Zambia Wildlife Authority continues to trash elephant conservation

As the Zambian safari hunting industry grapples with the increasingly Mad-Hatter decisions of its Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) Director-General – doubtless squeezed by his inexperienced Board and the python of poor policy requiring ZAWA to raise its own funds, he is once more issuing licenses to safari operators to hunt elephant in 2008. I am reminded that on 10 January 2006, the Natural Resources Consultative Forum of Zambia (NRCF) met to discuss the question of Elephant Sport Hunting (ESH) and to prepare an urgent Advisory Note for the Permanent Secretary and the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources for their visit to the meeting of the Safari Club Convention in Reno, Nevada, USA starting on 18 January 2006, a convention where the elephant quota for 2006 would be sold by Zambian Safari Operators and their agents. Regrettably the Acting DG of ZAWA had declined to attend in person or to send a competent officer in his place. The meeting overwhelmingly agreed that given the absence of the necessary scientific base-line data on which clear advice might be tendered to the Permanent Secretary, that the precautionary principle should be invoked and elephant hunting banned for 2006 and until such time as ZAWA provided the essential data. ZAWA took no notice of this and went ahead with an elephant license auction. In January, 2007, at a meeting with the DG, he assured me and another steering committee member of the NRCF that no decision on elephant hunting would be made until he returned from attending the SCI Convention. The next day the ZAWA licensing officer phoned me with an invitation to attend an auction of elephant licenses a few days later.The background to this sorry affair is that in 2005 ZAWA issued a quota of 20 elephant for sport hunting by foreign clients in the Chiawa, Rufunsa and Lower Lupande hunting concessions; 10 to be utilized by the concessionaires of those areas, the remaining 10 to be auctioned to other safari operators – the proceeds to be deposited in an elephant conservation fund and shared with affected communities. The quota was issued by ZAWA in response to complaints by local communities of elephant damage to crops, and of loss of life. The DG ZAWA stated that 20 problem bull elephant had been identified (sic) by his officers and that these would be shot, and that measures would be taken to assist communities to improve their capacity to defend themselves against raiders. The Tourism Council of Zambia (TCZ), the Safari Hunting Operators of Zambia (SHOAZ), the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) – which produced an analysis of the issue, and Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) opposed the hunting of elephant on the grounds that elephant were being poached, that populations had not yet recovered from the hunting ban of 1982, and that the few bull elephant in these areas were of considerable value to the non-consumptive tourism industry. Numerous international elephant conservation organizations also opposed the move. In 2004, ZAWA had applied to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the ivory taken from the 20 elephant to be exported to CITES signatory countries. This application was unfortunately granted. But ZAWA’s application for elephant to be downlisted to Appendix 2, enabling it to sell its stockpile of 17 tons of ivory, was refused. At least one international organization supported the introduction of elephant hunting and had negotiated with the US Fish & Wildlife Service for ivory from the 20 hunted elephant to be imported into the USA. This was, however, refused. ZAWA, through the NRCF, held a consultative meeting on the elephant hunting proposal, but had already announced an elephant hunting quota. Since this time, as the NRCF refuses to press government on the issue, the issue has been swept under the carpet. I am no longer a steering committee member as a result.

People who trust African governments to care for their nations’ natural resources delude themselves

Paraphrasing the incomparable historian,  Paul Johnson (People who put their trust in human power delude themselves), who wrote recently in The Spectator magazine, “One thing history teaches is the transience and futility of power, and the ultimate impotence of those who exercise it”,  it is quite clear that African Governments, these highly centralized spawn of western civilization where duty, principle, humanity are trampled in the concupiscence for absolute power, are simply replaced and replicated endlessly by more governments of similar bent. And out there in the blue, in the wildlands that continue to enchant the world in what is left of our Pleistocene effulgence of life, are the bushfolk and the wildlife, left to their own devices. Thank God. For were their governments and the often misguided donors to alter their ancient hunter-gatherer, shifting cultivation survival strategies, their lives would deteriorate – and along with it the land and wildlife and vegetation that supports them.

