Friday, 31 July 2020

Dangote Cement Blocks Mwatishi Stream In Masaiti

Part of the Mwatishi stream drying up in Pinta Village
By Paul Shalala in Masaiti

The crops are dying and life has become unbearable in Senior Chief Chiwala’s Chiefdom in Masaiti District on the Copperbelt.

For the past three weeks, thousands of residents in 12 villages have had no access to water.

The affected villages are Pinta, Kantanga, Yusufu, Saidi Situbisha, Saidi Mujale, Kalulu and Kapindo.

Other villages are Chisoboya, Chingwele, Kapala, Maliko and Matutu.

Their only source of water, the Mwatishi stream, is dry and this is not because of natural causes but because of human activity.

Not because it is not rain season, but because the stream has been disturbed by mining.

Dangote Cement, the Zambian arm of Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote’s empire, has dug a limestone quarry inside the stream, completely blocking the floor of water.

Water now flows from the stream’s source to the quarry and it stops there.

After the quarry, the streams is dry up and there is no water reaching the confluence with the Kafubu river in Ndola.

“Dangote has affected us. That quarry they have constructed on the stream  has affected us so much. As you can see, our crops are drying up due to lack of water,” said Pinta Musonda, a farmer in Pinta Village.

Dangote runs a cement plant in Senior Chief Chiwala’s Chiefdom.

The plant is strategically located in an area where limestone is readily available.

However, authorities have raised the alarm.

Vegetables drying up in villages along the Mwatishi stream
After receiving complaints from villagers, newly appointed Masaiti District Commissioner Patrick Zulu has visited the area to see for himself what is happening.

“The stream is completely blocked as you can see. In as much as we need investment in this district, we also need to balance with the needs of the local people. There is need for regulators to come and investigate this matter,” said Mr Zulu as he toured the quarry.

Mr Zulu was shocked to find that Dangote had been pumping water from the other side of the stream with pipes and delivering it to the dry river bed to help keep the stream flowing.

However, that effort backfired when the pumps developed faults and water could not reach all the villages.

In an interview, Dangote Cement denied blocking the stream.

“We have not blocked the stream, what happened is that our pumps failed to work and we could not pump more water to the other side of the stream,” said Taata Kalokoni, a Project Geologist at Dangote Cement in an interview.

Asked why the company decided to build a quarry across the stream, Mr Kalokoni claimed all activities by the company are lawful.

“We adhere to all regulations and all our activities have been approved. But for the quarry, we just need to normalize things with the authorities,” he added.

However, civil society organizations are concerned.

Their worry is that Dangote’s activities have potential to harm both humans and the environment.

“The stream has been blocked completely, it no longer flows. Dangote and the government must now work together to restore this stream to its original state. Our biggest worry is that people in these villages who depend on their gardens may starve and this will lead to poverty,” said Archie Mulunda, a Board Member at FIAN Zambia.

Meanwhile, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has sent a team of inspectors to the Mwatishi Stream to investigate the matter.
This is where the Mwatishi stream used to flow

ZEMA Spokesperson Irene Chipili has told this blogger that the team has in the past few days been on the ground, investigating the blocking of the Mwatishi stream by the cement giant.

“The inspectors are investigating the impact of the action on the environment and if any illegality has been done. A full report will be availed to the public as soon as possible,” said Mrs Chipili.

As to what punishment can be meted out if Dangote Cement is found wanting, Mrs Chipili said it was premature to talk about punishment before work is completed on the ground.

And the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) has also sent its team of inspectors to the site.

WARMA is a government agency which regulates the use of water resources in the country.

At its cement plant in Masaiti, Dangote Cement employs hundreds of workers who produce thousands of bags of cement which briefly stabilized cement prices when the company entered the country a few years ago.

The company also runs a fleet of trucks which ferry cement across the country.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Zambian Minister Fired Over Leaked Nude Videos


David Mabumba - Picture courtesy of Kalemba
By Paul Shalala

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has fired his Minister of General Education David Mabumba a few hours after nude videos of the politician went viral on social media.

Mr Mabumba was captured in three videos, fondling his genitals while looking straight into the camera.

In the leaked videos which looked like recorded WhatsApp calls, the Minister’s face can be seen clearly as he touched himself without uttering a single word.

However, the image of the person on the other side of the video call was deliberately blurred and it is not known who that person is.

The Minister, who is a career teacher, is serving his second five year term as a Member of Parliament for Mwense, a rural constituency in Luapula Province.

The videos were widely condemned by Zambians who took to social media to call for either his resignation or dismissal.

