Motorists queue up for fuel at a refill station. PHOTO: fm101.mw

Hong Kong, Jun. 13 – An energy crisis has engulfed the southern African state of Zambia about two months after it gave out five million litres of fuel to its eastern neighbour, Malawi.

Over the past week, Africa’s top copper miner has been failing to meet increasing demand for both fuel and electricity, which has resulted in some industries and mines to down scale their daily production.

Experts warn that if central government delays to take action, the energy crisis might spiral into an economic disaster for the mineral rich African state.

“There is no fuel at many gas stations not only in Lusaka… Zesco [power utility firm] has also increased their load shedding even when it is cold season [winter],” said Paxina Ngazimbi, a Lusaka resident.

Authorities have blamed the on-going fuel shortage to a burst on an interlink pipeline which feeds Zambia with crude oil from a port in Tanzania, while persistent electricity rationing is reported to have been sparked by increased domestic usage as more people attempt to fight the chilly weather this winter.

A van belonging to Zambia’s energy firm, Zesco PHOTO: zambianewsfeatures.com

Peak power demand when Zambian consumers switch on their heaters outstrips the 1 800MW it currently generates, although Zambia expects to have a surplus of 600MW by 2016, the nation’s utility firm said at the onset of the latest power rationing circle.

An increase in electricity generation will allow Zambia to supply excess to countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana which also experience electricity shortfalls during peak periods.

Jeremiah “JC Blaze” Chalwe, a radio jockey at a Lusaka radio station said power rationing continues to worsen daily while some selected filling stations still had stocks of fuel.

“Load shedding is the order of the day we even getting used to it. Most of the filling stations are not working at all and am told the situation is worse on the Copperbelt [Zambia’s mining region],” Chalwe said.

Zambia consumes about two million litres of diesel per day and 700,000 litres of petrol daily. The country has no domestic reserves and crude oil supplies are sourced from Middle East through an interlink pipeline from its north-east neighbour, Tanzania, at a cost.

About 80% of Zambia’s annual export earnings are derived from mining followed by agriculture and tourism.  Economic analysts say prolonged fuel and electricity shortages in the country might have adverse repercussions on mining and agriculture activities.

“Things are not easy right now but I am sure something will be done very soon. It’s not easy… but we are very positive something will be done,” said Thomas Mkandawire, an executive at another Lusaka radio station.

Months after being ushered into office, President Michael Sata and his administration scrapped off the 15-day strategic reserves fund which allowed oil marketing companies to stock up reserves for a considerable number of days and invited fresh tenders for the supply of 1.4 million tonnes of oil after the expiry of a two-year supply contract with Glencore International plc, a Switzerland headquartered commodities trading company.

Former Zambian leader Rupiah Banda with lawyer Robert Amsterdam. PHOTO: robertamsterdam.com

Hong Kong, Apr. 29 – Lawyers representing former Zambian president Rupiah Banda’s son, Henry, have sought the intervention of  various United Nations human rights bodies over attempts by Zambian authorities to extradite him from South Africa to face allegations of fraud and corruption.

Lawyers fear extraditing Banda from South Africa – where he holds permanent residence – would not guarantee him a fair hearing because of what lead lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, describes as “politically motivated persecution” by the Patriotic Front administration led by President Michael Sata.

Amsterdam’s legal firm, Amsterdam & Peroff LLP, sent out two letters [Banda UN Letter - 25.04.12] to various UN human rights bodies last Wednesday April 25, whose full contents were availed to the media Sunday.

Map of Barotseland PHOTO: Gabirro/Wikipedia.org

Hong Kong – Mar. 27 – Traditional leaders in western Zambia agreed Tuesday to establish an independent state – Barotseland.

The western region – which partially borders Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo – has been pressing for a breakaway state from Zambia, in a struggle that left at least two killed and many others arrested.

Leaders of the Barotse National Council have requested for independence on grounds that the union between Zambia and Barotseland did not conform to the Barotse Agreement of 1964 – an agreement which unified the two regions at the time of Zambia’s independence from Britain in October 1964.

Officials from the region’s seven districts have all agreed to the creation of a breakaway state – whose Constitution, flag, currency and emblem have already designed.

