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August 05 2013

What Is Behind Lusaka Township Names

In commemorating Zambia's capital city’s centenary this year, Gershom discusses the origins of Lusaka township names:

Obviously, a number of other writers have written about some of the names of some of the townships and residential areas such as John Laing, John Howard, Kuku and others having been farms belonging to those people and Kuku having been a cooks’ quarters. I will not talk about these names.

July 22 2013

Zambia: What Comes After Universal Primary Education?

Village school class in Zambia. Photo by Jurvetson on Flickr (CC

Village school class in Zambia. Photo by Jurvetson on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Looking at African literacy rate rankings shared by The African Economist last month, 37 of Africa's 52 countries now score above 50 percent, while 17 countries now score above 70 percent.

For a continent that is ranked the poorest to have such relatively high scores, there is hope that education and literacy levels could keep soaring with sustained efforts after the 2015 deadline passes for achieving eight UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), including universal primary education.

Certainly Zambia, which ranks 17th in Africa with just over 80 percent literacy levels, could climb the ladder if the current efforts of government, non-governmental organisations and individuals to improve education bear fruit.

Despite educational advances and an increase in the number of universities in Zambia, the lower education ladder is still problematic with many pupils failing to move up in the educational system.

School, and then what?

An OECD paper outlining recommendations on education for a post-2105 development framework suggests that educational targets and measurements are important once more universal access to primary and secondary schools has been achieved. The OECD notes that despite gains in school enrollment and attendance around the world since the MDGs were launched in 2000, many young people still leave school without the knowledge and skills they need to find jobs and thrive.

In Zambia last year, around 60,000 pupils failed grade seven out of 337,706 who sat for the exams.
Commenting on a story about grade seven results in the Lusaka Times, a reader, Chongo B.C, wrote:

The grade seven results for 2012 have been very impressive as compared to the past years. This has been a tremendous improvement. However,the Government through the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Childhood should make sure that it provides adequate classrooms for these pupils to learn effectively. Above all, it should reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in classrooms in order to provide conducive learning environment. This will ensure quality education and productive citizens who will be useful in the society.

Another reader, Xhoisan X questioned one of the most touted policies by successive governments:

Please educate me. I was made to understand that Zambia now has compulsory education up to secondary school. So what are these results [the education minister] is announcing?

While the primary school progression rate may look bad, it is the sieve at grade nine that sends the most pupils into the wilderness. According to the Times of Zambia, only 100,824 candidates passed out of the 291,018 who sat for the examinations in 2012.

There are a number of factors that affects pupil progression to higher education but the biggest problem appears to be lack of classroom space at the lower levels with a teacher/pupil ratio in Zambia of 1 to 63 for 2011 according to the World Bank.

The government has embarked on building more classroom space at primary, secondary and tertiary levels to absorb as many pupils and students as possible. Opening a school in rural Zambia last year, President Michael Sata said:

Our aspiration is to put together a well-organized, valuable and reliable public education system through substantial investments in educational infrastructure. As Government we have an obligation to structure and shape the future of our general populace, particularly the younger citizens, who constitute a greater part of our population.

President Sata also laid out his government’s plans to build the universities in an inaugural speech to parliament in 2011, and he has so far commissioned the construction of Palabana University, formerly a dairy training institute, Chalimbana University, formerly a teacher in-service training school, and Robert Makasa Univesity, formerly Lubwa Mission. These new universities will exist in addition to three existing public universities, University of Zambia, Copperbelt University and Mulungushi University.

Although the government is making an effort, there are many challenges that make gaining access to education impossible for many people, among them the severe poverty that afflicts many households.

Looking to the future

As the OECD notes, while the importance of universal access to primary education would be retained, a post 2015 education-related goal is likely to incorporate the secondary education level and include a stronger focus on learning. The OECD itself supports a Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) where countries can measure results in comparison with one another.

While its not clear what the Zambian government would do to meet such standards, at least infrastructurally a start has been made. The construction of primary and secondary schools would ideally match the level at which public universities are being created, coupled with the training and recruitment of more teachers.

At the individual level, realising the predicament of children from poverty-stricken homes, a Zambian living in the United States, Isabella Mukanda Shamambo, has established an education centre called Beyond Universal Primary Education for All going by the acronym, BUPE (meaning “gift” in some Zambian languages). Introducing the project on the Community Prayer Centers website, she writes:

The near success of one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals has left a generation of kids with 7th grade education roaming the streets of many major cities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, the need has arisen for a universal Secondary education which most cannot afford. Kids roam the street of Ndola [city in Zambia] selling plastic bag in the hope of going back to 8th grade. Others wander the streets, hope of a better future completely lost.

The most progressive policy the Zambian government announced in 2012 were plans to upgrade 1,570 so-called community schools which are run mostly by NGOs to cater for vulnerable groups from poorer areas of urban and peri-urban areas. This is likely to help contribute to the attainment of MDGs and beyond.

Optimistically speaking, with the achievement of universal primary education around the corner, in Zambia in particular and Africa in general, we should prepare to take a confident leap beyond the 2015 Millennium Development Goals to focus on improving the curriculum and promote higher levels of learning.

This post is part of a series by Global Voices bloggers for the OECD engaging with post-2015 ideas for development worldwide. The OECD is not responsible for the content in these posts.

See the Wikiprogress post-2015 portal for more on this topic.

July 18 2013

Another Journalist Arrested in Zambia

Wilson Pondamali, the third journalist to be arrested in government agents' pursuit of people suspected to be linked to the Zambian Watchdog.

Wilson Pondamali. Image from Zambia Reports.

Zambian journalist Wilson Pondamali was arrested on July 17 and accused of possessing “restricted information.” According to AFP, police searched Pondamali's home and found documents suggesting that Zambian President Michael Sata is “not fit to govern.” Police also claim to have found evidence linking Pondamali to popular citizen news website the Zambian Watchdog.

Pondamali is the third journalist to be detained by police after media scholar Clayson Hamasaka and Thomas Zgambo, a former Zambia Daily Mail reporter, were picked up last week. Zgambo has since been charged with sedition. Hamasaka has not been formally charged, but is required to report to the police on a regular basis.

On the day of Pondamali's arrest, access to the Zambian Watchdog appeared to be severely restricted for users worldwide. The Watchdog reported that the website was being blocked on all mobile networks in Zambia. The site has undergone a series of technical challenges and indirect threats from government officials in recent months.

Readers outside Zambia could not access the websites on various browsers. One reader, Ku Masangalatoni commented:

Safari cannot open the page because too many redirects occurred!

The Zambian Watchdog reported:

 […] [T]he Zambian government on Tuesday blocked the Zambian Watchdog on all [national ISP] networks including MTN that had earlier rejected the suppression of the most popular news website in Zambia.

Earlier this month, users reported that the site appeared to be blocked on all but one of the nation's ISPs, MTN. The Watchdog responded by moving to a new domain. The site has since moved yet again, to http://zwd.cums.in. Site administrators encouraged readers to visit the site at its new domain, or at its Facebook page.

A sympathizer calling himself blacknigga advised:

[…] My advice to ZWD is to stop migrating the site every time red brick [the Intelligence Service, named after the color of the bricks of its headquarters] has a squeeze on you. It is going to be costly that way and that is exactly what the red brick want you to do. You will lose your readers.

I am in Zambia and I can still access the ZWD behind a proxy server. The technology that red brick is using, deep packet inspection, dpi, to block not only ZWD but the other online publications has its own limitations.

It is time that ZWD capitalised on these limitations of dpis and exploit them to your advantage. My advice is for ZWD to invest in educating its readership on how to use free proxy servers. How many of these free online proxy servers is red brick going to close? There are numerous out there.

[...]

Don’t sweat and run. Where there is a will, a way will always be found. Free Online Access will prevail.

Indeed, moving to a new domain each time the site is blocked could lead to a never ending cat-and-mouse game. Yesterday, the site published an article, “How to access Watchdog in Zambia using proxies,” promoting proxy servers and anonymous browsing tools such as the Tor Project. The site has also recommended that readers copy and send Watchdog articles to friends via email. Reporters Without Borders responded to the situation by creating a mirror site for the Watchdog.

On Brutal Journal, blogger Nyalubinge Ngwende wrote about government’s tampering with the Zambian Watchdog:

The online publication has been stoic even to a point of calling President Sata an ailing dictator—a deliberate choice of the words to provoke the Zambian leader who has chosen to become a recluse, hardly seen and heard in public on many issues affecting the nation and showing high levels of intolerance to the opposition.

It is for the first time since Zambia returned to multiparty politics 22 years ago that a publication has faced incessant government attack to the point of complete closure and random detention of all journalists suspected to be associated with it.

