Ethno-Net Database: Zambia

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ZAMBIA / ZAMBIE


 
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Zambia
 
Controversial indaba continues to divide
Land rights for women still far from becoming a reality
Reports on Ethnic Relations  /  Rapports sur les relations éthniques

The following section is mainly consisted of part, full or summaries of articles taken from newspapers.
La section suivante est essentiellement constituée d'exraits, de la totalité ou de résumés d'articles issues de journaux .


10 / 21 / 2003

IRIN 

"Controversial indaba continues to divide"

A national conference that President Levy Mwanawasa hoped would promote national healing in Zambia ended on Monday just as divisively as it had begun.

The government said the four-day "indaba" was a success because over 600 delegates showed up. But key civil society groups that had boycotted the conference maintained it was a waste of the reported US $1.5 million it cost to host it.

The major recommendations from the indaba were issues that civil society had long championed: the need to have a constituent assembly to adopt a new constitution, a reduction in the size of the cabinet, and electoral reform to ensure that an elected president receives more than 50 percent of votes cast.

"There is nothing that Mwanawasa did not already know, because we have given him these recommendations time and again. Did he really need to spend four days and all that money to hear it again?" asked Lucy Muyoyeta, chair of the Non Governmental Organisations' Coordinating Committee (NGOCC).

Muyoyeta, whose NGOCC stayed away from the meeting, said the most important issues in the country were the growing political tensions manifested in increasing violence, an ongoing public workers' strike, and the controversy over the government's insistence on a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), rather than a constituent assembly.

"We told Mwanawasa to hold a pre-indaba meeting where we could chart an agenda and see how we were going to thrash out these issues but, instead, he goes ahead, meeting with sports groups and associations and is happy they are re-affirming what we have always said," Muyoyeta added.

Key opposition political parties, civic society groups and churches all boycotted the indaba, concerned that the agenda - and the government's invitation list - was far too wide to achieve any real progress on pressing concerns.

Economist Friday Banda, who attended the conference, said even the economic issues that were discussed, such as investment, tax regimes and the government's budget overruns, were already being discussed by the Business Forum, which Mwanawasa set up recently to chart Zambia's economic growth.

"It is only the political tensions that were left, and these could not be tackled because opposition parties were not present. So, to say it was a waste of time and money is an understatement. It is a criminal offence to waste money like that when our hospitals are without vaccines for babies," he commented.

"The indaba cost much more than the budget [deficit of US $1.4m] so one has to question government's priorities," one diplomat told IRIN.

Banda alleged that, as was predicted by critics, the government controlled the outcome of the recommendations because the chairperson, Siteke Mwale, did not allow debate on issues the government was hard-pressed to answer. "Every time government was put in a spot, Mwale curtailed the debate. Delegates felt cheated," Banda claimed.

The opposition also said they were concerned that Mwanawasa would present submissions made at the indaba to the CRC, validating the government's constitutional reform mechanism, which has been condemned by some civil society groups as giving the government too much influence over the final document.

But, despite the criticism of the conference, Mwanawasa said an indaba would be held every two years. He also called for the report of the meeting to be circulated to all major civil society groups, including those who had boycotted the occasion.

 

10 / 16 / 2003

IRIN 

"Controversy over national indaba"

A cloud of doubt hangs over the outcome of a national meeting scheduled for Friday, which Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa hopes will calm the country's political tensions.

Opposition political parties, civil society groups and churches have said they would boycott what is being referred to as the "big indaba", and have called on Mwanawasa to postpone the meeting to a later date, after a more consultative preparatory meeting.

The indaba initiative has been plagued by criticism and suspicion ever since president Mwanawasa announced it in September. Responding to the vocal opposition to his administration - beginning with the opposition's legal challenge to his 2001 election victory - Mwanawasa called the meeting to iron out differences over national issues.

But the conference has morphed into something akin to a constituent assembly. Every conceivable association and organisation has been invited to the three-day affair, which covers an agenda so diverse as to attract the participation of groups ranging from polo clubs to karate and youth associations.

