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Another candid account by Sardanis

Title: Zambia – The First 50 Years
Author: Andrew Sardanis
Publishers: IB Tauris & Co Limited
Price: 22.04 in Paperback
Pages: 370
IT IS another candid account from Andrew Sardanis, and a must read particularly that the nation is marking its golden jubilee.
Mr Sardanis is an authority on the country’s economy, and indeed its political history as he has shown when discussing the Barotse Agreement.
Born in Cyprus, he immigrated to then Northern Rhodesia in 1950 at the tender age of 18, bringing with him an aversion to British colonialism. He used to run between the Copperbelt and North-Western provinces, and in the process, formed close ties with Africans.
He participated in the 1962 elections as a United National Independence Party (UNIP) candidate and after independence, played a key role in the formulation of the economic policy.
Zambia – The First 50 Years, a new book which will be launched tomorrow at Chaminuka Lodge in Lusaka, is his third publication after Africa: Another Side of the Coin and A venture Into Africa. The reader will find some of the issues he raised in the first two books in his latest installment although at times, the conclusions are different. This, he admits, is a result of deep reflection and more mature thinking.
In his latest book, and just like in Africa: Another Side of the Coin, he covers the birth of Zambia, the impact of UDI and the economic policies that followed thereafter, particularly the track record of Indeco and the mining policies.
This should please Andrew Kashita, who in response to a golden jubilee article on The Rise and Fall of Parastatals, suggested that the likes of Sardanis can shed more light on parastatals.
Well, Mr Sardanis has done just that.
He writes that in the early years, they were on many occasions browbeaten or energised and got lost in cul-de-sacs pursuing impossible projects dreamed up by all sorts of fantasists who were attracted to the country’s freshness – like flying ants to the lights – and were bombarding them with countless ideas on how to race into a new ideal society of their own imagination.
Still, one of the successful Indeco projects was Kafue Textiles, a 1,000-loom textile that came into production in 1968. But the biggest industry that Indeco established was Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ), which produced ammonium nitrate for fertilisers and mining explosives.
Indeco also acquired a minority stake in NCZ’s biggest customer, Kafironda Explosives, the only producer of explosives for the mining industry in the country.
However, taking a minority share in a bid to encourage promotion of a new industry or expansion of an existing one, became a pattern.
With that, Indeco took a 12 percent interest in Zambia Sugar to encourage the development of Nakambala Sugar Estate in Mazabuka by a British company, Tate &Lyle, and 45 percent in Chilanga Cement, which was partly owned at the time by the Commonwealth Development Corporation of the United Kingdom.
And with Indeco negotiating various 51 percent acquisitions, Mr Sardanis was concerned at the lack of Zambian management resources, so they made sure that in the agreements, they did not lose the management expertise.
Indeed during his stewardship of Indeco, it increased its profit and assets.
Somewhat, he understands why nationalisation took place but not the abrogation of the mining agreements in 1973.
Of interest are the activities of Tiny Rowland, who bought Zambia Industry and Mining Corporation (ZIMCO) bonds at discounted rates in mid-1973 before nationalisation, then persuaded the Zambian Government to redeem them in full.
He estimates that Government paid an extra US$100 million to enrich Rowland and many others.
And when it comes to the privatisation of the mining industry by the MMD government, Mr Sardanis believes that it was botched and intentionally so.
In fact, his take on the presidency of Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa is harsh. Call it candid.
“Chiluba wanted to milk the mines for as long as possible and he employed many tricks to delay the privatisation process. In the end, the mines were sold at giveaway prices and some of the new owners lacked the expertise to operate them.
“Did Chiluba do anything useful during his 10-year administration? Indirectly and without intending to, he did,” he concludes on the Chiluba presidency before adding that the second President cannot be given credit for overturning the One Party State as that should go to the people of Zambia.
After that, Mr Sardanis goes to discuss how Dr Chiluba would choose his successor, handing the presidency to Dr Mwanawasa in the hope that he would be insulated. But as it turned out, Dr Mwanawasa bit the finger that fed him the presidency and just within the few months.
His take on Dr Mwanawasa is that he was not a natural personality for either politics or office of head of State.
“He was a dreadful public speaker, and an appalling politician; he was impatient and quick-tempered and when cornered, he had the propensity of uttering meaningless threats. Once responding to a criticism from Kenneth Kaunda, he told the First President to shut up or he would be bruised.
“He would not normally have been able to win an election but he managed to scrape through because the opposition was split into four and, more to the point, because Chiluba, in his anxiety to secure a would-be surrogate at State House, put the MMD election machine into overdrive and employed every trick, legitimate and not so legitimate, in order to secure Mwanawasa’s victory,” he writes.
He then discusses the sale of Konkola to Vedenta by the Mwanawasa administration in a chapter he appropriately calls ‘Konkola: the Sale of the Century’.
“But what did the nation get out of the sale of the Konkola colossus? The answer is zero. In other words, the Government did not sell Konkola, it simply handed it over to Vendata,” he writes.
On agriculture, the Mwanawasa administration boasted of some success but Mr Sardanis dissmisses this saying it was largely with the help of reasonable rainfall that Zambia was made self-sufficient in maize production.
The success for Dr Mwanawasa was the attainment of the benchmark required for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), which qualified Zambia for foreign debt forgiveness in 2005.
On Rupiah Banda, Mr Sardanis has an easy take on him, describing him as sophisticated and suave, with a cosmopolitan background who delivered the Eastern Province to Dr Mwanawasa in 2006.
“Even though he had been in the upper echelons of UNIP for decades, he never held a frontline position and never developed political instincts and rapport with the masses, a problem that surfaced time and again during his period in office.
“He was not a proactive person, and for a politician, he was unique; he was not much interested in attracting attention and publicity. He sat back and let the country get on without too much interference or fuss. This engendered stability and confidence and resulted in substantial economic growth, something his successors should note,” he writes.
Mr Sardanis, however, notes that Mr Banda’s administration never did anything to increase revenue from the mining companies despite the outcry over the concessions they enjoyed and the minimal rates of taxation.
On President Sata, he says he has expressed concern about the development of the Zambian business sector and a welcome interest in education, spreading universities around the country.
Obviously, the book was sent for publication before some changes occurred in Government.
His only conclusion though is that as country, Zambia has come a long way, achieving wonders in the process. – KK.

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