 Old Africa hands like myself ponder long and hard on these things. Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, one of my sons, Brendan, phoned me from Zambia with the news that our employee and church pastor, David Chilubula had died; not surprising, perhaps, given that he was 41, had been ill for some time, and that the average life expectancy in Zambia is now 37 years – a one year drop for each of the last twenty.  He had first come to us as a cook on the recommendation of a Zambian family whose friendship we prize, and soon showed that like all good cooks, there was hardly a job or assignment which he was not prepared to undertake. His biggest assignment, in the face of pressures unimaginable to Europeans, was to stand up against corruption and witchcraft, to investigate (for he had been on the Police Reserve) those involved with elephant poaching in our community conservancy, and those who had orchestrated the theft of a vehicle of ours –  a hit job of our enemies, whose spoor and whereabouts he had doggedly followed for three months.  But his main job, along with some other key community people, was to pass on the fact that rural tribal communities, the bushfolk,  can no longer – like the Cargo Cult of old, await the coming of aid, of deliverance from the people whom they have elected. Change and development, he had told them, has to come from within, from us.

In Zambia, under western influence for a mere 122 years, I have for 45 years of that time had to witness the enforced departure of our colonial civil servants from the inherited duty of Magna Carta in 1215,  which laid in more than embryonic form, the basis of our common law, the American Bill of Rights, our Zambian law – the one thing that protects the governed from the excesses of the government.  I have had to witness the incalculable loss of Christian and Hindu pioneers, the attacks on Indian businesses, the Watchtower religious sect, the Lumpa religious sect – followers of Alice Lenshina whose only sin was that she exorcised witchcraft from the afflicted and wanted nothing to do with this newly independent Government moulded in Westminster form. Unknown to us all, hers was a cry for the saviour of the African soul, not for some spurious independence with the palms ever uplifted.  And how can we forget the extinction of the Black rhino, the decimation of the elephant herds once again, herds which colonialism had brought back from near extinction to a point where in the 1960’s they overran villages and their crops, but also made famous such areas as the Luangwa and Zambezi valleys, the Kafue. The dream was that Zambia, enlightened, would take its place with proud developing nations. This has not happened. Thinking of this while standing in the development and reform trench, I was inclined to the view that all was lost without some massive re-affirmation of western values, without the opening of Zambia’s doors to western immigrants. But clearly, this is not going to happen.

Three recently published books by distinguished development economists  illuminates the reality, and suggests what is, and is not, possible: William Easterley’s The White Man’s Burden, which takes Jeffery Sach’s book The End of Poverty to task for its grandiose plans for the upliftment of the poor (my bête noire as well, for his flooding of Zambia with mosquito nets – now stitched together and used to clear our rivers of fish), and which suggests that finding ways of getting the money to where it is needed and used judiciously is a priority; and  Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, a comprehensive quantitative appraisal of global development since 1200 which suggests that cultural characteristics evolved from long periods of settlement and security, the more settled and secure, the more developed they became – leading of course to the Industrial Revolution, and concluding that industrialization for countries without such a settled history, is not a blessing; and Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion, which addresses the ‘failed states’ – one of which is Zambia, and analyses the traps into which these countries have fallen, one of which is the extraction and export of natural resources, the “resource curse” or “Dutch Disease”, the latter named for the effects of North Sea gas on the Dutch economy, and as Collier explains, ”The resource exports cause the country’s currency to rise in value against other currencies. This makes the country’s other export activities uncompetitive. Yet these other activities might have been the best vehicles for technological progress.” Zambia with its second great mining assault, driven by the massive rise in the price of copper and gold, has been so ensnared.

African Governments, in the light of all this, confirmed by my experiences in development, have become largely irrelevant – except where they interfere with the status quo or deny customary landowners rights to the natural resources supported by their land. The way forward is to avoid the ‘great plan’ driven by rock stars and UN types, to support rural communities and their culture, to give them the room and the freedom to avoid the Malthusian trap which comes with more people and less resources – the inevitable results of inappropriate development. Hats off to Tanzania therefore who recently cancelled the hunting concession on the Hadzabe lands, and gave it back to this ancient people.

