Saturday, June 30, 2012
By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
June 29, 2012
Fastjet, Africa's new low-cost airline, is expected to make its inuagural flight in three to four months.
A new budget airline backed by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou will soon take to the African skies, promising to bring low-cost flights to millions of people in the continent.
Dubbed Fastjet, the no-frills carrier is expected to launch in three to four months, aiming to cash in on Africa's robust economic growth and a growing appetite for travel by its burgeoning middle class.
The move comes after Haji-Ioannou's easyGroup teamed up earlier this month with pan-African conglomerate Lonrho to create the low-cost carrier. Lonhro, owner of budget airline Fly540, has agreed to sell its aviation business to investment firm Rubicon Diversified Investments, in which easyGroup will hold a 5% stake.
The new business will start operations using Lonrho existing network in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola, before expanding to more markets in the future.
"These four countries are currently experiencing great GDP growth, along with oil and gas discoveries and developments," says Ed Winter, chief executive of Fastjet.
That price will absolutely democratize air travel, totally changing the way people are traveling in Africa.
Ed Winter, Fastjet CEO
"We believe that the time is absolutely right to change Fly540 into a much bigger airline based on the low-cost model which has been successful in every other part of the world," adds Winter, who is easyJet's former chief operating officer.
The business, which will still be majority-owned by Lonrho, has set a target of carrying around 12 million passengers per year, "which creates an airline of roughly 40 aircraft," according to Richard Blakesley, Fastjet's finance director.
The low-cost carrier expects to offer average fares of $70-80 before tax, which could fall to as much as $15-20 when booked early.
"That price will absolutely democratize air travel, totally changing the way people are traveling in Africa," says Winter.
Fastjet executives say they hope to tap Africa's rather underdeveloped aviation network, offering an affordable alternative in a transport environment largely dominated by difficult terrains, long bus journeys and poor infrastructure.
Haji-Ioannou, who set up easyJet in the mid-1990s, has described Africa as "the aviation industry's last frontier."
"Past experience shows by halving fares, a successful low-cost carrier can encourage those people, who have never previously traveled by air, to fly. For Africa, with its densely populated cities separated by great distances -- this means a potential new market of millions," he said after the reverse takeover by Lonhro.
In 2011, low-cost carriers occupied 9% of the African market, suggesting that there is a large potential for further development and growth, says aviation expert Linden Birns.
He notes, however, that the big challenge for airlines is breaking into cross-border flights and launching intra-African routes.
"At the moment access to markets on a transnational basis is governed by a set of bilateral air transport agreements," says Birns, founder of South Africa-based aviation consultancy Plane Talking.
"Under those agreements, governments stipulate who's allowed to fly and how many flights. That really keeps a lid on things -- if you can break through those barriers and introduce competition then we should see some pretty rapid growth happening in the market."
More people will be able to trade, more people will be able to do their tourism and it should be a good economic driver.
Linden Birns, Plane Talking MD
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has forecast Africa traffic to expand by about 6.5% per annum between 2011-2020 and by 4.9% between 2021-2030, for a 20-year growth rate of 5.7%. This compares with a 4.8% increase in demand on a worldwide basis over the next 20 years.
"It's no secret that Africa represents a massively untapped market," says Birns. "If we look at where growth is happening in the world, Africa is certainly up there."
Birns says that as Africa's cities get more populated and as demand for business is growing, the expansion of the low-cost model should revolutionize the continent's air transport in the same way that it did in North America, Europe and now in Asia.
"More people will be able to trade, more people will be able to do their tourism and it should be a good economic driver," he says.
Fastjet's foray into the African market comes amid a tumultuous time for aviation industry in the continent -- earlier this month, a plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria, killed all 153 people aboard.
Winter says Fastjet will raise the bar on safety and security, operating "as though it was an European airline."
"There's no reason why Africans shouldn't be just as safe and secure as in an European airline and we will follow those sort of procedures," he says. "Now, that adds a bit cost to our operation but to my mind all of those costs are actually worthwhile to provide a safe and secure airline."
Looking ahead, Winter says the biggest challenge for Fastjet is dealing with lack of airport infrastructure, as well as high taxes imposed by governments and rocketing fuel duties.
"What we're hoping is that governments will realize that by allowing these tax levels to come down to more normal levels, we will be able to do most markets and their total revenue will actually increase," he says.
But despite the challenges, Winter says he is "incredibly excited" about the venture, saying that there isn't a better time to enter the African market.
"Five years ago it just wasn't that level of GDP growth, the spread of wealth amongst the population and the level of investment," he says, "Whereas now I think all those factors come to play and now it's exactly the right time to do this."
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Jerry Okungu
June 28, 2012
So Mutava Musyimi, the man we almost made a compromise candidate in 2002 now wants to legalize party hopping in parliament! The good man of the cloth who for years masqueraded as a reformer, champion of good governance and disciplined politics now sees nothing wrong with the chaotic political culture forced on Kenyans by ill mannered MPs! This indeed is a major transformation on the part of the MP for Gachoka.
But again, one must appreciate the dilemma Mutava Musyimi must have found himself in. Here is a man who was elected to parliament five years ago on some party I cannot even remember but seems to have shifted his loyalty to the Democratic Party under which he hopes to become Kenya’s fourth president.
It is therefore not so much as a question of belief in something noble like principle to have compelled him to move such a motion in parliament to legalize party hopping. And like Martha Karua described his action; his advocating for party promiscuity or prostitution had all to do with self preservation because the good reverend is also politically promiscuous.
If Mutava does not like or care for political party discipline, how will he care for discipline in his government should he win the presidency? Obviously he will not have the moral authority to discipline his errant subordinates in the cabinet. They will defy him left and right and all he will do is to turn a blind eye as chaos and graft reign in his administration.
When MPs passed the Political Parties’ Act earlier in the life of this parliament, what were they thinking? When Parliament created the office of the Registrar of Political Parties with wide powers to discipline politicians and bring sanity in our politics, what were they thinking of? Did Mutava Musyimi attend those debates in Parliament? Is Musyimi now telling us that we should abolish the office of the Registrar of Political Parties?
All this mess in Parliament is a consequence of an Attorney General that is fast becoming an anti-reform agent in the august house. In fact the more Kenyans come into contact with Githu Muigai, the more they will start missing good old Amos Wako. Kenyans are slowly realizing that with their new AG, they may have literally jumped from a frying pan into the fire.
Without the timely intervention of the President and public demonstrations by the civil society groups, parliament was ready to vouch for presidential candidates to contest as many seats as they want in the next election.
Had they been allowed to get away with it, our parliament would have been the first in the world to grossly abuse its privileged position by passing into law a bill that insults its citizens.
If you look at this bill carefully, it is not hard to see those that were behind it. They were not the ordinary poor MPs. The unseen hands were those presidential aspirants who had declared their interests in the presidency but deep down in their hearts, were aware that they stood one chance in a million to win the presidency. Therefore being on the ballot box as presidential candidates was merely to raise their profiles so that they could easily be elected as senators, MPs or governors.
However, like I said last week in this column, such a scenario would have resulted in numerous by-elections so soon after the general elections, an act that would have increased the election budget unnecessarily. Does the Kenyan tax payer have so much cash to waste on unnecessary by elections? I don’t think so.
Take the case of the mediocre bill that sought to lower the academic levels of MPs from university graduate to form four school leaver; how will a form four school leaver be able to vet a professor who will be appointed a cabinet secretary ,the Auditor General, Governor of the Central Bank or commissioners of the many constitutional commissions? How can the same parliament raise the bar for judges, various commissioners and the Executive staff such as Cabinet Secretaries but lower its own standards to bear minimum? How can we prefer mediocrity and ignorance over knowledge and expertise in this day and age?
If indeed parliamentarians have such low opinion of education in this country, what message are they sending to the youth of this country? They are reaffirming to the youth that education has no consequence in this country as long as you can lay your hands on unexplained wealth.
With these developments in that august house, Kenyans of all walks of life have to take the painful and drastic step of safeguarding the reforms that came with the new constitution. It is time Kenyans went beyond merely condemning these retrogressive bills. The movers of these bills must be singled out, named and shamed so that they can begin to feel the heat and realize that Kenyans have had enough of their arrogant mediocrity.
On this score, Kenyans must find it rude and unacceptable to tolerate the arrogance of Hon Abdi Kadir Mohammed, the chairman of the parliamentary Constitution Oversight Committee. He has no business attacking Charles Nyachae the Chairman of the CIC and even claim that Nyachae is illiterate on parliamentary processes.
