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Crimes of lèse-majesté are not for us, as we are not a monarchy by Jenerali Ulimwengu

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I heard it on some FM radio station as I drove in my little village, and I did not believe it. Over time I have become so jaded by all the idiocies I hear broadcast by these radio stations that I suspect I have started building a self-defence mechanism to protect me from raving madness.

Only this was true, as I got to confirm the news hardly half an hour later. Yes, a magistrate at a low level of the judiciary had indeed sentenced some poor unfortunate devil to a sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of Tsh15,000,000 (read fifteen million Tanzanian shillings, and divide that by 2,300 to get your measure in the greenback).

My earlier incredulity dispelled, I was now in reflective mode. Just what was happening with our country? Is it really possible, I was debating in my mind, that a court can impose such heavy penalties for the infraction that was being stated?

Unbelievable

The reason given was as simple as it was unbelievable: The young man had been found guilty of “maligning” President Samia Suluhu Hassan,” according to my reading of the Kiswahili translation of the original.

Now, “maligning” the president could be manifested in many unpredictable ways. It could stem from an interpretation of whatever the accused had posted on social media that the official censors did not agree with; it could also have been something said by an opposition party official who is angered by the continued ban on political activities imposed since John Magufuli was president.

Truth be said, the situation has been nudged and made to move forward a little bit by Samia’s overtures toward the opposition chiefs, particularly Freeman Mbowe, who she helped spring from jail where he was beginning to languish as a terrorism suspect not so long ago.

Still, the snail-paced conversations do irritate some young people, and one could have said something unsavoury. But what is the crime?

Lèse-majesté

There is a crime in most jurisdictions ruled over by a monarchy which works to make sure the monarchy is shielded from any and all attacks by those who do not appreciate royal power and are wont to vent their disapproval from time to time.

The rule is called lèse-majesté.

I used to know such a monarchy, that of Thailand, where King Bhumibol Adyuladej was virtually a god against whom no untoward word could be said, on the pain of long periods of imprisonment for the offending party.

Many a drunken Western boy was often caught by this law. Today, even Thailand has shed this godlike image of its king.

So I found myself wondering if we were on our way to creating a deity of our own; whether this kind of sentencing was not a way of creating a personality cult wherein those we place on a pedestal and worship soon become ogres we can neither deal with nor do away with.

I know this is still early days, and within a few days we will know the exact words used by the young man now behind bars, from which we will know the gravity of the offending words.

At the same time, I am sure, the do-gooders who want to help the young man to get out of jail as soon as possible will have done their bit and helped him to launch an appeal.

It is also possible that the news of the incarceration of the lad will have reached the ears of the intended object of the “insult” herself, the president, and upon hearing the news will move to effect a quick pardon, and release.

Trivial matters

Whichever way this plays out, I am worried that we are losing our collective heads over trivial matters. We tend to take matters that are not worth our consideration too seriously, and leave unattended those I think should preoccupy us more intensely.

The president of our country is a politician, and as with all other politicians, she does politics, and in doing politics, there can be nothing to suggest that she is above reproach. Since she does politics, she is fair game for anyone who wants to critique her, even critique her severely.

She only has to bear with it, seeing as this is a job she chose to do, and doing that job imposes some imperatives, one of which is to bare her to the criticisms of her citizens, even if sometimes the criticism do tend to be overboard.

We should never create the crime of lèse-majesté, whose only object can be a monarch.

All our public officials are exonerated from this form of veneration, and when they go astray we have every right to call them to order. If they cannot stand our criticisms, they are free to resign, and no one will hold them down to a job they do not want to do.

Lastly, the members of the judiciary should stop trying to ingratiate themselves to the president in the hope of some personal advancement. They should just perform their work following their conscience.

Or, is that too much to ask?

Strictly Personal

Queen Nanny: Ghanaian woman who led liberation army in Jamaica by Owei Lakemfa

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Nanny, a young Akan woman from present-day Ghana, born about 1686 was captured with her four brothers and sold into slavery. They were taken on ‘The Journey of No Return’ across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming part of the 12.5 million Africans forced on this journey by Europeans and Americans who wanted free labour to exploit for profit.

Unlike the 1.8 million others who perished during this journey and had their bodies fed to the roaring ocean waves, Nanny, who was to become known as “Nanny of the Maroons,” and her brothers, survived the ordeal and arrived in Jamaica.

They later escaped from the slave plantations and fled into the mountains and jungles of Jamaica to become Maroons. This was the name for escaped slaves who banded together and fought for freedom, initially for themselves and eventually for various Latin American and  Caribbean countries, including Jamaica.

The names of slaves, in almost all cases, were lost. This was part of the depersonalization and dehumanisation of the slave, who was forced to forget the past and live entirely at the pleasure of the slave owner, who exercised the power of life or death on his “property. So it is not unlikely that her original name was not Nanny. This was most likely a corruption of the name Maame, which means mother in Twi. This would have been preferred to the names given to her by the slave masters.

By the mid-1550s, there were already escaped slaves in the Caribbean, who, with no way of finding their way back home to their loved ones, banded together to fight the slave owners and establish their own communities. In Jamaica, as in some other countries, these freedom fighters were called Maroons.

The word, “maroon” was derived from the Spanish word “Cimarron,” which was originally used for runaway cattle. Since African slaves were valued and treated no better than cattle, it came to be used for escaped African slaves. Maroon communities were typically located among mountains and swamps, making slave owners and European countries’ raids difficult.

They also provided safe bases for the Maroons to conduct raids on white plantations and organise guerrilla armies. They linked up with local Native Americans to defend the terrain. Today, Maroon communities still exist in various North and South America countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Ecuador, and the United States especially in the Carolina’s, Alabama, Florida, and New Orleans areas. They also exist on islands in the Indian Ocean.

