Sunday, 29 January 2023

Western Leaders Flock To Zambia As Hichilema Is Darling Of the West

President Hichilema with Dr. Yellen at State House
-Picture by State House Media
By Paul Shalala

January 2023 has been a busy month for President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.

This is the month when loadshedding has become intense following the historical reduction of water levels in the Kariba Dam which has consequently reduced the generation capacity of electricity.

Zambia and Zimbabwe depend on the Kariba Dam for most of their electricity and with the current status, the two countries are left with a huge energy deficit.

That aside, the restructuring of Zambia’s debt has been a main feature of President Hichilema’s work this month.

Observers say the Hichilema administration is a pro-western one, breaking away from a decade of looking to the east for help.

With 10 years of the Patriotic Front administration were China was the center of the country’s foreign policy which led to over $6 billion of debt being contracted from the Asian nation, the new government is doing its best to be a friend of the west.

Between 22 and 24 January, 2023, Zambia hosted United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

Dr. Yellen was in Zambia to promote US investment and offer support to Zambia while Ms. Georgieva was in the country to follow up on economic reforms.

During her three day stay in Zambia, Dr. Yellen visited an American company which makes anti-retroviral and malarial drugs in Lusaka, she also visited Java Foods, a private company owned by lawyer and enterprenuer Monica Musonda.

The American official also opened the Emergency Operations Center at the Zambia National Public Health Institute which was funded by American taxpayers.

Here, she held a question and answer session with local and international journalists.

I asked her about the role the United States is playing in ensuring that China is brought back to the negotiating table over Zambia’s debt restructuring process.

The US Treasury Secretary called out China, saying it was a stumbling block to the talks.

The following day, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing issued a strong statement against Dr. Yellen’s remarks.

The other interesting part of her visit was to meet small-scale farmers in the central Zambian town of Chongwe who are benefiting from the Green Climate Fund which is helping them engage in climate resilient farming practices.

“We will work together to improve Africa’s access to global agricultural commodity markets and meet its growing demand for fertilizer. And we will promote effective agricultural practices and approaches, including strengthening climate resilience.

We must take urgent action to adapt agricultural practices and technology to the changing climate. The project we are visiting today helps small-scale farmers better manage the impacts of climate change. It’s funded by the Green Climate Fund, which the United States is proud to be a part of. We are committed to making sure that the Fund has sufficient resources to carry on this important work. We are also advancing climate adaptation through our latest $155 million contribution to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program,” said Dr. Yellen.

Later, she met President Hichilema at State House where they discussed several issues.

Key to the discussions is the estimated $13.6 billion debt Zambia has with its several lenders.

President Hichilema meets Ms. Georgieva

”The United States insists that all major bilateral official and private creditors meaningfully participate in this debt relief, including China. It is our view that timely and comprehensive debt treatment can serve the interests of both debtors and creditors. In addition, President Hichilema and I will discuss how Zambia can help to tackle global challenges that have serious ramifications at the national level, including food security, which has worsened in this country and globally over the past year, as well as investing in healthy populations and preparedness for future health shocks,” she said during the meeting.

And in response, President Hichilema thanked the support the US Government is giving to his administration.

Like in any other major meeting, the Zambian leader did not miss the opportunity to seek help on its debt crisis.

“We convey our appreciation to the American citizens for the support in many sectors of our economy over the years. Among the key areas of support to the Zambian people have been in health, education, and recently the signed US$8.3 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation towards the second compact aimed at alleviating poverty in our country. We also underscored the need for speedy resolution of our country's debt restructuring process so we can quickly stabilise the economy and focus on creating more opportunities for Zambian citizens that will lead to job creation,” President Hichilema wrote after the meeting.

For the IMF Chief, hers was a visit which took her closer to the Zambian people.

She met the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank and the President.

She also held a town hall meeting at the University of Zambia in Lusaka were students took turns, asking about the conditionalities of the $1.3 billion credit facility which the IMF gave Zambia in August 2022 as part of its debt restructuring programme.

Ms. Georgieva visited Matipula Primary School in Chongwe District where she saw for herself the implementation of the Free Education Policy which the new government started implementing in 2022.

There she saw for herself how children now come in their thousands to school and can attend class for free from Grade one to 12.

