Wednesday 29 December 2021

Tadalisika Zulu: An Ambitious Young Zambian Engineer

By Paul Shalala

Tadalisika Zulu with Minister of Infrastracture Charles Milupi
when he toured the KK International Airport project site

She was born on the 12th of October 1998 in Lusaka

Tadalisika Zulu is a third born child in a family of four.

Growing up, mathematics was her favourite subject and she says she enjoyed doing calculations.

Her performance in class made her attempt what was not imagined at the time.

“At the age of 10, I attempted the Grade 7 exams as a 5th Grader in 2008. I passed the exams and I went to St. Mary’s Secondary School in Lusaka for Grade eight. I later went to St. Monica’s Secondary School in Chipata for my Senior Secondary,” she said in an interview.

Tadalisika completed Grade 12 at the age of 15, three years ahead of what mostly consider the normal age for a Sugo in Zambia.

“I turned 15 years a week after I started writing the Grade 12 examinations. My love for mathematics increased throughout high school and it became my best subject. I was so confident in my skills that I was looking forward to writing the math exam because I knew it would be an automatic distinction.”

As expected Tadalisika, got a distinction in mathematics.

While awaiting her Grade 12 results, Tadalisika was in deep thoughts, trying to gather her thoughts on which course to pursue.

Her best two courses were Aeronautics or Civil Engineering because they both involve mathematics and creativity.

Tadalisika supervising some workers

During her gap year, she lived with her family in Kabompo District of North Western Province.

While in Kabompo, Tadalisika noticed the lack of proper infrastructure and this made her resolve to pursue engineering even stronger.

In 2015, she enrolled at Wuhan University of Technology and four years later, she graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering.

“I returned to Zambia and began my internship at the Department of Public Infrastructure under the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development. As an intern, I worked on several projects before I was appointed as the Clerk of Works at the New China-Aided International Conference Center including the new Maina Soko Military Hospital,” said Tadalisika.

Currently, she is the Clerk of Works at the construction site for the new China-Aided Zambia International Conference Center.

In the beginning, most of casual workers she supervised thought she was just a translator and not an engineer.

Her young age seems to have convinced these workers that Tadalisika is employed as an interpreter as she speaks fluent Chinese.

Being the only female engineer and the youngest on the team, Tadalisika says she usually kept a low profile when big delegations made site visits.

“I was lucky to become an InnovateHer mentee under When Females Lead and Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK). The program taught me to have more confidence in myself as an engineer. My mentor taught me that being a young black female engineer is a strength, not a disadvantage,” she revealed.

Tadalisika in a meeting with a visiting delegation

The experience gave her the confidence to lead a site tour when the Minister of Infrastructure Housing and Urban Development and other officials visited to see the progress of works.

Tadalisika plans to pursue a Masters in Sustainable Construction or Infrastructure because she wants to gain expertise in the green built environment to promote green, inclusive infrastructure in Africa.

She names her role models as Dr. Nike Folayan and Mopelola Olatunji who are accomplished British and British-Nigerian female engineers respectively.

Tadalisika is an avid reader and a tea and coffee addict whose passion is fighting climate change, and promoting gender equality and sustainable infrastructure.

Looking at the pace Tadalisika has risen, not even the sky is the limit for her.

She is likely to get to where she dreams to go and make it big in the engineering profession.

At 23, this young engineer has achieved what many youths at her age have not achieved.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

The fight To Protect The Bat Migration In Zambia Rages On

By Paul Shalala 
Bats arriving in the Kasanka National Park
 - Picture by Katie Siedel

At stake is the survival of ten million fruit bats which annually make their pilgrimage from the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Kasanka National Park in Chitambo District in Zambia.

This is considered the largest mammal migration in the world.

The fruit bats, whose scientific name is Eidolon Helvum, make this journey every year starting in early October and they stay in the park until late December. 

They come to the Kasanka National Park to eat fruits and on their way, the bats pollinate plants and ensure nature thrives. 

However, this annual pilgrimage is threatened by human activities. 

A huge chunk of land near the park has now been turned into a farm and stakeholders are getting worried. 

To put it into context, the Kasanka National Park is the home of the bats when they land in Zambia. 

The park is managed by the Kasanka Trust Limited, a non governmental organisation which has huge interest in the survival of the bat migration. 

Around the national park is the Kafinda Game Management (GMA) area which covers almost the entire Chitambo District in Central Province. 

This GMA is a buffer and protects the park from humans. 

Lake Group, a conglomerate which has several subsidiaries across Africa and the Middle East, seeks to establish a huge mixed use farm in the Kafinda GMA which is aimed at creating 1,000 jobs. 