Kadir Mohammed must be reminded that being in parliament does not make him the most knowledgeable legal mind in Kenya. If he wants Kenyans to respect him; he must resist the temptation to think he has the monopoly of knowledge on matters constitutional. He must respect constitutional institutions established by Parliament. He should also remember that the Kenyan Constitution belongs to the People of Kenya; not the National Assembly.
By Jerry Okungu
June 26, 2012
Last week was like no other week in Kenya. Politics reached its crescendo. It was drama after drama in parliament. Never mind that both the President and his Prime Minister were out of the country. The former was in Rio de Jenairo attending a climate conference while the latter was attending a World Economic Forum in Moscow with President Putin.
Since the formation of the grand coalition government in 2008, the two principals have hardly agreed on many things. However, on this one, they concluded that that the rogue parliament had overstepped its bounds.
What did the law makers do that irked Kenyans, the President and the Prime Minister so much? They passed a bunch of amendments that drastically diluted electoral laws to safeguard their interests. One such law was to allow presidential candidates to contest all the available vacancies on voting day. What the bill meant was to allow the names of the presidential candidates to also appear on ballot papers for senators, governors, MPs and county representatives. In other words, should a presidential candidate miss the presidency, she stood the best chance or being elected to another post.
The bill also sought to allow presidential aspirants who failed to make it to the State House to be automatically nominated to parliament to cushion them from being locked out for five years. It there meant that seats reserved by the constitution for minorities and the vulnerable groups would be grabbed by losers in the presidential race.
However, the most abrasive bill passed that night was to allow political promiscuity among members parliament. Whereas the Act of Parliament as it stands today compels a Member of Parliament to seek reelection once she abandons the party that sponsored her to Parliament, the amendment allowed MPs to change parties at will without the fear of losing their seats. Incidentally this amendment was sponsored by an MP who had recently announced that he would contest the presidency on the ticket of another party.
The last raft of the amendments on that fateful night was to bar Kenyans who had no university degrees from contesting parliamentary, senate, governor or presidential elections. On passing it, this bill automatically barred 80 sitting MPs from the next general elections unless they attained their university degrees in the next six months.
Just hours before the two principals landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Civil Society groups had taken to the streets demanding the repeal of these amendments that Kenyans saw abuse of the of powers of parliament.
Led by the former vice chairperson of the Committee of Experts that drafted the Kenyan Constitution and now Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Ms Atsango Chesoni minced no words. She handed in the two terse statements to the Office of the President and The Speaker of the National Assembly.
Though the Atsango led demo was generally peaceful, it left no doubt in anybody’s mind what Kenyans would do if the government and parliament did not read the writing on the wall. Kenyans had exhausted their patience with their rogue parliament that had become synonymous with selfishness and reckless spending of public funds on themselves.
Just after the shameful bills had been passed, a nominated MP was heard telling the Speaker of the National Assembly that under his watch, Parliament had become a disgrace in the eyes of Kenyans.
This sentiment was not unique to the nominated MP. It was the general feeling of the opinions of most Kenyans sampled on social media, mainstream media and other forums one could chance on. Parliamentarians had abdicated their role as representatives of the people who elected them. Every bill they had passed in recent days had something to do with their vested interests. Interestingly most of these controversial bills were always passed late into the night when the same MPs chose to extend their sittings. More often than not, such bills always sailed through with a mere 30 MPs in the august house.
On the flip side; there was one bill that these MPs passed that deserved accolades for them. This was the amendment that barred Kenyan without university education from be elected to either the National Assembly or the Senate. I know many Kenyans at home and abroad have differed on this one.
While some saw it as an affront to the constitution to bar a category of Kenyans from vying for these elective posts on account of having no university education; others like this writer thought it was the best thing that could have happened to Kenyan politics since 1963.
Because of the laxity in our electoral laws, thieves and common criminals with plenty of cash and nothing else have found their way into our national politics and in the process disenfranchised the more informed and better educated Kenyans. Because of this leisefair attitude to our politics, the same rich illiterate thugs have introduced violence into our politics.
It is true we had so many good parliamentarians who had no university education 50 years ago. However, it was also the reason Jomo Kenyatta declared war on ignorance, poverty and disease right from day one. It is the reason Tom Mboya airlifted hundreds of Kenyans to American universities to go get trained and come back to manage the affairs of the state. For the same reason, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga opened avenues for more Kenyans to get educated in USSR and Eastern Europe. These leaders knew the value of university education.
Kenya, like any other African country cannot today, 50 years later turn its back on a good education as a requirement for good management of our politics.
Monday, June 25, 2012
By Joyce Nyairo
June 25 2012
Now that the dirt has settled on Prof. George Saitoti’s dramatic life and death, we might want to reflect on the kind of public discourse that George Saitoti’s “true” identity generated. Of course there have always been stage whispers about the “fact” that Saitoti was really a Kikuyu, his middle name, Kinuthia, was “proof” of this. His inability to speak the Maa language was further evidence.
Last week, these whispers moved to centre stage in the press. An authoritative report said Saitoti was born in Dagoretti and at the age of seven, his opportunistic father doctored his name and moved the family to Kajiado to escape the colonial government’s 1952 purge on Kikuyus, Embus and Merus. This talk of Saitoti’s birthplace smacks of the assumption that ethnic identity is a matter of where you were born. And that it is permanent and static. Is there no possibility that identity is always in the making and is, ultimately, the sum total of places lived in, influences encountered and practices exchanged and altered?
One report described Saitoti as having a “peculiar identity”. When I read that I sent off a note to a friend telling him that I hoped that the children of this Central Kenya writer (assuming, as our ethnic counting commissions are wont to do, that his name is an indicator of his origins!) would some day move to Rodi Kopany and Budalangi so that he can live to describe his own grandchildren as “peculiar Kenyans”.
Might there have been slightly less revulsion and derision to this dual heritage of Saitoti’s if his middle name had been Wepukhulu rather than Kinuthia? Even though the late Michael Kijana Wamalwa’s father was a Saboat who had moved to Kimilili, was absorbed into the Bukusu community and given the local name for one who brews alcohol, one never read derisive comments about Wamlwa’s “real” tribe.
Stories of mobility and fluid individual identity dot the landscape of pre-colonial and colonial Kenya but that is seldom ever the (hi)story that you will hear. It is certainly not the preoccupation of the various commissions instituted to redesign our nation-building project and yet, you would imagine, that legacies of ethnic borrowing, exchange, inter-marriage and translocation would be their natural point of departure on the road to establishing a national destiny framed on common causes and shared aspirations.
In our timid intellectualism, we opt to recycle colonial myths of origins and static frames of ethnic formation instead of boldly refuting histories of warring tribes as the only ways in which Africans have occupied their continent over the last two centuries.
Our aversion to plural identities has always been ridiculous. When I grew up in Nairobi in the 1970s, urban children who could not speak a “mother-tongue” or whose parents were from two or more different communities were contemptuously referred to as “wakosa kabila”. In a cautionary ballad filled with scornful laughter Joseph Kamaru warned that the maendeleo life of rootless city-bred children who thought a goat was a peculiar breed of vegetarian dogs would cause grave embarrassment in the “house of Mumbi”.
To say that urban and mixed heritage people have no culture or identity is to deceive oneself and to write a static antiquated narrative of Kenyan heritage. As a university student I was caught in interminable arguments to convince my peers that going to the “estates” on a Sunday morning constituted a credible act of returning to one’s roots.
Matters were not helped by the SM Otieno burial dispute, which dealt a near-fatal blow to the validity of a (peri)urban home and the legitimacy of multi-ethnic identity.
Recently, we saw how the interviews for the position of Chair of the National Gender Commission degenerated into a legal struggle to define a person’s ethnic group. Ultimately, a court magnanimously observed that people of mixed ethnic parentage can be assigned the identity of their fathers or that of their mothers. But “when considering actual ethnicity, then a person may be identified with that of the father”.
This “either/or” mentality will never resolve our battles for national belonging. We limit our options hopelessly with this repeated inability to recognize that hybridity and cosmopolitanism breed their own distinct sense of being, an identity that so fluidly absorbs “both/and” and does not need to be broken down because in its very acquisitive nature it is complete in and of itself.
The argument that we must count and document tribes for purposes of planning is a lazy lie. Progressive democracies plan for the number of people resident in an area and document migration patterns. Racial and ethnic affiliations are never the basis for budgets – for how many schools should be built, the size of a road or the level to which the local hospital and sports stadium will be upgraded.
As we write the history of the last thirty years we might find Saitoti guilty of all manner of political and economic transgressions. But let us never accuse him of flouting cultural boundaries or violating our sense of Kenyanness. His only failing in this department was in not using his mathematical genius to preach to us that you can make a whole and unique unit by adding two seemingly disparate entities – be they places or people. And that there is nothing unKenyan about that sum.