“Zambia is doing the most important investment of all—investing in its people. I saw today how “free education for all” is helping the bright minds at Matipula Primary & Secondary School, and how prioritizing social spending makes a real difference in people’s lives,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Later, Ms. Georgieva met President Hichilema at State House.

The issue of debt was very topical during the meeting.

At the end of her visit, she issued this statement:

“Zambia is making tremendous progress on reforms, at what is a particularly a challenging time for the world economy. Zambia also needs a swift resolution of its debt situation to complement these reform efforts and preserve the positive growth momentum. We recognize that these are complex and challenging discussions, but it is clear from my visit that Zambia is doing its part, so I strongly encourage creditors to move forward and reach an agreement on a debt treatment as soon as possible.”

And Zambia’s Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane summed up the visit by the IMF Chief as follows:

Pearl Chunga poses a question to Ms. Georgieva
during a town hall meeting at University of Zambia
“We are grateful to all our partners for their continued, constructive discussions and work towards reaching an agreement on our debt restructuring. Finding a resolution to our debt burden as quickly as possible is essential for Zambia. It will help us achieve our medium-term ambitions of providing economic opportunities to all Zambians and becoming a middle-income country that is at the forefront of supporting the global energy transition. Reaching an agreement with creditors will help ensure that our economy rebounds and achieves sustained growth. This is in the interest of both our creditors and the Zambian people.”

Dr. Yellen and Ms. Georgieva are not the highest level officials to Zambia in the past one year.

In July 2022, United Nations Under Secretary General Vera Songwe visited Zambia at a time when the southern African country was pushing for an IMF financial bailout.

Dr. Songwe rallied the international community saying Zambia needed help to sort out its debt crisis.

And in October 2022, French Minister of State for Development, Francophone and International Partnerships Chrysoula Zacharopoulou visited Zambia and voiced French support for President Hichilema’s economic agenda.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema and US President Joe Biden will be co-hosting a US-African leaders summit to be held in Washington DC in March 2023.

The summit will be a follow up to the inaugural US-African Leaders Summit which was held in the American capital in December 2022.

And with President Biden visiting Africa later in 2023, Zambians have their fingers crossed, hoping he will visit Zambia too especially that the relations between the two countries are currently at their best.

Saturday, 24 December 2022

Zambia Abolishes Death Penalty And Defamation Of The President

President Hichilema signs the law as his 
 Legal Advisor Christopher Mundia looks on
By Paul Shalala

Zambia has abolished the Death Penalty and Defamation of the President, two colonial era pieces of legislation which have been on the cards for repealing for several decades.

The death penalty is a capital punishment which is imposed on all those convicted of some of the gravest of offences in the country.

Anyone who is convicted for murder, treason and aggravated robbery is sent to a maximum security prison and wait to be hanged.

For Defamation of the President, this archaic law became more prominent under former President Edgar Lungu and current President Hakainde Hichilema.

Dozens of people who criticized the President found themselves on the other side of the law.

The law has been used by those in authority to reign in on critical voices and sort out dissent.

In both administrations, opposition leaders usually found themselves in Police stations and courts, answering to charges of insulting the President.

During the campaigns ahead of the 2021 general elections, President Hichilema, then the leading opposition figure, promised to repeal the two pieces of legislation.

After being elected President, Mr. Hichilema stuck to his guns, repeating his promise to abolish the Death Penalty in May and September 2022.

And on 23 December, 2022, President Hichilema signed the Penal Code Amendment Bill Number 25 of 2022 which abolishes the two controversial laws.

President Hichilema said this on his Facebook page upon signing the laws:

“Please be informed that this afternoon, we assented to the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill number 25 of 2022, abolishing the imposition of the death penalty in the Republic of Zambia, and the offence of Criminal Defamation of the President. Fellow Zambians, during our campaigns for the Presidency, we promised to amend all laws that inhibit the growth of democracy and good governance, impede human rights and basic freedoms. Today we have delivered.”

Reaction to this decision has been uniform across the country.

Politicians, activists and ordinary citizens have weighed in on the matter.