Indeed, Michael Sata has sought to “regulate” online news sites from his first days in office in 2011 when he ordered newly appointed Attorney General Mumba Malila to draft a law that would do so. From this, to the Watchdog's persisting problems, to the arrests of Pondamali, Hamasaka, and Zgambo, it appears that the Zambian government is growing increasingly intolerant of independent, critical media in the country.

July 16 2013

@InsakaChat: A Twitter-Based Platform For Zambians to Discuss Social Issues

U.S.-based Zambian writer and blogger Bwalya Chileya has created a Twitter-based space for Zambians at home and abroad to discuss social issues and learn from each other.

Global Voices Online recently caught up with Chileya about how the platform is giving Zambians “a safe place to speak their truths”.

Global Voices Online (GV): Will you briefly tell us about yourself?

Bwalya Chileya (BC): My name is Bwalya Chileya, otherwise known as @MissBwalya on Twitter and my blog, Miss Bwalya Writes. I’m a Zambian writer and blogger currently based in the U.S. Professionally, I’m a project manager with a background in Economics. I was raised in Lilongwe, Malawi and Lusaka, Zambia.

GV: What exactly is InsakaChat? What does the word Insaka mean?

BC: InsakaChat is Twitter based platform for people to discuss social issues. It’s a space for people to speak up on issues, share ideas and ultimately learn from others. The idea was borne out of a need to engage with fellow Zambians on Twitter on topics that aren’t solely focused on politics and politicians.

MissBwalya

Zambian writer and blogger MissBwalya

I firmly believe that we are more similar than we are different and when we come together to discuss or even problem solve issues that affect many of us, we’re better for it.

Insaka takes place every Sunday at 6 p.m. Central African Time. While many of the topics are targeted at a Zambian audience we welcome contributions from anyone with interest in the topic at hand.

The word Insaka comes from the Bemba language (spoken in Northern Zambia) and means “a place to gather.” It’s derived from the verb isa “come.”

GV: Who is involved in this initiative?

BC: I’m the primary lead on this platform. I also have support from veteran Zambian journalist Laura Miti (@LauraMiti) who has served as moderator when needed.

GV: How do you run Insaka? Who suggests topics for discussion?

BC: I typically announce the topic for discussion on Tuesday or Wednesday, and spend time between then and Sunday advertising and reminding regular contributors to brainstorm and come prepared.

On the day of, Sunday, I spend much of the time during the 1.5-2 hours moderating the discussion. This is done by asking questions and following up on different threads, and helping steer the conversation based on what points are being raised. I follow this up by compiling a sampling of the tweets into Storify. Storify is handy because it helps people who missed the discussion to catch up, and also serves to educate people on what exactly we do on Insaka.

Topics are typically crowd sourced from folks on Twitter; these have been sent via email, WhatsApp, and direct message. I have these compiled into a list along with some of my ideas.

GV: How many topics have you discussed so far?

BC: As of July 14, we have had ten Insaka discussions.

GV: Do you use any other tools apart from Twitter for this initiative?

BC: Twitter is the primary tool we are using for the actual discussions, and Storify to compile tweets thereafter to share with friends.

GV: What has been the most popular topic so far?

BC: Our post popular topic so far has been the two-part series we did on changes in traditional Zambian marriage processes. We discussed the practice of lobola [dowry], and other ceremonies that lead up to marriage including icilanga mulilo (when the groom is formally welcomed to the bride’s family by introduction to foods typically prepared in the bride’s family), kitchen parties (a take on the western-style bridal shower) and weddings. Much has evolved over time in these various practices and it was interesting to see what people thought about the changes and the value they still have today.

GV: Are most participants living in Zambia or in the Diaspora?

BC: At this time it’s a pretty even split – 50/50. This is good because the intent is to engage Zambians both at home and abroad in the various topics because we have much to learn and share among us.

GV: What do you intend to accomplish with this initiative?

BC: What I hope to accomplish with Insaka is giving people a safe place to speak their truths. Some of the topics we have discussed are quite contentious such as the treatment of domestic workers in our culture. These are topics we often talk about among friends and in our homes but not always in the open. By bringing these to the fore I believe we challenge ourselves and others to think and act differently. And ultimately people have a voice. We don’t always have to agree on issues but at least having honest discussions is a start.

One point I always try to emphasis, is “what are the next steps?” What can we do with the resolutions we reach to take our words to actions? There is definite interest from my generation of Zambians to be more than talkers and be part of the needed changes in our society, and I see Insaka as being just one vehicle for us to share ideas, collaborate and start projects offline.

GV: Any future plans?

BC: I’m currently engaged in conversations to take Insaka to a radio platform. There is interest to make the discussions open to a wider audience which radio provides. There are number of issues to consider – the correct program format to facilitate robust conversations, scheduling, and other technicalities to have the program streaming online and live on radio simultaneously. If this works out, a radio show would not replace the Twitter platform but rather complement it.

Follow @InsakaChat (#Insaka) on Twitter and Storify.

July 11 2013

Zambian Watchdog Journalist Charged With Sedition

Clayson Hamasaka. Photo courstesy of Zambian Watchdog

Clayson Hamasaka. Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

Zambian journalist and media studies scholar Clayson Hamasaka was arrested by government security forces and charged with sedition on July 9. Thomas Zgambo, formerly a reporter for the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail, was arrested on the same day but later released.

Advocates suspect that both events were triggered by the journalists’ association with the Zambian Watchdog, an independent citizen media outlet that has withstood multiple threats from government actors since September 2011.

Hamasaka and Zgambo were each arrested at their respective homes in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. Security officers raided their homes carrying search warrants and claiming they were investigating both men for drug-related crimes.

Officials from the municipal police department, Drug Enforcement Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Zambia Security and Intelligence Services (part of Zambia's executive branch), seized computers, memory sticks, mobile phones and documents at both of the men's homes before taking them into custody.

Hamasaka and Zgambo were interrogated for over 40 hours. Zgambo was then released. Hamasaka, a former media studies professor at state-run Evelyn Hone College, was charged with sedition after authorities allegedly found handwritten notes concerning President Michael Sata in his home. He has since been released, but authorities say they will continue to investigate his case. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

Whether or not the two journalists are connected to the Zambian Watchdog is unknown. But their detention did not affect the publication of the popular citizen news site — the Watchdog continued to publish stories during their detention, including one covering the arrests. Apart from editor Lloyd Himambo, who lives in exile, contributors to the website are deliberately kept anonymous in order to protect their safety.

Hamasaka was fired from his teaching job at Evelyn Hone last year when, as the College’s radio station manager, he allowed an opposition leader to appear on it. His wife was fired for unknown reasons from a state-run water utility company a few weeks later.

Several netizens and organisations such as the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) reacted to the duo’s detention. Laura Miti, a human rights and civic activist wrote:

Quite obviously, I have no idea what the officers were looking for in their early morning search of Mr. Hamasaka’s home. What I do know is that dawn raids on private citizens who have not been charged with any offence should raise eyebrows in a democracy (or had Mr Hamasaka been charged and I missed it??) Seeing as I have no facts, I will not make any presumptions about what law Mr Hamasaka may have broken which then led to his family’s trauma.

I will say though that I hope the nation will be informed as to how decisions are made to carry out searches against citizens especially such traumatic ones. Was Mr Hamasaka believed to be dangerous, or a flight risk?

[…]

I ask these questions in order to express my deep alarm at what seems to my, quite possibly untrained, eye to be the long strides backwards Zambia is taking as regards rule of law, respect for human rights and governance under the PF government.

Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) expressed serious concern for attacks against online journalists:

The attacks on journalists have created unnecessary fear and anxiety among media practitioners, especially those working for online publications, thus limiting the ability of the media to serve the society better. This is a major affront to democracy and freedom of expression in the country.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia saw the raids as evidence of diminishing protections for human rights in the country:

We consider the raid on the two journalists’ homes and their subsequent confinement at Zambia Police Headquarters as illegal and an indication that Zambia’s human right[s] record is deteriorating. It is worrying that the two who are not criminals were subject [to] an early morning Police Raid although there is no state of emergency in the country where people’s human rights can be suspended.

Earlier this year, Hamasaka threatened to sue Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also the ruling party’s secretary general. Following Hamasaka's arrest, Kabimba described reasons for his dismissal that Hamasaka himself was never given by authorities. Kabimba was quoted saying:

It is not true that Mr. Clayson Hamasaka was dismissed from employment on account of featuring an opposition party leader on a Hone FM radio programme. He was dismissed after complaints of victimisation from members of staff who did not belong to his political party, UPND.

