Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Politics Divide Zambians Over African Musik Awards Nominations

By Paul Shalala

Since Zambians voted out the Patriotic Front on the 12th of August 2021, the country has remained divided on political lines.

Long time opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema pulled a surprise landslide victory against incumbent President Edgar Lungu.

Zambians gave Hichilema 2.8 million votes while Lungu got a paltry 1.8 million votes and since then, Zambians on either side of the political spectrum identify themselves with those figures.

On social media, those who support the new government call themselves Ba 2.8 (The 2.8 group) while those who voted for Lungu call themselves Ba 1.8 (The 1.8 group).

Over the past one and half months since Hichilema was sworn in as Zambia’s seventh President, these two groups have clashed on many fronts on issues such as apointment of Cabinet Ministers, recall of diplomats and the slow pace at which the government is taking to fire government and parastatal heads who are seemingly supporters of the previous government.

However, their battles have not just been in politics.

Surprisingly, even music is now a new battle front especially for the young and first time voters who are ever online.

During the run up to the general elections, the Patriotic Front lined up the crème de la crème of Zambian music who produced powerful songs to entice Zambians to vote for continuity.

Popular musicians such as Slap Dee, Macky 2, Dandy Crazy, Bobby East, Nez Long, JK, Mampi and many others sung for the PF much to the annoyance of Zambians who detested the Police brutality, extra judicial killings, tribalism, internet shutdown and corruption which the PF is accused of perpetrating.

After the elections, these musicians have had a tough time fighting off the PF cadre tag and most of them claiming they sung for PF because it is their business to make money.

But with the nomination of Slap Dee, whose real names are Mwila Musonda, for the 2021 African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA) in the Best Male Southern Africa category, the two camps have clashed again and the battle is online.

“I remain optimistic and grateful for the nomination. Third time in a row. I trust one day we will bag it,” wrote Slap Dee on his official Facebook page on 8th October, 2021.

Other nominees in this category are Tha Dogg of Namibia, Jah Prayzah of Zimbabwe and three artists from South Africa: Cassper Nyovest, Focalistic and Shimza.

Bombshell Grenade, a female Zambian rapper, and Australian-based Zambian artist Sampa The Great, have also been nominated for the AFRIMMA Awards in the Best Female Rapper category but they have not received a backlash as they did not sing for the PF during the elections.

In his previous nomination, Slap Dee was pitted against Master KG of South Africa, the artist behind the popular song ‘Jerusalema’ who took the award.

The AFRIMMA awards are decided by online voters and Slap Dee was previously nominated twice and lost and this year’s nomination is the third attempt at these prestigious music accolades.

Slap Dee is a successful and popular local rapper who has built a record label XYZ Entertainment which also has a clothing line.

For years, he resisted singing for politicians saying his music cuts across the political divide.

However, the 2021 general elections enticed him to join the bandwagon of musicians who sung for Lungu and the PF.

As the voting for the AFRIMMA Awards rages on, Ba 2.8 have taken to social media to denounce Slap Dee and most of them have posted screenshots of their votes for South African musician Cassper Nyovest while Ba 1.8 are rallying Zambians to be patriotic and vote for their own rapper.

The anger for Ba 2.8 is that Slap Dee never apologized for ‘siding with the oppressor’ who described Zambians who had been suffering under PF as disgruntled youths.

“So you who are joyously not voting for Slap Dee because he sung a PF song, who do you think you are punishing? Basically, what you are doing is dimming the light of our national flag. Just by being among nominees, Slap Dee has made it already, I mean being among greatest artists, with or without your votes,” wrote Chanoda Ngwira, a supporter of the PF.

Zambians on Twitter and Facebook have not just fought the battle on the Zambian cyberspace but they have crossed the border to South Africa and showered praises on Nyovest’s Facebook page which has 5.4 million followers.

“Why am I trending in Zambia?” wrote Nyovest on his Facebook page.

Hours later, the artist posted again: “Okay Zambia I get it…….. So its Just business.”

The fight for the AFRIMMA votes has also brought in established online media houses to woo voters on each side.

The official Facebook page for the Patriotic Front is asking Zambians to vote for Slap Dee, however, it is the young ones on social media who have gone at length to denounce the nomination and have opted to vote for a foreigner.

“Cassper Nyovest also sings for the ANC, so why won’t you vote for Slap Dee again?” wrote the PF on Facebook.