The resolutions to establish an independent state were reached during a Barotse National Council caucus in the region’s capital Mongu.

It was also agreed the United Nations get involved in ensuring that an independent state was created in western Zambia.

Legislators from the region and currently serving in Zambia’s national assembly have been asked to step down and help establish Barotseland.

If the resolutions are allowed to stand, Barotseland will become Africa’s newest state after south Sudan seceded from Sudan last year.

Officials from Zambia’s central government were not available for immediate comment.

Ex-president Banda (l) and his predecessor Sata (r) in Lusaka. Banda is expected to be prosecuted once his immunity from prosecution is successfully lifted by Parliament. PHOTO: lusakatimes.com

Hong Kong, Feb.11 – Zambia’s immediate past president and Michael Sata’s predecessor, Rupiah Banda, is to join a contingent of Zambian dignitaries expected to fly to Gabon Sunday to witness the close of the African Cup of Nations tournament in Libreville.

Banda who lost the presidency to Sata in September 2011 has been accused of mismanaging the country’s affairs while he served as head of state.

The relationship between Banda and Sata has been soured mainly by the media and some sections of the public who accuse the former leader of economic mismanagement and corruptly enriching his family and close associates with state resources.

Banda has maintained his innocence, although calls to have him prosecuted are mounting.

State House in Lusaka said Saturday, Banda would be joining the country’s first president Kenneth Kaunda and other dignitaries on a flight to Gabon to watch the final match between Zambia and Ivory Coast and witness the official closing ceremony of the tournament which started last month.

“Former president Banda will be part of the Zambian delegation to Libreville, Gabon to attend the closing ceremony and final match,” Sata’s PR aide, George Chellah said.

“This was after President Sata requested the former head of state, who is an ardent soccer fan to join first president Kenneth David Kaunda, vice-president Guy Scott and other Zambian dignitaries who are travelling to Gabon to give solidarity and support to the Chipolopolo Boys as they play their final match tomorrow (Sunday).”

Last year, President Sata’s government refused to fund Banda’s trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo where he was invited by US-based Carter Centre to lead a group of election observers in DRC.

Several officers that served in Banda’s administration have either been sacked, arrested or facing investigations on various charges ranging from corruption, abuse of authority of office, racketeering to money laundering.

President Sata has re-launched an anti-graft crusade that he warns, “will not spare anyone”.

Meanwhile,  Sata has sent a goodwill and solidarity message to the Zambian national soccer team “Chipolopolo Boys”, ahead of  Sunday’s African Cup of Nations final match in Libreville, Gabon.

“No doubt, Zambia has become one of the continent’s leading team in football following a convincing and outstanding performance of our heroic Chipolopolo Boys at the 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations tournament,” Sata said.

Zambia’s Emmanuel Mayuka (l), Christopher Katongo (c) and Francis Kasonde (r) celebrating. PHOTO: mtnfootball.com

Hong Kong, Feb. 09 – Over 40 casualty cases were recorded Wednesday night at Zambia’s University Teaching Hospital (UTH) after post-match celebrations turned violent and unruly, hospital authorities said.

UTH said it had treated 46 casualties who were injured after Zambia national soccer team  – “Chipolopolo” – beat Ghana’s “Black Stars” to advance to the finals of the on-going African Nations Cup tournament co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

“Out of these 13 are assault cases while 33 are Road Traffic Accidents,” hospital officials said.

Emmanuel Mayuka's lone goal inspired and ignited the victory celebrations across Zambia. PHOTO: mtnfootball.com

And residents of a high density suburb south west of the capital Lusaka torched a motor vehicle after it ran over a person celebrating Zambia’s 1:0 win over Ghana.

Three people have so far been killed in post-match celebrations that are mostly characterized by heavy alcohol intake, careless driving and loud blowing of South African popularized local trumpets – “Vuvuzelas”

Zambia will face Ivory Coast over the weekend for the top prize while Ghana and Mali will battle it out for third and fourth positions.

Zambia announced the currency devaluation Monday.