 

July 04 2013

Zambia: ISP Faces Backlash Over Blocked News Site

Zambian telecommunications company Airtel may be facing unintended consequences for allegedly having blocked access to popular citizen news website the Zambian Watchdog. For over a week, many people in the country have been unable to access the site.

Maiko Zulu, one of the nation’s popular musicians and a human rights advocate, wrote a letter to the Watchdog saying that he was dumping Airtel for blocking the citizen news website and would switch to rival telco MTN, where the website was still accessible.

Zulu, whose portfolio of songs includes Mad President and Gun Culture, wrote:

Dear Editor,
As a regular reader of ZWD online publication, I wish to register my concern over continued difficulties I and many other Zambians are experiencing in accessing ZWD [Zambian Watchdog] via the Airtel network. It is now certain, as alleged, that there is a deliberate plot to deny readers access to the site.

As a defender of press freedom and freedom of expression, it is my duty to raise concern over such a development […] As insignificant and negligible as it may seem, I personally have resorted to putting away my [Airtel] sim card and will for now use only MTN for cellular communication.

In response to Zulu’s letter, the Editor wrote in a footnote:

We thank you Mr Zulu. We have no conclusive evidence that Airtel is colluding with the PF regime to block the Watchdog from inside Zambia. But we do know that the blocking is taking place on Airtel and Zamtel and other Internet Service Providers in Zambia. We are getting to the bottom of this and very soon we shall publish the whole truth…

The footnote further explained that the site has moved from its original domain, www.zambianwatchdog.com, to a secure domain, https://zambianwatchdog.com. While its original domain remains blocked on Airtel, Zamtel and other networks, the Watchdog reports that its new domain is not.  “We do realise that many people in Zambia still do not know this change,” the letter said. “That is why we endorse Mr Zulu’s move of dumping Airtel and migrating to MTN.”

Many readers agreed with Zulu, including Kameya Robert Manjomba, who wrote [comments on the Zambian Watchdog do not have unique links]:

As ZCTU [Zambia Congress of Trade Unions] Provincial Cordinator for NWP, I wish to express my concern over the reported blocking of the ZWD. I love the site though I do not support the insults. I want to put it across to Airtel that I will cease to be their subscriber if I establish that they want to fight media freedom in Zambia. My…active airtel line is [number withheld] for your verification. I will switch to MTN soon after that together with many other friends.

One reader who calls himself the Czar was happy with the service, saying:

I am on Airtel and I don’t intend to change because I haven’t [had] such problems! Everyone has a right to choose which network carrier to subscribe to.

Following Zulu’s letter, the Watchdog published a letter from an anonymous contributor alleging that government intelligence officers were sent to the MTN offices to ensure that the Watchdog was blocked there:

Today (Wednesday) after you published MAIKO ZULU’s endorsement of MTN, Dictator Michael Sata was very angry. He dispatched OP [Office of the President, another name for the Intelligence Service] to MTN to make sure Zambian Watchdog is blocked even on MTN at all costs.

OP went in full force intimidating the MTN management and issuing all sorts of threats. They made the management sign a confidentiality document and made them to swear never to disclose their operations.

They are still at MTN trying to block the internet service as I’m writing this article right now. However, they are still failing because the MTN system is more sophisticated for the OP and the Chinese they are using.

However, a response from Airtel left many with more questions than the answers:

Airtel wishes to advise its customers and the public at large that every Airtel customer has the opportunity and ability to access websites of their choice and as regards accessing the Zambian Watchdog, customers can access the website by using https instead of http.

The letter, signed by the Corporate Services & Government Relations head Chabuka J. Kawesha, further stated:

Kindly note that Airtel prides itself in being a strong corporate citizen and has committed to full compliance with regulatory guidelines. Therefore it would be contrary to company policy and the regulatory guidelines of the Republic of Zambia to block our Airtel customers from accessing any wide and varied products and services. In this competitive industry it would not bode well to engage in such discriminatory conduct.

Readers’ reactions mostly condemned  the company’s statement but some, like Musoke, had a different view:

Any right thinking Zambian would not miss WD [Watchdog] and its devious, malicious and speculative reporting if it was taken out or just imploded on its own….

July 01 2013

Zambia: VP “Would Celebrate” Shutdown of News Site

Vice President Guy Scott dancing with Patriotic Front (PF) party cadres during an election campaign. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

Vice President Guy Scott dancing with Patriotic Front (PF) party cadres during an election campaign. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

Zambian Vice President Dr. Guy Scott recently told parliament he would celebrate if the Zambian Watchdog, an independent citizen media site, were to shut down.

On the evening prior to Scott's June 25 address to parliament, it suddenly became difficult to access the Zambian Watchdog. Readers abroad claimed they could access the site, while those in Zambia reported they could not.

On Facebook, one user reported:

someone has jinxed our daily dose of gossip…the watchdog aint responding

In March 2012, the Zambian Watchdog, among other news websites, was allegedly hacked in what many suspected was a government-led attack. In last week's incident, Zambian Watchdog readers began to fear that the government was involved with the blockage when Mwamba Peni II, a government policy analyst and relative of President Michael Sata, posted on his Facebook wall that he understood from “rumours” that the Watchdog was gone for good (the post is no longer publicly visible.) A day later, the Zambian Watchdog reported on the problem:

It is not yet clear if the Internet Service Providers are colluding with the government to block access or the government is illegally accessing the physical infrastructure  of Internet service providers.

While the same domain www.zambianwatchdog.com is accessible outside Zambian and partially in Zambia through a few Internet service providers like MTN, we have moved the site to a secure domain https. If you are in Zambia, you can now access the Zambian Watchdog at https://www.zambianwatchdog.com

Data from the ZW's hosting service indicated that the Zambian government may be using deep packet inspection, a packet filtering method, to monitor the site's traffic. When asked about the government’s suspected hand in the difficulties people had accessing the site, the Vice President told members of parliament:

This is the website that has accused everyone of being adulterous, a thief, terminally ill, corrupt, and so on, so we would [be] glad to have it shut because it is denting our image abroad.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on its website:

Staff at the Watchdog believe the government is behind the blocking because of its previous efforts to silence the site. It is not clear if the government urged Internet service providers to shut off access or used other means.

President Michael Sata has been seeking to control online news media since his election in 2011. When swearing in Attorney General Mumba Malila, he told him to look into ways of controlling news websites such as the Zambian Watchdog which has had several run-ins with the government in the past.

April 10 2013

Zambian Activist Arrested After Speaking Out for Gay Rights

A gay rights activist was arrested in Zambia after he appeared on live television arguing that the country, which criminalises homosexual acts, should respect same-sex relationships.

Police arrested Paul Kasonkomona on April 7, 2013 as he left the private Muvi TV studios after saying in an interview that gay rights were like any other form of human rights, to be respected at all cost. He was charged the next day with “inciting the public to take part in indecent activities”.

Kasonkomona remains in police custody, despite his supporters warning that the health of the HIV-positive activist could deteriorate in jail.

The YouTube video below posted by Muvi TV shows plains-clothes officers arresting Kasonkomona:

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Zambia, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. An overwhelming 98 percent of the country disapproves of homosexual behavior, according to 2010 Pew Research Center poll.

Kasonkomona's arrest came a week after four all-male couples, four Zambians and four foreigners, attempted to get married in the Zambian capital city of Lusaka.

Paul Kasonkomona (with raised hand). Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

Gay and HIV activist Paul Kasonkomona (with raised hand). Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

The official in charge of the registry, Henry Kapata, told a local newspaper in a story republished by citizen media website Zambian Watchdog:

They were waiting on the queue and I didn’t know what they wanted until they entered my office. They were all men, dressed normally. [They told him point blank] We have come here specifically to register our marriages. […] I was shocked that such things can happen in Zambia. I told them that we don’t register gay marriages in Zambia. The Marriages Act Cap 50 of the Laws of Zambia and even the Constitution is very clear about that.

The attempted marriages attracted condemnation throughout the country. Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu, acting president at the time of President Michael Sata’s visit to China, reiterated at a church function the government's position on homosexuality, saying:

As a nation and government, we will not accept foreign misdemeanors because we have never known same marriages of man to man, or woman to woman and the bible does not allow. We would better remain poor as a nation than to accept some of these norms perpetuated by people with money who want to destroy our society.

Church officials also balked at the men. Zambia is officially a Christian nation, according to its 1996 national constitution.