Fred M'membe

“The abolition of defamation of the President laws and criminal defamation in general has been long overdue. We therefore highly welcome the abolition of defamation of the President laws. It was an offence for any person who, with intent to bring the President into hatred, ridicule or contempt, published any defamatory or insulting statements,” said Fred M’membe, President of the Socialist Party in Zambia.

Mr. M’membe, a former Editor-In-Chief for the now defunct Post Newspapers, says the past years have seen a growing global movement towards decriminalising defamation and Zambia has not been left behind.

The opposition leader says the Death Penalty and the Defamation of the President had to go.

“These laws were clearly unconstitutional and fell foul of international standards on freedom of expression. To be more meaningful, the repeal of defamation laws needs to be immediately accompanied by the removal of the public order Act.”

Another opposition leader Harry Kalaba, who leads the Citizens First political party, says the two laws were archaic.

“We expected this and we appreciate that it has finally been done. This is a law that should never have been there in the first place. A fair playing field is a key ingredient of democracy. We thank the international community and all stakeholders for keeping tabs and ensuring that a draconian law is repealed,” said Mr. Kalaba.

The former Foreign Affairs Minister in the previous administration says there was need for wider consultation before the abolishment of the Death Penalty.

“We believe in issue-based politics and that’s why we would rather focus on the issue of death Penalty that we think should have sought wider consultation before abolishing it. There are those who have lost their loved ones to criminal activities who feel the Death Penalty is a better option while those related to the people on death row will think otherwise and therefore in our view this issue should have attracted wider consultation,” he added.

On the international scene, Amnesty International welcomed the news that Zambia had joined other countries in abolishing the Death Penalty.

In March this year, Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard visited President Hichilema at State House and issued the following statement on human rights in Zambia.

“Under former President Edgar Lungu’s administration, authorities weaponized the law to criminalize peaceful dissent, charging critics with a wide range of offences including criminal defamation, incitement of public disorder and sedition. For example, on 9 March 2020, police arrested a 15-year-old boy in Kapiri Mposhi, and charged him with three counts of criminal libel after he allegedly criticized President Lungu on Facebook. Authorities must repeal the repressive legislation, especially the Public Order Act, and the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act that have been used to suppress human rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression.”

With the abolishing of the Death Penalty, Amnesty International has reacted.

Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said: “Amnesty International welcomes the announcement by President Hichilema that the death penalty has been abolished in Zambia. This is a good and progressive move that shows the country’s commitment to protecting the right to life.”

Harry Kalaba

Mr. Chagutah commended President Hichilema for quashing the offence of criminal defamation of the president which he said muzzled free speech and unjustifiably limited freedom of expression in the country.

“With the abolition, Zambia became the 25th country in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Zambia’s decision to ban the death penalty should serve as an example to countries in the region that still use the death penalty and compel them to take immediate steps to end this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and protect the right to life,” he added.

Mr. Chagutah encouraged the Zambian government to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Since January 1997, no Zambian citizen has been executed as successive Presidents have been declining to sign the execution orders for those sentenced to death.

This is on the basis of Zambia having been declared a Christian Nation early in the 1990s by President Frederick Chiluba and since then, no Zambian President wants to preside over an execution.

In the last 25 years since the hang man executed the last prisoner at the Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe, lobbying for the abolishment of the death penalty has been loud.

Both local and international non-governmental organisations have voiced out on the matter, encouraging Zambia to join an international group of countries which have done away with the law.

As at December 2021, Zambia had 257 death row inmates who were being held at the condemned section of the Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison.

The inmates, who wear white uniforms, live in small cells which are isolated from lifers and other convicts within the prison.

Over the years, successive Presidents having been using their Prerogative of Mercy to commute death sentences into life sentences on days such as African Freedom Day (Africa Day) and Independence Day (October 25) to reduce on congestion in the Condemned Section at Mukobeko.

According to UN records, 170 countries have so far abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty or have suspended executions for 10 years.

Of these, 24 countries are in Africa and they include states like Liberia, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea.

Zambia now becomes the 25th country in Africa to abolish the Death Penalty.

Friday, 16 December 2022

Brief Profile Of Newly Elected ZCTU President Blake Mulala And Secretary General Joy Beene

Joy Beene (left), Joseph Chewe (middle)
and Blake Mulala (right)
By Paul Shalala

Congratulations to Mr. Blake Mulala and Mr. Joy Beene who have been elected President and Secretary General respectively, for the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

ZCTU is the mother body of the labour movement in Zambia, it is also the voice for the workers.