However, Zambia's four main opposition parties, the United Party for National Development, Heritage Party, Patriotic Front, and the Zambia Republican party (ZRP) have said they would boycott the indaba. Church groups, the influential Oasis Forum, which represents lawyers and civic bodies, and the Non Governmental Coordinating Committee (NGOCC) and its affiliates, have also said they would not attend.

The critics claim the objective of the indaba is unclear, judging from the lack of prioritising of topics to be discussed. "The agenda is too wide for any meaningful debate. Currently the country is facing serious challenges around the constitution review process, the fight against corruption and the need for inter-party dialogue. We would have expected the indaba to have been focused on one or two issues for the set time frame," explained Florence Chibwesha from the NGOCC.

The government has faced a gruelling time over civil society demands for a genuine constituent assembly, strike action by public sector workers for better pay, splits within the ruling party, an aid freeze by the donors to punish overspending, and the ongoing challenge in the Supreme Court to Mwanawasa's election victory.

Opposition parties wanted to agree on the agenda and the selection of delegates at a pre-indaba meeting, with a commitment from the government on the need to discuss inter-party dialogue, and consensus on the mode of reaching conclusions.

But secretary to the cabinet, Leslie Mbula, has shrugged off the opposition complaints and advised them to go ahead with their boycott because the indaba was not called to discuss narrow political concerns, but broader national issues. "Not everyone wants to talk about politics. There are other issues that interest people," he said.

Mwanawasa insisted on Thursday that the opposition was not in any position to dictate the agenda because it was his meeting, and those who chose to boycott were "cowards", scared of debate.

But according to Emily Joy Sikazwe from the NGO, Women for Change, the government has got it wrong. "You cannot give such short notice for a big meeting as this - we have to consult our constituencies and agree on positions." And, she noted, "where are the people in the villages and rural areas? How can there be national building if the majority of the people of Zambia are continually left behind?"

The question of who would chair the meeting, which so far is expected to attract over 900 delegates from among the smaller political parties, business associations and NGOs, has also been in contention. Though the government has given assurances that it would be a "neutral, respected" Zambian, not everybody is ready to believe them.

"If we do not know who is chairing the meeting - one day before the meeting - we wonder whether the resolutions from the meeting will be binding to everyone," said Wynter Kabimba of the ZRP.

In exasperation, Mwanawasa on Monday lashed out at the opposition parties, describing them as "professional critics", who automatically rubbished whatever the government tried to do, "without even first considering whether there is merit".

But Laura Mitti Banda of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said Mwanawasa should listen to his critics. "No one is saying the indaba is a bad idea, we just want it done properly. All we are saying is: postpone it, so that we can all agree on the process, and come out of the indaba feeling we have gone some way in solving the crises the country is facing. It is him that must do the critical analysis and figure out what exactly people are opposed to."

Zambia Alliance for Progress leader Dean Mungomba alleged it was Mwanawasa's "intransigence and irresponsible conduct" that were the main cause of the tension in the country. "Look, he cannot even hear what we are saying about the postponement, or take our views into consideration. So what kind of dialogue can we have in the indaba?"

But the Zambia Union of Financial and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW), the only labour union to accept the government's invitation, said the boycotters were not being sincere. "People have been crying for this opportunity, and everyone was agreed that we needed to have a meeting to resolve issues, so why are they boycotting?" asked ZUFIAW president Cephus Mukuka.


10 / 13 / 2003

INTER PRESS SERVICE

"Land rights for women still far from becoming a reality" (Zarina Geloo)

When Lands Minister Judith Kapijimpanga announced recently that government had, with immediate effect, directed local authorities to intensify land allocation to women to empower them through ownership, there was a huge round of applause.

When Lands Minister Judith Kapijimpanga announced recently that government had, with immediate effect, directed local authorities to intensify land allocation to women to empower them through ownership, there was a huge round of applause.

When she urged the usually truculent traditional rulers to encourage women to own land off which 90 percent was under utilized, the women’s movements said they had scored a victory.

But not everyone is optimistic. The Zambia National Land Alliance, an NGO reviewing the land policy, says all this is high sounding and right along the lines of affirmative action, but will be a long time coming.