Reverend Pukuta Mwanza of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia called homosexuality an “inhuman and unnatural practice” and urged the government not to bend on its hardline position, writing in a letter to the country's head of delegation of the European Union:

We urge our Zambian government not to succumb to your pressures in seeking to interfere with the internal affairs of our sovereign nation by promoting the so called ‘human’ rights that are contrary to our fundamental Christian values and our rich African and traditional beliefs and practices which abhor those practices you are seeking to promote.

One reader on Lusaka Times website, The Only Living Jay, reminded the now ruling Patriotic Front government that it had a more open stand on homosexuality when it was the opposition party before the 2011 elections, writing:

When in oppozition, the PF waz accuzed of habouring homosexual ideaz in the meetingz they had with some Western Diplomats. It would be interesting to hear what the oppozition will say this time around. Human rights violation??
This non-issue of homosexuality must be handled very carefully with a level-headed approach. To go on rampage arresting the so called gayz or pro-gay activists may have ghastly consequencez. Remember Zambia iz not an island. What exactly doez the constitution say or not say?

Commenter Panda used an anti-gay slur while encouraging Zambians not to give up their anti-homosexuality stance, even if it means losing out on aid from countries more accepting of the sexual orientation:

Hon Lungu has spoken very well. Please country men and women, lets all unit and speak with one voice on this matter. These “homos” might go to the extent of withholding their aid (Like Obama promised) and we wil be suffer a few consequences in our hospitals, schools etc; but let us fight for what we as a nation want. Problem will come in when some people are prepared to bow th these “homos” for a bowl of soup.

However, some Zambians have no problems with homosexuality. Commenter Mushota on Lusaka Times wondered why anti-gay campaigners want to impose their religious beliefs on everybody else. The main argument that Zambians use against homosexuality is that God created a man and a woman:

Mr Lungu [Home Affairs minister], Why victimise them the same argument can be made for homosexuals . Since the beliefs of religious conservatives (generally) are not their beliefs, doesn’t that violate homosexuals’ freedom of religion? We are all entitled to our own beliefs, but we should not expect everybody else to conform to them. Same sex marriage has no logical impact on the everyday lives of religious Zambians but You denying same sex couples the right to marry does have a direct impact on the everyday lives of homosexuals. Marriage may be a religious issue for many but the fact is, we also have civil marriage, which has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Religious groups and churches have every right to deny same sex marriage in their parish, but You have absolutely no right to deny it

Another commenter writing on Zambia Watchdog wrote (the site does not have permanent links for individual comments):

People are so quick to preach about what is right and wrong yet if we were to see the wrongs they have done, we would run away. Some people on this bolg [sic] have rapped [sic] children, men or women and yet they critisize [sic] gay people. Who is more wrong a child molester or a gay person who minds his or her own business. The bible says a lot of things such as thy shall not steal, thy shall not commit adultery, honour thy mother and father etc. Yes there is a right and wrong but who are we to say what is and what is not. [...] By the way I too have Gay friends like Mweemba and some not all, happen to be the nicest people you can ever meet. What they do in private should have nothing to do with how we perceive them.

Reacting to a story about the police's refusal to release the activist, commenter Counselor congratulated him for his courage:

very brave of you Mr Paul Kasonkomona… one day Gay Rights will be recognized even in Zambia and the whole world at large. Its takes more than bravery to come out as homosexual in African society.

Hitting back at the church for its stand on homosexuality, blogger Miss Bwalya (@missbwalya) wrote on Twitter:

@MissBwalya: Wake me up when Church bodies unite in their call to end the ungodly acts of rape, stripping of women and child molestation.

Another Twitter user, Lwanga Mwilu (@lwangamwilu), captured the polarization that goes on among Zambian netizens when discussing gay issues:

@lwangamwilu: The tensions between free speech and hate speech ever so magnified in the gay rights debate #Zambia

April 05 2013

Judge Orders Arrest of Indecently Dressed Women in Zambia

A female high court judge in Zambia has directed police to start arresting indecently dressed women.

Women in Zambia are often subjected in public to taunts and in some cases stripping if they are considered to be indecently dressed, a subject this article's writer blogged about more than five years ago.

The order is allegedly an attempt to curb the problem, but some Zambians have accused the judge of indirectly blaming women for their own assaults.

The statement of Justice Rhoyda Kaoma, judge-in-charge of the Kitwe High Court, was first reported on the Facebook page of Flava FM 87.7 radio and immediately went viral:

[…] Supreme Court Judge Royda Kaoma has urged police officers to arrest anyone found indecently dressed to avoid escalating Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases.
Ms Justice Kaoma who is also Kitwe High Court Judge-in- charge said in response to a concern from one of the members of the public on what the police was doing about indecent dressing by some girls and women, that police should take up the role and arrest those found wanting.

So following calls by judge Royda Kaoma, the question is:
Should police start arresting women who are indecently exposed? […]

 

Justice Rhoyda Kaoma

Madam Justice Rhoyda Kaoma, right, in the picture that appeared on James Mwape's Facebook page and used here with his permission.

Reaction in the wake of the judge's statement was fierce. Scott Davies commented on the radio station's Facebook report:

How moronic to blame the women for men who act!
This justice is so wrong.

This judge must be one hell of an i…t.
Why not making sure women are protected from call boys and other fools who think they are judge and jury and strippers of women.

Its close to rape as they grope and try and touch the women as well.

Another commenter, Kingsley King Kaluba, accused the judge of being dull:

The role of the judge to is merely interpret the law,clear ambiguities n pass sentece [sic] not directing police.that judge is dull.I can tell she got that position through..katwishi mwe (I have no idea).

But others such as Gerald Sandundu supported the judge’s directive:

if there is a precedent then the judge is ok and going through the zambian law reports the judge is very correct..at least we will be saved from these ladies who re [sic] walking almost naked in public [...] bravo madamjudge [sic].

James Mwape reported in a Facebook post that Justice Kaoma was speaking at a Catholic Women’s League luncheon where she said:

Police officers should do something about indecent exposure and under the law there should be nothing like parents would plead for their children because just like manslaughter or murder cases, an offence is an offence.

Police should take up the role and arrest culprits, they should take even one example

Commenting on Mwape’s publication, Caroline Nenguke Phiri criticized the judge for focusing on women's dress instead of men's behavior:

Seriously misdirected energies & instructions!! Instead of telling women how to dress, tell the men to stop raping them!! Will we now pay for the sins of men who can't control themselves?? Really, are you for real??

On Twitter, the converstation continued. Muleya Mwananyanda Muleya Mwananyand (@MuleyaM) wondered why Zambian jurisprudence is so backward:

@MuleyaM: @senzian #GBV you gotta be kidding me right? which judge? which case? honestly why is Zed [Zambia] jurisprudence so backward?

One tweet, however, stated a woman’s legal organization was not aware of the judge’s comments:

@Manyanyato: the organisation “Women in Law & Development” is unaware of comments made by Judge Roydahkaoma with regard to women's dress and #GBV

It will be surprising, however, Zambian women's movements take the judge's directive lying down.

March 19 2013

Zambia Readies Corruption Case Against Former President Rupiah Banda

The stage has been set for the prosecution of Zambia’s former president Rupiah Banda on corruption charges after his presidential immunity was lifted by parliament in a raucous sitting in which the speaker was heckled and opposition members walked out.

President Banda was the country’s head of state for three years, from 2008 when he took over from President Levy Mwanawasa for whom he had been vice president, up to 2011 when his party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy was defeated in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Former President Banda

Former President Banda whose immunity has been lifted by Parliament. Photo courtesy of zambianeye.com

It is not the first time a former president has had their immunity lifted. Zambia’s second president Frederick Chiluba, who died in 2011, spent most of his post-presidency retirement defending himself from both criminal and civil suits after his immunity was lifted on allegations of plundering national resources leveled at him by the late Mwanawasa, the man Chiluba personally anointed to take over for him.

Among the allegations presented to the 158-member National Assembly on March 15, 2013 by Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also secretary general for the ruling Patriotic Front party, were that Banda and his family in 2011 reportedly spent more than 20 billion kwacha (370 million US dollars) on the purchase of election campaign materials, a sum that was personally handled and disbursed in cash by Banda and his sons. Kabimba said:

The GJIT [Government Joint Investigations Team] has now established that K21,907,847,170 cash was personally disbursed by Mr. Rupiah Banda and his family and that the MMD [Movement for Multiparty Democracy] never had such sums of money in its bank account at any time. During the period, Mr. Banda purchased bicycle spares and accessories from Atlas Cycles and printed fabrics from India at declared value of K371,908,000 with duty at K81,076,292 while 42 Toyota Hilux Vigo from Western, a United Arab based firm with valued [sic] at K1,869,840,000 and K892,434,129 as duty.