A lady called Fred

One of the best and dearest friends I ever had was a lady called Fred.  She was tall and wonderfully soft to the touch, and brilliantly white with a yellowish tinge to her down breast and sides, and with pink webbed feet.  But it was her eyes that I remember, eyes that would soften – and on special occasions, allow the nictitating membranes to swim completely over, a sign that she trusted me absolutely.  At other times her eyes would glint with the murder in her heart for all who approached me or shared my affections. Fred was a Great White Pelican.

 She was given to me while still immature by a game catcher friend who had given up his trade and was looking for someone to relieve him of the daily chore of catching her fish.  She had been caught in the Luangwa Valley and brought to the outskirts of Lusaka where she shared her pen with an adult Puku ram.  This association confused her, for she began to believe she was a Puku and would strut about the pen imitating the rather plodding movements of a Puku antelope. 

It was love at first sight – even though at the time I assumed Fred was a male.  I took her up to the Bangweulu in a wooden box lashed securely onto the back of the Landrover.  She traveled uncomplainingly, and during our frequent stops she stared at me with an expression registering mild indignation.  But she trusted me already,  that I could tell.  It was late at night when we reached Chikuni, and Hobito and Kasongo came sleepily out of the night to greet us and help unload the vehicle.  The safest place to keep her for the first night I thought – and perhaps for the rest of the time she was with us, was in a small diamond-meshed, chicken-run built against one side of the laboratory.  This chicken-run was the home of our three laying hens who existed under the stern tutelage of the head chicken, Spots.  How Spots would take to such a large interloper was difficult to tell.  I picked up Fred by grasping her beak firmly in one hand, and clasping her body to my side with the other, placed her inside with the chickens.  She complained about this in a guttural honking voice.

 In the morning we rushed out to see her. She was happy to see us, though clearly still a little suspicious, and did not give that joyous waggle of tail and honk of joy that was to greet me in the days ahead.  Spots, on the other hand, was most indignant at this intrusion and approached Fred in a belligerent manner, only to be sent scurrying in retreat by a few snaps of a long beak.  When Spots saw me she ran over to the fence and as I reached my hand through to her, she bent her legs and quivered all over, for she had imprinted on me as a chick and now considered me her parent.

 But our morning was now devoted to Fred. As her wings had been clipped, I opening the chicken run and allowed her to follow our chickens out.  Taking her by the bill I pulled her gently towards me, and stroked and whispered sweet endearments in her ear.  She resisted, but I could see that she enjoyed it.  Sitting on the raised cover of our septic tank we watched her preen herself, the amazingly long beak snipping minutely at her feathers.  There was not much, I thought, that she could do about her neck, but this too she cleaned by rubbing the back of her neck against her body, followed by the sides of her neck.

 I sent Kasongo up to Kaleya to buy some bream as it was winter and fish were in short supply, and most of the fishermen had made their annual migration out to the great swamp, which was permanent, unlike the Lukulu estuary. While we were having our breakfast I decided that the best way to feed her would be to cut a 44 gallon drum in half and fill it with water and therein place the fish.  Kasongo finally arrived and handed me a few small bream, one of which I held rather gingerly out for Fred.  At the sight of the fish her wings shot out and she came at the run towards me.  Up went her beak and, snap, she had the fish.  But she knew what to do.  There was no instant swallowing as one might expect: the fish lay in her beak, its tail pointing in the direction of her throat.  She started ‘mouthing’ the fish, flattening down the spines.  These she could clearly feel through her soft pouch for she flipped it expertly, caught it with the fish’s head pointing towards her throat – the gill rakes and fish spines pointing in the opposite direction, lifted her head, swallowed, shook her head, then her tail, and looked expectantly at the other fish I was holding.

Fred became a friend and loved one, never a pet.  I had decided immediately I saw her that her rightful place was in the Bangweulu, the ideal place for a pelican to grow to maturity.  Her feathers had been cut, but there would be no more of that. We could feed her, enjoy her company, and when she was ready, she was free to go with our blessing.  A wild bird, unlike a dog or chicken, is the apotheosis of animal life.  I had no wish to place her in bondage.  My enjoyment of her company lay partly in the knowledge that one day she would be gone.  It was rather – I later came to realize, like life itself.  The thought of eternal life was unthinkable – an unutterably dreary prospect.