But one of the youths Chris Aaron responded with this on the same posting: “Simple……… Let ANC members vote for Slap Dee.”

Others think this episode will end up benefiting the young rapper who has swept several local music awards in the past years.

“The fact that Slap Dee is trending, he is also gaining new fans. Casper Nyovest has 5.4 million followers. The Zambians have provoked his response. He may win the award but the reaction will make Slap Dee gain numbers from curious followers of Caspers page and other Zambians who don’t know his music including chancers. Slap Dee gains, its business,” wrote local film producer Angel Phiri on his Facebook page.

Popular medical practitioner Dr. Aaron Mujajati, who commands 317,000 followers on Facebook has urged Zambians to vote for Slap Dee.

He argues: “Is he perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. I will vote for him because I like to keep family difference in-house. When we are among outsiders we must hold together. It is about us. It is about Zambia. Vote for Slap Dee.”

Journalist Mastone Moonze has also weighed in on the topic.

“If Slap Dee wins, the money will be used in my country in helping to boost the economy. It might create job opportunities for young people. What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he wrote.

Tactfully, politicians have stayed away from this decisive issue and they have left it to Zambians on Twitter and Facebook to battle it out.

In the end, Cassper Nyovest may gain a lot of votes from Zambians but Slap Dee still has his loyal fan base despite having disappointed them a few months ago.

But this is not the first time Zambians have opted to vote for a foreigner at the expense of a local person.

In 2017, Zambian football legend Kalusha Bwalya opted to give more votes to foreign players during the CAF Awards at the expense of then Chipolopolo Captain Rainford Kalaba who had been nominated for the Best African Player based in Africa Award.

Zambians on social media can be brutal at times.

Just a few days after losing elections in August, Lungu had to deactivate his Facebook page after a blitz of negative comments on each and every posting he made.

In the morning, the former President used to post verses from the Bible but that would be received with thousands of bad comments by mostly youths who blame him for their joblessness. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Mysterious Death Of A Popular Fish Unites Zambians

 By Paul Shalala

The carp fish popularly known as Mafishi

It had to take the death of a fish at Zambia’s second largest university for politicians to speak the same language.

Over the past month, Zambian politicians have waged a bitter war of words over the role privatization has played in Zambia since the 1990s.

Opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has been on the receiving end of uppercuts for having been a consultant of the Zambia Privatisation Agency in evaluating the parastatals companies that were sold during the MMD era.

But when the legendary fish at the Copperbelt University (CBU) in Kitwe died on Sunday, all politicians issued statements expressing sympathy with thousands of students at CBU who believe the fish gave them miraculous powers to pass examinations.

The fish, which was nicknamed Mafishi, died on Sunday in unexplained circumstances yesterday.

According to experts, Carp lives up to 20 years and can weigh 14 kilometers.

Mafishi is believed to have been introduced in the research pond somewhere in 200 or 2001 and was mainly used for research by students studying natural sciences.

“The fish is a Carp and it was sourced from China. Its habitat was the pond near Monk Square and students believed that when they visit the pond and see Mafishi, they can enter an exam room and pass,” said Professor Felix Kalaba, the Dean of the School of Natural Resources at the Copperbelt University.

Professor Kalaba, who himself was a student at CBU between 2000 and 2003, says he remembers walking to the pond to watch the fish at the time.

“The fish was a source of inspiration and part of the university community for over 15 years. That fish knew a lot of secrets because couples would sit by that pond and discuss many issues. And even students when they meet at Monk Square, they would plan a lot of things and Mafishi would be a witness,” added Professor Kalaba.

The School of Natural Resources has since written a letter to management at the university, seeking for the renaming of all fish ponds after Mafishi.

On Monday evening, students lit a big fire at Monk Square, singing funeral songs and praising Mafishi for his ‘heroic’ legacy.

Clad in black attires, the students marched around campus, wailing loudly.

“We are in mourning; this fish was part of us. We are appealing to well-wishers to embalm it and preserve it so that future generations can learn about Mafishi,” said Lawrence Kasonde, President of the Copperbelt University Students Union.

As the students were singing funeral songs, one of them who spoke in Bemba, gave the purported life history of Mafishi stating that the fish was born in 1983 in Mwansabombwe District in Luapula Province.

Students paying their last respects to Mafishi 
at CBU Fish Ponds -Pictures by Paul Shalala

He comically said Mafishi was enrolled at CBU in 1987, graduated in 1991 but returned to lecture Fisheries the same year but died on Sunday due to depression.