In a brief statement issued by the State House Press Office, President Lungu did not state the reason for Mr Mabumba’s dismissal.

But before the dismissal, Zambians from all walks of life weighed in on the scandal.

Former State House Spokesperson during the Rupiah Banda presidency Dickson Jere was one of the first prominent people to comment on the matter.

“In my country, it appears, only sex scandals unite the people across political divide. Bring Bill 10, corruption, rule of law or political violence, we are split! Come sexual scandal, we all united and want the minister fired! We are certainly a special breed,” wrote Jere on his Facebook page.

Another commentator Andrew Sakala, who is the President of the Press Association of Zambia, wrote: “Human interest stories especially sleazy ones involving people in high places attract massive attention anywhere in the world.”

But Tech Journalist Brenda Zulu brought  more interesting discussion on the matter.

Writing on her Facebook page, Brenda described Mr Mabumba’s videos as revenge pornography.

“He is the latest victim of revenge pornography. Many victims have been women but in this case we have a known personality and leader. 1. So first of all, a live webcam and video recording button are activated using a laptop during the sexual act. 2. The sexual act is recorded and stored on the laptop. 3. The sexual act is shared to a trusted partner or social media and BOOM there is a viral video.”

And then she added this: “Usually the sharing of such a video with sexually explicit images of individuals to social media and online spaces is without the permission of the actors. The sexually explicit videos are usually selfies or made by a partner of an intimate or non-intimate relationship with or without their knowledge. Revenge Pornography has injured many people and is a common cybercrime in Zambia. So why has this video leaked to social media?” she asked.

Politicians, mostly from the opposition, were some of the first people to comment on the matter.

They unanimously called for Mr Mabumba’s dismissal.

Mr Mabumba has not issued any statement or appeared in public since his nude images went viral.

Producing or circulating pornographic materials is a criminal offense in Zambia.

The Zambia Police Service has not yet commented or made a move over the matter.

Just yesterday, Mr Mabumba was on state television, talking about the impact of the Corona Virus on the education system and what measures his Ministry had put in place to help pupils in examination classes continue learning.

Over the past month, dozens of pornographic videos have been leaked in Zambia, exposing several young ladies who are said to have been sending them to their loved ones.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Zambia’s President Pardons Gay Couple

By Paul Shalala
The two men talk to their lawyer Daniel Libati shortly 
after they were convicted in Kapiri Mposhi in 2018.
-Picture courtesy of The Punch
Six months after they were sent to jail to serve a 15 years sentence, two men who became the first Zambians to be convicted for homosexuality are now back home, thanks to a Presidential pardon.
Steven Sambo and Japhet Chataba found themselves among 2,984 prisoners who were pardoned by President Edgar Lungu on the eve of African Freedom Day (Africa Day) which was observed on Monday.
According to the Government Gazette number 6,874 published on Friday last week, Chataba and Sambo are listed as number 2,561 and 2,562 respectively on the list of pardoned prisoners.
In August 2017, the two men found themselves in a bitter fight at a lodge in Kapiri Mposhi where they allegedly had sex.
Kapiri Mposhi is a transit town in central Zambia which has had three court cases involving homosexuals, two of which ended in acquittals.
In a video which went viral on social media in 2018, Chataba was filmed forcibly dragging Sambo back into a room at a lodge as he allegedly tried to run away from his partner.
As the two men fought each other and ended up back in the room again, lodge workers and onlookers filmed the episode on their mobile phones, footage which later proved to be critical evidence during trial. 
The Government Gazette which carries names of 
those pardoned, including Sambo and Chataba.
A day after the incident, the two men were arrested and charged with practicing what the Penal Code describes as “unnatural acts.”
During trial which took a year, several witnesses were called to the stand.
They included workers at the lodge, a medical doctor and the arresting officer.
It was alleged that the two men had carnal knowledge of each other.
Sambo and Chataba were convicted by the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrate’s Court on 3rd August 2018 but were only sentenced by the High Court in November 2019.
The 15 year sentence sparked a diplomatic row between Zambia and the United States of America.
Then US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote expressed support for the two which led to a sharp reaction from the Zambian government.
Later, the United States government recalled Mr Foote back to Washington, DC.
According to the Penal Code, homosexuality is illegal in Zambia and it carries a 15 year sentence.
Zambia is a largely conservative country which outlaws homosexuality.
Its powerful church mother bodies do not approve of homosexuality.
However, the country has a handful of organizations which champion the rights of homosexuals who are estimated to be in their hundreds.