The draft National Land Policy, which includes a commitment to ensuring that 30 percent of demarcated land goes to women, is a good document says Joseph Mbinji from the alliance. But there is a lot more advocacy and publicity that needs to be done to make this a reality for women, he adds.

”We have been talking about land ownership for women for a long time. This is not the first time, but we have not resolved the impediments to women owning land, or their insecure tenure.”
He says women are often unaware when government is selling land because it is normally published in newspapers, only available along the line of rail and in English, which many cannot read. Women also do not have they means to purchase land. There is also a perception that land ownership is externally driven and is not necessarily a ‘felt need’ of women.

Zambia has a two tier land system. State and Customary. The government holds state hand which is supposed to be six percent of the total land available for production and the chiefs and tribal heads holds customary land, which is 90 percent of arable land in their fiefdoms, in rural areas. This, they allocate to their subjects and increasingly, to ‘investors’.

”There is a difference between the urban woman who is able to buy state land and has the urge to own that land and the rural woman who lives on tribal land whose urge for ownership is not strong, explains Emma Nalishuwa a consultant on Land use.

In rural areas, married women have access to land for farming through their husbands, but in the event of a divorce or widowhood, they may continue to use the land but will not inherit control of the land. Most women go back to their villages where they are dependent on a male kin for access to land. It is unheard of for a married woman to be given land in her own right. Rural women do not challenge their unequal position under customary law. Ironically, female chiefs do not act differently from their male counterparts in administering land to the disadvantaged women, Nalishuwa says.

”We have to careful here that we are not alienating them further by forcing them to own land and bringing them into conflict with the norms and ways of their villages by upsetting the status quo.”

But the recent Expert Group Meeting on Land Tenure Systems and Sustainable Development in Southern Africa said it was important that women in both rural and urban settings were provided with information in order to be empowered and have knowledge that land ownership was a human right and a right that women could access it anytime they wanted.

Henry Machina co ordinator of the Alliance says while in theory the 1995 Land Act does not discriminate against women, it ignores the historical reality of an unequal society in which women have not had access, ownership and control over land. Patrilineal customs do not assign women entitlement to land and there is poor administration of inheritance rights when it comes to women. Machine says while in matrilineal societies women had access and use to land, due to social cultural factors, men continued to control the benefits from land through having a grip of the marketing of land produce and had more opportunities to credit.

Even in the event that a woman owned land, if she could not afford land administration costs and legal costs in case of disputes, she remained not only at a disadvantage, but also risked losing her land.

Like in case of Saphina Tembo. An investor bought land in her village, fenced off the major river and she had no water for her self, her vegetables or her cattle. Eventually she moved to a poorer section of the riverbed.

”I hear all about give women this and that but no one gives anything, look here I have been chased off on my own land by a stranger. It is not thieves or crooks that gave this investor the land, it is the government, so where do I go?” she asks.

Machina says women like Tembo are right in questioning government because while the land policy mentions gender, it does not comprehensively address gender inequality in access to and ownership of land. While the government is a signatory to a number of international instruments including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the SADC Gender and Development declaration of 1997, it has not domesticated these instruments. ”This raises serious questions about how serious our Government is in enabling women realize their land rights”

He says with HIV/AIDS taking its toll women and children find themselves at a loss when their spouses die because they are usually stripped of the land or it is sold off to buy medicine. ”Food is produced by women so when they are incapacitated or unable to tend to the fields, families and in the process communities, suffer food shortages and yet it is absurd that women do not have the right to the means from which to feed their families.”

Kapijimpanga argues that it was for this precise reason that the government was committed to the issue of land tenure as it was vital towards food security and the creation of wealth in the country.

But Machina says nice sounding policies do not go far enough. There should also be an extensive review of the current land policy and Lands Act of 1995, to enable it categorically spell out the position of poor peasants especially women.

The policy and law should have a provision to compel the Ministry of Lands, Tribunal and City Councils and other stakeholders in land, to desegregate data according to gender and simplify land administration to lessen costs so that women access titles to land. ”There should also be a whole mind set about women’s role in development - as partners not as appendages.”

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Other data on Zambia / Autres données sur la Zambie