Some of its subsidiaries are Lake Oil, Lake Gas, Lake Steel, Lake Petroleum which runs several filling stations on the continent, Lake Trans which is the transport arm while Lakes Gas specialises in LPG and many others. 
Lake Agro Industries Managing Director
Abdulaziz Ahmed speaking at the public hearing
 - Pictures by ZEMA

Lake Agro is now establishing a farm on a 3,000 hectares piece of land in the Kafinda GMA which the firm acquired from Chief Chitambo. 

The firm has gone ahead to clear a huge chunk of land and planted maize, wheat and soya beans. 

Nine center pivots have already been installed and are irrigating the fields. 

This is despite their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) not being approved by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA). 

The Environmental Management Act Number 12 of 2011 and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations; SI. No. 28, of 1997 all provide for any project of this magnitude to be approved by ZEMA before any works can commence. 

Sensing that Lake Agro had already started works, ZEMA issued the company with a stop order on 11th October 2021. 

The stop order was signed by the ZEMA Director General and it read in part: “You are ordered to......... immediately cease the operation of all project activities at the project site. These activities include but not limited to land clearing, water abstraction from Luombwa River, operation of center pivots, maintenance of farm and support equipment, landscaping....” 

Lake Agro Industries received and date stamped the stop order at its Ndola office on 13 October 2021 but did not abide by it. 

By 29 October, 2021 when ZEMA held its public hearing at the project site, all farm activities were operating normally. 

Possible Impact of the Agro Project on Biodiversity 

As stated earlier, the project has already kicked off despite not being cleared by regulatory authorities. at the public hearing, Lake Agro Industries General Manager Surya Rao Adapa gave an overview of what the firm has already done in Chitambo so far. 

“We have already developed 560 hectares of land and planted three crops. We have already invested $9 million and paid a lot of taxes to authorities, “said Mr Adapa. 

As part of its legal requirements to seek permission to kickstart its agriculture project in the Mapepala and Nabowa areas of Chitambo, Lake Agro industries prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment which was presented at the public hearing. 

This blogger attended the hearing and now analysis some of the plans made by the investor. 

Lake Agro contracted a local firm called Global Environmental Consultancy to prepare the EIA report which was presented to ZEMA. 
ZEMA Director of Operations Morrison Songwe

The organisation’s Lead Consultant Gillian Simfukwe made a presentation at the hearing. 

Mr Simfukwe said the project is aimed at increasing crop production by irrigation to enhance food security in Zambia. 

“The developer was initially given 10,000 hectares of land by Chief Chitambo which was reduced to 7,000 hectares and again that was reduced to 5,000 hectares and finally reduced to 3,000 hectares by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife,” said Mr Simfukwe. 

He revealed that the Kafinda Game Management area was a sensitive biodiversity area which buffers the Kasanka National Park from human settlements. 

He listed the following activities which are expected to come with the project by Lake Agro industries in the area: 

- Land clearing for center pivots 
- Abstraction of water from the Luombwa river. 
- Construction of farm buildings and roads. 
- Installation of power systems.

The consultant said the agriculture project is likely to have a lot of impacts on fauna. 

He listed them as follows: 

- Felling of trees which will impact a number of living and non living things. 
- Generation of dust which will affect workers and wildlife. 
- The bat migration will be affected. 
- The abstraction of water will reduce the amount of water and affect people both downstream and upstream of the Luombwa river. 
- Noise pollution will affect almost everything in the area. 
- The center pivots will change the outlook of the area. 

Mitigation Measures 

Realising that the project will affect both fauna and flora, Mr Simfukwe said Lake Agro Industries plans to implement the following mitigation measures to protect this sensitive area. 

 - The company will protect the bufferzone in order to preserve the ecosystem. 
- On felling trees, the firm wants to work hand-in-hand with the Forestry Department to stop indiscriminate cutting. 
- Lake Agro wants to invest in dust suppression machines to reduce dust in the area. 
- The firm said it will not be farming in dambo areas to project aquatic life. 
- Use of latest water uptake equipment. 
- The company will use reforestation to mitigate the effects of cutting down trees. 
- Create 1,000 jobs to reduce poverty in the area 
- Improve anti-poaching activities in the area. 

Stakeholder Concerns 

After the Consultant made his presentation, many stakeholders were not satisfied with Lake Agro’s plans to mitigate the impact of the investment. 

Further, many stakeholders were not happy that Lake Agro Industries went ahead with the project despite ZEMA not having given the project a go-ahead. 