Outside of campus, social media was ablaze with #RIPMafishi hashtags.

With the 2021 general elections just 11 months away, politicians stole the limelight as they showed solidarity with CBU students who form part of a large voting group in Kwacha Constituency which is currently held by Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji.

President Edgar Lungu was one of the first politicians to weigh in on the death of the fish.

“Mafishi was part of the CBU community for a long time…….. I’m glad you received a befitting send-off. We’ll all miss you,” said President Lungu.

Opposition UPND President Hakainde Hichilema led opposition leaders in paying tributes to the fish.

“We stand with the CBU student community, past and present, over the death of their iconic pet Mafishi,” said Mr Hichilema.

Another opposition leader Chishimba Kambwili of NDC wrote: “On behalf of the NDC and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to send our sincere heartfelt condolences on the passing of the iconic Mafishi, to the CBU student community.”

From the academic world, the University of Zambia also joined in sending messages of condolences.

“UNZA sends its heartfelt condolences to Copperbelt University on the demise of Mafishi,” a statement on the university’s official Facebook page reads in part.

However, it is not yet known were the ‘remains’ of Mafishi are.

Management at CBU is still waiting for its security agents to hand over the beloved fish.

Meanwhile, some students have written a petition, seeking President Lungu to declare three days of mourning for the fish.

Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe, himself a former President of the CBU Students Union, is leading the calls for a state funeral.

Students mourning the fish at Monk Square.

“Ba Kateka (Mr. President) Ba ECL (Edgar Chagwa Lungu), have you received the petition for a day of National Mourning for Mafishi and ka State Funeral? I graduated from CBU in 2009 and still remember seeing this fish in the Riverside Campus ponds for five years,” wrote Kang’ombe on Facebook.

This Facebook status drew 95 comments, mostly from current and former CBU students who are in support of honoring the fish with a state funeral.

Others students like Flo Kampamba, followed Higher Education Minister Brian Mushimba on his Facebook page to ask him to erect a monument for Mafishi on campus.

“Receiving these petitions, let’s see how many we receive and decide,” said Dr. Mushimba in response.

On Sunday, security guards spotted the dead fish, floating in the pond but they only reported the matter on Monday.

Since then, no one has seen the carcass of the dead fish.

This has led to speculation as to what happened to the fish.

"We have not seen the fish itself. No one has seen it. But we are investigating so that whoever had a hand in the death or disappearance of Mafishi can be brought to book," said Professor Naison Ngoma, the Vice Chancellor of the Copperbelt University.

Asked whether the university would consider engaging the Zambia Police Service to beef up the investigation, Professor Ngoma answered in the affirmative.

"We will use all investigative resources at our disposal and if it means engaging the CIA and FBI, we will do so. We need to find Mafishi," he added.

As it stands, students are just mourning without evidence of the death of the fish.

What if the fish was stolen and relocated to another water body? What if Mafishi is live somewhere? This could be a theater style deception.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Water Regulator Shuts Down Dangote's Illegal Quarry

By Paul Shalala
WARMA statement

From the start, the civil society insisted that it was an illegal activity. 

But Dangote Cement went ahead and built its limestone quarry on the Mwatishi stream in Masaiti District on the Copperbelt. 

This blocked the stream completely, depriving 12 villages of water. 

And now, the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) has confirmed the illegality. 

WARMA Public Relations Officer Joshua Kapila says Dangote Cement did not get permission to construct the quarry on the stream. 

“WARMA has not yet granted a permit to Dangote Cement to operate a quarry……….. though the cement firm has applied for the permit which is yet to be granted,” said Kapila in a statement. 

Mr. Kapila says the firm has since been ordered to immediately halt operations as the matter is being investigated. 

“The company has since been informed to cease the operation of the quarry pending determination of their permit application,” he added. 

According to the Water Resources Management Act of 2011, any activity on a water body is supposed to be approved by WARMA. 

This involves dewatering, distribution of water for any other use, construct or acquire any water works. 

“This is a good move by WARMA. But we expect them to go even further and order Dangote Cement to restore the stream to its original state,” said Archie Mulunda, a lands expert. 

Initially, Dangote Cement had claimed that it had authorisation for the quarry. 

After the matter was exposed by civil society, the company started pumping water to the stream through pipes but this was NOT sustainable.