As President and Secretary General, these two will be the face of the labour movement and their job will be to fight for the workers' rights and privileges.


Mr. Blake Mulala is the President of the Grain and Meat Workers Union of Zambia.

This is a union which was formed and registered in 2006 to represent workers in the Grain and Meat industry on industrial and labour related maters.

I know most people may not know this union because it is not very vocal like BETUZ, SESTUZ, CSAWUZ and others but it's there.

Mr. Mulala, who is 52 years old, started his unionism at Twikatane Farm Products in Barlastone Park near Eden University in Lusaka. 

He used to advocate for better working conditions for his fellow employees despite there being no union at the farm.

His fellow workers nicknamed him Workers Spokesperson.

Mr. Mulala served as Dispatch Supervisor at Twikatane Farm Products from 1995 to 1998.

The following year, he joined Zambeef Products PLC were he works up to today.

As a Unionist, he served in various positions having started as a Shop Steward, Branch Chairman, Vice President and subsquently voted to the position of President of the Grain and Meat Workers Union of Zambia in 2013.

Mr. Mulala was born and grew up in Kalabo District in Western Province.

He did his Primary School at Mutala in Kalabo and proceeded to Kalabo Secondary School and later to the prestigious Kambule Boys Secondary School in Mongu.

Mr. Mulala holds a Diploma in Business Administration and Management from the Institute of Commercial Management in the United Kingdom.

His election as ZCTU President yesterday was not his first attempt.

In 2014, he contested as ZCTU President and he lost by a paltry 20 votes to Nkole Chishimba, who was President for the Mine Workers Union of Zambia..

In 2018, he again gathered courage and stood for the same position.

This time, the government machinery moved in as Mr. Mulala was a fierce and vocal critic of the I'll fated Bill 10.

Mr. Mulala was disqualified by the Labour Commissioner and he didn't contest the elections at the ZCTU Quadrannual Conference which gave Mr. Nkole Chishimba a second term as President.

Four years later, the man they disqualified is the new ZCTU President.



Joy Beene is a 48 year old medical practitioner who is employed by the Ndola Teaching Hospital on the Copperbelt.

He holds a Diploma in Biomedical Science from Evelyn Hone College and a Bachelor of Public Administration (with merit) from the prestigious University of Zambia.

Mr. Beene with his supporters
He started his unionism at the hospital were he served as Ndola Branch Chairman for the Civil Servants Union of Zambia (CSUZ).

In 2004 he enrolled at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka were he went to study Biomedical Science.

With the unionism blood in him, he attempted to contest as President for the Evelyn Hone College Students Union (EHCOSU) in 2005 but he lost.

The following year, he didn't give up, he attempted again and he won with a landslide.

Joy Beene led the union as President for a year and we used to call him "Mature PG (President General)."

In that same year, I had been elected Publicity Secretary for the Evelyn Hone College Students Electoral Commission.

So we handled the elections which ushered him in office, I remember my comrade Lumpa Mubanga was the Commission Chairman.

In 2007, I was elected Electoral Commission Chairman, a position I held until I left the college at the end of the year.

Back to Joy Beene, after he left college in 2006, he went back to the Copperbelt were he continued serving as Ndola Branch Chairman for CSUZ.

In 2010, Mr. Beene made history as he was elected General Secretary for the Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ), which had just been rebranded from CSUZ.

He made history because his election was unprecedented, he jumped the Provincial structure and went straight to the National Secretariat in Lusaka.

He held that position for eight years until 2018 when he was elected Deputy Secretary General in charge of Finance at the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions.

This is the position Mr. Beene held until yesterday when ZCTU members elected him ZCTU Secretary General at the Quadrennial Conference in Livingstone.

At the international level, Mr. Beene is the Deputy President for the SADC Region for the International Trade Union.

He was elected in that role in November 2022.

He is a spiritual man, a family man and a committed Seventh-Day Adventist.

When he was at Evelyn Hone College, he served as Vice Youth Leader at Evelyn Hone SDA Company in 2005 and the following year he was elected as our Youth Sponsor.

This is the Joy Beene I know from at a personal level.