Similarly, materials including branded candy lollypops, 40 used Bedford Trucks, branded T-shirts, caps, badges, hats, balloons, hand flags, and flags were bought from various suppliers in the Emirates, United Kingdom, and China.

Underpinning the allegations against the former head of state, Kabimba further said:

Mr. Banda’s personal handling of such large sums of moneys and his activities constitute acts of money laundering and, or the presumption that the funds in question came from the national treasury as public funds for which he is liable to prosecution.

President Banda’s international lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, was quoted by citizen media website Zambian Watchdog, saying:

The removal of former President Banda’s immunity fails to pass the litmus test for legitimacy. Keeping in mind that this is the same government that only days ago fired live rounds into crowds of voters, the same people that have repeatedly arrested opposition leaders on bogus grounds, and the very same Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba, who himself defiantly refused to answer corruption questions before the authorities, there can be little doubt about where the PF stands on matters of justice.

At the time of writing this report, the Zambian Watchdog was reporting that President Banda had been summoned to appear before the JGIT [Government Joint Investigations Team] on March 18, 2013, barely two days after his immunity was lifted.

Castigating opposition members for walking out of the house during the motion, Sidique Abdullah Gondwe Geloo wrote on Facebook page Zambian Eye:

It was highly irresponsible of you and I should add shameful that you had to start playing politics over RB's immunity removal proposition by not attending Parliament. Opposing for the sake of opposing only makes you look like losers that are plain adamant. Corruption is the GREATEST evil in Zambia, and no matter how much you hate the party in power, you should always support any move against corruption regardless of the motives. Any leader, including RB (I love RB, we rarely chat but are in good fellowship with each other) should be happy to accept the immunity removal so that he can prove to the world he wasn't corrupt.

Commenting on a story on Zambian Watchdog about the lifting of Banda’s immunity, a reader calling himself Maverick stated [individual comments have no links]:

[...] I was never a fun [sic] of RB during his short lived presidency and I’m all for prosecuting him if he indeed abused that high office. But can someone tell me: what did the country gain or benefit from lifting FTJ’s immunity and subsequently prosecuting him? Why can’t opposition MPs ask the government to tell the nation the gains achieved from that long winding prosecution of Chiluba up to and until his death? Equally how much was lost by the country through the expenses that came with the prosecution?

My gut instinct tells me NOTHING was gained, apart from fattening the bank accounts of some now fat public officers and enriching a Fraud Member of the public who benefited from FTJ’s misfortunates. So are we that gullible to go through the same expensive route as a nation to prosecute RB until his death, and enriching the same individuals in the process and adding the 3rd Seasonal person to enrich them?

On Twitter, the debate was no less intense. Rocky Chisupa (@RockyChisupa) warned that current President Michael Sata would face the same fate after his tenure:

@RockyChisupa: We NOW know Sata's immunity will be lifted after his tenure. So, why not avoid future costs of time and investigations by lifting it now?

“IamCathyPhiri” (@cathyphiri79) simply asked:

@cathyphiri79: Who there is free from corruption really?

Zambian journalist Lwanga Mwilu (@lwangamwilu), who was live tweeting the proceedings, quoted one opposition member, writing:

@lwangamwilu: Hon Muntanga: If MMD campaign money came from state, where is PF's by-election money coming from? They are suddenly rich.

February 28 2013

Zambian Opposition Lobby for Suspension from the Commonwealth

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

President Sata when he was an opposition leader

President Sata as a victim of the Public Order Act when he was an opposition leader himself. Picture courtesy of Zambian watchdog.

Zambia’s opposition parties have called upon the Commonwealth to suspend the country amid claims of a deteriorating political environment. They accuse Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) government of using the Public Order Act to severely curtail opposition party activities. Ironically, the Public Order Act was a piece of legislation that the Zambian President had to contend with as an opposition leader. However, since coming to power, he has stated that he has now “fallen in love” with the Act.

Two opposition leaders – the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)’s Nevers Mumba and United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Hakainde Hichilema – are currently on trial for various political offences covered by Public Order Act. Mumba and Hichilema also attended the recent gathering of opposition leaders in South Africa – known collectively as the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) – that made the demand for Zambia’s suspension from the Commonwealth.
Hichilema said at the press briefing:

If you objectively look at the pattern of abuses committed by this government, not just against the opposition parties but also against civil society and business competitors of the allies, it is difficult not to conclude that we are on the road back towards the one-party state.

At the same briefing, Mumba explained why the CDDR had to issue its statement abroad:

If there were respect for human rights in Zambia, we would not be here […] We are here today because the signs on the ground are similar to those in Uganda under Idi Amin. We have refused to reverse the gains of independence and we are here to tell the international community.

President Sata publicly claimed that the opposition leaders were claiming asylum in South Africa, a request that the South African President Jacob Zumba turned down after Mumba’s and Hichilema’s return to Zambia. Even more embarrassing for the government was a claim made by the Chief Government Spokesman and Information and Broadcasting Minister, Kennedy Sakeni, that former President Rupiah Banda had also attended the press briefing. However, the former President’s office denied attending the event.

However, one opposition party, the National Restoration Party, criticized the CDDR for staging the meeting and press briefing on foreign soil. The party’s Youth League representative, Aquino Mutale, said:

At no time has any Opposition Political Party been denied their freedom to hold Press Conferences from their respective Secretariats – not even Dr Nevers Mumba from his Kabulonga Home! Today we ask, why South Africa!? […] If what their demands to the Commonwealth succeed, who would suffer the repercussions? Is it not the very people they claim to speak on behalf of? Is it not the ordinary Zambian struggling to survive[?]”

Writing on the Zambian Eye page on Facebook, Ray Panji Mwanza said:

It’s funny how people complain about results instead of targeting the cause….the press conference and all the complaints are simply fruits of which the root cause is Sata’s ancient style of governing…..if people don’t want our nation to end up another Zimbabwe, the solution is not in condemning Nevers & co, but condemning and standing up to PF’s old-fashioned dictatorial rule…

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

February 23 2013

Zambia: Chinese Experts to Monitor Internet?

The Zambian government has reportedly engaged Chinese experts to install a secret internet monitoring facility in the country. In tandem with this move, President Michael Sata has given authorization to the Special Division of the Office of the President (also known as the Zambian Security Intelligence Service) to monitor the telephone and online communications of anyone living in Zambia if ordered to do so by the Attorney General.

President Sata surfing the internet

President Michael Sata surfing the internet.

Authorities plan to start monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, blogs, email services, and “unfriendly” websites. The government has allegedly spent close to K10 billion (about US$1.8m) on the partnership with Chinese technologists.

Independent news site the Zambian Watchdog reports that ZICTA (Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority) officials asked telephone and internet service providers to allow information technology specialists from both the Office of the President and China to visit their facilities and study their network architecture, in order to identify places in the network where authorities could develop interception capabilities, or a “backdoor” for monitoring. ComputerWorld reports that both Zambian and Chinese authorities have declined to comment on reports about their cooperation.

An anonymous source told the Zambian Watchdog:

They have already started their work […] They have been visiting service providers so as to understand the topology of network. For those who may not know, it (topology) is appreciating the network architecture, things like where the servers are so that they know [where] to install their interception devices.

Service providers said that government intrusion on people’s private conversations had the potential to affect investor confidence as people would be reluctant to subscribe to their networks or speak for long periods on their phones, a change that could affect companies’ revenue.

You know what, when people speak for a long time on the phone, mobile phone company providers make more money. But you will now have a situation where people will merely call each other for setting-up interpersonal meetings to discuss confidential information, unlike in the past when others would even have mobile conference meetings.

The shift will likely bring about reductions in email subscriptions on platforms such as Coppernet, Zamnet, Iconnect, all of which are provided by Zambian ISPs and therefore will soon become vulnerable to enhanced government monitoring tactics. The change will likely encourage Zambians to set up free private email addresses provided by Gmail, Yahoo and others.

Unfortunately, these are not the only restrictive measures that Michael Sata has imposed during his presidency. Soon after taking office in 2011, he ordered his newly appointed Attorney General to exert control over online news publications.

The government also initiated a SIM card registration policy requiring citizens to register their cell phone SIM cards with the ZICTA. The negative effects of this policy were felt during by-elections in some parts of the country recently when citizens began receiving unsolicited messages encouraging them to vote for particular government candidates.

Global Voices Advocacy will continue to cover these policy developments as they unfold in Zambia.

 

Reposted bydarksideofthemoon darksideofthemoon

February 05 2013

The Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation: Blessing or Curse?

