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China dominates the Zambian discourse

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By MICHAEL CHAWE
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In Zambia, the Sino-Zam relations debate is commonplace. It covers the sale of cheap goods, manufacturing and even mass unemployment, occasioned by Chinese doing jobs like chicken rearing or selling roast corn by the roadside, that should be a preserve of the locals.

But perhaps more dominant and emotive is the talk about the Chinese slave labour conditions, whipped up by then the opposition in the 2011 election campaign in which the current Patriotic Front (PF) party led by Michael Sata swept to victory.

PF rode on anti-Chinese wave and scored big. However, it now was like the chickens coming home to roost as the narrative takes a new spiral, “colonialism and forceful public asset takeovers”.

The debate has taken a new dimension and revolves around the ever increasing debt that Zambia owes the Asian country. China is also giving other African countries billions of dollars in aid, without the political and economic strings attached by the West. Numerous roads, hospitals and stadiums have sprouted across the continent, thanks to the Chinese.

The relationship between Beijing and Lusaka date back many decades. It was, however, solidified in the 1970s as the father of modern China, Mao Tse Tung built Zambia a 1,100-mile railway for its mining exports after the route through the white-ruled Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa was cut by sanctions. The West had refused to help, saying such a project was not viable.

The Chinese have, in the recent past, managed to pump millions of dollars into the Zambian economy and resuscitated mining firms which were long unproductive after the privatisation bid in the early 90s as the country switched from a socialist-orientation to a liberal one.

The current Zambian government’s penchant for borrowing-two Eurobonds due to mature- has been hair raising, leading to the mounting speculation about debt swap with state assets for Chinese liabilities.

As at March this year, Zambia’s outstanding debt stood at $9.3 billion, having risen from $8.7 billion at the end of 2017.

Last week, Finance minister Margaret Mwanakwate dismissed media reports that Zambia was offering its electricity firm, a broadcaster and the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to China as security against loans.

“The Zambian Government has not offered any state-owned enterprise to any lender as collateral for any borrowing,” Ms Mwanakatwe said.

She also dismissed claims that the government was exploring debt/asset swap options.

China is funding major infrastructure projects in Zambia among them the $300 million upgrade of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

Beijing has invested more than $2 billion in Zambia’s mining, agriculture, service and housing sectors. It has also built multimillion-dollar stadiums, schools and roads.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the country was at a high risk of debt distress, an analysis President Edgar Lungu says is “false”.

On Friday, President Lungu defended Zambia’s ties with China amid reports that some parastatals had been offered as collateral for Chinese loans.

“Our friendship with China is mutual and no amount of malicious propaganda will deter us from the opportunities that lie in what we share,” he told MPs in Parliament.

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“I urge everyone to remain focused and not be moved by the ongoing mischaracterised information suggesting that our friendship with China suggests colonialism,” he said, adding that “China has never been known for such!”

An Academic from the University of Zambia, the country’s largest public university, Mr Alex Ng’oma, too does not share the view that the “debt albatross is a tactic that would colonise Zambia”.

“What, colonialism in this era, how is even that possible?”

“Those running with that story just want to malign our government and make us lose trust in our institutions. So I urge people to dismiss this story.”

A lawyer and governing party lawmaker, Mr Tutwa Ngulube, told the state broadcaster that Zambia had every reason to be grateful to China due to its unflinching support in building infrastructure all over the country.

“Investors from China should be allowed to come to Zambia just like investors from other parts of the world. But the Finance ministry should avail information on loans obtained from China in order to avoid speculation,” he advised.

Zambian should not bow down to the propaganda machinery that has been launched against the Chinese government, he said.

But the China-African colonialism debate goes beyond Zambia. It was reverberating all over the continent and beyond.

Former Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya was recently quoted weighing in on the matter.

Mr Ngwenya, who worked for the economic bloc for 34 years, said the China-Africa relationship has always been based on a win-win basis.

“I recall vividly that during this period [colonial] there were no voices that spoke about the People’s Republic of China supporting the decolonisation and African countries because of self-interest that is based on exploitative relationship.”

“It is therefore disingenuous for those who only yesterday and for centuries were involved in the enslavement of Africans and exploitation of natural resources to turn around and proclaim that they have clean hands and that China’s partnership is based on the model of exploitation that they know.”

Comesa is the largest regional economic organisation in Africa, with 21 member states and a population of about 390 million. Comesa has a free trade area and launched a customs union in 2009.

To their credit, however, Zambian youth continue benefitting from the hundreds of jobs being created by Chinese loans and investments.

The new Chinese ambassador to Lusaka, Mr Li Jie, said soon after the Presidential address on Friday: “I heard some description of China being a face of new colonialism. It feels really strange. We don’t want to have this hat, it is not appropriate for China. Colonial policy has never existed in China’s diplomacy and practice. China never colonised any African country in their history. On the contrary, all the challenges the African countries are facing now…originate from their colonial pasts.”

To the US envoy Daniel Foote, some caution was necessary in the Chinese relations.

“We’re not telling you [Zambia] what to do, but all we are asking you is to walk into these deals with your eyes open,” he said.

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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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