Banda Brothers?

When large institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are ranked against their competitors and peers, there’s one that never quite measures up against acknowledged intellectual giants such as MIT and Harvard:  Boston University.  Despite its emphasis on research and a $2 billion financial endowment, BU has long enjoyed(?) a reputation in the Northeast for being a ‘party school’ that specializes in cranking out bachelor’s degrees for frat boys on a business/corporate middle-management career track.  BU’s rowing program isn’t too good either.

BU’s latest move hasn’t done much to enhance its second-tier status:

Former Zambian President Rupiah Banda has accepted an appointment as the African President-in-Residence at Boston University.  The President-in-Residence program enables a democratically elected former African leader to spend up to two years at BU sharing insights on contemporary trends in Africa.  [Banda] was elected president in October 2008, oversaw notable national growth rates during his tenure with GDP peaking at 7.6 percent in 2010, and was narrowly defeated for reelection in September 2011. Center director Charles Stith says there is much to learn from Banda’s experience pulling Zambia out of the global recession.

 

Weeeelllllll, some Zambians don’t exactly see it that way.

Dr. Rodger Chongwe, one of Zambia’s most prominent attorneys, says he is surprised at Boston University’s decision to engage Rupiah Banda on various lectures on democracy and political issues when the former president was a failure at them.  Dr Chongwe said Banda would be remembered as a president who had embraced corruption after he decided to [emulate] the late Fredrick Chiluba‘s mode of presidency.
   “After assuming office and with all the enthusiasm which he received from the Zambian people, Mr Banda’s performance as president became disappointing to most Zambians –particularly to those of us who had known him at Munali Secondary School. He made mistakes; many of them were due to his refusal to accept advice and general lack of experience as a politician,” said Dr Chongwe.  Dr Chongwe [added that] he felt pity for the future recipients of Banda’s lectures because the man was insensitive to civility, human dignity and respect for other people’s views.  
“Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase that ‘democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people.’  These are not tenets that were practiced by Mr Banda when he was president of Zambia. One wonders why the Americans are spending so much money on a person who in fact should have [himself] paid to go and study at a school of politics and democracy in America so that he could learn something.”

Unequal Time

Former President Banda is suspected of participating in systematic corruption while in office, although he insists that he is a victim of vindictive political persecution at the hands of last year’s election victors, the Patriotic Front of Zambia.

Banda has insisted that he is a clean man and that the PF government must furnish Zambians with evidence to prove that he is a thief.

Riposte

Home Affairs Minister Kennedy Sakeni took the occasion to remark:

“There is no persecution.  Mr Banda knows very well how he persecuted other people when he was in government.  He was persecuting people himself. They are stories of people who were being innocently fired by him left, right and center for political expedience and those that were being arrested and detained.
   “The PF government has no time to persecute people. Banda must not think Zambians are foolish.  [Where did] Banda have the kind of money to build those flats in such a short time? Banda cannot today say that he acquired a loan from a bank to build them –that is abusing his authority. How can the President apply for a loan, knowing too well that they won’t deny him the loan?  That is clear abuse of authority. The mere fact that when he immediately got in office he went to the bank to borrow that money is evidence. That is using your office for pecuniary interests,” Sakeni said.
   “He has not told Zambians where he got money to buy 150 vehicles prior to the [2011] elections. Where did he get the money to buy those trucks? Banda has failed to account for that money in his own political party.  He was sending truckloads of food stuffs in all provinces for [election] campaigns, where did that money come from? Let him remind himself.”

And former home minister Lameck Mangani commented,

A lot of things happened –for example there were people in the previous leadership who would go to Toyota Zambia and buy seven Land Cruisers at once. Those people are walking freely. Is that harassment, is that?”

Even the members of Banda’s own political party, the MMD, are furious with him.  It now appears that the party  –at the direction of its leadership (Banda)– has been intentionally neglecting to pay its required annual registration fees to the Zambia Registrar of Societies (the national equivalent of a corporate registrar in any of the fifty United States).  As a result, the party is faced with the prospect of being delisted as a corporate entity.

Dr Katele Kalumba, former MMD national secretary, said the Registrar of Societies should have de-registered the MMD a long time ago because the law required that the MMD –like all other parties– should have [paid fees] for their [local party] branches each year.
[According to Kalumba] past MMD party presidents — including Fredrick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda— used their offices to inform the secretariat that the Ministry of Home Affairs or the registrar itself [would] ignore the question of branches.
“The issue is not that MMD was not making annual returns (paying fees), the real technical issue is that MMD as a party was making returns only for its [central] secretariat.  It was not doing as required by law to also pay for all its branches and that’s what this has come to. I think even the Registrar can confirm the fact that there were returns being done for the secretariat, but they were remitting because presidents were intervening. They were asking the Registrar to look the other way, that’s what I suspect. This did not start in the last three or five years –no! it started under Chiluba, Mwanawasa and Banda. It has been the case all along, they are all responsible. No one should take exception here, it’s not Banda alone. This is right from the beginning of the party, they ignored that particular requirement of the law.”

Running Dog Lackeys

Recently, the MMD de-listing issue has been gleefully adopted as an expedient cudgel by Euro-American investment functionaries who see an opportunity to extract/extort an exorbitant rent from the booming Zambian minerals economy.  Here’s the situation:  thanks to Banda-era deal-making (i.e., corruption), Chinese companies basically have a ‘lock’ on most of the large-scale mining operations in Zambia.  That leaves the former colonial overlords (the Brits) unable to cash in on the high prices that Zambian minerals such as copper can currently command in world commodities markets.  However, there’s hope in the land of Adam Smith:  the British and Americans DO have significant control over capital markets where the nations of the world must finance their sovereign debt.  During the past two years, we’ve seen repeated examples (Spain, Italy, Greece, etc.) of the way that bond rating agencies (Standard & Poor, Moody’s, Fitch) can use a ratings downgrade (or merely the threat of one) to put pressure on national governments while simultaneously locking in profits for the investment banks that have built up CDS (credit default swap) and bond arbitrage positions calibrated to precisely such a ratings downgrade.

Deja vu all over again:

Fitch Ratings, which last month lowered Zambia’s economic outlook to negative (‘B+’/Negative/’B’) from stable, [now] says possible deregistration of MMD increases its concerns over policy direction and governance quality.  [A Fitch spokesperson added] “This is particularly the case in a year that the government will seek to raise US$500m from international capital markets in a debut Eurobond.  If the decision to de-register the MMD is upheld and [parliamentary] by-elections are called, there will also be adverse fiscal consequences.  Fitch highlights again the risks associated with sending a negative message on matters relating to economic policy, property rights and respect for the rule of law.”

For those who need a translation, “adverse fiscal consequences” means that Fitch is signalling to prospective bond investors that they may be able to strongarm Zambia into paying higher interest rates on its bond debt.  Never mind that the Sata/PF government hasn’t actually threatened legitimate property rights except in those cases where clearly corrupt privatization deals took place under Banda, and that observance of the rule of law has actually been better than under Banda.  In Africa, any attempt to clean up corruption is definitely a threat to ‘business as usual’ and that means it’s a threat to the longstanding system of colonialism with an African face.  Rupiah Banda:  ready to serve … anything except time.

 

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