Outstanding Kenyan alum killed in helicopter crash
From Athletics Kenya
George Saitoti ’67, who grew up as a Masai cattle herder and rose to become an official with the World Bank and a leading politician in his native Kenya for the last generation, died Sunday when the police helicopter in which he was traveling crashed in a forest near Nairobi. He was 66.
Saitoti, who was Kenya’s internal security minister and a leading candidate in upcoming presidential elections, died along with his deputy, Orwa Ojode. Two pilots and two bodyguards also perished, officials said. The cause was being investigated.
Kenya’s government declared three days of mourning for the crash victims.
The death of Saitoti is a “great tragedy that has befallen our country at this time as we are making elaborate preparations to hold peaceful elections,” Prime Minister Raila Odinga said.
Saitoti came to Brandeis in the fall of 1963 through the Wien International Scholarship Program and studied economics and math. He starred for the track and field team, ranking as one of New England’s best in the high jump, and also enjoyed spending time in Cholmondeley’s, the coffeehouse in Usen Castle.
In 1988, he was one of the first winners of the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor Brandeis bestows upon its graduates. He was recognized along with public relations pioneer Terrie Williams ’75 and mathematician Karen K. Uhlenbeck M.A.’67, Ph.D.’68.
“He took great pride in having graduated from Brandeis and visited campus several times after his graduation,” said Myles Weisenberg ’78, vice president of development. “He lived half a world away, but he enjoyed connecting with students from Kenya and learning about their experiences on campus.
After graduating from Brandeis, Saitoti moved to England to pursue advanced degrees in math. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Sussex and a doctorate from the University of Warwick.
Saitoti served as head of the mathematics department at the University of Nairobi and founded the African Mathematical Union, which he led from 1976-79. He was executive chair of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1990-91 and led the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States in 1999-2000.
He joined Kenya’s Parliament and served as minister for finance from 1983-89. He was vice president for 13 years and also held the positions of minister for education, minister for provincial administration and acting minister for foreign affairs.
As one of Kenya’s most experienced politicians, he was considered a front-runner in next year’s race to succeed President Mwai Kibaki.
The late Chief Segun Olusola
24 JUNE 2012
Curtain falls on the multi-faceted career and life of one of Nigeria's cultural activist, broadcaster and distinguished diplomat, Chief 'Segun Olusola. Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports.
The only art and culture events he did not attend were those he was not invited to. Always ready to serve, he probably died from pushing himself too hard. Many at his age (close to 80 years) had learnt to stroll on the easy lane, but not Chief 'Segun Olusola, one of the most consistent patrons of the arts in Nigeria. Death crept in on the old man last week, without a hint to the various communities that he had endeared himself to.
Olusola would be remembered for many things, but it was to the arts that he gave more commitment. At the time of his passage at 78 years, there was hardly any serious arts, culture and tourism project to which he did not lend his time and/or reputation. All you needed to do was make a request of him and he never turned down a request to serve in an executive or advisory capacity.
You could trust Olusola to deliver an excellent paper or engage any audience, even if ex tempore. His knowledge of diverse subjects was enriching to any gathering and he was one who loved a good debate. Perhaps, this inclination towards the scholarly helped him to retain a razor-sharp memory. He has addressed international gathering on refugees, election processes, media development, conflict resolution, tourism, culture and the arts.
With his trademark flywhisk dangling from his wrist, Olusola carried himself with the dignity of one who understood the urgency and importance of communicating the Nigerian and African cultural essence in a world that threatened to swallow it. The flywhisk was both a symbol of authority and decorative instrument to connect with his title as a chief. Olusola might not have wielded it in the manner that is characteristic of a Yoruba communal leader as it was with Kabiyesi (Dejumo Lewis), a leading character he created in 1968 the Village Headmaster, one of his most acknowledged artistic offering to humanity, which is generally acclaimed as the longest running drama series on television in Nigeria. He stood out as a dogged defender of the African way of life.
Born at Iperu-Remo, Ogun State, on March 18, 1935, he attended the Roman Catholic School Iperu- Remo between 1941 and 1943. He was also at Wesley School Iperu from 1944 to 1947 and the Remo Secondary School, Sagamu from 1948 to 1953.
His working career began with the ECN now PHCN. His stay in the accounts department was short-lived. A broadcasting career had already beckoned. He took up the offer to work on the small screen in 1955 at the Ibadan station of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service. He had the distinguished honour of becoming Africa's first producer on television in 1959 at the WNTV now NTA Ibadan. His career on television endured till 1987.
Even though he was essentially on the administrative side, he expressed his creative abilities with equal gusto, leading to his pursuit of other interests in the broad spectrum of the arts. This made him to excel in both areas. Television easily set the stage for much of the achievements that he would be associated with. He served as Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON). He supervised the coverage of the Second All Africa Games in 1973 and became NTA's director of Commercial Operations in 1986.
He loved to steer the course of a creative vehicle as a writer, producer and director, while remaining in the background. He knew where his strength lay and employed it effectively. For instance, instead of writing himself into a role in the Village Headmaster, he would rather leave the glamorous part to his first wife, Esie (Sisi Clara) who passed on several years ago. He would later marry Chief (Mrs.) Beatrice Fehintola Olusola, a former classmate of his, who has survived him.
In furtherance of his broadcasting career, he attended various institutions including the Syracuse University New York (USA) 1960, BBC Management of Resources Course (UK) 1974, Pittsburg University Management Program for Executives (USA) 1980, and at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Jos 1982.
On 1987, the Ibrahim Babangida administration helped to open a whole new chapter in his life with an appointment as Nigeria's Ambassador to Ethiopia and Resident Representative to the Organisation of African Unity. He held this office till 1993 when he returned home. This was at the height of the crises in the Horn of Africa, leading to the worst period of suffering ever recorded. The experience set Olusola on the world stage and fired in him empathy for displaced people anywhere in the world. His eternal intervention in this area was recorded with the establishment of the African Refugees Foundation, a non-governmental organisation devoted to the management of the root causes of refugees and internal displacement. He was Chairman of the OAU Commission on Refugees (1988 to 1993), leader of the OAU Zambia Election Monitoring Team (1992).
Olusola's life could be broked into four broad categories. In the arts and culture, he was a committed actor, playwright and a founding member of The Players of the Dawn, an amateur theatre outfit. As an art connoisseur, he took his family gallery, Ajibulu-Moniya Gallery to a whole new level, especially after his return from Ethiopia. His travels around the world gave him the opportunity to collect works of art from diverse cultures to enrich the gallery. He was a broadcaster per excellence. He was Nigeria's longest-serving ambassador to Ethiopia (1987 - 1993). Olusola was also a civil society activist with his African Refugees Foundation.
Mandela and Meki
By Peroshni Govender
June 24 2012
First graders huddle to do sums on scraps of paper pressed against a cracked mud wall at Mwezeni Primary School in South Africa's destitute Eastern Cape province.
The school may be located in Africa's wealthiest nation, but there are no chairs, no desks and no work books.
The Eastern Cape, home to giants of the African National Congress like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu who helped end apartheid and Thabo Mbeki, the nation's second democratically elected president, is a glaring example of the ruling party's failure to deliver its promise of a "better life for all".
In Entshingeni village, not far away from where Mandela was raised, a mud hut with a dirt floor serves as a classroom to 79 first and second graders who sit on planks across rickety bench frames in front of a battered chalkboard.
"We are proud of Mr Mandela and Mr Mbeki. They came from this land and went all over the world. What will presidents overseas say if they see how we live?" said David Skwele from Mkanzini village, dressed in a tattered red T-shirt.
The ANC, in power now for 18 years, will hold a major policy conference from Tuesday next week acknowledging that "public services are uneven and often of poor quality; corruption is widespread; and South Africa remains a divided society".
While thousands of schools wait each year for textbooks and many Eastern Cape children are forced to write on loose sheets, the ANC has produced copious reams of policy papers to be studied by about 3,000 delegates at next week's meeting.
The conference is expected to lead to another blizzard of strategy documents on what the ANC calls a "second transition".
This aims to tackle what the party acknowledges as its greatest unfinished business: spreading wealth more widely and equitably in a nation whose levels of economic inequality are still among the highest in the world, a legacy of the political compromises needed to dismantle apartheid, which ended in 1994.
"Continuing with the status quo could lead South Africa into an irreversible downward spiral ... Our political transition was never only about freedom from political bondage," an ANC discussion document prepared for the policy conference says. It refers to "old fissures of race, gender, class and geography".
"GET RID OF THE ROT"
The week-long policy meeting is being held amid signs of acrimonious infighting among senior party figures ahead of another more critical conference at the end of the year which will elect the leadership and adopt strategies. President Jacob Zuma is widely expected to retain the party's top job.
