it.
In fact no one remembers such a thing ever happening.
And this has happened at a time when, water levels are supposed to be at their highest on account of the good rains experienced in the past six months.
But this is not so.
This blogger travelled over 500 kilometers from his mining town of Kitwe to the border town of Ikelengi in northern Zambia to verify reports that the source of the Zambia river had dried up.
What the blogger found on site was shocking.
Geologists believe that the Zambezi river starts from the Kalene Hills and it flows underground for some kilometers, only to appear in Mukangala area where the official source is.

A dry patch now meets the eye from the spot where the source is, where the Zambezi river used to ooze from.
In happier times, that was the first sighting of the river as it creeps from the undergrowth to form a rivulet.
And then it disappears and creeps back in visible patches here and there.
This dry patch is also the reason why this place is protected by the Zambian government.
First site of the Zambezi river, 300 meters from the source
It is also the reason why beautiful walk-ways were made for people to easily walk around and see the phenomenal spot.: the source of the Zambezi river
This same spot is also the reason why a nice visitor center was constructed by the Zambia government to provide information for tourists.
So what could have happened here?
Even Willy Chiwaya. the conservation assistant who has been taking care of the Zambezi source for the past 10 years has never seen anything like this before.
"I have been working here for 10 years and this is the first time ever seeing the source drying. We did not just have enough rains this year that is why it is dry," said Mr. Chiwaya.
And the traditionalists also have an explanation.
"The forefathers are annoyed that is why the source is dry. They are annoyed with the white people who have encroached into our land and chased us from the source. We are asking the government to allow us resume the musolu ceremony," said Senior Headman Mukangala, a local Lunda leader who lives less than two kilometers from the source of the Zambezi river.
The source of the Zambezi river is protected by the National Heritage and Conservation Commission.
The Visitor Information Center at the source of the Zambezi
The area, which is 36 hectares, has been declared a national forest in order to preserve the source.
However, this year has been full of surprises.
"The water table has really gone down. We have not had enough rains this year like we have had in the past. But there is still water here, though its 300 meters away from the actual source were we are standing," said Mr Chiwaya.
The Lunda speaking people are the owners of this land -  the source of the Zambezi river.
The Lundas called the river Yambezhi but the white man opted to call it Zambezi.
Actually, the Republic of Zambia derives its name from the Zambezi river.
In the years before the source of the river became a national heritage site, the Lundas considered the area as a shrine.
They used to come to this area to perform rituals.
And then came the white man.
"Where there is a monument, that was some kind of a hospital were the sick were brought for healing. What used to happen is that the ancestors would come here, get few leaves and trees to mix together and give the herbs to the people who were at the camp and they would get healed," revealed Mr Chiwaya.

He further explained about the restrictions which were followed religiously at the shrine.

