Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Donchi Kubeba Cabinet

The Donchi Kubeba Cabinet
By E. Munshya wa Munshya
President Michael Chilufya Sata has finally released a list of 19 ministers. I find this list very interesting for several reasons. First, it has taken at least a week from the time he took office to name a cabinet. This is the most time any Zambian president has ever taken in the Third Republic. That delay however, can be justified. He was probably still researching and investigating who to appoint. Or he was just being careful so that he does a very good job. Or may be he had been unwell and was waiting to recuperate. There could be several hypotheses given for the delay. In any case, the delay does seem to go against the ethos of President Sata’s campaign. That he is a man of action who was ready to govern immediately. However, once given power, it had to take seven days to figure out who is in his cabinet and who is not.
Second, HE the President has appointed Dr. Lindsay Guy Scott as his vice-president. In a post-colonial African country, this is a rarity. Zambia could be the first country to have a white vice-president. This appointment should be praised by all well meaning Zambians. Guy Scott has demonstrated in his life that he is just like every one of us. You think of Guy Scott and you never think of the color of his skin, but the content of his character. The character that mingles with the black poor of Zambia. The character that made him fight his political battles like everybody else. Guy Scott just like his boss, President Sata, possesses a common touch. He is a man of the people. 
I am aware that there are some Zambians who are questioning whether indeed Guy qualifies to be a vice-president. There are questions of whether he could act as president or even whether he could run for the position of President of the republic.
According to the constitution of the republic of Zambia as amended in 1996, a presidential candidate should be a Zambian by birth or descent and his father and mother should be Zambian by birth or descent. From a cursory look at the articles of our constitution you would think that Guy does not qualify. But in fact, the right legal position is that according to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lewanika and others v FJT Chiluba, the Supreme Court interpreted Article 45 of the Constitution of Zambia and guided the nation that the clauses that seem to require a presidential candidate to have Zambian parents cannot apply to those candidates whose fathers or mothers were born before the creation of the Zambian state in 1964. The starting point for Guy Scott therefore is that he in 1964 became a citizen of the republic of Zambia. That citizenship qualifies him to stand. He cannot produce a Zambian father or mother just like Michael Sata or Rupiah Banda cannot. The parents of either Sata or Banda could have been born in the early 1900 in a territory protected by the British and Zambian citizenship cannot be imputed upon those old dead folks, according to the Supreme Court. 
The appointment of Guy Scott and the ruling of the Supreme Court should now put to rest this xenophobia and tribalism exhibited by some sections of our country who believe that some Zambians are less Zambian simply because of the color of their skin or the name of their tribe. That is the more reason why it was so bizarre when Wynter Kabimba went to court saying President Rupiah Banda having had Malawian parents did not qualify for the presidency. In view of clear Supreme Court precedence Kabimba’s action was stale to say the least. But unlike Kabimba, all Zambians should welcome vice-president Guy Lindsay Scott and hope that one day, he would be able to run for president of our republic.
Third, President Sata’s cabinet is really notorious for having only 2 females. This is unacceptable and it cannot be justified. Not at all. President Sata should have included more women in his cabinet. It is the right thing to do. The argument that there were no women of caliber to appoint is a stale argument. He had appointed several questionable men, why can’t he do the same for women? The idea that a president should be excused when he makes gender insensitive decisions is a thing of the past. We are tired of having cabinets full of men. Men have proved to be selfish and problematic. What we need is a gender sensitive structure in all sectors of our nation. And we cannot say that women would have to compete freely in order to be appointed. The reason being that the structure of our nation seem to be so biased against the women and so a presidential appointment becomes one of the things that can at least bring in some balance and publicity to the issues. For now we have to endure another cabinet that lacks proper women presentation. Additionally, among the 10 MPs Sata nominated to parliament couldn’t he have at least nominated a woman?
Fourth, President Sata’s cabinet is simply tribally tilted towards one tribe. I had written previously that of all presidents the one who appointed more of his tribesmen was FJT Chiluba. But in 2011 FJT Chiluba has been beaten to this record. President Sata has appointed 11 Bemba-speaking ministers out of his 19. When I wrote this on both facebook and twitter, I was insulted and was called a tribalist. I was called all sorts of names. It is not my wish to respond to those insults. But suffice here to mention that Hakainde Hichilema’s National Executive is more tribally balanced than Sata’s cabinet. And when I say that, I should be not be roasted for it. Here is a short history lesson. When Mwanawasa appointed just a few Lamba and Lenjes in his cabinet Michael Sata then in opposition called Mwanawasa a tribalist. To make it worse, Mwanawasa at one time said Bembas stink. This was Sata’s staple for Mwanawasa’s political attack. Out of 22 Cabinet ministers, Rupiah Banda had 6 from Eastern Province. For opposition leader Michael Sata, that number showed that Banda was a tribalist. In 2011, Sata has over half of his cabinet hailing from either Northern or Luapula Provinces. Shouldn’t we call upon Sata and remind him that such actions are tribalistic? If what Sata has done was ever done by a Tonga or a Lozi Zambia would be in war today. Why is it that tribalism is alright as long as it is a Bemba practicing it and yet it is wrong if it is being practiced by a Tonga or a Lamba or a Lenje? President Sata needed to be a little bit more sensitive in his appointments. 11 ministers from Luapula/Northern out of a possible 19 is a tribalistic situation.
Fifth, President Sata says that he has reduced the number of ministers from 22 to 19. He has saved 3 seats. He says he has done this to save public funds. Among the merged ministries are ministries bizarrely called, 
“Ministry of Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection” and then another one is called, “Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health”. There are still one that has merged Tourism, Broadcasting and Information. From the look of things, many are praising such initiatives as cost-saving. But the question is cost-saving by how much? Is it still cost-saving if one minister will be responsible for so different things as local government, housing, early childhood and environmental protection. No minister can attend to all these elements effectively. Which one of all these combined elements will suffer more than the other. Cost-saving should not be parroted over efficiency and effectiveness. President Sata in trying to save a few million kwachas is inevitably setting himself up for serious failure. Zambian ministers are already overworked supervising one ministry or two. Where will they get the energy to attend to four or five portfolios? There are better ways to save money and bundling up the ministries so that it creates some conceptually complicated nomenclature is a courtship of disaster.
All in all, after all is said and done. My score for this cabinet is a 2 out of 10. Donchi Kubeba!