The ANC proposes government taking greater control of the economy, a massive infrastructure programme to create jobs and taxing mining firms more to help finance it all.
But a jaded public expect few effective measures from the conference to tackle corruption, mismanagement and cronyism that analysts see corroding governance and competitiveness in Africa's largest economy.
Party insiders insist that the ANC is aware it needs to get its house in order. This means balancing pressure from an increasingly demanding but still marginalised majority against the political clout wielded by a post-apartheid economic elite whose interests are intertwined with the ANC government.
"At 100 years, now is as good a time as any to get rid of the rot festering in the party," said one party official, who asked not to be identified while discussing internal criticism the party tries to keep behind closed doors.
A new book on South Africa by journalists Martin Plaut and Paul Holden, titled "Who rules South Africa? Pulling the strings in the battle for power", describes the country's political, economic and social state as "schizophrenic and disjointed".
"A wealthy now largely multiracial middle and upper class exists in a first world bubble that is miles away from the penury from a bottom half that has seen few gains from the post apartheid period," they wrote.
"MOUSE IN A CHEESE FACTORY"
Education has always been a priority for the ANC and the government spends nearly $1,400 a year on each student. But at hundreds of Eastern Cape schools, it is difficult to see where any of the money has gone.
The classroom shack of the Mkanzini Junior School is so rickety that teachers fear that if they tack up charts on the rusted walls, the structure will collapse.
"On sunny days we boil in here. Look at the big holes, on rainy days we are soaked and on windy days, I am afraid the shack will fall on the kids," said teacher Zoleka Nofonda, 40, who has two grades crammed in the room.
"They come because of the free meal we give them. Sometimes its the only thing they eat all day."
The ANC, still revered for their role in bringing down apartheid, enjoys virtual one-party rule in South Africa.
In recent elections it has beaten the main opposition Democratic Alliance, largely seen as a party of white privilege in a nation that is 80 percent black, by more than 40 percentage points, although the opposition has made some gains.
Without fear of losing power, the ANC has deployed thousands of party cadres to run villages, towns and cities. But many of the movement's loyalists have proved themselves more skilled at lining their pockets with state funds than at doing their jobs.
"It is like taking a mouse from the bush and making it run a cheese factory," ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told Reuters. He said the party was trying to rectify this.
The delivery deficit is most acute in the Eastern Cape which receives the most funds of any province for welfare spending.
Spending here is pushed higher because the ANC government inherited sprawling "homelands", which were set up by the apartheid regime to concentrate the black majority with almost no infrastructure in designated separate areas of the country.
With poverty so deep in Eastern Cape and a local electorate closely tied to the ANC, few have sought change through the ballot box so far. But other parts of the country saw 372 protests against poor public services between January and May.
"There is very little sophistication from civil society and the electorate to hold leaders accountable," said Derek Luyt from an Eastern Cape think tank, the Public Service and Accountability Monitor.
The central government more than a year ago declared the province's education system an abject failure, and said it would intervene. But entrenched interests in the provincial ANC defied the mother body and kept control of education purse strings.
This meant little improvement for Mwezeni Primary, one of 400 schools made of mud and sticks. More than 2,300 schools in the Eastern Cape have six teachers or less.
But according to government statistics, the Eastern Cape overspends on teachers by up to $120 million a year, and civil society activists suspect the money is going to corrupt officials instead of personnel in classrooms.
"Eastern Cape has a long history of inequality and poor bureaucracy inherited from the former homelands. It's a province using old systems, where corruption and mismanagement thrives," said Yoliswa Dwane from the Equal Education advocacy group.
Nearly half of South Africa's 18 to 24 year olds - the first generation educated after apartheid - are not in the education system and have no jobs, according to government data.
This "lost" generation is seen as a weakness in Africa's largest economy which is trying to grow its tax base as it funds increased social spending.
'GHOST' WORKERS, REAL SHORTAGES
As in education, corruption is also seen eating away at resources needed to boost the health sector. Horror stories of the Eastern Cape's health woes have become a staple of media.
In May, an elite body set up to investigate corruption in the provincial government uncovered suspected graft amounting to $24 million.
In 2011, the provincial health department said nearly $100 million had "vanished" from January 2009 to June 2010 with about $54 million going to so-called 'ghost staff' who drew a paycheck and did no work, the regional Daily Dispatch reported.
Heading towards the sea on a rugged track lies Madwaleni Hospital, built by missionaries in the 1960s and staffed by foreigners because even lucrative stipends offered by the government have not proved enough to attract South African doctors.
"We are always experiencing a shortage of something. Sometimes it is medicine, sometimes it is gloves but our worst is a shortage of doctors and nurses," said a foreign doctor who did not want to be identified while discussing the hospital's shortcomings.
Human Rights Watch said in a 2011 survey that Eastern Cape had some of the worst health indicators in South Africa, including high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates.
Nofinish Nqata, 63, lives in a traditional white-washed Xhosa hut in Ngqamakhwe village in Butterworth, on land allocated to her by the local chief.
The village has no electricity or telephones. Families use pit latrines and walk long distances to collect water.
"The water we drink we share with pigs, cows and donkeys. Some people use the river banks as their toilets and when it rains it washes into the water supply."
Once a die-hard ANC loyalist, Nqata has taken the bold step of joining the Democratic Alliance.
"It hurts so much because the old men Sisulu and (former ANC president Oliver) Tambo are no longer alive and the ones who took over the baton don't share the vision the stalwarts who fought for democracy had. They care about themselves and their pockets, not us." ($1 = 8.2215 South African rand) (Editing by Jon Herskovitz, Pascal Fletcher and Peter Graff)
Dr. Luka Biong' Deng'
By Luka Biong Deng
Abyei, South Sudan,
June 22, 2012
South Sudan and Sudan have now resumed the second round of the talks in Addis Ababa in their efforts to implement the African Union Roadmap, aimed at finding solutions for the pending issues and normalizing their relations. This round will be critical as the people of the two states attach high hopes and expect positive signals as the consequences of strained relations are painfully unfolding. Since the first round of talks did not produce results except diplomatic achievement by the South, the parties are becoming worried about the outcomes of the Roadmap and the role of African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.
While the South promptly accepted the Roadmap only within four days of its adoption, Sudan reluctantly accepted it; raising concerns over the involvement of United Nations Security Council. Despite this acceptance, the parties seem to have either misread or underestimated the role of the Panel. With the time bound for concluding the talks in three months is now approaching, the parties started to question the credibility and neutrality of the Panel.
While President Omar el Bashir in his address to the NCP leadership doubted the credibility of the Panel over the proposed map for the demilitarization zone, President Salva Kiir in his address to Parliament expressed that the South would go for arbitration over the contested border areas and would not accept any solution that might temper with its territory.
Despite such doubts, the parties have paradoxically accepted the Panel to be their final arbitrator on the issues that they might fail to agree within three months. Even the option of arbitration over the contested border areas will only be a possibility if the parties agree on it as a solution or if the Panel proposed it as a solution in case the parties fail to agree within three months.
I suspect that the Panel will be reluctant to defer any issue beyond the four months and it may come up with solutions that would minimize further tensions in the strained relations of the two states. Rather than wasting efforts in doubting the credibility of the Panel, the parties should be sensitive to the expectations of their people and to take these talks seriously so as to find win-win solutions that would improve their strained relations.
Since the unilateral decision of the South to stop its oil production and not to use oil infrastructure in Sudan and the decision of Sudan to close its border with a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy for any smugglers of goods to the South, the relations between the two countries deteriorated. Such strained relations reached the climax when the two countries fought over the contested area of Panthou.
The humiliating defeat of Sudan in Panthou exposed the racist attitude of President Bashir when he described the people of the South as insects and slaves. Each party has been calculating that these decisions will weaken the other party so that they will be more reasonable during the negotiations. The real question is who is paying the price of the strained relations of the two countries?
Generally, the economies of the two countries have been badly affected by their strained relations.
While the South has temporary lost oil revenue that constituted 98% of its budget, Sudan has lost more than 30% of its revenue from oil-related fees from the South, and almost more than 80% of its foreign exchange earnings. With the closure of its border with the South, Sudan is losing huge foreign earnings from trade; which are now flowing to East African countries, as well as Ethiopia and Eritrea. The monthly inflation rate, which used to be one digit, has reached more than 30% in Sudan and around 25% in the South.
The exchange rate, which was less than 3 Sudanese Pounds and 3 South Sudanese Pounds per dollar, has reached almost 6 Sudanese Pounds and 5 South Sudanese Pounds in the parallel market. Even the new South Sudanese pound that was at parity with Sudanese pound has now appreciated to about 1.25 Sudanese pounds.