"There are some restrictions which are currently not being followed thats why this place is no longer a shrine. Only circumcised men where allowed here and women who did not have sex during the day time were also allowed to come." 
Senior Headman Mukangala lives a few kilometers away from the source of the Zambezi.
During the colonial error, he used to be Chief Kabanda but in 1947, he was de-gazette on account of not having enough people in his chiefdom.
Senior Headman Mukangala
The British colonial government claimed his villages were scattered and he would not manage to hold his chiefdom together.
Today Senior Headman Mukangala feels the drying up of the source of the Zambezi river is a curse.
"The decision to stop us from celebrating the Musolu traditional ceremony at the source of the Zambezi is what is causing problems and the drying up of the source. The spirits are annoyed," said the traditional leader in an interview.
Before the whites started visiting this area in the 1920s, the villagers used to perform a ceremony called Musolu.
In this ritual, they prayed asking the gods for good rains.
But now they no longer perform it.
"During the ceremony, we used to start by praying to God for good rains. All Headmen under my leadership would gather at the source of the Zambezi. All people would be happy because they would be talking to God directly," he said.
The Musolu ceremony, like many other cultural activities of this nature, is performed once a year.
Senior Headman Mukangala now recalls how it was done.
Throwing some seeds on the ground, Senior Headman says: "Once we paint our faces with white powder, we would then ask God that whatever we have planted, let it germinate so that next year we can have enough food for your people."
But all is not so dry at the source of the Zambezi.
Three hundred meters away from the actual source, there is some activity.
A local tourist at the Chavuma Falls
A small brook of water coming from an underground fountain, is the first sign that the Zambezi river still runs here.
And it is as they say that big things, sometimes start very small.
These are the humble beginnings of the Zambezi  before it starts its long, winding journey to the Indian ocean.
The Zambezi river grows in size and flows west wards within Ikelengi District before it crosses into Angola.
While in Angola, the Zambezi,  grows in size and stature as more and more rivers and streams pour into it.
And for flowing for 240 kilometers, the Zambezi river gets bigger and bigger before entering Zambia.
A few meters after entering Zambia, the Zambezi passes a place called Lingelengenda in Chavuma District.
Here there are rapids and natural swimming pools popular to young people.
Some boys were spotted by this blogger, swimming at the rapids without the fear of being snatched by crocodiles.
The Zambezi river as it enters Zambia from Angola
From here, the Zambezi flows swiftly and southwards towards Chavuma town and forms another set of rapids which plunge into Chavuma falls.
The Zambezi then continues on its southern journey to the Western Province, down to Mozambique and finally into the Indian Ocean.
All along its 3, 540 kilometer stretch, the Zambezi is a lifeline for millions of people in Southern Africa.
But it is the new developments at the source of the Zambezi that are worrisome.
Does this drying have any effect on this mighty river?
"I must believe that we haven't just had enough rains, because if you can see the status of the road we used when coming here, it is still very good, but usually around this time, there is a lot of trouble getting here due to too much water.  But its still okay because there are no enough rains," said Mr Chiwaya.
Despite this climatic phenomenon, the Zambezi is giver of all things.
The river is a source of transport, food and employment in Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique.
It is also a major source of electricity for these countries due to its many water-falls and dams which produce hydro power for domestic and industrial use.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Newsline program on 19 May 2017 and the video can be watched here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Copperbelt University Students Launch Green Ngwee Campaign

By Paul Shalala

Since 2013 when coins where re-introduced in Zambia, many have had mixed feelings about them.

Some have embraced them while others have not.

For example, all the coins below 50 ngwee are rarely used in transactions.

They are either kept in houses or thrown away by those who deem them to be of no value.

This is why some students at the Copperbelt University (CBU) in Kitwe have launched a campaign to raise money through the collection of these coins.

"We can use a container like this one. You open it in one area and keep dropping in coins, by the end of five years, i will accumulate a fortune which will spill over to my family," said Kasulubusa Mashonga, one of the co-founders of the Green Ngwee campaign.

The campaign is expected to encourage students to collect coins and raise funds for various purposes.

The collection of coins is also being done to conserve the environment.

"Eventually, this campaign should contribute to the Gross Domestic Product.

Economists argue that keeping coins as is the case with the Green Ngwee campaign can help students raise money for their day to day needs.

CBU Economics Lecturer Edna Litana, who also spoke during the launch of the Green Ngwee campaign held at the American Corner last week, feels the  will also help students reduce their dependency on guardians.

"By saving money, students can strengthen family relations. How can they do that? They can one day go to their parents and tell them they have saved enough to sustain them for a term or two," said Mrs Litana.

This is not the first time students at the Copperbelt University are collecting coins for a noble cause.

A few years ago, they launched a similar campaign and raised funds which they used to build a house for the vulnerable in society.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Newsline program on 5 May, 2017. You can watch the video here.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Zimbabwe's “Electronic Votes:" Setting The Facts Straight

The gadget used for electronic voting
By Ray Mwareya

There have been a number of publications in the Zimbabwe media, quoting comments from various ‘experts’, and citing developments elsewhere, using these to cast aspersions on the use of biometrics in the upcoming 2018 Zimbabwe elections. 

Examples of these publications are “Red Flag over Biometric Registration” (The Herald, 11 March 20017), “France’s Cancellation of e-voting: Eye-opener for Zim” (The Herald 9 March 2017), “BVR, A Luxury We Cannot Afford” (The Herald, 13 March 2017 – Editorial Comment) and most recently “More Thumbs Down for Biometric Voting” (The Herald, 15 March 2017). 

This effort has been systematic and sustained, culminating into a Newsday publication (16 March 2017) screaming “2018 Polls Hang in Balance”. 

All this comes after the tender process has commenced and a shortlist of companies compiled – maybe just a coincidence. 

This however is the political side of the process which the author will leave to political analysts.  