When the floor was opened for questions and contributions, various people spoke out. 
Mehluli Malisa, the lawyer for Kasanka Trust Limited

Mehluli Malisa, the lawyer for Kasanka Trust Limited was the first to speak and his concern was mainly why Lake Agro Industries disregarded several pieces of legislation and proceeded with the project without approval. 

“You say you have complied with all laws, why was the Kafinda GMA plan ignored in your EIA? It has the force of law. Section 29 of the Environmental Management Act of 2011 says no development can take place without authorisation from ZEMA. Why is your project in full swing?”said Mr Malisa of Muyatwa Legal Practitioners in Lusaka. 

He further questioned why Lake Agro industries ignored several stop orders from ZEMA and other government institutions which had ordered the company to move the project to the Nansanga Farming block which is a few kilometres away and has thousands of hectares of land reserved for commercial farming. 
In response, the Lead Consultant Mr Simfukwe issued an apology on behalf of the developer. 
“A wrong is a wrong and a right is a right and I believe in that. This was a wrong; they started before the EIA was approved. But there are channels that are responsible for that, those are channels we will wait to give us penalties if any.....,” he said. 
At this point, Lake Agro Industries Managing Director Abdulaziz Ahmed chipped in to defend the company’s decision to kick start the project early. 
“The late Chief, May His Soul Rest In Peace, insisted that the project continues because it will benefit the Nabowa and Mapepala communities. For this reason, we put our heads together and started the project. Today we are regularising everything and taking all concerns,” he said. 
Another stakeholder from Lavushimanda District in Muchinga Province asked whether the company had acquired water rights from the Water Resources Management Agency (WARMA). 
This question arose from the fact that Lake Agro is already using water from the Luombwa River to irrigate crops using center pivots. 
In response, the company claimed to have water rights. 
“Last year we got a temporal permit from WARMA for 6,000 cubic meters of water per day. We applied for more rights according to our plan. We received a demand notice and yes I can say we have water rights upto November,” said Mr Adapa. 
However, WARMA was represented at the hearing and gave a clear picture. Felix Kabombo, an Inspector at WARMA explained that Lake Agro Industries was only given a temporal permit for initial works and not for full scale irrigation. 
WARMA Inspector Felix Kabombo

“We only give a full five years permit after following all laws including clearance from ZEMA. At the moment, they (Lake Agro) only have a permit for developments they are doing, not irrigation,” said Mr Kabombo. 
Others questioned the actual EIA and its contents. 
For example, Kasanka Trust General Manager James Mwanza wondered why the developer opted to use hydraulic baseline data which is over 30 years old when latest reports are readily available. 
To him, the use of outdated statistics was tantamount to misleading ZEMA and the public over the plans for the project. 
For the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an organisation which fights for the preservation of nature, their concerns were twofold: conditions of service for workers and mitigation measures proposed for the area. 
WWF Head of Species Moses Nyirenda
WWF Zambia Head of Species and Protected Areas Moses Nyirenda said investigations by his organisation have revealed that workers are being paid below the government-set minimum wage. 
“What type of employment is here? Is it cheap labour or sustainable jobs? The rates offered are below the minimum wage...... This is a pristine area but your restoration and mitigation measures are vague,” said Mr Nyirenda. 
In response, Ahmed said the company was providing sustainable employment and had already employed between 100 and 150 people. 
For those involved in protecting birds in the wild, a project of this magnitude is a big concern to them especially that the Kasanka area is an important bird area. 
“Are you aware that in addition to the bat migration which is being talked about, this area sits in one of the eight worldwide recognised bird migratory fly ways which is the East Atlantic Fly Ways?”asked Clara Nanja the Programme Manager at BirdWatch Zambia. 
BirdWatch Zambia Programme Manager Clara Nanja
Ms Nanja’s other concern was on where Lake Agro industries is planning to conduct its re-aforestation efforts. She wanted to know whether it is the areas already cleared where center pivots are already installed and operating. 
For the Department of National Parks and wildlife which is responsible for the management of protected areas the country, it made a 360 degrees u-turn at the public hearing. 
This is the same institution which years ago gave Lake Agro Industries a go-ahead to set up the farm in the Kafinda Game Management Area. 
However, at the meeting, it was a different story. 
“The department is against large scale farming in the Game Manament Area. The location is in a sensitive area for the dispersal of bats in the Kasanka National Park. We recommend that this farming development is relocated to Nansanga Farming block where extensive farming is not in conflict with conservation,” said Sangulukani Phiri, who read a statement on behalf of the Department’s Director. 
Mr Phiri said once the developer relocates to Nansanga, it should restore the area it has already cleared and ensure it is environmentally friendly for flora and fauna. 
The Department however said if Lake Agro is allowed by ZEMA to operate in the GMA, it should be restricted to the 560 hectares it has already cleared to protect the environment. 
Community Concerns 
Among the many community members who spoke, their biggest issues were to do with access to water, sustainable jobs and importation of labour by Lake Agro Industries. Maggie Mwelwa, a resident of Mapepala complained that the investor had brought supervisors from Tanzanians who were mistreating local workers. 
A resident of Nabowa speaking at the hearing