After escaping from the plantations, Nanny and her brothers joined the Maroons. She later founded a Maroon village with one of her brothers, Quao, in the Blue Mountains in eastern Jamaica in 1720.  British Captain Stoddart said Nanny Town, was “situated on one of the highest mountains on the island” and found the only path leading to it, to be: “steep, rocky, and difficult, and not wide enough to admit the passage of two persons abreast.”

This forced the invading army into a single file and an easy target for the Nanny fighters. This part of Jamaica was described as “Windward” and the inhabitants were known as “Windward Maroons.” The village became known as Nanny Town. The Maroons evolved their own traditional religious practices with West African influences.

It was called Obeah. Nanny was a priestess, leader, and commander-in-chief of the rebel army who trained her soldiers in guerrilla warfare. She was so fierce in a battle that the Europeans tried to pass her off as a myth created to rally the forces of the Maroons. But despite strenuous efforts, the Europeans could not force her off the history books.

This is primarily because a ghost could not have been recorded by European writers; could not have been declared wanted with a bounty on her by the colonialists, nor could a myth have physically established two separate towns. Also, she organised and supervised the escape of about 1,000 slaves over a three-decade period and resettled them.

The Queen Nanny rebels fought the British military for six years from 1728 until the latter, led by Commander Stoddard seized and destroyed Nanny Town in 1734. In fact, the British claimed that one of its mercenaries, Captain William Cuffee alias Captain Sambo, leading the “Black Shots,” killed Nanny in 1733 during the battle for the town.

However, a year later, the same British reported that she was leading the Windward Maroons in a retreat westward. Eventually, she was reported to have led her troops to take refuge near the Rio Grande, one of the largest rivers in the country. The Maroons were making slavery costly and unsustainable and creating insecurity for the Europeans.

These, coupled with the European powers’ inability to defeat them after 84 years of insurgency, led the British settlers in 1738 to call for a truce. The first peace treaty was signed with the Leeward or Western Maroons, led by Captain Cudjoe (Kojo), another Maroon of Ghanaian origin, in 1739.

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Strictly Personal

Why now is the right time to invest in Zambia by Choolwe Chibomba

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Zambia sits on a fountain of untapped potential. Home to over 376,000 square kilometers of arable land, as well as some of the highest-grade copper deposits in the world, the country is a treasure trove of natural resources. Added to this, 54% of Zambia’s population is of working age (15 – 64), while businesses have access to a market of some 406 million inhabitants via the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Tragically, and in a pattern seen all too often across Africa, successive governments have failed to tap into this potential. Instead, they saddled Zambia with unsustainable levels of debt while allowing a culture of corruption and venality to proliferate throughout its society.

The election of President Hichilema and the UPND government is therefore rightly heralded as a ‘new dawn’ for Zambia; allowing people and businesses to finally realise Zambia’s abundant potential.

Since this New Dawn government was elected, Zambia’s credit rating has been upgraded to a CCC+ (up from CCC-) by the S&P rating agency, with GDP growth expected to accelerate to 3.7% in 2023. Having negotiated a $1.3 billion extended credit facility from the IMF, as well as a $275 million loan from the World Bank, the government is now tantalisingly close to agreeing a debt renegotiation plan with its external creditors, freeing up vital funding from interest payments to be invested into infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

Businesses are already waking up to the opportunities that this proactive, forward-thinking government is unlocking for them and for the Zambian people. In May, the CEO of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, described President Hakainde Hichilema as a “breath of fresh air” at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town. The company has credited the New Dawn government’s pro-business attitude and progressive tax reforms – including an end to the double tax trap on mining royalties – with plans to potentially extend the life of the company’s Lumwana mine until 2060.

This kind of continued investment would not only sustain jobs at the Lumwana mine but also create opportunities throughout the value chain as the company contracts Zambian firms to provide machinery, equipment, and services to the mine. Furthermore, it would result in significant upskilling for Zambian workers as the mine invests in training and educating its employees.

It is not just mining companies that are taking note. In July Zambian Breweries, which is owned by Belgian drinks company AB InBev, announced it would be investing $80 million into expanding its Lusaka factory, creating 5,000 new jobs in the process. The brewery again cited the “pro-business and pro-investment climate” that President Hichilema’s government has cultivated since coming into office.

These developments represent just the tip of the iceberg, as the government has promised to use its 2023 budget to make Zambia the most attractive investment destination on the continent. This will in turn provide Zambians with the access to capital and financing they need to set up and grow their own businesses.

In manufacturing, the government is promising a 50% suspension on excise duty for clear beer, as well as concessions geared towards stimulating investments in corn starch production. Meanwhile, telecom companies will benefit from the abolishment of the two-tier tax system in favour of a single corporate income rate of 35%, and betting shops will see their presumptive tax reduced by 10%.

These plans to drive investment also include measures to waive visa requirements for visitors from the EU, United Kingdom, United States, and China. This will not only help foster increased tourism but also allow potential investors from wealthy countries to visit Zambia more easily and witness its potential firsthand.

To help promote the breadth of Zambia’s investment potential, the government is supporting the efforts of Zambia Is Back campaign through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). Zambia Is Back campaign works to publicise the opportunities being unlocked by the New Dawn government and match up promising Zambian businesses with interested investors around the world.

We are excited to meet with growing businesses in Zambia, as well as investors looking to get involved in this exciting chapter in our nation’s history. In particular, we are looking forward to meeting with investors that want to make a positive impact in Zambia and support the country’s development by promoting education, entrepreneurship, and value-chain addition.

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