Hong Kong, Jan. 23 – Zambian authorities have announced intentions to redenominate the local currency – Kwacha – by dividing the current notes by 1000 and knocking off three zeros from all the denominations.

This means that K1, 000 will be K1, K5, 000 will be K5 while K50, 000 will become K50.

Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda and newly appointed Central Bank Governor, Michael Gondwe announced the redenomination of the Kwacha at a news briefing in Lusaka Monday.

“The rebasing had to be done when all the fundamentals like inflation and GDP growth were right and we think they are now right,” Chikwanda said.

Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Ghana are some of the African countries that once rebased their currencies.

In July 2007, Ghana chopped off four zeros from the Cedi. Instead of having 10,000 Cedis, it  now has 1 cedi for 10000.

"I am alive" Zambian President Michael Sata dismisses claims he was assassinated. PHOTO: afp

Hong Kong, Jan. 23 – An unverified alteration on Wikipedia that Zambian President Michael Sata had died in an assassination Sunday morning prompted the presidency to strongly criticize online media and suspects facing corruption charges.

Wikipedia – a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit- allowed the publication of over the wire of an edited biography of President Sata claiming that the Zambian head of state had been killed.

“Michael Sata was assassinated in the early hours of the 22nd of January. He was killed through a single shot to the chest, which proved to be fatal,” read the falsified Wikipedia alteration which has since been deleted.

Source

The alteration appears to have been done in the United Kingdom town of Crawley by unknown persons using the IP Address 82.11.64.177 through the domain name virginmedia.com with Virgin Media Limited as Internet Service Providers.

The falsified alteration was sent through a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or Digital Subscriber Loop – a family of technologies that provide internet access by transmitting digital data over the wires of a local telephone network.

The coordinates for the altered post appeared to be 51°6’48″N -0°10’58″W while the weather station code for the alter was UKXX0816, signifying that it was done in the England region of the UK.

The falsified death claim was available and accessed worldwide early hours of Sunday.

The false report was apparently picked by news blogs that flight Zambian news and current affairs but later pulled off after State House in Lusaka issued a statement in rebuttal.

Response

Incensed by the altered biography, President Sata’s public relations aide, George Chellah expressed misgivings and strongly blamed a named news website and some unidentified persons that are apparently being investigated on corruption charges for the claims that President Sata had died.

Chellah said State House was saddened by the malicious, sadistic and unfounded story that claimed that President Sata was dead.

“This follows the publication of an insensible and sickening article by a named uncouth website, claiming that the Head of State was assassinated in the early hours of today, January 22, 2012,” Chellah said. “As a matter of fact, State House is aware that such horrid stories are being perpetrated by certain rogue elements, with a bulk of them being investigated for gross misconduct and corruption in the ongoing crusade against graft.”

The presidency has since ordered Zambia’s security wing to hunt down and arrest publishers of online news sites and blogs that produce Zambian related content.

Blackout

The order to hunt down online publications by authorities in Zambia comes barely two weeks after Wikipedia and other major global outfits staged an access blackout to protest against pieces of legislation being pushed by the US authorities regarding copyright on the Internet.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, respectively.

These bills are presented as efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites.

Opponents of the bills – including Wikipedia – have criticized the bills as a channel that would disrupt free expression and harm the Internet.

Years ago, then Zambian president Fredrick Chiluba’s photo on State House website was defaced by hackers, a case which was later taken to court after the alleged perpetrator was tracked down.

This is not the first time President Sata has been reported to have died.

Reports of his death had become common during election campaigns  prior to his ascendancy to the presidency  in September 2011.

Zambia’s Internet regulator, ZICTA is yet to comment on the involvement of Internet media in the latest Wikipedia alteration.

Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu suspected to be behind the rebuttal blog posts. PHOTO: enationaltv.files.wordpress.com

Dhaka, Dec. 29 – A series of blog posts claiming that Switzerland-based businessman Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu who has been implicated in soured gold deal in Zambia have emerged online.

The posts published on different word press blogs claim Buzaianu has been cleared of his alleged involvement in the gold scam and that Zambian President Michael Sata has since apologized for wrongly implicating the Romanian-born businessman in the procurement of the gold which allegedly went missing from the vaults of the Drug Enforcement Commission under mysterious circumstances.