Munshya wa Munshya reviews Gershom Ndhlovu's new book titled The Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation: Blessing or Curse?: “Mr. Ndhlovu explains the purpose of his book in the last pages. He states that he was motivated to write this book because pastors and politicians who had been abusing the Christian faith to advance their personal agendas had disillusioned him.”

January 31 2013

Zambia: Interview with BongoHive Co-Founder

BongoHive, a Zambian-based innovation hub has recently attracted the attention of computer and internet technology enthusiasts throughout the country. Global Voices recently caught up with Simunza Muyangana, one of the four co-founders, who explained how BongoHive provides a place for the local tech community to meet, swap experiences, attend training sessions, network, and participate in hackathon events.

Muyangana explained that BongoHive, which officially launched in May 2011, emerged from weekend sessions in which a group of IT experts volunteered to hold hands-on workshops for a recent group of IT graduates from the Lusaka-based Evelyn Hone College who were completing internships at VVOB Zambia. Encouraged by Erik Hersmann and Juliana Rotich of iHub Nairobi, the workshops was eventually formalized into an innovation hub.

An interesting aspect of this project is the rise and encouragement of the women's network called Asikana, which in one of the local languages means young women who appreciate information and communication technology.

BongoHive

Global Voices (GV): First and foremost, what is BongoHive (BH) and what are its core activities?

Simunza Muyangana (SM): BongoHive is a technology and innovation centre that provides space for technology enthusiasts in Lusaka to meet, swap experience and attend training, networking and geek events like hackathons, bar camps, etc.

GV: Who is involved in it? Do people have to be “geeks” to get involved?

SM: There are a number of people involved in BongoHive. The management team consists of Lukonga Lindunda, Silumesii Maboshe, Bart Cornille, and I with Lukonga involved in the day-to-day management of the centre. He is assisted by Charles Mwanza and George Lupupa who are responsible for managing the centre and community outreach respectively. We also have various other members who spearhead initiatives that BongoHive is involved in like the Asikana Network, the Lusaka Google Developers Group, BarCamp Lusaka, and Mobile Monday Lusaka.

Even though most of the people that come through are either current students or recent graduates who studied Information Technology, BongoHive is an open community centre that welcomes even those that do not necessarily have a specialty in IT. We've been blessed with people who actively contribute to the centre as mentors that you wouldn't ordinarily call geeks.

GV: What demographic of people are involved in BH activities?

SM: I'd posit that most of the people that make use of the centre are between the ages of 20 and 26. Events that are held in the evening or over the weekends attract an older demographic only because that is when they are most likely to have time to come over. Our ladies have very definitely staked a claim in BongoHive by forming their own forum called the “Asikana Network” that uses the centre extensively.

GV: We have seen the release of two interesting apps either coming out of Zambia or dealing with Zambia. One is an app on the draft constitution and the second, an app that aggregates news about Zambia. Was BH involved in making those apps? What other apps have you developed or are in the midst of developing?

SM: Zambia News aggregator is quite handy but BongoHive was not involved in its development.

Gilbert Mwiinga, the developer of the Zambia Draft Constitution app is an active member of the BongoHive community. He conceptualized the idea in 2011 when we ran a workshop on Android App Development with Dale Zak of WhiteSpaces in Canada. Other mobile apps that have come from the community include Fist Drive, a file-sharing application developed by Daryl Lukas. Fist Drive was a semi-finalist in the last Google Apps Competition for the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Bantu Babel is a translation app that was developed by the community during the last Random Hacks of Kindness event for the US Peace Corp volunteers station in Zambia.

Late last year we ran a Pitch Night under the Mobile Monday Lusaka umbrella. It was encouraging to realize that there are a lot more mobile and web applications currently in development by individuals who use the Hive. However, I think most of them would prefer to have their apps announced after they have been launched. Look out for a lot more Zambian apps in 2013. Our Google Developers Group is currently running another course on Android App Development.

GV: What is your opinion of the Zambian government's actions against the website Zambian Watchdog? Do you think this type of crackdown could spread to others citizen news websites if it succeeds in shutting it down?

SM: Most, if not all, software development is about helping people access information. Some would even say that software development in itself is a form of self expression.  We support the right to freedom of expression. We also encourage responsibility in its use. I personally believe that people who feel that their right to dignity may have been violated should be allowed to address their concerns or seek some form of justifiable recourse.

GV: Recently ZICTA (Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority) embarked on SIM card registration for “security” reasons. Is that not threat to digital freedom?

It really depends on who holds that information and who will have access to it, doesn't it? ZICTA is supposed to be an independent agency. I have no problem with my service provider or the bank authority attaching my name to my number for transactional purposes. I cannot see why anybody else would need it. If it is required for purposes of criminal investigation, I'd prefer they first sought a court order allowing them to talk to my service provider.

January 26 2013

Zambia: Foreign Minister's Phone Tapped

Zambia's Foreign Minister, Given Lubinda, is under pressure to resign from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. He is accused by the party's disciplinary committee of leaking information to online publications. The accusation is based on evidence that was allegedly gathered through the tapping of the minister's phone.

The case of Lubinda, a long time PF member and legislator for the cosmopolitan  Lusaka's Kabwata constituency, has attracted the attention of even state-owned media, which mostly reports officially sanctioned information.

Given Lubinda with President Michael Sata

In happier times, Foreign Minister Given Lubinda, left, with President Michael Sata. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

But it is citizen media website, Zambian Watchdog, which reported the phone tapping used in the party's disciplinary committee hearing against Lubinda, raising the specter of wide-spread use of the technique against ordinary citizens who are being forced, as we already reported, to register their SIM cards.

The Zambian Watchdog writes:

And the Watchdog understands that part of the evidence of Lubinda’s links with opposition parties was through wire-taps of his phones, raising concern on the personal security of individuals through the on-going SIM card registration.

Sources close to the disciplinary hearing said Lubinda’s phone conversations were part of the evidence that was used against him though the Kabwata parliamentarian also raised a number of pertinent in his defence of his contacts with some opposition parties.

The Zambian Watchdog story does not say what official organisation conducted the phone tapping, but it is well-known in Zambia that the intelligence agency which is under the control of the Office of the President—in this case President Michael Sata–, head of state and also the ruling party leader, has the capacity to do it and is involved in the ongoing SIM card registration.

The phone tapping element engendered a lot of debate among readers on the news website.

A reader by the nickname of Bob writes [comments on the Zambian Watchdog do not have individual links]:

It goes without saying that all MPs and especially opposition politicians are under surveillance through wire-tapping. I need a proper justification as to why I need to register my SIM card. I would rather use a phone without full details of me with the service provider in this case. Imagine everyone registers the SIM cards and a full database is created. Then the powers that be will just scroll down / search the database and find anyone they want and then wire-tap them at their will. By the way, is it not a crime to tap someone’s phones in Zambia?

Another commenter, The Observer, writes:

SIM registration is not the issue. If done in good faith, it enhances state security. Imagine someone buying a SIM card to send you death notices, bomb scares, or false rumours about your wife or yourself sleeping around?

The problem is that we now have scoundrels and idiots in Government.

Ngana warns of the consequences of phone tapping:

IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR THE PF GOVERNMENT TO USE THE ZAMBIAN INTELLIGENCE TO SPY ON ITS OWN CITIZENS WHO HAVE DIFFERENT OPINION TO THAT OF MICHAEL SATA. TO DANGEROUS FOR OUR COMFORT, SIMPLE ISSUES SUCH AS THIS COULD LEAD TO CIVIL WAR

Indeed, if it is true that Lubinda's phone was tapped, it is cause for concern for all citizens who are being required to register their SIM cards with the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Agency (ZICTA), a government department.

January 23 2013

Politics Left Aside, as Ethiopians Celebrate their Fight in AFCON 2013

Ethiopians across the world are celebrating TeamEthiopia, their national Soccer team, who fought a hard draw against defending champions Zambia in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in Nelspruit, South Africa.

Besides the beauty of the Ethiopian game and the composure the players showed after a long absence from the AFCON tournament, Ethiopian politics was at the centre of the online discussion. Ethiopian fans in the stadium displayed various placards and flags representing different political interests.

Ethiopian Muslims continue protesting the Ethiopian Government while supporting Ethiopian Team in South Africa at The Cup of African Nations 2013.

Ethiopian Muslims protest the Ethiopian Government while supporting the Ethiopian Team in South Africa at The Cup of African Nations 2013. From the Awolia School Support Page Facebook Page

In a bid to create a sense of deja vu for Ethiopians the blog Addis Rumble published a few historical photos from old AFCON tournaments in which Ethiopia had participated.