Sudan’s Minister of Finance almost admitted when addressing the national legislature over austerity measures that their economy has reached the level of bankruptcy. Unlike Sudan where the rural economy is relatively integrated into international markets, the rural livelihood in the South is still subsistent and less affected by the international trade.
This is manifested when the austerity measures introduced by the regime in Khartoum resulted in public outcry and political unrest in all parts of Sudan. With the austerity measures adopted by the two governments as a result of their strained relations, the rural South will be less affected than rural Sudan as it is used to such crisis and it will eventually cope with assistance from international community.
In fact the strained relations between the two countries may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, particularly for the South. The two countries have been suffering from the “Resource Curse” and “Dutch Disease” with their symptoms clearly revealed by their strained relations. With strained relations, the leaders in the two states are seriously looking now of how to manage their economies without oil windfall.
While Sudan has embarked on serious austerity measures of lifting subsidies on fuels and reducing the size of the public sector, the South has been focusing on mobilizing non-oil revenues, public sector reforms, fighting corruption and more investment in agriculture. The collection of non-oil revenue by the Ministry of Finance in the South has substantially increased for the first time. Also the efforts of the Anti-Corruption in the South to retrieve stolen funds have been yielding good results. Equally the government in the South is looking at its old books to recover the stolen funds from “sorghum saga”.
For the first time that the leaders of the South in government, political parties and civil society and media have made serious efforts to sensitize the communities to till the land and cultivate. The potentials of the South to transform its economy from resource-based to an agriculture-based are far better than Sudan.
The South is only using 3.4% of its arable land. If it could increase the land under cultivation by ten-fold, using existing traditional methods, it will not only meet the local needs but be able to export food. The regime in Khartoum, on the other, has corrupted agriculture sector. Its options for reforming this sector are limited.
With secession, the South took more than 80% of the vegetation and arable land of Sudan including the areas of the Gum Arabic and livestock rearing.
South Sudanese who remained in Sudan after secession were virtually forced to leave the country. They lost most of their properties, particularly houses. Southerners, who decided to stay in Sudan, have been subjected to harassment by security elements. The free movement of Arab nomads to the South, with more than four million heads of cattle, has also been constrained as a result of strained relations, despite calls by President Salva Kiir to ensure their free access to water and pastures.
That might result in loss of livestock and increase vulnerability of Arab nomads because of limited access to water and pastures. The long history of good relations between the peoples of the two states is now at the mercy of the regime in Khartoum, which seems insensitive to the rich Sudanese values of hospitality and generosity.
Sudan faces a deficit of $10 billion as a result of the secession of the South. It has a total debt of $40 billion, with annual debt and interest payments consuming most of its scarce foreign earnings. Before relations strained, the South was ready not only to mobilise Sudan’s creditors for debt relief but also to assist financially and use its diplomatic relations to solicit financial assistance for Sudan. Given the bad image of Sudan and its low creditworthiness, the South would be in a better position to convince creditors, particularly in the Arab and Islamic countries.
In fact, the people of the two countries are the ones who suffer most from the strained relations. Although the South may transform this situation into new opportunities, Sudan will remain a strategic neighbour.
Managing relations with Sudan will be critical for economic, social and political stability of the South considering that more than half of its population lives in states bordering Sudan and more than half of its international borders are with Sudan. In addition, the two countries share the natural link of the River Nile and a wealth of social relations.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
By Doc Odotte
Jun 23 2012
In the back drop of the recent public vociferation over the Parliament’s move to amend the Elections and Political Parties Act, I have been riffling through the applicable articles of the constitution and the operational sections of the Elections Act 2011 just to civilize myself on the subject.
At the center of the outrage, is the moral oppugn of whether MP’s should be allowed to change Section 22 (1) (b) of the Elections Act 2011 which states in part that..
A person may be nominated as a candidate for an election under this Act only if that person—
..holds a post secondary school qualification recognised in Kenya.
The guiding principle for this law is found on Article 99. (1) (b) which states in part that… Unless disqualified under clause (2), a person is eligible for election as a member of Parliament if the person ..
-satisfies any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by this Constitution or by an Act of Parliament;
Many of the voices against this amendment have fixed the academic threshold as “the attainment of a university degree”, effectively ruling out other tertiary education levels such as vocational and technical trainings that qualify under the definition of "post-secondary school"
But, these are just semantics; let’s make a customary layover through articles on Chapter 4 (Bill of Rights) which in my opinion is the glue that holds the whole Constitution together
Article 27 (3) under the Bill of rights states in part that… Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
Article 38 (3) under the bill of rights states further that
Every adult citizen has the right, without unreasonable restrictions —
(a) to be registered as a voter;
(b) to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum; and
(c) to be a candidate for public office, or office within a political
party of which the citizen is a member and, if elected, to
It is true that the complex nature of legislative responsibilities postulates certain imperatives on the legislators in order to qualify them as being competent enough for the job
These imperatives should however not be legislated; they should be dictated by the free will of the people through the voting process. Imposing academic standards that are not necessarily accessible and achievable to all citizens is discriminatory and inconsistent with both chapter 27 and champed 38 under the bill of rights which guarantees equal political opportunity and right to be a candidate for public office within the legislature.
In my opinion, 38(3)(a) confers every adult citizen a right to be registered as a voter, just the same way 38(3)(c) does to be a candidate for public office, unreasonable restrictions, not withstanding..
Let us also be reminded that among the leaders we have in Parliament now, it is the ones with all the esteemed academic credentials that we have the most problems with.
The public is paranoia toward the tax evading, corruptible, self-serving cabal of parliamentarians is quite justifiable, but let us be wary of a provision that sets the trend for a technocracy in place of a democracy, because if this law was passed in 1963, Tom Mboya would miss the cut…
The other part of the proposed amendment on the Political Parties Act touches on the idea of Party hoping. I have not studied the provisions in detail, but there is also a legitimate argument to be made that most of these political parties are brand new and therefore have not set a robust system of democracy within their nomination process.
We learnt in 2007 that the general elections for Parliamentary contests in the so called stronghold regions, is simply a lame duck process
There needs to be a process whereby competition at the general election level is fostered in areas that are overwhelmingly tilted toward a specific Party. In my home constituency, once a candidate gets past the ODM nomination process, the rest of the journey becomes a walk in the park.
Party hoping allows some of the candidates who have genuine complaints about irregularities at the Party nominations to take a second shot..
By Justin Foxton
15 June, 2012 00:05
IN SAFE HANDS: A child abuse victim, a seven-year-old boy, seeks comfort from his mother in their Eersterivier, Eastern Cape, home
Image by: Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
It's time we all said 'no' to abuse of our children. 'No form of violence can ever be excused in a society that wishes to call itself decent, but violence against children must surely rank as the most abominable expression of violence." Nelson Mandela, November 2003.
As we pause to reflect on the state of our nation with regard to youth and children, these words seem worryingly idealistic. When one reads the stories and digests the statistics, one begins to wonder whether the abuse of children is not seen by many as being okay; that it is a right rather than an act of abhorrent criminality.
One senses that something has gone dreadfully wrong in our society - like we are watching one of those ghastly science fiction movies in which creatures with rogue genes begin to turn on each other. Violence against children has not only been normalised, but for many it seems to have become a way of life.
That way of life is as big a threat to the future of our land as anything else. What is a good education when children sit in class unable to concentrate because of the beatings they received the night before? What is matric worth to girls who have had numerous abortions by the age of 13 or 14 - most brought about because their fathers or other family members have repeatedly impregnated them? What is the likelihood of scores of small children growing up to become functional members of society when childhood treats like sweets are conditional on sexual favours dished out to fathers, brothers, uncles and friends?
It is hard to look at this stuff; we instinctively shy away from it. Even well-intentioned initiatives like the recent Child Protection Week go largely unnoticed. I don't think it's that we don't care - it's just that we don't know where to begin to help.
But begin we must. Being willing to weep and not just turn the page of the newspaper in horror is a good place to start. Perhaps if we are able to do that - not just look, but see; not just hear but listen, we will be stirred to act; stirred to do something - anything - to stop the atrocities going on behind thousands of closed doors every night in every city, town and tiny village across our nation.
Having wept, we need to stand up and take responsibility for the abuse of our children. It is time we said, "This is my problem", and did something in our personal capacity to change the situation. It doesn't matter whether or not we are "kid people". We don't need to be "called" to work with children. Mothers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, shop assistants, teachers, doctors, lawyers, street sweepers and vendors - all of us should do something to help our most vulnerable children. If we can't or do not wish to be hands-on, then we must help those who are. There are dozens of excellent NGOs in the child space. Childline is in desperate need of assistance and funding and IS a very good place to start (visit www.childlinesa.org.za).
