Saturday 13 October 2018

Zambia Pilots Digital Provision Of ART Services

US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote (left) displays
the smart care card in Ndola. -Picture courtesy of the
US Embassy Facebook page
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

With the advancement in technology and the implementation of Smart Zambia, the Ministry of Health has also gone digital.

Gone are the days when clinics and hospitals in Ndola used to keep paper files for people living with HIV and AIDS.

These files had information on the client’s viral load, health condition and how often they are accessing Anti-Retroviral  drugs (ARVs).

Today, the Ministry of Health is piloting smart care, a system which allows people living with HIV to swipe and collect drugs.

In a project spearheaded by Equip Health Zambia, a United States government funded project, this new system is revolutionizing service delivery in the health sector.

Using this pharmacy card, clients can walk to either a private pharmacy or a government clinic to access these life saving drugs.

The whole process is now digital and there is no more paperwork involved.

At Lubuto Clinic, the programme has already been unvieled.

"We have already been connected here. Clients come here and we record all details on this system using the smart card. Then they can collect the drugs anywhere where the cards are accepted," said Sianga Sianga, a Strategic Information Assistant at the clinic.

Smart care has become so efficient that authorities are now thinking of extending it beyond its current reach.

Even the stigma which came with people living with HIV queuing for drugs at clinics has now been done away with.

"We no longer have queues here. People just come with their cards, they are attended to and leave," added Mr Sianga.

United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote recently visited a Medical Stores warehouse in Ndola where smart care is being implemented.

Here, the envoy was taken through the whole process of the smart care system.

"So if am a patient, i come with this card and present to you, is it very effective?" asked the envoy.

The Ambassador was briefed that the system has been so effective that authorities wish it can be extended to other facilities.

So far, 14 government clinics and hospices as well as six private pharmacies are using smart care to deliver ARVs to their clients.

Private pharmacies at Kansenshi, Rekays, Kafubu, Villa and Jacaranda Malls are now connected to smart care and people living with HIV go there to collect these life saving drugs.

Meanwhile, the United States government will invest US$385 million in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Zambia this year.

United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote says the American government is investing close to $400 million dollars in the health sector to ensure that access to health is increased.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018 US President's Emmergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Country Operational Plan in Ndola's Kantolomba Compound, Mr Foote said the money being invested will help patients reduce distances they cover to access health services.
Dr Chilufya commissions the Kantolomba Clinic as US Ambassador
to Zambia Daniel Foote looks on -Picture courtesy of
Ministry of Health Facebook page

He said the investment will also help in reducing congestion at health centers when patients go to access medical help.

The American envoy also disclosed that his government has so far invested US$ 3.5 billion dollars in the last 15 years in Zambia to fight HIV and AIDS.

Mr Foote noted that Zambia's leadership in the fight against the disease is very commendable.

And Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya described the United States as Zambia's number one strategic ally in epidemic control.

Dr Chilufya said the American government has been very helpful especially in infrastructure development which has led to the increase in health delivery.

The Health Minister said the US$385 million the United States Government is investing in Zambia will help the country meet its health targets.

Dr Chilufya says the first task under the funded programs will be to escalate HIV interventions among adolescents both male and female.

The Health Minister said the American funding will help increase the number of people on Anti-Retroviral Therapy from the current 890,000 to 1.2 million by 2020.

He further disclosed that no allowances will be paid to health workers as they implement health programs funded by the US government.

Dr Chilufya says health workers have a salary and no allowances will be paid to them in order to ensure the money is used for the intended purpose.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Kitwe High Court Finds Tokota Boys With Case To Answer

Mwamba Siame, also known as Mayweather,
 is a top commander of the Tokota Boys
 gang and has been in hiding since May 2018

By Paul Shalala

The Kitwe High Court has found 18 out of the 19 suspected members of the Tokota Boys gang with a case to answer.

This is in a case where the gang members are jointly charged on three separate charges.

The charges are acts intended to cause grivious harm, unlawful wounding or poisoning and kidnapping and abduction.

The 19 Tokota Boys were arrested in May this year after a video in which they were assaulting a 17 year old teenager of Mulenga Compound went viral on social media.

The assault on the boy, in which he was stoned, beaten with a stick and forced to eat his own faeces, was allegedly committed on 30 April this year.

Passing ruling on Monday, Kitwe High Court Judge-In-Charge Timothy Katanekwa said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that 18 of the 19 suspects committed the offences.

He said the state found a prima facie case in the matter and he has since found them with a case to answer and put them on their defence.

"From the evidence adduced by the state, any reasonable tribunal can convict the 18 suspects," said Justice Katanekwa.

At this stage, the 18 Tokota Boys have three options of defending themselves in court:
They can choose to be silent, they can give evidence on oath, or they can elect not to give evidence on oath.

And Justice Katanekwa has acquitted the 19th suspected member of the Tokota Boys gang who was not at the scene the day the assault of the teenager happened.

In acquitting Lazarous Zulu, Justice Katanekwa said the victim clearly stated that the suspect was not at the scene and the identification parade conducted by the Police cannot be relied upon.