In the pictorial post titled, The Ethiopian comeback they also write

This week Ethiopia is making a surprise comeback at the 2013 Cup of Nations in South Africa after knocking out neighboring rivals Sudan through an aggregate 5-5 draw in the final qualification round. In the days after the qualification was secured in October last year, Addis seemed like a transformed city. Previously you would hardly notice any football celebrations in the city scape (other than of the usual English Premier League teams) but following the qualification most of the capital’s blue taxies and mini busses – usually the best way of distilling public opinion – started displaying posters of the national team with a ‘Yes We Can’ text added.

The occasion was also packed with interesting Ethiopian political tidbits. Mohamed Ademo, a blogger based in New York wrote on Facebook about how different groups stood behind one team despite their variation on the political and cultural spectrum:

Sport brings people together. The cheerful Oromo crowd in South Africa today is a good example of that. In the states, rarely do we see both sides (Oromo and other Ethiopians) cheering for the same team. We have separate sporting tournaments and federations.

For Ethiopia's football fans in South Africa, the choice today was between OLF flag, the defacto Oromo flag, and the EPRDF (Ethiopia's ruling party) flag. As you have said so eloquently, whether the Oromo and non-Oromo fans of Team Ethiopia displayed different flags didn't matter. They both supported one team.

For far too long, at international sporting events and bazaars, a monolithic image of Ethiopia have been presented to the world. An Ethiopia with 3000 years of history that is still a christian island, has one flag, and speaks only Amharic.

But in reality, Ethiopia is a truly diverse nation with divergent aspirations and historical experiences. As a result, contending national sentiments (isms) have emerged. Under previous Ethiopian regimes, for example, the use of Afan Oromo in public spaces and government offices was banned.

In EPRDF's Ethiopia, while linguistic and cultural rights are - at least in theory - respected, wearing or displaying an OLF flag amounts to an act of terrorism. What you saw today (the bitching and moaning about Oromo flag from those who still want to control the narrative of Ethiopia) is an extension of that false sense of unity. I concur with you that, at the absence of “national” consensus, the way forward is to recognize our differences and respect people's rights to identify however they see fit.

In the same vein, our Oromo activists should also stop pouncing on every chance to question the nationalism of those who are passionate football fans - and chose to look beyond politics.

All the while, it's imperative to stay civil and use this opportune moment to ask: who is Ethiopian, what's the Ethiopian identity, does the EPRDF flag represent the aspirations of the diverse people of Ethiopia, does waving OLF flag automatically make one a secessionist, why do Oromos love the OLF flag, why are non-Oromo Ethiopians so scared of assertive Oromo nationalism etc.

Shared by Ermias M Amare on Facebook

Shared by Ermias M Amare on Facebook

On Twitter, under the hashtags of #TeamEthiopia and #Eritria, there was also a great deal of discussion about sport and politics! Kweschn Media tweeted:

While #Zambia's fans waved only 1 flag, #Ethiopia's side had more than 2 flags. Politicized soccer - Reflection of unresolved issues.

But for Zerihun it would have been great for Eritreans if Eritrea was still a part of Ethiopia. Mentioning the alleged failed coup attempt by Eritrean rebel soldiers. He tweeted:

If you hadn't been allowed to secede, you could have enjoyed the game with us :) #Ethiopia makes fun of today's #Eritrea Coup #TeamEthiopia

Ethiopia will face Burkina Faso in the second match of group C AFCON tournament while Zambia will play Nigeria. The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, also known as the Orange Africa Cup of Nations, is ‘the' football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).  This is the 29th Africa Cup of Nations, and is being held from 19 January to 10 February 2013.

January 16 2013

Director of Films Denouncing President Sata Arrested in Zambia

Chanda Chimba III, a freelance filmmaker who made documentaries denouncing Michael Sata, while he was the opposition Patriotic Front leader and before he became the President of Zambia, has been arrested.

Chimba is charged with unlawful printing and publication and for being in “possession of property suspected of being proceeds from a crime.”

His critics call him a propagandist and his supporters an investigative journalist. Chimba's ”Stand Up For Zambia” documentaries portray negative attributes of Sata and prophesied what life would be like for Zambians if Sata was voted into office. The series aired on state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation TV in the months running up to the September 20, 2011 elections.

Once reviled, the documentaries are now hits on YouTube as most of the things that Chimba predicted, like the arrest of opposition leaders and preventing them from holding public meetings, are now a reality.

Chanda Chimba III and Gen Shikapwasha

Chanda Chimba III, right, chatting with former Information Minister General Shikapwasha, seated centre and a security officer. Picture used with the permission of Mwebantu Media.

Chimba whom netizens have nicknamed the “Prophet” for his foresight, has been arrested along with the former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha, former Zambia Daily Mail Deputy Managing Editor Davis Mataka and media consultant Ng'ande Mwanajiti for offences related to pre-election publications.

An introduction to one of the episodes of “Stand Up For Zambia” on YouTube uploaded by impeachsata reads:

Stand Up For Zambia was a documentary series produced by the investigative journalist Chanda Chimba for ZNBC in 2010-2011. Since the Patriotic Front government was elected into power last year, Mr. Chimba has faced arrests and constant harassment by the new government. His films predicted many of the authoritarian abuses of power now being practiced by the Sata regime of Zambia. For more info, please write to impeachsata@gmail.com.

There were numerous reactions to Chimba's arrest on various citizen media websites. On Zambia Peoples Pact, an open Facebook group, Nawa Mukwati Sibongo, writes:

I await to see Fred Meembe [Post Newspaper owner and editor] support Chanda Chimba III as a fellow scribe they may not agree in content and style but they should fight for the freedoms of speech by those in the media. I also await the media organisations to lend the young man support.

Responding to Sibongo, Emmanuel Khantafu Zulu gave a breakdown of what Chimba was arrested for:

Particulars of the offence are that Chanda Chimba III Unlawfully did cause to be printed or published newspapers called” Stand up for Zambia” and “News of our times” Which were not registered at the office of the Director National Archives of Zambia. He was found in possession or control of an accumulated total of K611, 440,433.12 money he paid for private media and printing services to Zambia National Broadcasting Services Corporation, Muvi Television and the Daily Mail limited respectively, which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of a crime.

Mbwantu, on the ZambianWatchdog [comments on this website do not have permanent links], writes:

Man Sata should just get to his senses and prove that Chanda Chimba was a liar. Arresting people who told the truth for the sake of mother Zambia cannot help the cobra in any way. If anything he is comfirming what Chimba said about him.

After all, BEING UNDER SATA’S RULE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE FROM BEING DEAD OR IMPRISONED.

A reader calling herself Margaret Thatcher writes:

Chanda Chimba was dutifully reminding people with short memory, of a man who always says things that he does not mean to. A man who will say this today and change when it suits him. A man who could tell a dangerous lie all in the name of gaining some political mileage. We are very cheap lot! really to say the least.

Wanzelu ku Choma writes in support of the arrests:

Doesn’t bother me. Man needs to account for his action when time comes.

On Lusaka Times, Rocky warned Patriotic Front leaders might meet the same fate:

That’s the nature of African politics.

Sata and his cohorts should also not forget that they equally will be hunted down and tried before the courts of law the minute the PF leaves power

Concerned about the political developments in Zambia, the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR), quotes a member and international lawyer, Robert Amsterdam on its website:

President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front government of Zambia must immediately halt their unlawful arrests and prosecutions of journalists and opposition leaders, according to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).

“These politically motivated arrests represent a campaign of intimidation that violates the rights of all Zambian citizens to free and fair assembly and freedom of expression,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any country calling itself a rule-of-law democracy to have the leadership behave with such impunity, violating both local and international law to persecute their opponents.”

January 08 2013

Zambian Ex-President Banda on his 2011 Election Defeat

Former Zambian President Rupiah Banda whose MMD government lost to incumbent President Michael Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) in the 2011 elections has stated that he did not contest the results because he did not want the country to go to war which his opponents were seemingly ready for.

Zambian President Rupiah Banda. Photo released by Antonio Cruz/ABr under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

A YouTube video recently surfaced of an interview with Afrik Production TV during his stint at the Boston University in the United States last year. In the interview Mr Banda said:

[…] From the very beginning, it was very clear that I preached acceptance of the results of the elections. Of course, I must say that perhaps I was almost sure that I would win […] It (the result) was very close I could have contested but, you know, the atmosphere was already very poisoned in the country. My opponent, the one who won the election, had already publicly stated that if they don't win, they are going to go to war and started sharpening knives in the streets, and things start that way. I did not want to be the one to be blamed for shedding the blood of the Zambian people.