Fred – it soon became clear, disliked Cathlin, seeing in her the usurper of my affections.  But she also disliked all other feminine women – the occasional masculine one that visited being allowed to pet and cuddle her, and small children and my staff.  A pattern soon began to emerge.  In a matter of days she became my constant companion.  In the morning I let her out of the chicken run.  Seeing me, she would let out a honk of delight and start pushing against the fence.  I would then pull her towards me and lay my head against hers, stroking and rubbing her soft breast and scratching at the base of his neck.  How she loved this, her eyes hooded by the nictitating membranes, her bill and neck held back so that she resembled a ruler laid against a football.  At morning muster she accompanied me the few yards to the front of the laboratory where Kasongo, Hobito – and whoever else was there, lined up below me, all in a line, to receive their instructions for the day.  On one of the first days of our ‘marriage’, Cotton Mateyo had stepped forward politely to hand me a message sent by a runner from Chiundaponde.  Snap, Fred’s beak came viciously together, narrowly missing Cotton’s hand.  They all jumped back, exclaiming, “Yo..Yo..Yo!”, laughing at the spectacle of a bird defending its friend.

At Chikuni there were a number of machines: my Landrover, the Government Landrover, two airboats, a tracked all-terrain vehicle, a water pump, a seven-ton truck, three outboard engines and a portable electric generator.  The machinery would normally have been maintained by the Mechanical Services Division (MSD), but I was far from the nearest depot.  There was also the matter of their increasing incompetence.  I had once sent the Government Landrover in to have the clutch plate replaced, expecting to collect it the following day.  A year later, after many complaints to the hierarchy concerned, I received it back.  So, with the assistance of Hobito and Kasongo, I decided to maintain the machinery myself.  Shortly after Fred’s arrival I had crawled beneath the Landrover to check the transmission oil.  “Number fifteen flat” I ordered, calling out to Kasongo nearby.  Snap.  “Yo..yo..yo!”  Kasongo leaped back, and there was Fred staring smugly at me.  Shee bent her legs, honked, wagged her tail and crawled under the vehicle squeezing herself between the chassis and my chest.  It was a tight fit.  Her honks were now loving ones as she nibbled at my hair and ear.  Having found me she was deeply happy.

 When I went out in the airboat she stood at the house a brilliant white admonishing speck in that Ireland in Africa, and when I came back she would clap her wings with delight and would waddle towards me.  There was none of that sycophancy for which dogs are noted, none of that acute state of olfaction, of nosing the groin of visitors or slobbering amidst their genitals.  She was highly intelligent, loving, protective, amusing, rarely distant, and impeccably groomed – a highly developed evolutionary model for communal fishing and not something man had fashioned for his own use. 

When Chimbwe plain flooded I hired a fisherman by the name of Kapinga Mankwa to help me with the sitatunga catching programme.  One of his jobs was to provide Fred’s daily fish fare.  He was an engaging, simple fellow – always cheerful and very much a loner.  He would set his net out in the plain and in the deep hole by the house.  Fred would follow him as he poled out in his dugout and would watch as he skillfully worked the net, then would follow him back, eyes fixed on his thin frame.  I had given Kapinga a T-shirt from my Canadian University; he now appeared as the most unlikely of graduates, yet a man with a deep knowledge of the ways of the swamp.

 Fred was usually to be found at the kitchen door where stood his drum of water.  On a hot day she would climb into the drum, taking up all the available space, though holding her wings up from the water.  This became a trademark of hers and we were always able to pick her out later when she started taking her first fishing lessons from the wild pelicans.  We tried keeping her out of the house, for the waxed floor was slippery and I feared she would injure herself.  This was no easy job for she would sneak in through the kitchen and make her way over to the side of the couch where I usually sat – she knew this from his frequent peeks through the window – and would climb up and seat herself, her feet gripping the edge of the cushions, her beak hanging over.  There she was, happy, knowing that eventually I would find my way back to the seat.  Her strategy when Cathlin was at work in the kitchen was either to slip past her unnoticed or to pad silently up behind her and snap at her behind.  Occasionally she would do this on her own way out.  While she would allow herself to be petted by Cathlin, this could only be done with any safety if her beak was firmly grasped.  I had to be particularly careful when children were about for she disliked them intensely, sidling up with homicidal intent.