Before the judge could even finish his ruling, Lazarous was already on his way out of the courtroom in excitement.

Meanwhile, a medical examination has disclosed that one of the two suspected Tokota Boys who contested their age is a minor.

According to results of a medical examination read in court, one of the boys is aged between 13 and 14 and the other is either 18 years or above.

However, Justice Katanekwa has decided to treat both suspects as juveniles after the defence applied that the production of birth records by the mother of the boy considered 18 years be also treated as a minor.

Meanwhile, all the 18 Tokota Boys who were put on their defence have opted to testify under oath.

Legal Aid lawyer Mwendalubi Kapukutula informed the court that the suspects will call witnesses.

The first of the suspects to testify yesterday was Limbikani Phiri who is suspected to have sold out the 17 year old teenager before he was assaulted.

Limbikani told the Kitwe High Court that the victim was beaten by Mwamba Siame popularly known as Mayweather for allegedly belonging to The Hundreds gang which is also called Ba Zale.

In his testimony before court a month ago, the victim told the court that his friend Limbikani had sold him off to the Tokota Boys.

Putting up his defence, Limbikani said the victim told him that he had been beaten by Mayweather for allegedly being a member of a rival gang.

He said that on 30 April this year, he was among many youths from Mulenga and Ndeke Compounds who went to do piece works at Mindolo North.

He explained that they were hired by Mayweather to go and dig for low grade copper and malachite but when they reached there, Mayweather beat up the victim with a huge stick.

Limbikani however denied personally watching the teenager being beaten as he claims to have gone to collect sacks of malachite during the assault.

He revealed that Mayweather deals in minerals and supplies low grade copper and malachite to trucks which ferry the minerals every day after his workers finish loading them into sacks.

Mayweather is on the run and was not arrested in May this year when Police conducted a round-up of gangs across Kitwe.

And in cross examination led by State Advocate Jinjimali Mpopwe-Sililo, Limbikani denied ever seeing the victim naked or being fed faeces.

But when reminded by Ms Mpopwe-Sililo that he watched a video in court where the victim was shown naked, imbikani maintained that he never saw him naked on the material day.

The second suspect to put up his defence was a juvenile who we will not name for ethical reasons.

The juvenile gave similar testimony with Limbikani though he made a few points which were contrally, leading the state to challenge on who was lying between him and Limbikani.

The case has been adjourned to this afternoon for continued defence.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Chinese Companies And The Abuse Of Zambian Workers

Workers cutting timber at Zhengbang Deheng factory
without protective clothing -Pictures by Melody Mupeta
By Paul Shalala in Kalulushi

At the time when the talk in the country is on the debt the Zambian government owes China, something more serious about the Chinese isn’t being talked about.

The hundreds of Chinese companies operating in the country are paying their workers meager salaries and conditions of service are very worrying.

On top of that, the workers who are based in factories are not provided with safety attires.

This is an area which is rarely in the news: the bad side of Chinese investment in Zambia.

This week, I accompanied Kalulushi District Commissioner Kenny Siachisumo and Kalulushi Mayor Rashida Mulenga who stormed Zhengbang Deheng Investment, a Chinese furniture company which keeps its 70 Zambian workers in slave like conditions.

The visit caught the Chinese owners by surprise.

The factory, which is located along Sabina road, is barricaded by high walls and people outside cannot see the atrocities happening inside.

What we found was shocking, workers handling raw timber with bare hands.

They wore torn shorts, no safety boots or overalls.

"We were given our last safety gear last year, its over a year now," said one of the male workers. 

At the far end of the factory is a machine which mixes chemicals which they later apply on the planks.

The chemical whose name is not know, chocks the workers daily 

"I have worked here for three years and this chemical chocks us daily. Even tears come out, its too strong," said one of the female workers.

Asked if they are given milk to try and neutralise the chemical, the lady said the Chinese supervisors do not respond to requests for milk and advise them to buy their own from their meagre salaries.

In terms of sanitation, the place is not in good condition.

The 70 Zambian workers share pit latrines which are filthy.

They are not stocked with tissue or any chemical to distill them.

"According to the Public Health Act, this situation warrants the closure of your company. Only 12 people are allowed to share a single toilet, but what you have here is wrong," warned Christopher Mtonga, the Chief Health Inspector from the Kalulushi Municipal Council.

Mr Mtonga went further to give the company 21 days to build a new ablution block which must have a provision for changing rooms where workers can change from work suits to normal clothes after working.

"But for the safety gear, am only giving you 24 hours to buy and give all your workers. We shall come back to check and if you do not do so, we shall close this company," said Mr Mtonga.

But the Zhengbang Deheng Investments Manager Wei Le hesitated to commit to building an ablution block in 21 days.

She threatened that if the Council insists on a new ablution block, she may close the company.

And a check at the toilets used by the six Chinese supervisors revealed flushable toilets with clean running water which is in contrast with the filthy pit latrines for the 70 workers.

The toilets are fitted with lights, as opposed to the pit latrines which are darkened due to lack of lights.

In terms of salaries, workers at the company make K25 ($2.5) per day and they get as low as K438 ($43) as salary per month.