“There is a lot of segregation. They brought many people from Tanzania who are supervisors. Some workers come from the Copperbelt. We the locals are not benefiting. How are we going to educate our children,” she said. 
Her view was shared by many other locals who complained about the foreigners. 
“We appreciate this development, it has created jobs. However, they brought Tanzanians who are mistreating our people. I can even name those Tanzanians: Robert Tapo, Jimmy Tapo, Nchimunya Tapo and many others. Surprisingly, none of them has come to this meeting, why are they hiding?” said Harrison Mumba, a resident of Nabowa. 
Other residents complained of unfair dismissals by Lake Agro Industries. 
For example, Joseph Pengele, an old man, complained that he was fired two years ago and he has not been compensated. 
He further said workers get injured at work but they are not given enough compensation. 
Another resident who identified himself as Mukosha said in the three years the company had been operating, none of the local workers had signed contracts. 
“None of our people here have seen contracts. Maybe workers from Ndola have signed contracts. But for workers from Nabowa and Mapepala, their jobs are terminated anyhow due to lack of contracts,” said Mukosha. 
In response to these concerns by the community, Ahmed said he would send Human Resource Officers from Lake Agro Industries’ Ndola office to address concerns on mistreatment and intimidation. 
In the end, the task now remains with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency to decide whether to issue clearance to the project or reject. 
ZEMA also has the powers to punish Lake Agro Industries for having gone ahead to clear and plant crops on a 560 hectares piece of land which is deep in a game management area and threatens the annual bat migration which attracts thousands of tourists per year. 
The outcry by non government organisations, government agencies and locals for this project are genuine because it has been hurried and threatens the very existence of the bats which are a marvel and an important part of the ecosystem in the Kasanka area. 
For now, all eyes and ears are focused on ZEMA; everyone wants to know what decision the environmental watchdog will make. 
“ZEMA has already made its professional verification of the project. Our Board will look at these issues and make a decision. All comments will be taken into account as we make a decision,” said ZEMA Acting Director General Simon Mwansa at the close of the public hearing.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Zambian Youths Invest In Environmentally Friendly Charcoal

Gilbert Tembo with Science and Technology Minister
Felix Mutati at the National Innovation Fair.
By Paul Shalala

As the energy crisis hits Zambia, adverts from the power utility Zesco keep being published in daily tabloids, guiding consumers on which towns and areas of the country are likely to be loadshedded.

This has forced Zambians to use charcoal as a back-up energy source.

Making charcoal means cutting down of trees in the wild and almost all charcoal burners do not take part in afforestation programs.

To make matters worse, there is no law or policy in Zambia which compels people to replant trees after felling trees.

This situation has led to the wanton destruction of the forests and protected areas.

The price of charcoal has even reached an all-time high, fetching three times what it was five years ago.

A 50 kilogram bag of charcoal is now selling around K120 and this has become big business for some Zambians.

To mitigate the impact of deforestation, some youths in Zambia are now investing in clean energy sources such as charcoal briquettes which are environmentally friendly and do not emit smoke while burning.

One such youth is Gilbert Tembo aged 34 of Katete District in Eastern Province.

“I invented a coal briquette made from agricultural wastes such as maize combs, groundnut shells, rice husks, soya beans stalks, grass or leaves. It is an alternative energy for charcoal and firewood,” said Gilbert in an interview.

His invention has made him compete at various levels this year and he recently got funded to expand his business.

Some of the charcoal briquettes Gilbert makes

At a Provincial Innovation Fair held in Eastern Province earlier this year, Gilbert pitched his idea and he was selected among five innovators to represent Eastern Province at the National Innovation Fair which took place at Mulungushi International Conference in Lusaka from 4 to 5 November 2021.

“I participated in the National Innovation Initiative contest organized by UNDP, NTBC, PACRA and UNFP in Lusaka. Out of 3,100 applicants, 100 were shortlisted countrywide and I was one of them. 20 finalists are to undergo a business acceleration training. And I found myself amongst the finalists and got awarded a sum of K50,000, plus a breakfast with the Honorable Minister of Science and Technology Mr Felix Mutati at southern Sun Hotel.”