The blog posts which seem to have been authored by Buzaianu or his close aides are published on a blog with Nicolae Buzaianu’s name as the blog header.

Some of the posts state that Buzaianu is not suing Zambia for defamation or claiming US$100m while others say his appointment as Zambia’s representative to UNESCO was never revoked by Sata but that he voluntarily resigned.

It is not yet clear who is behind this arsenal of rebuttal weblogs being published online – some of which claim to have been issued by State House media unit in Lusaka.

What is clear though is that the posts are intended to disassociate Buzaianu from the gold scam which has sucked up several officials that served in ex-president Rupiah Banda’s three year administration – including Banda himself, his son James, his ex-pr aide Dickson Jere and former first Lady Maureen Mwanawasa.

The rebuttal posts appear under wordpress blogs with names such as michaelsatapresssecretary, thediplomatpress, africasvoice, zambiaamswers and fakes of the post, the watchdog and wiredproject316.

Both Banda and State House have not commented on the blog posts.

Prolonged traffic jams are symbolic of Dhaka.

Dhaka, Dec. 28 – The transport system in Dhaka is not something you will find in Lusaka, Zambia or any other part of the world.

Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city has an acute shortage of transport. The road network is limited. It seems there are as many modes of transport as is the population. The road is as chock blocked as the various transport objects available in this city.

Movement from one place to the other is not easy at all. It takes an art of patience and creativity to wade through the Dhaka’s road network. There are constant and prolonged traffic jams on almost all roads and highways in Dhaka. The roads are wide enough but there is no organised manner in which traffic moves.  A four-lane highway can have six rolls of traffic heading in all any direction. Lane discipline and road courteous are not in the books of Dhaka’s road users. The overwhelming presence of private owned vehicles, public buses, motor bikes, bicycles, pedestrians and the Dhaka famous Rickshaws all add up to the traffic build-up in this city. Dhaka is known as the Rickshaw Capital of the World. Approximately 400,000 cycle rickshaws run each day. This is way too much for a limited road network.

Rickshaw City

The cycle rickshaw is a small-scale local means of transport; it is also known by a variety of other names such as velotaxi, pedicab, bikecab, cyclo, becak, trisikad, or trishaw or, simply, rickshaw which also refers to auto rickshaws, and the, now uncommon, rickshaws pulled by a person on foot. Cycle rickshaws are human-powered, a type of tricycle designed to carry passengers in addition to the driver. They are often used on a for hire basis. Cycle rickshaws are widely used in major cities around the world, but most commonly in cities of South, Southeast and East Asia.

Rickshaws are used for various tasks and come in different designs. Here a cycle Rickshaw is used to transport bags of building cement.

An auto rickshaw or three-wheeler (tuk-tuk, trishaw, auto, rickshaw, autorick, bajaj, rick, tricycle, mototaxi, or baby taxi in popular parlance) is a usually three-wheeled cabin cycle for private use and as a vehicle for hire. It is a motorized version of the traditional pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. Auto rickshaws are an essential form of urban transport in many developing countries like Bangladesh.

Jaywalking or Right of Way?

There is a huge combo of road users – pedestrians, automobiles, motor cycles, bicycles, domesticated animals and other human propelled modes of transport. Not all roads are smooth or paved. A large portion of the tarred road network has pot-holes or badly damaged. Some roads have pedestrian crossings but people never use them. This is because they can easily cross the busiest highway at any point without being cited for “jaywalking”  - in fact, a pedestrian has a “right of way” and can stop moving traffic if they so wish. All it takes is to raise a hand and wave a stop sign and all the incoming traffic will reduce speed, stop or change its direction.

Observation

What is most frustrating about Dhaka’s road network and transport system is that no one pays attention to traffic rules and regulations. The few that attempt to use road facilities and services smartly are easily seen as docile and end up staying on the road for longer periods of time.

Lack of stiff traffic regulation and implementation of the pieces of legislation that exist makes it very difficult to control road usage in Bangladesh. The available public buses are usually overloaded with people packed to fit in as many passengers as possible. Buses can stop anywhere on the road, pick or drop passengers without any offence. In certain places, there are traffic police officers and private security guards that try to control or guide traffic flow especially during peak periods.