What these publications revealed was a clear lack of understanding of the Biometric Voter Registration process. 

This lack of understanding and “mis-information” is being used to discredit the process culminating in the set-up of an agenda giving cues to the abandonment of the biometrics project. 

This article is intended to correct some of this misinformation and misinterpretation of developments elsewhere. 

It also aims to clarify the proposed Biometric Voter Registration and Verification process (BVR) which Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is proposing, and has been successfully used in other countries.  

The common theme in these publications has been the misconception that ZEC is going to implement ‘biometric voting or electronic voting’.  

This then set the basis for the claim that the system would be susceptible to ‘cyber-attacks’ and ‘hacking’  which would derail the voting process and dis-enfranchise voters, citing France’s abandonment of electronic voting as an example. 

ZEC is not proposing to implement ‘biometric or electronic voting’; it is proposing a model of BVR which is very different from electronic voting (even though it can be used as a launch pad for electronic voting). 

Additionally, the process being proposed is not more vulnerable to cyber-attacks or hacking than any other electronic voter’s register or database. 

This will be further explained in this article.

The call for the employment of technology in Zimbabwe for both voter registration and facilitation of the electoral process is not new. 

The issue has been raised in parliament several times.

The intention to introduce biometrics in Zimbabwe for the 2018 elections has enhanced ZEC’s credibility, and should be applauded as a step in the right direction. 

Zimbabwe is not re-inventing the wheel, but is following in the footsteps of other countries including Ghana, Benin, Tanzania, Togo, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, DRC and Nigeria among others, which have successfully pioneered this technology.

Before, dealing with the issues that are being raised in the recent publications, a brief explanation of biometrics is given here. 

Biometrics refers to human physical and behavioral characteristics such as fingerprints, the iris, signature, face etc. 

These can be used to uniquely identify an individual.  

This concept is definitely not new! Zimbabwe has been collecting people’s biometrics for decades; everyone has to have a picture taken and fingerprints captured to obtain a national identity (ID) or passport.  

This background and reference is important because BVR is just similar to this process.  

In BVR, a voter’s details (name date of birth, address etc) are digitally captured and stored alongside their biometric features (face and fingerprints) on a computer– that’s it. Nothing more nothing less! 

The advantage of this system is that these biometric features can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a computerized way and additionally, there is inbuilt software to identify and eliminate duplicate voters/registrants; leading to a clean voters roll.

The deployment of personnel for the purpose of collecting BVR information is not different to that done in order to register people in the “old way”.  

Personnel will be trained and equipped with mobile voter registration kits. 

These are portable devices designed to create electoral rolls; equipment that is reusable, extensible and resistant to adverse conditions. 

These devices are self-contained, autonomous units supported by long-life batteries and can be used in remote areas for registration, even within homesteads. 

In the end, what is compiled is a normal database or electoral register which includes biometrics information.

The second part of the process is voter verification or authentication which happens on voting day. 

This is whereby a person appears on voting day, presents an ID or provides a name. 

The person’s biometrics face and/or fingerprints are then captured and compared to those in the computer database (biometric voters’ register). 

Again mobile biometric kits/stations are available to achieve this, enabling penetration of remote areas.  

If there is a match, the person is verified, gets a ballot paper and continues to vote (manually) in the normal way

The person’s details are then digitally marked as having voted and cannot be used for repeat voting (no need for ink). 

This is NOT electronic or biometric voting, but manual voting as we are used to!  

The other dominant theme of the publications attacking the BVR process was the ‘susceptibility to hacking and cyber-attacks’. 

A biometric voter register, as mentioned before, is no different from any electoral register (as prescribed by the Electoral Act) or any other database. 

Therefore it’s susceptibility to hacking and cyber-attacks should just be at the same level; but this is not even the case as these biometric databases are more robust and designed to protect the sensitive personal information they contain. 

The issue of data privacy features dominantly in the development of biometric processes. 

Consequently, the BVR process has inbuilt protection included in the software packages (for example, template protection) which makes it more robust than the current electronic register which has been used in the previous elections. 

It is difficult to hack, and even if the data is somehow stolen it would be in an unusable format for the perpetrator. 

It is accepted that the outcry might have been based on the misconception that “electronic voting” and automatic tallying of votes would be carried out; an assumption which is very wrong.