Gilbert’s innovation is smart energy and it fits in well with the resolutions of the recently held United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland where deforestation was pointed out as a major threat to the environment.

Developed countries have pledged millions of dollars to third world countries to fight deforestation.

According to official government statistics, 79% of Zambians both in urban and rural areas use charcoal as fuel for cooking and heating.

To satisfy this huge appetite for charcoal consumption, about 300, 000 hectares of land is lost annually in the country.

To curb this, Gilbert thought of inventing an alternative energy source which is cheap, environmentally friendly and safe as it does not emit harmful gasses when burning.

He adds: “I plan to commercialize and pack in 5, 10 and 50kg bags. This project has the potential to create direct and indirect jobs and it will add value to people’s lives. Climate change is real as evidenced by extreme hotness, floods, poor rain pattern and we need to do something.”

Another youth who is investing in sustainable energy sources is Collins Simfukwe, a 34 year old inventor of Mufulira District on the Copperbelt.

Collins is a former miner who quit his job at Mufulira Mine in order to establish a business to supply smokeless charcoal to clients.

Collins Simfukwe showing one of the machines
he invented at his factory

“I worked in the mines soon after completing Grade 12 but later, I resigned and started working on my own. It was a risk but here iam, am selling these charcoal briquettes to various clients,” said Collins.

When this author visited Collins at his house where he manufactures the charcoal briquettes, he was shocked to see how the small house in Kantanshi Township has been turned into a fully-fledged factory.

All the machines being used there were invented and made by Collins.

He says he started inventing things when he was a member of Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists (JETS) in Grade five at Mufulira Basic School.

“JETS took me to South Africa, Namibia and all over Zambia where we attended fairs and showcased our inventions. It is this experience which led me to venture into smokeless charcoal briquettes,” he added.

When making the charcoal briquettes, Collins uses maize cobs, leaves, grass and anything that is thrown around.

In that way, he converts waste into an environmentally friendly energy source which does not release smoke into the atmosphere.

And most of his clients are poultry farmers both in Zambia and abroad.

“Ordinary charcoal emits a lot of smoke but charcoal briquettes do not emit smoke. One briquette burns between seven and 10 hours and poultry farmers in Mufulira, Kitwe, Lusaka and the Democratic Republic of Congo come here to order because they last long.”

With the creation of the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment, Collins is ready to work with government to promote clean energy sources.

He says with the experience he has in producing charcoal briquettes, he can advise the Ministry on better options for energy use.

Collins works with his wife and a relative at their factory which is just in the backyard of their house.

Due to lack of funding, they use domestic electricity for their production and lack of enough space at their house means they cannot expand production.

However, their actions have been noticed by the Mufulira Municipal Council.

Charcoal briquettes which Collins produces

“We will promote what this young inventor has done and we will give him enough land so that he can expand his business,” said Mufulira Mayor Tanaeli Kamanga in an interview.

Another official from the local authority Castro Chisanga, the Director of Public Health, toured the factory to see what Collins is doing

“We are impressed as a local authority, this inventor is using organic waste and he is playing a vital role in conserving the environment. There is rampant deforestation in Mufulira but if this business is promoted, our trees will be spared,” said Mr Chisanga.

A Copperbelt-based environmentalist Lovemore Muma says the two inventors, Gilbert of Katete and Collins of Mufulira, need to form cooperatives and source for funding to expand their businesses.

“These are important inventions which can change the lives of many youths in the country. Let these youths form cooperatives to access funding. That way, they will be able to expand and impact the nation by reducing deforestation which is driven mainly by charcoal production,” said Mr Muma who is also Executive Director of The Earth Organisation.

Mr Muma has urged the two young inventors to work with the Ministries of Small and Medium Enterprises, Green Economy and Environment and Science and Technology to commercialise their inventions.

Sunday 28 November 2021

From Mango-Selling Girl To U.S. President of Rotary Club in Pentagon

By Paul Shalala

Dr. Grace Mukupa
She grew up in a poor family in Mwanamangala Village in what is now Shibuyunji District of Central Zambia. 

Following the realignments done after the 2011 general elections, Mumbwa District was split into two to create Shubuyunji which was the eastern part of the older district. 

Grace Mukupa was an average village girl who saw poverty with her own eyes and had to do many of those gender roles assigned to girls and women. 

In the morning, her job was to help her grandmother and aunties prepare food for her siblings who would have gone in the field to plough the field with cattle. 

She would then deliver the food to the ‘tired’ siblings and join them in finishing up the work. Later in the day, Grace would pack a dozen or mangoes in a bucket and walk a kilometer to the Lusaka-Mongu road to go and sale to passersby. 