To defeat an enemy we need to understand it clearly. This is why we need to work to rectify the misconceptions around child abuse and related issues such as child and teenage pregnancy. Too often we allow our morality or religious beliefs to cloud our judg ment. For example, we tend to assign blame for child and teenage pregnancy to the youngster.
We say things like, "If they are going to do it, why don't they use contraceptives?", or "Can't they abstain until they are married?" These statements are loaded with assumptions that don't take into account the reality of hundreds of thousands of children's lives.
The bottom line is that a child should not have to take contraceptives in preparation to be raped and most child pregnancies in South Africa are as a result of rape.
"But what about those that aren't?", you ask. The reality is that many of our children are being brought up with a very distorted view of sexuality. They have often been victims of abuse, witnessed abuse or have at the least heard of it happening. Often sex is currency and so even if it is consensual, it is still abusive by its very nature. I wonder how many pregnant girls in our country fell pregnant in the "old-fashioned way" - two starry-eyed lovers unable to restrain themselves who then had to break the news to their parents, who organised a hasty marriage?
It is time to call this thing what it is. It isn't an epidemic or a pandemic - it has moved way beyond a disease. It is in fact the systematic destruction of the heart of our nation. Ultimately abuse targets not the body, but the soul. Our nation's soul is being attacked.
Can we continue to share this magnificent land with so many destroyed young lives? Can we continue to walk the same paths as the raped, the sodomised and the beaten? Can we look at those faces that implore us to act, and then look away?
We can - at our peril.
Foxton is founder of the national awareness campaign Stop Crime Say Hello; The Baby House in Umhlanga, Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Adoption Coalition
Janet and Yoweri Museveni
By Jerry Okungu
June 20, 2012
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been Uganda’s president for the last 26 years. By the time he retires in 2016 as he has hinted; he will have ruled volatile Uganda for three decades.
Born around 1944, he will have attained a respectable age of 72 when he quits from active politics.
Obviously after ruling Uganda for this long, Ugandans will be anxious to know who will fit in to Kaguta’s big shoes. Will this person the choice of Ugandans or will the person be the President’s private affair?
If Kaguta chooses to name his successor in 2016, he will not be the first African head of state to do so. Way back in the mid 1980s, Julius Nyerere chose Hon Ali Hassan Mwinyi from Zanzibar as his successor. Mwalimu later on had a hand in picking Benjamin Mkapa as Tanzania’s third president. This was good for Tanzania as far as continuity and stability of the CCM after Nyerere was concerned. And indeed, Tanzania has remained one of the most stable countries in the region ever since.
Following South Africa’s first multiracial democratic elections, Nelson Mandela chose to serve for only one term. However, before he left, he ensured that the younger Thabo Mbeki succeeded him. He knew that Mbeki could rule South Africa for the next decade and entrench the ideals that thousands of South Africans had fought died for. If Mbeki was removed from office in his 9th year in office, it had nothing to do with Mandela’s good intentions.
In Kenya next door, succession battles have always raged years before the incumbent exits from the scene.
In 1966 when it became apparent that Jomo Kenyatta was about to die in office, there was clamour for his succession from among the contenders of the time. Leading the pack were Tom Mboya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Daniel arap Moi, Charles Njonjo, Njoroge Mungai and Paul Ngei among others.
As the jostling gained momentum, Jaramogi Odinga was eliminated from the race by being edged out of KANU. Three years later, Tom Mboya, the man who looked unstoppable through the ballot was felled by the gun. However, even after Mboya’s assassination, another populist firebrand; JM Kariuki emerged as the most plausible contender to the throne. His popularity cut across the entire nation because he spoke the language of the poor. Unfortunately, he too became the victim of assassins and was murdered in the Ngong Hills in the outskirts of Nairobi.
The murder of JM Kariuki in 1975 did not slow down succession tempo in Kenya. A year later, a group of MPs, mainly from Central Kenya met under the GEMA umbrella to plot a motion in parliament that would seek to change the constitution to bar then Vice President Daniel arap Moi from automatically succeeding Kenyatta upon his death in office. Had this group succeeded, it is most unlikely that Moi would have succeeded Kenyatta two years later.
When it was time for Moi to vacate State House after 24 years of uninterrupted rule, he scanned the political scene for a successor, never mind that he had a vice president who had served him faithfully for more than a decade. He eventually settled on the son of his former boss. That choice angered many Kenyans including the top leadership in KANU. At the end of the day, KANU disintegrated and Moi’s choice lost the elections. Mwai Kibaki who had fallen out with Moi ten years earlier became his successor through a popular vote.
As I wrote this article, Kenyans are at it again looking for a successor to take over from Kibaki. Will Kibaki succeed in naming a successor where Moi failed or will he steer clear of that messy political debate?
In Uganda, there are media reports that Kaguta Museveni may prefer his wife Janet Kataha Museveni to succeed him. There are good and bad reasons for this kind of intention.
In looking for a successor, Museveni may first want to look at Uganda’s ethnic, religious and regional diversity. And knowing how emotive the presidency is in Africa, one wonders the wisdom of subjecting a family member to that kind of public scrutiny. Remember that when Museveni came to power, circumstances favored him. Uganda needed a strong leader to bring the country together and stabilize its social, political and economic institutions. Ugandans were tires of war after two decades of turmoil under Amin and Obote. And coming home as a war hero; it was only fair that war weary Ugandans listened to him and gave him a chance. That chance he will have had for 30 years in 2016 despite his former comrade Kissa Besigye’s several futile attempts to dislodge him from power through the ballot.
The question to ask is this: are Ugandans ready for another Museveni or would they rather opt for an open competition to search for Kaguta’s successor?
However, if in the opinion of most Ugandans, they feel Janet Kataha Museveni has the credentials and most suited to carry on with Kaguta’s reform agenda, so be it. After all we have precedents in the Far East and South America where First Ladies have succeeded their husbands and done extremely well.
Yes, Janet Museveni, just like any Ugandan politician has every right to vie for the highest office in the land. After all she has broken the glass ceiling before by being the first First Lady to win an election and serve in her husband’s cabinet.
We can only hope that when the time comes, Ugandans will exercise their mature democracy and elect whoever they want, Janet included; to take them to the next level.
Kenyan Parliamentary Session
KENYANS HAVE REASON TO REALLY GET WORRIED ABOUT THEIR CURRENT PARLIAMENT
By Jerry Okungu
June 20, 2012
Every time I watch news on television or pick a newspaper in the morning, all I read are frightening developments from our august house. I sometimes wonder whether the same MPs that sit in that house also live in this country.
Take the case of the golden handshake that caused a lot of controversy the other day, one wondered why 220 Kenyans that have earned a total Ksh. 60 million each in the last five years should still get between Ksh 5 million and 15 million when parliament dissolves; more so when in the process, they have resisted paying taxes despite a new constitution coming into force way back in 2010.
It is my sincere belief that had the Prime Minister not intervened, it is most plausible that this outrageous amendment would have sailed through parliament with lightening speed. What I’m not so sure about is whether Kenyans are already out of the woods. The current MPs are capable of plotting new schemes that most likely have not come to light.
This week alone, two bad news have come from the same house. The Ksh. 1.5 trillion budget presented to parliament last week seems to have cushioned MPs against any taxation until after this parliament expires. Not that they will not pay taxes. This time round, the same tax payer will meets the taxes of our privileged class through the treasury because according to the new minister for Finance, these state officers that were there before the new constitution have a binding contract that excludes them from the taxman’s net. Again, poor Kenyans have to part with Ksh. 4.6 billion just to make our privileged class more comfortable. This is happening at a time when primary school kids are going without learning materials as doctors and nurses are threatening to return to the streets because of poor conditions of service.
Come to think of it; the Ksh 4.6billion we are giving MPs as tax cushion is enough to give medical cover to over 200,000 civil servants together with their families for one year! Is anybody thinking of Kenyans in that parliament?
It would appear like the current members of parliament have chosen to be at war with the new constitution. Any clause that threatens them as a group is likely to be dispensed with. And it would appear like marshalling a two thirds majority when their collective interest is at stake is not a problem like they did last week on realizing that failure to pass crucial bills on devolution was likely to send them packing.
Now they are at it again. One MP is planning to bring a constitutional amendment that will allow presidential candidates to vie for six seats at the next elections so that if a particular candidate loses the presidency, she or he can be rewarded with a senate, parliamentary or governor’s position. The same MP also wants losers to be eligible for nomination to the lucrative positions that will be available once a new government is formed.
Chris Okemo, the MP for Nambale should be reminded that this is not how democracy works. This self preservation is dangerous and expensive for the country. It will bring about a lot of indiscipline in political parties as well as a drain on our national resources.