“Besa Nabakolwa”: Dora Siliya and the Politics of Sex and Gender Imbalance

By E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
In the song “Umuti wa Bufyashi”, the late Zambian maestro Emmanuel Mulemena and his Mulemena Boys penned a song that was ahead of its time. In the song, a young couple could not have children. Typical of Zambian tradition, the blame fell on the woman. And so she went to both Chiwempala and Mikomfwa searching for help from witchdoctors. The witchdoctors prescribed herbs, a Whiteman’s teeth and the heart of an ant.
After another infertile year, the man contemplated divorcing the woman in consistency with prevailing culture that blames women for infertility. But the woman persuaded the man to try Western Medicine. The medical doctor examined the woman and gave his verdict. “Lady your fertility is alright.” “The only probable cause why you cannot have babies”, the doctor continued, “is because your husband comes home so drunk that he cannot perform.” What the doctor means in this song is left to our imagination. However, it attempts to change the debate from condemnation of women to letting society see that marriage problems are not the preserve of women alone. They could be caused by a man’s careless habits. 
From birth, to puberty and onto marriage our girls are taught to be good servants. They are expected to look after their husbands. They must cook for them, wash for them and please them in bed. Women must also produce kids for the man. All these are indeed commendable traditional values and I would do everything to preserve them. But here comes the trick, these expectations are not pushed onto the man as it is on the woman. It is almost a given that a man has the license to behave in any way he wants. And in the context of a home, a man can misbehave and the woman should preserve the family by keeping quiet about whatsoever is going on. She must keep a “Donchi Kubeba” doctrine. This doctrine is not new with Guy Scott; it has been around for years embedded within our customs and culture. A woman is not expected to speak openly about issues. She is also not expected to be ambitious or to aspire to anything, or if she does, she must do it on the terms that society’s men dictate.
When Mama Kankasa rose up to be a firebrand within Kaunda’s inner circle rumours circulated about her private life. Undeterred she remained steadfast and became an exemplary public servant. 
Dora_SiliyaSome women in Chiluba’s government also faced similar challenges. Each time they showed ambition they were given all sorts of names. Those who were single faced the questions of why they remained single. Those who became more ingenious like Nawakwi faced insults of being promiscuous. Those who were divorced became subjects of ridicule. And yet the same treatment was not accorded to their male counterparts. At the time that Minister of Finance Nawakwi was being called all sorts of names for her relationship with Hambulo nothing was being said of her counterpart Sata who was allegedly running three families with three different women (a teacher, a doctor and according to Chiluba, a banker in Ndola). It was alright for the man but not for the woman.
When in the Mwanawasa government, Maureen showed some ambition Sata (now in opposition) told her to shut up and accused her of being an “untaught” Lenje woman. Sylvia Masebo came to Maureen’s defense and told off Sata. But Sata repeated the same sentiments on Masebo. The Bantu Botatwe traditionalists were infuriated by these attacks on their women, but Sata would not apologize.
In the Banda administration, one woman has perhaps received more insults than any other woman politician has ever faced. Dora Siliya was a popular broadcaster. That she is ambitious is an understatement. She got married almost a dozen years ago to a dream man. Her marriage to a famous business man was a marriage made in heaven-until at least they started facing problems. They divorced and Siliya continued with her political ambitions. She lost her first attempt at politics by losing badly in Petauke in 2001.
Since her divorce almost a decade ago, some sections within Zambian society have heaped blame on her for her failed marriage. People questioned her and doubted her political skills having been a divorcee. She was daily faced with the challenge of having to explain her failure in marriage and the fact that she did not have any kids with her ex.
Society judged her more strictly than countless of her male colleagues. Somehow in keeping with “Umuti wa Bufyashi” she was blamed for the problems in the marriage. She was a failure in marriage and consequently should be a political failure too. 
For ten years she went on pursuing her political ambitions. Rising up to be a Cabinet Minister and close confidante of current president Rupiah Banda. Her ambitions are clear for all to see. Once she resigned her position only to be reinstated when Judge Musonda set aside the Ministerial Tribunal’s ruling that she had breached the Zambian constitution. She went on to become an influential member of the ruling party. But the questions of her marriage still haunted her. And for ten years she did it the way taught women are supposed to handle problems, “Donchi Kubeba” and suffer alone in your heart.
According to tradition she was supposed to accept the blame and continue shouldering insults. She was supposed to continue with the doctrine that blames women for infertility, infidelity and failed marriages. She was not supposed to have an opinion. She was supposed to do a “Donchi Kubeba.” 
But last week she snapped. She could not bear the blame anymore. After ten years of silence she had to say her opinion. She had to break the taboo of silence. And yes, in a typical Nsenga style, she spoke some embarrassing stuff for any man. And I do not in any way seek to justify what she said. My objective here is to at least recognise that she gave her side of the story. She at least managed to paint the picture that she should not be the only one to blame of not having a kid with her ex and for not keeping the marriage. The man in the marriage had the same responsibility which in her opinion he failed because he used to come to bed wearing a Bombasa.
Having faced public humiliation for her private family failures, Dora decided to confront the issue publicly and show that she is not the only one to blame. It was her decision how she handles the issue.
Dora’s rants challenge a Zambian man to step up. A Zambian man must stop the blame game and must stop going to bed wearing Bombasa. A Zambian man must stop going to bed drunk with Kachasu and Tujilijili since there is a real person waiting for him on the other side of the bedroom. 
The antediluvian “Donchi Kubeba” traditional doctrine that bought the silence of women is becoming obsolete currency. And women’s political libido should be judged on equal footing as that of their male counterparts. A society that judges our women more harshly is inconsistent with a Christian nation. 
Faced with a society whose tradition condemned women’s adulteries as it condoned the men’s infidelities, Jesus told the woman brought to be stoned for adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” But in that case, as it is in the case of Zambian politics, the men are given passes while women are brought to be hanged. 
Not anymore, says Dora and the Mulemena Boys, and on that point I agree with them!