“I would rush to every bus that stopped at Susu Bus Stop and plead with passengers to buy,” said Grace. School was another hustle, she would walk kilometers on foot, and most times without shoes. 

But that did not stop her resolve to become a strong, independent minded individual she has always wanted to be. 

That experience taught her hardwork at a tender age, a lesson she has cherished for the rest of her life. 

Today, that village girl is now the first black person, or as Americans call it the first female woman of color president of the Crystal City Pentagon Rotary Club in the USA. 

Rotary International’s 1.4 million members worldwide seek to improve youth education, peacebuilding, and the elimination of polio. 

Grace’s particular club is located less than 5 miles from the White House and the U.S. Capitol Hill in Washington DC. 

Many events in Grace’s life brought her to where she is today. 

When she wasn’t engaging in the community, Grace enjoyed the company of her grandfather, who assumed the role of her only father figure. 

“My grandfather embodied both compassion and the best kind of pride. It was his deep compassion that drove his spirit of service. 

These were the core values he worked to instill in me and for all those who know me, there is no doubt that I carry his spirit inside of her,” she said in an interview with the author. 

One of the successes Grace scored in the family was to become a cattle herder, a role mostly played by boys due to their lack of fear. 

However, Grace changed that narrative at a tender age. 

After learning how to plow the fields, Grace was appointed the “cowgirl” of the family, a badge of honor which young Grace wore proudly. 

When asked about this Grace said, “I enjoyed looking after the cows more than doing things that girls were supposed to do because I appreciated the beauty of nature and fresh air. I loved to sit on a hill that allowed me to see all the animals and read.” 

A significant turning point in Grace’s life was when she left the mango trees of Zambia to the skyscrapers of Japan with her aunt and diplomat mother. 

While it was certainly different from the village, Grace carved herself out a place in this new world. 

In high school she found her passion for writing, reading, and most of all service. 

She even managed to merge these interests. For instance, after winning a poetry competition, she donated 100% of the funds to Magoye Clinic in Mazabuka District of Southern Province by purchasing beds, bicycles, and equipment to help in the effort to eradicate HIV/AIDs. 

“Some were disappointed in my decision to donate to the clinic rather than directly to impoverished individuals. However, the grant stipulations prohibited me from giving to a single person and I wanted my collections to benefit all the people the clinic served, including my own family back home. I felt that my actions would allow many families to continue benefiting from the clinic.” 

Two years later, Grace visited the clinic, and the Zambian Minister of Health in 1998 attended the gathering. 

The combination of a good education, and a constant desire to read and volunteer, led Grace to attend college in the United States. 

Unfortunately, not long after moving to the U.S., she lost both her beloved aunt and mother. 

With no one to pay for her school, Grace resorted to whatever jobs she could get on campus. 

These jobs included painting, catering, and being a concierge. 

Though after all this, Grace still had no option but to transfer from a private institution to a public university in Connecticut. 

Here she continued to persevere through challenges, and eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Journalism. 

She then went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree and a Doctoral Degree in International Development. 

Throughout her journey, Grace faced many obstacles, including homelessness which meant relying on her creativity and ingenuity to survive. 

Even while attending several school conferences she had no option but to sleep in her car, a hotel simply wasn’t affordable. 

Despite facing adversity, in 2012, Grace received the Fulbright Fellowship from the University of New York at Buffalo. She was the only Masters graduate to do so. 

During her fellowship, Grace researched food security and gender studies in Tajikistan. 

And after leaving Tajikistan, she went on to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in North Macedonia. Following her Peace Corps service, Grace settled in Washington, D.C. and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“A year after arriving in DC, I became a victim of identity theft, an event that occurred 17 years earlier in 2001, but was about to impact every aspect of my current life. As a result of the theft, that once mango-selling little girl from Zambia, being thrust into a battle for her livelihood against the most powerful nation in the world - the United States of America, the very place I called home. The fight against the U.S. government to regain my identity took over three and a half years,” she disclosed. 

With an incredible amount of legal fees stacking up along the way, she found herself having to beg friends and family for help. Some stood by her side but after her life had been completely flipped upside down, she contemplated ending it all and taking her own life. She remembers frequently crying throughout the fight as she feared the tragedy would never end.
Grace with fellow Rotarians at one of the 
charity events in Arlington, Virginia.

But through all of this, she never stopped volunteering and giving back to the community. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Grace volunteered as an emergency respondent while also working virtually and presenting her work via technology, including to Zambian youth. 