Assuming that we have 100 presidential candidates all running for six seats each, it will mean that those who will have won four, five or six seats will have to surrender many of their seats. Those seats will have to be contested again so soon after the general elections. Do we have a budget for this extravagance just because we want to please the current MPs?
Let us be serious with our politics. Politicians must measure up and choose to contest seats that they feel capable of winning. We cannot allow politicians to behave like fishermen who go to the sea to cast their nets at sea without knowing what kind of fish they will catch. It is reckless to conduct our politics in this manner.
In civilized societies, a sitting senator or congressman whose term ends in the middle of the next term is allowed to contest the presidency, congress or senate. However, if he wins, he will be obliged to resign his earlier position and a by election is conducted. We cannot have political wannabes wasting our time and resources going for positions they are incapable of winning. And losers must respect the will of the people and temporarily retire from politics and cool their heels for five years before returning to the arena five years later.
Examples of good manners abound. When Senator Barack Obama was elected US President in 2008, he resigned his senate seat as Chicago Senator. When Joe Biden was appointed Vice President, he resigned his congressional seat. The same applied to Congressman Hilary Clinton when he accepted to serve in Obama’s administration.
In my opinion, these reckless amendments of our constitution are uncalled for, against the spirit of the new constitution and are an affront to the people of Kenya who authored the constitution. If the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution cannot not stop this recklessness, if the IEBC and the Judiciary cannot save Kenyans from these rogue law makers; it is only fair that Kenyans themselves resist the mutilation of their hard earned constitution so early in the day.
In this regard, Kenyans must take note who among the current MPs are either against them or for them. In the same breath, let us see which political parties are with Kenyans on this fight and those that are not, so that we can make informed decisions when the time comes.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. File photo.
Image by: HALDEN KROG
By Ezekiel Mosia, Kroonstad
14 June, 2012 00:03
When disruptions of unity occur in an organisation, it is obligatory for such elements to be purged ("Juju running out of options", on Wednesday).
That's precisely what happened to Julius Malema.
Between 2010 and 2012, according to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, the party has expelled 185 members for consciously and persistently violating party rules.
Surprisingly enough, neither Tokyo Sexwale nor Fikile Mbalula ever broke a sweat calling for reinstatement of the 185 members. So, what is special about Malema?
Nothing, really . Malema merely used media interest in him to mould himself into a major political power broker in the ANC .
But, as we all know, the "king-maker" status was erroneously conferred to Malema as an individual instead of to the ANC Youth League, the organisation which gave him his platform.
Because of his uncontrollable tongue and inexperience in the ANC, he was seen as a useful idiot by individuals who harboured ambitions of ruling the country. The biggest mistake made by Malema was to think he had become bigger than the ANC.
Apart from living large by driving expensive sports cars and residing in mansions, he also started chiding everyone: ANC cabinet ministers, NEC members, the secretary-general of the ANC and even Jacob Zuma, all because some weak NEC members were overwhelmed by their own personal ambitions and could no longer resist the temptation to use their last chance to claim their tickets to high office.
So, what motivates them to continue making a mockery of themselves?
Well, Malema stopped short of naming and shaming them and they wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to him, given what he knows about them.
That's why they each try hard to illustrate commitment to honour their part of the bargain. But these shameless Malema backers did not deserve to be in the NEC in the first place. Such positions should be reserved for the incorruptible and selfless.
By Jonathan Jansen
21 June, 2012 00:03
Jobless Graduate writes to me often, posing a question filled with emotion and frustration. "I have a degree, but I cannot find a job. How do you explain that, professor?"
There is a veiled accusation in the question, something like "you are always telling people to study and get an education; well, my parents sacrificed much to send me to university and now, look, I cannot even find a simple job with this qualification."
JG is male and female, in the early to mid-20s, mostly black, from a poor family, and from all nine provinces.
JG has applied for every job available, starting with one that fits the degree that she studied for and then, later, going for any job that could earn her some money.
JG feels frustrated because he is invited to interviews but the companies nevercall back. He feels he is there simply to make up the numbers; at his lowest points, he believes they need black faces on parade without feeling the need to hire one. After all, they can claim they made the effort.
So JG, here is my message to you.
The reason you fail to get a job has little to do with your degree. It has everything to do with the other things employers look for in a candidate.
To begin with, take a close look at your curriculum vitae. You will notice spelling errors and large gaps between words. You will see that your paragraphs are not always aligned, and that your references at the end are missing information.
Your sloppy CV is one reason that employers decide, there and then, that you would probably make a careless worker.
You will also see that your CV is quite thin. From this important document it is clear that you did nothing else with your life while you were a student.
You did not belong to youth associations, and I do not mean the destructive political ones that go around insulting people and disrupting classes. You were not part of progressive social, cultural and political organisations that sought to make a difference in the lives of poor people.
Your CV makes no reference to voluntary work or holiday occupations. That part-time job at the Spur might have brought in much-needed cash, but volunteering at an Aids hospice or starting up your own youth literacy project or reading club in the township would have shortlisted you for the job.
Then take a look at the marks you took from your transcripts and pasted onto your CV.
Your marks reveal that you concentrated on passing, and so your 40% in mathematical literacy at school, and your 52% in sociology at university, send all the wrong signals, and here I am not even talking about your meaningless 90% in life orientation.
While you were concentrating on passing, other students were focused on excelling; there is a big difference.
I also noticed from your transcript that you repeated anthropology and political science three times each; fat chance of an interview, to be honest.
Now I want you to reflect on your last interview.
The way you walked into the interview room suggested a serious energy deficit. There was no smile, and you looked depressed, with your drooping shoulders. And for heaven's sake, dress properly.
The way you used language was not upbeat, and you made several grammatical errors that the panel members noticed.
You were not prepared, and this showed when one of the panellists asked you what you had found out about their organisation from Google. Your answer was not cool: "I have not yet met Mr Google."
I am glad you did not respond when one of the interviewers, out of frustration, mumbled, "Bring me Jack Daniels."
And so you see, JG, it is not about showing up with a degree that matters. It is the other stuff they are looking for, the value added to the degree.
You see, unlike with political appointments, they are looking for competence, composure and confidence, and evidence of a life well lived. They want proof of an energetic self-starter who filled her leisure time with service to others.
They want an articulate and accomplished employee who can be trusted to represent the organisation well to the outside world.
They regard an investment in a professional CV writer as demonstrating care and concern for the small things that matter.
And by the way, that line on the CV that says "Criminal Record - None." Please remove that useless information just in case they do a background check.
Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu Picture: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS
Sapa | 19 June, 2012
Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu does not consider her new job a demotion from her position as defence minister, she said on Tuesday.
"The only way they [media] could reason it out is 'oh my God there must be some Machiavellian activity there in the run up to Mangaung' because that is uppermost in everybody's minds," Sisulu told reporters in Pretoria.
"Nothing is further from the truth."
Sisulu was moved from defence to public service by President Jacob Zuma during a Cabinet reshuffle last week. She took over the portfolio of Roy Padayachie, who died last month.
After Zuma's announcement, it was reported that Sisulu cried on learning she would no longer be defence minister.
An unnamed source claimed Sisulu saw her new portfolio as less prestigious and therefore as an effective demotion.
Sisulu's spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the report was a "fabrication".
Sisulu said the biggest stumbling block in the government's delivery was public service.
South Africa was two years away from 20 years of democracy and people were still waiting for basic services.
"People have been waiting patiently for all those things that we promised we are going to give," she said.
"We no longer have the excuse of 'give us time'. So what do you do? You get that which you think will be able to sort it [out]," said Sisulu.
She said she was humbled and honoured to be chosen as that person.
"It is an enormous challenge, I don't know if I am going to be up to it but I'm extremely honoured that I was chosen."
Sisulu also denied reports that she was a "union basher".
This related to her stance on unions within the SA National Defence Force.
"As far as the ruling party [ANC] are concerned, and the policy of the defence force, there is no place for unions in the defence force," she said.
"There is no place in the defence force for ill-discipline."
Striking defence force officers went on the rampage at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, in 2009.
Sisulu said there was nothing more urgent than the defence service, which protected innocent people.
Defence in South Africa was extremely stable and a settled environment.
By Felix Okatch
Not even the Church can dare go against the edicts of the community’s beliefs
Your article on Saturday Nation (16/06/2012) at page 3 on the above subject refers. There is need to shade some light on customs, quasi-religious-magico beliefs of the community in question.
When you report that the widow is outcast, you ignored the fact that she is an atom and molecule of that culture. She is a part of people who have lived that way before the advent of Christianity in the 18th Century in Kenya. She was born and lives in that culture and socio-economic environment.