Another debate and negative concept being cast about the BVR process is its perceived cost, but before delving into the intricacies of financial cost, it is important to look at why Zimbabwe has embarked on this path. 

It is not by accident that ZEC has embarked on the Biometrics project. 

The history of disputed elections and unclean/suspicious voter registers is a known political burden to Zimbabwe. 

This has damaged the credibility of Zimbabwe elections leading to violence, leading to loss of lives, people being displaced and some fleeing the country. 

The cost in terms of human lives and the country’s economy has been monumental and cannot be quantified. 

It is clear that the current scenario cannot be sustained, and an improvement/change in the electoral process is crucial. 

Reverting to the use of national IDs or licences will create the same cycle of rigging accusations and discrediting of the electoral process – a vicious circle which needs to be avoided.

In 2012, ZEC said they would need about US$20 million to spruce up the widely-condemned roll after which constituency boundaries would be drawn up for general elections(The Herald 21/12/12). 

It is on record that a proposal for biometrics registration was made at that time, detailing that the exercise could be carried out within 3 months, costing USD20 Million; the same figure that ZEC had said it needed to clean up the voters’ roll!

The current proposal for BVR is based on a budget of US$29 million; to produce a NEW clean and credible voters’ roll – surely not an expensive exercise especially if put into context of what it will achieve. 

The cost of acquiring the equipment needed is no more than US$15 million. 

Therefore the “unaffordability” claim is unfounded. 

Furthermore UNDP had offered to fund the BVR procurement process through their structures to ensure transparency, a proposal which has now been rejected for ‘sovereignty’ reasons. 

However the government has now made US$17 million available to fund the process. 

In addition, this process is sustainable, and will be much cheaper in the next elections (no/low procurement cost) in addition to the bonus of sustainable dispute free elections.

Having said all that, BVR in itself does not guarantee successful, fair or credible elections. 

The author does not propose the use of biometrics as a “silver bullet” capable overcoming all obstacles Zimbabwe faces in ensuring a level playing field in which all eligible voices have their say in the political future of the country.  

Its effectiveness can only be recognised if applied in tandem with the political-will and sincerity of authorities in charge, who are tasked with guaranteeing fairness and ensuring inclusion of all citizens.  

Biometric technology cannot solve problems rooted in issues such as mistrust among stakeholders or lack of political freedoms. Elections, at the end of the day, are a political process.

In spite of all the challenges, the introduction of biometrics in the compilation of voter registers should improve the accuracy of the voter registers and provide the foundation for clean and violence free elections. 

Ghana has used biometric registration and verification in three consecutive elections (the latest occasion being in 2016) proving that the process can be reliable and sustainable.  

It is therefore urged that ZEC and all stakeholders embrace biometrics technology to ensure integrity, inclusiveness, accuracy, transparency and accessibility in the coming elections. 

The media should act responsibly and report facts accurately, and ZEC should take a pro-active role in explaining the BVR process and educating the public.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Zambia Starts Decentralising Mental Health Services

The Ndola Psychiatry Hospital under construction
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

Zambia has started decentralising psychiatry services in a bid to offer mental health services to a segment of the society which suffers stigma and discrimination.

At present, the country only has one psychiatry hospital in Lusaka: Chainama Hills Hospital.

With the increase in population and the increase in the number of people with mental problems, the need for these health services keeps growing.

This is why the Zambian government has decided to build mental hospitals in all the 10 provinces of the country.

Dr. Chitalu Chilufya (middle) touring the hospital recently
The first of such hospitals is being built in Ndola on the Copperbelt.

The structure, which is being built at the cost of K14 million is almost complete, only roofing, painting and plumbing are remaining.

The Ndola Psychiatry Hospital will have a bed capacity of 154.

The health facility is expected to open its doors to the public in July this year.

“This Psychiatry hospital will offer arrange of health services from mental health to offering refuge for drug addicts, alcoholics and rehabilitation for youths. Government wants to bring mental health services closer to people,” said Zambia’s Health Minister Dr. Chitalu Chilufya when he recently toured the construction site.

And Copperbelt Province Senior Works Supervisor Steven Makunku, who is supervising the whole project, says the facility will have several rooms for various purposes.

Dominic Chatewa 
“This hospital will have consultation rooms, a laundry room and facilities for rehabilitation. The good part I that the contractor Jearmy Enterprises is on schedule and will hand over the facility in July,” said Mr Makunku.  