One reaction to the video by katebebe1, reads:

Rupiah, had you been this focused and thoughtful in your public appearances, you would have been easily re-elected. But you allowed the sycophancy of your lieutenants define your public image. I blame your handlers as much as I blame you.

Mr Banda peacefully handed over office to the then newly elected President Sata a couple of days after the September 20, 2011 elections and has since been engaged in international assignments including a brief residency at Boston University in the United States where the above interview was conducted.

January 02 2013

Zambia: Minister Threatens Editors of Online Watchdog with Treason Charge

A Zambian government minister has allegedly threatened to arrest the editors of the online citizen media newspaper, Zambian Watchdog, in addition to closing down their website. The minister is also said to have threatened to charge the editors with treason, a capital crime in Zambia, punishable by death.

On January 2, 2013, Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu, was reportedly quoted by state-controlled Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), as saying: “ONLINE PUBLICATIONS…. publishing defamatory statements will be taken to court so they explain their false allegations.”

ZNBC has since removed the statement from its website. But many netizens, who have listened to the broadcast on ZNBC, have widely commented on the statement. Like online political activist, Ask Aunt Tina Banda, who writes on his Facebook page:

…..who is it [the minister is alluding to]? Zambian watch dog, Zambian EYE, Tumfweko, Mwebantu media etc….LOL Yaba [exclamation]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Zambian Watchdog is no stranger to threats of closure. But this recent threat seems to be squarely aimed at the website, which publishes the following statement:

The Zambian government has announced that it will close the Zambian Watchdog and charge its editors with treason. But the Watchdog is reliably informed that the renewed vigour to stop the Watchdog is because this publication has made it impossible for the PF [Patriotic Front ruling political party] regime to push propaganda since their praise singers the Post Newspaper is no longer selling.

After heavily suppressing the opposition political parties, civil society organisations, the church, and other opposing views, dictator Michael Sata’s government has a new-years’ resolution – hunting down and close all on-line publications, especially their worst enemy, Zambia Watchdog (this publication).

[…] Zambia’s Home Affairs minister, Edgar Lungu told the state owned and PF controlled ZNBC that the owners will be charged with treason, a capital punishment in Zambia that carries a death sentence.

The PF government since coming to power has been hunting the Zambian Watchdog and has issued several threats and ultimatums which have so far yielded nothing.

But Mr. Lungu has today (January 2, 2013) openly declared war and that 2013 is the year to get the Zambian Watchdog which has proved a pain to the ruling PF dictatorial regime that is bent on suppressing any opposing views.

Last year, the Zambian Watchdog was named by the Zambia Security and Intelligence Services (ZSIS), better known as the Office of the President, as Zambia’s most influential publication.

Commenting on the latest threat, a number of the Zambian Watchdog's readers expressed solidarity. Honest wrote (individual comments on the Zambian Watchdog website do not have links to them):

The best the [government] would do is to provide the correct position of any matter which the govt feels was not reported with facts. Stifling the [Zambian Watchdog] won’t help the [government] in anyway. The [government] should promote free press where authors write objectively. The truth may be hated by the majority but it will finally triumph over falsehood. Very few people can stand on the side of truth as truth demands loyalty to principles and even personal sacrifice in the face of persecution and so forth. The post should simply go in extinct and rest in the archives.

A reader calling himself The Analyst wrote:

I like the Zambia Watchdog but I also don’t really understand their operations. Are they really in Zambia? Are they even registered with [Registrar of Societies, Clement] Andeleki ? Are people who feed them with Information safe?

A reader, Vlad!, whose previous comments appeared to have been censored, lambasted the publication:

Why dont you publish my posts? Is it because I tell you the truth? Test how popular you are as you claim by not moderating posts. All I know is that you are fake, fools! Why attack the [government] when you know that it will not defend itself? We are here to defend the [government] but you block our comments. How credible are your claims?

A few weeks after the 2011 elections, which ushered the current Patriotic Front government into office, President Michael Sata ordered his newly appointed Attorney-General, Mumba Malila, to “regulate online publications.”

In the few months following that order, the government reportedly released millions of dollars for security officers to pursue online publications in general and the Zambian Watchdog in particular. As a consequence, on May 2012, the website was allegedly the victim of an online attack, and was inaccessible for several hours.

Ironically, the Zambian Watchdog seems to be popular among government ministers themselves. As we reported back on October 2, 2012, Zambia's Finance Deputy Minister, Miles Sampa, and Minister in Charge of Chiefs, Nkandu Luo, were both caught on camera, during a parliament session browsing the very online news website their government is allegedly threatening today:

Zambia: Minister Threatens Editors of Online Watchdog with Treason Charge

A Zambian government minister has allegedly threatened to arrest the editors of the online citizen media newspaper, Zambian Watchdog, in addition to closing down their website. The minister is also said to have threatened to charge the editors with treason, a capital punishment in Zambia, punishable by death.

On January 2, 2013, Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu, was reportedly quoted by state-controlled Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), as saying: “ONLINE PUBLICATIONS…. publishing defamatory statements will be taken to court so they explain their false allegations.”

ZNBC has since removed the statement from its website. But many netizens, who have listened to the broadcast on ZNBC, have widely commented on the statement. Like online political activist, Ask Aunt Tina Banda, who writes on his Facebook page:

…..who is it [the minister is alluding to]? Zambian watch dog, Zambian EYE, Tumfweko, Mwebantu media etc….LOL Yaba [exclamation]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Zambian Watchdog is no stranger to threats of closure. But this recent threat seems to be squarely aimed at the website, which publishes the following statement:

The Zambian government has announced that it will close the Zambian Watchdog and charge its editors with treason. But the Watchdog is reliably informed that the renewed vigour to stop the Watchdog is because this publication has made it impossible for the PF [Patriotic Front ruling political party] regime to push propaganda since their praise singers the Post Newspaper is no longer selling.

After heavily suppressing the opposition political parties, civil society organisations, the church, and other opposing views, dictator Michael Sata’s government has a new-years’ resolution – hunting down and close all on-line publications, especially their worst enemy, Zambia Watchdog (this publication).

[…] Zambia’s Home Affairs minister, Edgar Lungu told the state owned and PF controlled ZNBC that the owners will be charged with treason, a capital punishment in Zambia that carries a death sentence.

The PF government since coming to power has been hunting the Zambian Watchdog and has issued several threats and ultimatums which have so far yielded nothing.

But Mr. Lungu has today (January 2, 2013) openly declared war and that 2013 is the year to get the Zambian Watchdog which has proved a pain to the ruling PF dictatorial regime that is bent on suppressing any opposing views.

Earlier this year, the Zambian Watchdog was named by the Zambia Security and Intelligence Services (ZSIS), better known as the Office of the President, as Zambia’s most influential publication.

Commenting on the latest threat, a number of the Zambian Watchdog's readers expressed solidarity. Honest wrote (individual comments on the Zambian Watchdog website do not have links to them):

The best the [government] would do is to provide the correct position of any matter which the govt feels was not reported with facts. Stifling the [Zambian Watchdog] won’t help the [government] in anyway. The [government] should promote free press where authors write objectively. The truth may be hated by the majority but it will finally triumph over falsehood. Very few people can stand on the side of truth as truth demands loyalty to principles and even personal sacrifice in the face of persecution and so forth. The post should simply go in extinct and rest in the archives.

A reader calling himself The Analyst wrote:

I like the Zambia Watchdog but I also don’t really understand their operations. Are they really in Zambia? Are they even registered with [Registrar of Societies, Clement] Andeleki ? Are people who feed them with Information safe?

A reader, Vlad!, whose previous comments appeared to have been censored, lambasted the publication:

Why dont you publish my posts? Is it because I tell you the truth? Test how popular you are as you claim by not moderating posts. All I know is that you are fake, fools! Why attack the [government] when you know that it will not defend itself? We are here to defend the [government] but you block our comments. How credible are your claims?

A few weeks after the 2011 elections, which ushered the current Patriotic Front government into office, President Michael Sata ordered his newly appointed Attorney-General, Mumba Malila, to “regulate online publications.”

In the few months following that order, the government reportedly released millions of dollars for security officers to pursue online publications in general and the Zambian Watchdog in particular. As a consequence, on May 2012, the website was allegedly the victim of an online attack, and was inaccessible for several hours.

Ironically, the Zambian Watchdog seems to be popular among government ministers themselves. As we reported back on October 2, 2012, Zambia's Finance Deputy Minister, Miles Sampa, and Minister in Charge of Chiefs, Nkandu Luo, were both caught on camera, during a parliament session browsing the very online news website their government is allegedly threatening today:

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