Every community has a culture. By definition, culture like environment is what we live in and surrounds us. It t is the culture that unites and identifies a community against foreign interference and adversaries.
If we revisit history, for example, the people of Denmark, as exhibited in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Queen Gertrude was inherited by her husband’s brother. In the case of England, King Henry VIII married his brother’s wife when his elder King Arthur died in the fifteen century or thereabout.
In the Holy Bible, there is contradiction on this subject matter. In the Old Testament,the book of Leviticus Chapter 18; verse 6 states that ‘You must not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife’. But the book of Deuteronomy 25:2 states that if a brother dies ‘ Her husband’s brother must take her as his wife and have sexual relations with her. He must do the duty of a husband’s brother for her’
The Luo community had their customary arrangement and practice that is akin to the above before the coming of Christianity in the 18th Century. This now negates your one sided article on widow care which you erroneously report as wife inheritance.
Worldwide, communities have cultures and cultural practices and these change over time. The woman you wrote about has no problem. She was born and bred in that cultural environment. What you reported is neither new nor strange since the silent majority of couples have gone through it including tero buru.
Your biased reporting creates a negative view about our community. Our community had a jater which is a person nominated and chosen by a widow to be a levir that is a man to take care of her leviratic cultural needs. This is a culture which is private and sensational reporing cannot change it. Like in football, a spectator is usually a better player than the person in the field. The parties in the game know it better than us. Let us not be like spectators who criticize and when given chance cannot do anything useful. We just need to appreciate the custom of our diverse communities
Now in Kenya, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 at Article 11 (1) states that‘The constitution recognizes culture as the foundation of the nation…….’
Please note that marriage and matrimony are some of the most important cultural conditions in human life. It’s also a condition which produces more problems than others due to ignorance of both men and women. It is good but can also cause physical and mental anguish. Sometimes its consequences can be tragic as well. However, it gets protected by culture, tradition and laws like the Marriage Act in Kenya and many more.
In conclusion, please note that the Luo community are a superstitious people who believe in the cultural principle of primogeniture. Out of this they fear and respect the elders who by this principle, socially and psychologically control the ghost of ancestors.
So the issue you reported cannot be solved by money, politics, science or any inventions but by culture. All human beings belong to a cultural group. Culture is what puts a people together and acts as an edifice against external aggressors.
Felix Owaga Okatch
Gem Nyawara, Yala in Siaya County
254-721-735489 or 0733-735489
Monday, June 18, 2012
E-Kura System: The most cost-effective and credible tool for Kenya
By Osano Kute
Given the bitter experience Kenyans went through during the 2007 elections, it is the prayer of every citizen that the country should never see that kind of violence again. Elections in Kenya and their conduct have elicited a great of debate regarding their the mode and process that should meet international standards.
This artilcle aims to share the most convenient, cost effective and secure means to domesticate democracy in Kenya.
These thoughts have been informed by comprehensive studies and designs of e-voting systems conducted by young Kenyans to ensure a unique, innovative and cost effective system of participating in a democratic process.
In recent years, the Australian ballot paper system has been considered a great innovation where standardized ballots are printed at government expense, given to voters at polling places, and people are required to vote and return the ballot on the spot.
The ballot paper procedure is now the most widely used system in the world and employs uniform official ballots of various stock weights on which the names of all candidates are printed. Voters record their choices, in private; by marking the box next to the candidate or issue choice they select and drop the voted ballot in a sealed ballot box.
This system has however, been abused by various players as in Kenya and other parts of Africa where ballot papers have been stuffed in ballot boxes in favour of certain preferred candidates by the powers that be.
It is however, worth noting that democracy is more than just elections and votes. It is, understanding the people, their needs and outlining and debating strategies to meet these needs, through campaigning, consulting and convincing the electorate among others. This process takes long and is strenuous to the candidates, the people and the economy of nations. It is therefore important to have the shortest and most cost-effective way of ensuring that democracy prevails in a country.
The IEBC budget and Cost estimates
The IEBC had initially asked for Ksh. 41 Billion to run the elections. Budget items included voter registration kits, finger print recorders and readers, register voters, validate the voter register, print ballot papers, hire security, hire polling clerks, purchase results dissemination kit, operational costs and hire advocates for election petitions.
However, a quick look at the polling stations as presented in the document printed on 03-Oct-2006 by the defunct ECK indicates a total of 14,113 registered polling stations.
The figure of 45,000 polling stations being advanced by the IEBC now, therefore, represents an increase of more than three times the number of polling stations originally used for a Kenyan general election. Of course this figure can easily be used to justify the budget originally presented by IEBC of Ksh. 41 Billion.
How can we make elections cheaper, transparent, faster and secure?
Use of the Internet and other electronic devices for communication has not only become a standard for work but also for people’s private lives. Online voting would enhance democratic procedures, simplify the process, cheaper and increase legitimacy of the vote.
Since an e-voting system asks voters to confirm their choice, there should be no “wrong” or “spoilt” votes. A more important aspect of e-voting is that votes would be counted electronically, significantly decreasing the amount of human error.
Many computer scientists know that it is possible to design an electronic voting system that can sport paper trails that can be verified by the voter and subsequently used in manual recounts. However, according to Prof. Michael Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who teaches an e-voting class, electronic methods of tabulating votes actually tend to be more secure than paper-based ones.
E-voting for Locals and the Diaspora
Having been keen observers of the elections management for a number of organizations in the country and previous National General Elections in particular, in full realisation about the budgetary constraints placed on the way of IEBC and in order to account for every single penny given to IEBC, a group of young Kenyans developed an ideal electronic voting framework with requisite flexibility for selective manual applications, as may be desired.
The Online voter registration and Vote Management System dubbed e-kura, was developed by indigenous young Kenyans who have the technical knowledge and requisite appreciation of the challenges elections have posed in the past.
The e-kura system is an all round cost effective machine. It allows any Kenyan anywhere on earth to register as a voter without physically travelling to the registration centre in one’s constituency. Registration to vote in any Polling Station, Ward, Constituency and County, will therefore be done at any of the IEBC designated registration centres. This will definitely save time and money for the voter.
The system allows the voter to register the party he belongs to (optional) which can then be used by the Registrar of Political Parties to manage compliance with the Political Parties Act.
IEBC can also continuously weed out dead voters from the register so that by the time of voting, only living eligible voters are in the register.
For the Kenyans in the Diaspora, there will be no need to travel long distances to register to vote. They will simply choose their countries of residence from a drop-down menu and provide their credentials, be vetted online by the immigration department and be allowed to participate in elections if eligible. This category of voters will find the e-voting module in e-kura for actual voting very convenient.
The e-kura system has the capability to emulate actual ballots for the President and Deputy, County Governors, Senators, Women Representatives, Member of Parliament and County Representatives all rolled into e-ballot papers and specific to each polling station.
This capability allows for vote tallying and dissemination for each candidate category by: county, constituency, ward and polling station.
The system allows one to vote by selecting the preferred candidate just by pressing a button and confirming his choice.
With e-kura, there will be no spoilt votes as the intention of each voter is captured precisely.
The number of votes counted must also be equal to the number of people cleared to vote in any given station and this gives an extra level of security in validation of the votes cast.
Each voter’s photo will be taken immediately he confirms his choice of candidates and the time and unique number of the machine used recorded. This will ensure that no voter can vote more than once as on attempt to do so, the voter’s photo will be displayed showing the time and place he voted.
The e-kura system will ensure the following:-
• No voter will be able to cast his vote more than once.
• It will display the name, photo, party name and symbols
• e-kura will be used by the Registrar of Political Parties to manage compliance.
• It will allow The Registrar of Persons to authenticate the eligibility voters.
• It is has capability to print the votes cast for the six positions and placed in one
ballot box for any future recount or audit
• Voters will not be able to prove to others how they voted to avoid vote selling.
• No one will be able to trace and determine how any individual voted.
The cost and time savings e-kura will give
• The equipment used for registration is the same one to be used for verification of voters
at the polling stations, actual voting and vote tallying hence no wastage in terms of
funds requirements for the various stages in the election process. This will save more
than 6 Billion on the voter registration kit.
• No need to print ballot papers hence reducing cost associated with ballot paper printing
and reducing the possibility of someone pre-printing ballot papers to be used for vote
rigging by staffing blot boxes.
• No need of spending KShs.4, 000 for purchase of each ballot box hence reducing the cost by
a staggering more than Ksh. 4 Billion.
• The time taken to vote is drastically reduced as each voter will take less than 2 minutes
to vote for the six categories of candidates.
• Voters will not have to travel long distances to register as voters then return to vote.
• Voters in Diaspora will just need to go to the internet, and chose the country of
residence from the drop-down menu and proceed to register and be ready to vote.
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