The Ministry of Health has already deployed over 20 health workers to man the facility once its completed.

The team is led by Dr. Venevivi Banda, a Psychiatry specialist.

In Zambia, having a mental condition is so embarrassing that some family members are abandoned for fear of being ashamed.

This has led to many mental patients rooming the streets due to stigma.

For those who take care of them, mental patients are tied to trees or locked up in the houses to ensure they do not roam around.

But to those who are taken to the Chainama Hills Hospital for psychiatry treatment, the tag of ‘madness’ usually hangs on them.

This is why this move to decentralise mental health services across the country is being welcomed by mental health activists.

“As President of the Mental Health Advocacy and Support Initiative (MHASI), I am very delighted to learn of the development of mental healthcare facilities in Ndola. This current government has done exceptionally well in the area of promoting mental healthcare,” said Dominic Chatewa, a Lusaka-based mental health advocate.

Mr Chatewa, who himself was once treated at Chainama Hills Hospital, however says building psychiatry hospitals is not enough without a legal framework.

“As MHASI, we are still calling on the legislature to expedite the enactment of the 2021 Mental Health Bill which would replace the current archaic 1951 bill. The bill will set in motion a number of policy issues that will be of benefit to society,” he added.

The issue of mental health in Zambia is so sensitive that MHASI is among a handful of non-governmental organisations who openly advocate for the well being of mental patients.

People would not want to be associated with mental patients for fear of being labelled as a mental patients themselves.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Lack Of Libraries In Schools And How The Book Bus Is Helping

The Book Bus parked at Manyando community School in Kitwe
By Paul Shalala

It is a bus like any other, but this one is a special one.

It is a moving library.

It visits schools, providing books to schools were libraries don’t exist.

The Book Bus is an international non-governmental organisation which is providing this service in Malawi, Ecuador and Zambia.

In Zambia, The Book Bus drives to schools in Livingstone, Malambo and Kitwe where libraries do not exist.


And in Kitwe, Saint Anthony Community School was established in 1998 and this is the infrastructure where pupils have been learning from in the past 19 years.

When The Book Bus drives to the school, pupils at Saint Anthony Community School do not mind sitting on the ground to read the books.

All they want is to have a book which can help them learn.

Some times, children who are not enrolled at the school join in when they see the bus because they know that reading and learning is free of charge.
Pupils seated on the ground while reading books
at Saint Anthony Community School

"They teach us many things: how to read and write, we read different books which we don't have at our school," said Susan Mulowa, a Grade five pupil at Saint Anthony Community School.

According to management at this school, literacy levels have improved since the time The Book Bus started proving its mobile services here two years ago.


"This program is a good move. We have seen our learners improve in reading. There are some sounding letters, words and are able to read fluently. So we appreciate so much. If we compare last year and this year, there is change," said Saint Anthony Community School Headteacher Sydney Mankompa.

And in Bulangililo area within Kitwe, Manyando Community School is another beneficiary.

Here, the infrastructure is okay and pupils all learn while seated on desks.

The refurbished Children's Section at the
Kitwe City Library
And they have various stories to tell about this version of school work.

"I enjoy reading because it is very inspirational and The Book Bus helps me read every day," said Michelle Zulu, a pupil at Manyando Community School who dreams of becoming a journalist in future.

The lack of a library at Manyando Community School has been a challenge for management who have been making efforts to teach pupils without books.

Mwape Meki, the Headteacher at Manyando Community School had this to say: "In terms of literacy levels, we are a bit struggling like most schools but with the help of partners like The Book Bus, we are trying to get ourselves out of that." 


Michelle Zulu, a pupil at Manyando Community School
reading a book
Across the country, over two thousand pupils are receiving the services being offered by this mobile library for free.

The volunteers who work for The Book Bus combine reading and artistic lessons to help the pupils learn.

"We are trying to fill up the gap by providing this mobile library service because we get to drive to places where libraries are non existent. When we get into the bush like in Mfuwe which is 60 kilometers outside, we provide this service freely in areas where these kids don't have it," said The Book Bus Project Director Monica Mulenga.

At the Kitwe City Library, The Book Bus has refurbished the children section and stocked it with books.

However, very few pupils visit this section.

Most of the times, this section of the library remains underutilized despite being rich in books.