It is very common to spend more than an hour held up in traffic jam – even where the destination is within reach.

Besides being over crowded, Dhaka has so many moving objects on its road network. This in turn creates the jams that last forever. Few road users care about other users. It is like once on the road, others do not matter. Road users ahead of the traffic pack control the flow or movement of things on Dhaka’s roads. The combined presence of pedestrians, vehicles, motor bikes, bicycles, cycle and auto Rickshaws creates this never ending traffic jams in Dhaka. There is also a general feeling that Dhaka dwellers do not like walking –even the shortest distance – they would rather hop on a Rickshaw. They also never share the few available seats in their cars or on hired Rickshaws.

Limited roads are shared by pedestrians, Rickshaws and automobiles. This photo shows about this is possible.

Possible solution?

It is a known fact that Dhaka faces a very serious transport and road problem. As a visitor to Dhaka and Bangladesh in general, Bengalis can do justice to themselves and ease up their ever-growing transport problem by considering adhering to some of the basic road rules. If they coordinate the way they use public transport and follow instructions from the traffic controllers, much could improve. Bengalis must also learn to share transport with others. It is unbelievable that people going in the same direction or place would all hire vehicles, Rickshaws or drive in 14 seat buses with only one passenger.  The more objects on the road, the more jams and the longer the time spent in traffic.  The prolonged hold in traffic leads to lost productivity, which has a very negative effect on economic growth.  Public service transporters could do better if they consider being courteous to other road users. It does not make one a loser if the consider other road users. Hooking and hooting never stops. Its like road users move with their fingers on hooters and bells all the time. I wonder how my ears will be after close to two months in Bangladesh. The completion of the on-going overhead road project and flyover bridges in selected areas will also ease up the burden of traffic jams in Dhaka.

Fair road record

What is somewhat impressive about the drivers and riders in Dhaka is the way they make some scene look like a major accident is bound to take place when in the actual sense none takes place. There are very few road related accidents but there are scenes that create an impression like an accident is likely to take place. They drive and ride way to well within the sidelines of each other but never bash other road users. I am very surprised that despite the close shaves between pedestrians and other road users, I have not seen any major accident. I have seen some trucks by roads sides with damaged parts – signifying that they had been involved in a road accident. It leaves me to wonder whether bus drivers in my country (Zambia) can navigate through these roads. Zambian bus drivers are criticized as being mean and selfish of all road users in Lusaka. But what I have seen here and to some extent what I witnessed in Mexico City (Mexico) and Cairo (Egypt) would make any rude Zambian driver look like an amateur.

Generally, there is nothing safe on the roads. The only precaution is strict adherence to basic road rules.

With my flatmate, Sunny (r).

Dhaka, Dec. 20 – It is fair enough to claim that I am well travelled and exposed to different cultures and traditions but for the first time in my many errands in different parts of the world I feel like a real non-native.

It is my first time to be in Bangladesh, a South Asian state that was formerly East Pakistan until it claimed its independence on December 16, 1971. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma (Myanmar) to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south.

Bangladesh has a population of about 160 million. Since I arrived in Dhaka – the capital and largest city – on December 05, I have been around different places and sites around Dhaka. Before my arrival here, I had some misconceptions, visual impressions and stereotypes of this country. So like I always do, I turned to the Internet to do a background check on Bangladesh. After my online briefs I thought I had acquired enough to equip me for my five weeks stay in Bangladesh.

What do you think of Bangladesh?

After an interview with Bangladeshi actor and ex-BBC correspondent, J-lasan Masud. PHOTO: Maria Salam.

This question popped up as I was driven to my apartment. I rather did not respond. I opted to reserve my first impression of Bangladesh because I had arrived at night.

The strangest feeling for me here is the fact that I am a non-native. I am a black of African origins. Being black (African) is normal in my native country Zambia as the majority of the population are blacks.  In Bangladesh, about 98% of the population are native Bangladeshis (Bengali), 2% are non-natives groups comprising whites, Asians and blacks. To some extent you can refer to this group as minority because the majority are native Bengalis.