According to a pay sheet which the manager availed to the inspectors, most workers are paid between K400 and K700 per month.

"The problem you have here is that you have no safety officer and a human resource officer. Urgently employ an HR officer, a Zambian who should be stationed here to resolve all these issues," said Kalulushi District Commissionner Kenny Siachisumo. 

And Kalulushi Mayor Rashida Mulenga added that the recruitment of a safety officer and human resource officer must be prioritised.
Kalulushi Mayor Rashida Mulenga talking to one of the
female workers at Zhengbang Deheng factory

But despite all these challenges, Zhengbang Deheng Investment has all updated permits from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency, the Kalulushi Municipal Council and elsewhere.

At the factory, the Chinese supervisors keep eight dogs.

The dogs bark at every person entering the factory and it is not known whether the dogs are pets or they are kept for food since the Asians include them on the menu.

Zhengdang Deheng Investments is not the only Chinese company where Zambian workers are abused.

Two weeks ago, a 42 year old Chinese national shot a female employee in a shop managed by the Chinese in Kitwe's Chimwemwe Township.

Gaoen Ming appeared in the Kitwe Magistrates Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty to unlawful wounding 17 year old Rhoda Mumba.

The case has been adjourned to next week Monday when trial will commence.

The shooting led to riots in Chimwemwe Township after rumours went round alleging that the victim had died.

This incident prompted authorities in the mining town to have a consultative meeting with the Chinese community over their business practices.

The meeting resolved that all Chinese retail shops in townships must be closed immediately and be moved to the Central business district.

"This move is aimed at ensuring that Zambians who run small shops are not disadvantaged. The Chinese are investors, they shouldn't be competing with our people in the compounds," said Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kangombe after the meeting.

And in the eastern Zambian town of Chipata, another Chinese national who owns a restaurant was arrested on Wednesday for shooting one of his worker.

Police are yet to avail him in court to answer for his actions.

These are just a few cases of the many cases of abuse of workers by Chinese nationals in Zambia.

Friday 5 October 2018

Jerabos And Their Dangerous Mining Methods In Luanshya

The author interviewing some illegal
miners in one of their caves
By Paul Shalala in Luanshya

A disaster is looming at Luanshya Copper Mines where hundreds of illegal miners armed with picks and steel rodes are risking their lives by digging for copper and chrome at one of the mine's two Black Mountains.

Luanshya Copper Mines is owned by CNMC, a Chinese conglomerate.

But the illegal miners, who are mostly youths, have over the past years invaded the area and dug several underground caves where they dig for copper and chrome in unsafe conditions.

This reporter recently had rare access to these miners who are dangerous and are known for killing or injuring security officers.

These miners do not have safety suits, safety goggles or safety boots, they dig with their bare hands and end up with injuries at times.

Two days before the interview, the miners who are locally known as Ifinyamunyamu or Jerabos, beat up guards from Cobra Security with machetes and chased them from the mine site.

But using the help of heavily armed Police officers, this reporter negotiated his way to the Black Mountain where he had an exclusive interview with leaders of these miners.

One of the leaders of the illegal miners Bernard Mulenga who is popularly known as Pisto, says they risk their lives to dig illegally because of the quest for money.

Mr Mulenga, who is a former convict, says through illegal mining, they are able to make money to feed their families and take children to school.

He told this blogger that despite the dangers of being buried alive, poverty forces them to do illegal work to raise money.

“We work in these caves without fear because we have no jobs. We risk our lives and dig for copper concentrates and chrome using various tools. But this cave you are looking at, we have abandoned it because it is not safe, it can bury us alive,” said Pisto as he pointed at an abandoned cave.

Another illegal miner Evans Kabanda has asked President Edgar Lungu to consider giving the copper rich slug dump to the youths.

Mr Kabanda says just like he did to the youths of Kitwe, President Lungu should consider empowering youths in Luanshya with the two Black Mountains to reduce unemployment in the mining town.

“If we can be given this Black Mountain like our colleagues were given in Kitwe, mining can be safer. They can even empower us with excavators so that we stop mining in caves,” said Mr Kabanda.

But Luanshya District Commissioner Joel Chibuye, who recently visited the site, expressed concern that the continued illegal mining at Luanshya Copper Mines will cause fatalities.

Mr Chibuye said government is now working out plans to find ways in which the youths can be helped to avoid illegal mining in unsafe caves.

“We just had a disaster at the Black Mountain in Kitwe and we risk having another one here in Luanshya. We have started engaging stakeholders to ensure that we avert this crisis,” he said.

The slug dump is legally owned by Luanshya Copper Mines but these illegal miners have made it their workplace.

Their dangerous ways of mining is a source of concern.

Not too long ago, 11 illegal miners were buried alive at a similar Black Mountain in Kitwe.

Despite all this risk, these illegal miners are not the biggest beneficiaries of the slug dump.

Richer players on the black market buy the copper concentrates and chrome from these miners.

The middle men then sale the stones to the Chinese who have a number of smelters across the Copperbelt.

This illegal business is so sophisticated that trucks visit the Black Mountains at night to collect what is dug during the day.