And so the days passed:  her wing coverts grew out and she could now be seen out on the airstrip facing into a stiff breeze and flapping her wings.  She soon learned that an aircraft produced a wonderful rush of wind, and the sight of one was enough to make her wildly excited.  She would wait impatiently for the aircraft to stop taxing, or to start up preparatory to taking off, and would rush madly around to the rear and begin flapping frantically.  The arrival of the Zambian Airforce to move some Black Lechwe to Chinsali – at the behest of  President Kaunda, was a special time for her.  The aircraft only came for the day, but how she reveled in the gigantic wash of their propellers.

 Perhaps our favourite time together was in the hammock I had stretched out in the Mubimbi tree at our front door looking out over the plain towards the Mandamata woodland.  On a Saturday afternoon I would lie there, armed with my pipe and the radio, listening in supreme comfort beneath a cloudless sky in paradise to a rugger international played in some far off stadium.  Fred, finding me there, would honk with delight and rush over.  Lifting her up I would place him on my tummy where she would float dreamily for hours, opening her mouth every now and then and panting to cool off, and peering around occasionally, a red iris glowing in the orange and white and yellow of her head.  Her soft and elastic pouch, and beak, lay across my arm.  If I rocked too violently she would object by nipping at my legs, and if I caressed her, she would honk, open her beak, and envelope my head, then nibble at my hair and ear.

As the days went by, she still slept with the chickens but now ignored them, though Spots still crept up behind her when the opportunity offered to pull at her tail feathers.  Fred only ever woke me twice: once I discovered an otter outside the chicken run, and another time a lioness, which slipped rapidly away in the night.

 In March, at the height of the floods, our road across the plain was converted into a pool of water a foot or more deep in places, a natural passage way for fish.  One day two Pink-Backed Pelicans arrived, followed by a small flock of Great Whites.  Fred took immediate note and watched with interest from her vantage point near the chicken-run.  Finally, unable to contain herself, she walked towards them, stopping when twenty yards away.  With what excitement we watched this event.  Some of the pelicans closest to her were curious.  These glances of approbation were enough to make Fred rush excitedly over, her wings bunched up.  But to her dismay, the birds resumed their  preening and took no notice of her.  How dejected she looked.  The bunched wings came down, and for a minute she stood still, watching. 

But perhaps it was her approach after all that suddenly caused the pelicans to line up three or four abreast and proceed as beaters, driving the fish and dipping their pouches with sideways sweeps of their heads in the water.  Fred, taking her cue, hier wings still held idiotically up, followed behind.  It was a dreadful imitation.  She stabbed hither and thither using her beak as a prodder rather than a scoop, once she appeared even to lose balance and one of her feet broke the surface behind as she struggled to right himself.  We fell about laughing.  “It’s the Puku in her,” I said.

She remained out all day and we watched as they taught her how to be a pelican.  But we could always pick her out from her fellow tribesmen by the fastidious set of her wings.  As the light started to go I expected her to return to the house.  But, no, somewhere in amongst the birds was Fred, clearly supremely happy.  I would have left her but for my fear and certainty that as she could not fly she would be caught by a hyena or jackal.  I walked slowly out into the water, being careful not to frighten the birds.  My approach was slow and at an oblique angle.  I called to her.  Twenty Great White Pelicans stared back at me.  “Come on, Fred” I called, feeling rather foolish.  As I approached closer they began to edge away.  One of them hung back.  It was Fred.  “Come on, old girl.  Got to lock you up for the night.  You can come back tomorrow.”  Slowly, reluctantly, she allowed herself to be led to the chicken-run.

 The next day when I let her out, she waddled straight out to her pelican friends, still in the same spot a hundred yards away.  Immediatlely her lessons commenced.  At the end of the day I again had to go and fetch her.  This went on for four or five days.  One day, when we awoke, the pelicans had gone.  I was sure they had waited for Fred, for there were not enough fish to have kept them there for all those days.  Poor Fred.  Her look across the deserted plain was a stab in the heart.  I made a great fuss of her.