Without being racist or racially prejudicial, Bangladesh has nationals who are either light or dark in complexion but these cannot be classified as blacks. They are natives too.  There is a mistaken belief here that all black people come from Africa – African Americans or blacks from the Caribbean are thought to come from Africa.

This is somehow a fair misbelieve because in some places I have been, it is thought that all white people come from Britain or the United States.

What do you see?

I have tried to look in different places each time I am going to or from my work station at banglanews24.com – Bangladesh’s largest online news portal – I have seen fewer blacks than five since I arrived in here. This is not to say there are no black people in Dhaka. There are there but they are very few. They account for a very minimal percentage. Anxiously to know more about why there are few or no blacks on the streets of Dhaka, one person told me there are blacks of African origins who are mainly from Nigeria and Sudan. Yes I have seen fewer than five from a distance and waved at two since I have been here. I am yet to have a conversation with any of them.

Looking at who is staring

Throughout the time the days I have been here, I have received crushing stares, experienced looks and greetings I have never received in my many travels and stay abroad.

Some stares and looks at times make me feel uncomfortable because I literally notice how shocked or surprised on-lookers are when they see me. Some on-lookers turn their heads just take an x-ray look at me or initially suspend their walking spend to catch a glimpse. I look back then turn my eyes to the ground or look elsewhere.

Showing off my Bangladesh Cricket Team replica uniform.

What do you get from all this?

I have come to understand that being a non-native resident is not as easy as it seems. I came to Bangladesh with my own visual impressions, beliefs and stereotypes but my time in this part of the world has offered me an opportunity – an opportunity to feel and experience how different groups feel when they are in a situation where they stand out or they are not as many as the other group.

My experience here has taught me to put aside my beliefs, misconceptions or stereotypes and learn to understand how to treat different people with respect and treat them all equal.

We are one people despite the different cultures, traditions, beliefs and races. A willingness to learn and accept the reactions I receive from people here has opened up questions which would have remained unanswered if I remain to myself.

Hospitality, generosity and smiles

The best lesson I have learnt from my brief experience here in Dhaka, Bangladesh is that the people here are so hospitable and welcoming. They will always greet you, look you in the eye and smile at you. This is a total opposite to the situation in Hong Kong where I am currently staying and attending university.

In Hong Kong, few people will look you in the eye or attempt to greet you or answer back when you offer a greeting. The majority are usually more content and comfortable being glued to their electronic devices and seal their ears with headsets or ear phones. They will not even dare to say sorry when they accidentally bump into you. Accidental bumps and incidents are common in highly populated places. On a second thought, maybe this is also a unique way about Hong Kong – my second home.

Interactivity

Here the Bangladeshis like to interact with non-natives. They attempt to express themselves in English just to strike a conversation, know more about you or your nationality. Bangla or Bengali is the official language but some attempt to communicate in English. Their generosity is also another trait that is special about Bangladesh.

The other day, a friend said, “Bengali people like foreigners because they see the different side of the world when they see non-natives in their country.”

This experience came true on December 16 – surprising enough, it was a Friday before my birthday on Saturday, December 17 – when I went to this country’s Victory or Independence Day at the National Monument for the Martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, northwest of Dhaka. Despite the usual stares looks that I am now getting used to, I became an instant high profile figure – many people wanted to take a photo with me. I am not sure whether it is because I am black, my looks or the new hair style I am now dawning after close to 13 years of being a baldy. I was a mini-celebrity and this status came just hours before birthday in a foreign country. Although the photo requests were too many at times, it was an experience I will cherish and treasure for a long time.

The National Monument for the Martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

The interactions, the smiles, the cameras, flashes and postures were so worth remembering why I should again come to Bangladesh.  To top it all I had to do television interviews. Television journalists asked me what I thought of Bangladesh’s Victory Day and I offered my views – only this time I was not a journalist (interviewer), I was a source (interviewee).

Later when we went for lunch with comrades from the media outlet I am interning, one senior executive from Banglanews24.com joked, “If you had charged all the people that asked to take photos with you today, you would have been an instant millionaire.”

Next time you considering a trip abroad, mark Bangladesh as an option.