Her hard work and dedication led to Grace being elected president of her Rotary club in July of 2021. 

Although the youngest in her club, she has vowed to add new initiatives and recruit more talented people. 

Thus far, several programs under her leadership, includes funding a school in Senegal, organizing food drives during the 20th anniversary of 9/11 (the terrorist attack in New York City and the Pentagon), providing funds for COVID-19 relief in India, working with local high schools, and reviving the Rotary women voices gatherings. 

She has also invited guests from Malawi and Rwanda to participate in the club activities. 

Asked why she volunteers, Grace responds with: "Service above self matters, and I know what it means to have nothing." 

Her future calling is to amplify youth voices in education in Zambia and empower rural women globally in agriculture. 

She takes her call to action very seriously and leads an ongoing campaign to serve as an example and light the path for others to follow. 

In August 2020, she helped found HERZ in the USA, an international NGO supporting girls' menstrual pads in Mufulira. 

HERZ has a girls ambassador program in which she serves as a mentor and was the keynote speaker at the girl's graduation ceremony on September 11, 2021. 

The Ambassadorship program saw the graduation of 20 young African women who were empowered with the skills and resources to make a holistic change in their communities as advocates for Menstrual Health Hygiene Management in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia. 

“Since 2017, I have been a pro bono consultant for the Matala Women Farmers Association in Mumbwa and we work in areas such as education, health, gender empowerment, and farming. 

I also researche and review grant application documents for associations,” said Grace. Two weeks ago when I briefly posted on my social media accounts that I will be profiling Grace on my blog, I got reactions from several sectors. 

One of them is from the Rotary Club in Zambia. 

“Perhaps, the achievements of Rotarian Grace Mukupa marks the ideals of a true Changemaker. We are proud to see a Rotarian from Zambia breaking the moulds far away," said Victor Mensah, the Governor of District 9210 which oversees Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 

Mr Mensah further congratulated Grace saying: “We look forward to more fellowship and collaborations between Rotary Club of Crystal City-Pentagon and clubs in Zambia.” 

Back in America, fellow Rotarians have nice reviews of how Grace has been leading the Rotary Club of Crystal City-Pentagon since election recently. 

In emailed statements, this is what they said. 

“Grace is a breath of fresh and vivacious air for Rotary. She is a tireless worker, a uniter and a fighter for what is right. She embodies all of the best of Rotary and is exceptional at bringing to light what is missing or simply outdated. We are so very, very lucky to have her as our leader,” said Susan Sheets, the Club’s Secretary. 

Marta Pentassuglia a Rotarian from Italy and who deputies Grace, had all the praises for her. 

“Despite the trying times due to the pandemic crisis, using her talents, expertise, style, smile, joy, and, last but not least, leadership, Grace has been and still is a gift to our Club and to the world. She embodies the soul of Rotary: transforming the lives of others, turning dreams into reality, and having fun,” said Marta. 

John Mason, a retired US military veteran had this to say: “Dr. Grace Mukupa is a very good friend of my family and has become an "Aunty" to our 9 year old daughter. I joined the Pentagon City Rotary club as she became the President knowing that her leadership and her strong desire to involve the Rotary Club in charitable events would make my membership worthwhile.” 

John adds: “She is a wonderful role-model for my daughter both in her role as Rotary club president and as a member and active participant in our Church. I know my daughter pays attention seeing Grace perform as Lectern, Choir Member, Children's time presenter, and as a Lecturer to a group of High School children. She is known as "Amazing Grace" for her rare combination of faith in our Lord, compassion and concern for others above herself, work ethic, and self-determination to succeed.” 

But to us who know her from the old Mumbwa, we know he as a village girl, one who left the poverty of Mwanamangala Village to pursue her dream. 

My late father who is now 10 months old in Grave, was Headmaster at Chabota Primary School upto 1989, a school where Grace did her Primary studies. 

It was during those years when I knew Grace, though she was older than me and was much closer to my older sister Nawa and older brother Sepiso, they still keep in touch to this day.

Grace inspires us who grew up in villages, those of us who did not have the luxury of going through pre-school, those of us who did not have three meals per day. 

Her success in the USA is an example to every struggling child in Sikongo, Senga Hill, Mugubudu, Mapanza and Rufunsa that there is a better day if you apply your potential fully.

Saturday 27 November 2021

John Sakala: The Journalist Who United Politicians On The Copperbelt

John Sakala's final resting place at
Chingola Central Cemetry
 By Paul Shalala

 At a time when journalists are aligning themselves to politicians for them to gain favours and collect Blalizo (money), the late John Chinya Sakala was doing the opposite.