Dora Siliya, Donchi Kubeba and Why I Cannot be Silenced!

First, I am the first to say I would not be the first person to throw the first stone at Dora. Second, I have admitted that Dora has spoken recklessly and has broken taboo. Third, I have pointed out that Dora’s words and our condemnation of her behavior is born out of a very unbalanced society which unfortunately judges women too harshly. More harshly than we judge the men. Fourth, I respect your opinions but I do not hope that you will respect mine. Fifth, I am concerned about the welfare of my people at home and at the same time believe that part of the problem for our people is the “Donchi Kubeba” tradition that criminalizes opinions. I am simply using Dora’s rants to drive through a point for a more humane country. A more human society. A more equitable society. A society that laughs at itself and breaks taboos. And I just hope that in all this you will not silence me and force me to do a “Donchi Kubeba.” When my time here on earth is done. I want to be remembered as one who made a different difference and inspired others to make theirs. My duty is risky because it means I must have opinions. I must speak. I must say it the way I feel in my heart and not be silenced by “Donchi Kubeba”. I must tell Rupiah Banda openly and frankly when he is doing wrong and I must praise him when he does right. I must equally have the right to tell Michael Sata and the folly of his 90-day wonder. I must be able to listen to Dora Siliya and understand what she is saying. I must be embarrassed by what she says and yet still be able to point out the fact that Dora’s rants should be put within a context that condemns and marginalizes ambitious women. I must say no to a doctrine that says men have a license to do all they want. To aspire for leadership and do all sorts of evil and women cannot, simply because they are women. I refuse to be silenced and so I refuse the “Donchi Kubeba.” When I go to sleep I want to sleep in peace, knowing that I said what was in my heart and that aspired to be what is in my heart. I will not eat at the table of corruption in the name of “Donchi”. I will not let our women be silenced in the name of “Donchi”. I refuse that our people in Milenge should tell Banda one thing and tell Sata another. I refuse that my people in Chiwempala should drink Banda’s Kachasu and deceive him into believing that he will get their votes when in fact not. I ask that people be forthright. They should say what they think. They should say what they feel. And if they feel that Banda must go…they must chase him openly and without fear or intimidation. As for me and my house, “Donchi Kubeba” does not cut it for us.