 The 46 year old Chingola-based journalist aimed at bringing politicians together and provide a level playing field for them to offer constructive and issue-based politics.

 Here on the Copperbelt, John formed The Independent Observer (TIO) which is an online newspaper.

 He grew TIO, employed a number of young journalists, some of whom have moved on to other media institutions.

 Apart from the newspaper, John formed WhatsApp groups one for business and the other for politics where he brought together various people from the Copperbelt.

 TIO Politics was the most prominent of them and it brought various players who debated issues with sobre minds.

 "We thank Mr Sakala for having formed TIO Politics. There we discuss various issues, we relate as brothers and sisters and we co-exist. As admins of that group, we shall continue to run that group because Mr Sakala wanted politicians to work together whether we are from PF, UPND, Rainbow or MMD," said Humphrey Kabwe during burial at Chingola Central Cemetery on 18th November, 2021.

 Another politician who remembers John Sakala dearly is Derricky Chilundika, the Luapula Province Minister who is also Nchanga Member of Parliament in Chingola.

 Among the many platforsm Mr Chilundika used while in opposition was TIO.

 One of the persons I would joke with : Jagaban! Jagaban! Germany made Solar water pump, Wuta wan'gombe, Wuta wan'gwena so we could joke. A mulamu and friend, Jagaban! Jagaban! An open person who knew how best to share his challenges and an advisor you were,”wrote Mr Chilundika. 

 He says he received a lot of advise from John on politics and this helped in changing his political life.

 “But today you are no more and we are putting you to rest. John you have gone too soon but we leave everything in God's hands because he is the one who gave you unto us and he has taken you away from us. To Him alone be the glory and honor in Jesus name.” 

Testimonies from politicians who were helped by John are many.

The author ans some of the journalists from across
 the Copperbelt who attended the buria

 Another politician who has explained how helpful Mr Sakala was in his political journey is former Bupalo Ward Councillor in Chingola Nelius Mumba .

 In his Facebook posting shortly after Mr Sakala died on Tuesday, Mr Mumba said this:

 “When i joined PF in 2015 and participated in a number of political for a, one thing John talked to me almost every day was to have patience to respond to provocations and reduce tempers. This is one of the teachings which this man John Chinya Sakala has taught me that i will continue to remember him,”said Mr Mumba.

 He says he maintained a close relationship with John and they were in touch whether for politics or personal issues.

 “John would call me whenever he missed my calls. He introduced me to so many politicians and businessmen through my interactions i had with him. My journey as Bupalo Ward Councillor since 2016 until this year when i decided to go for independent as Chingola Mayor, he supported me and helped created my ‘Nelius Mumba for Chingola Mayor’ Facebook page.”

 Immediate past Chingola Mayor Titus tembo also has his reflections on the late John Sakala.

 “I knew John Sakala way back from the time he used to work for Times of Zambia, from that time until the time he became the Director for his own newspaper TIO, Mr Sakala was a good friend and I worked with him during my tenure of office without any problem, he always wanted to see things move smoothly,” he said in an interview with TIO.

 For over four months, Mr Sakala battled kidney failure in various hospitals on the Copperbelt and he died in the Kitwe Teaching hospital on 16th November, 2021 and was buried at the Chingola Central Cemetery two days later.

 At his funeral, the Northern Region Media Club, the Chingola Press Club and the Ndola Press Clubs issued statements to praise the role he played in their establishment.

 “Mr Sakala did his best to establish the Chingola Press club but it is unfortunate that he has died before it is officially launched,”said Namutenga Sakapila who spoke on behalf of the club.

 Other journalists remembered Mr Sakala as a champion of entrepreneurship journalism.

 “When others were looking for jobs, Mr Sakala was setting up The Independent Observer to create jobs for other journalists. The only way we can emulate his legacy is to ensure we work on the ideals he stood for,” said Clinton Masumba who spoke on behalf of the Northern Region Media Club.

In an unprecedented move, the United States Embassy in Zambia issued a statement on John's death.

This just shows how appreciated he was by stakeholders.

 Mr Sakala battled with kidney failure for over four months moving from one hospital to the other.

 In September 2021 I visited him in Chililabombwe were he was admitted in a hospital and he was kind enough to allow me witness as he was going through dialysis.

 It was an emotional moment for me but John kept assuring me that he will be well.

 “Paul this is now my daily food. I go through dialysis almost every day and each session costs me K1, 800. It has not been easy for me and the family,” he told me.

 That was the last time I saw John alive but we continued speaking on phone on several occasions.

 He left behind a wife and three children.

 I will miss John a lot, his death is painful.

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.