At about this time we had to go off to Lusaka and for some reason or another we were away for close on a month.  I was not worried about Fred’s  physical well-being for I knew Hobito and Kasongo would take care of her.  When we finally did return, she was overjoyed to see us, but I felt then that a little of the trust that she had had for me had gone.  Clearly she had reached another plane of maturity, something that would help her make the break when the time came.  And that would not be far away, for when the wind came she would flap her wings vigorously.  She got stronger, the feathers grew in – her time was approaching.

 One afternoon I started up the vehicle, and calling to her, drove slowly down the airstrip.  She waddled, ran, flapped her wings and was airborne.  I accelerated.  Up she came close to me, looking lovingly in, flying effortlessly, her massive wings beating.  We both stopped at the end of the strip and made a great fuss of the solo flight.  Up and down the airstrip she went.  Her obvious pleasure and joy in flying was so evident that I knew the day was not far off.

 Encouraged by this, she now began to fly about, gaining steadily in confidence.  I saw her once, a mere speck in the sky at about 4,000 feet, soaring effortlessly.  A little later, there she was again, waddling over to me with a honk of pleasure.  It was the dry season then and I noticed that the patch of skin between her bill and eye was slightly swollen and orange in colour.  Now we knew that Fred really was a lady.

Some farmer friends from Mkushi, the Curtis family, visited us one day.  I offered to take them fishing near N’gungwa.  Fred and I had a long embrace.  I felt that it would be the sight of us leaving Chikuni which might prompt her to make her move. When I returned later that day, she had gone.

I had known that her time was near, but it was with a hollow feeling that I went about my work.  Later, seeing pelicans on the edge of the floodplain or on the river, I would rush up, heart hammering, “Fred…Fred…!” I would call. 

Sometime before her departure I had placed a special ring on her left leg – No IM 0281 – so that I might learn of what became of her.  I know she will always be somewhere standing still on a patch of dry ground, her head turned towards me, her wings held up.  She was a fine lady.




Of Witchcraft and Conservation

A column in Zambia’s ‘The Post’ newspaper of 24 December, 2007, written by Simon Kulusika, made me cross my legs and put down the G & T. Entitled “Witches and Witchcrafts’, it began in lurid style:

“Recent media reports would appear to disclose the resurgence of witchcraft. They informed the world of genitalia vanishing as a result of magical conjuration and demonicisation. In a dramatic style, it was shown doves and Tortoises ferrying mails from indignant claimants at one part of Africa to profligate defaulters at the other end. The messages contained therein were unmistakably, grisly: fulfill your contractual obligations promptly, or face a bitter and cruel consequence. In cases involving witchcraft, the consequence alluded to could involve death or loss of property. If this claim can be validated then the growing public panic about witchcraft is justifiable”

Have I got it all wrong in Africa, I thought; not just me, but the conservationists, the donors and the earnest neo-colonial carpetbaggers as well.  After all, in the nauseously attenuated conservation guerilla campaign which I wage against the government conservation establishment of Zambia, a campaign redolent of Don Quixote’s ever weakening efforts at the tilting of demonic windmills, I had first tried – before war became inevitable, all the various snake-oil salesmen methods and blandishments so dear to our Western liberal ways when dealing with those whom we have recently colonized and ‘protectorized’, then embraced as  colleagues, and then, having been Zambianized, whom we now forlornly  hope will continue doing things as to the manner born. These methods, a rudimentary form of which were first ushered into this patch of Africa by Livingstone himself, were entreaties for safe passage – followed by suffering hints at ‘the mulcting of cotton cloth, trinkets and gunpowder’, the offer of assistance to ensure good outcomes, the endless ‘good-faith’ discussions, the endless backslapping and grasping of thumbs, the signing of dodgy agreements, the odd bark and moaning at the moon, then of late, a blogging onslaught on Web2, which admittedly had them reeling and foaming at the mouth for awhile….”What is this internet” moaned one of them at a meeting, rubbing his tummy furiously, “I thought it was for children” but never, though, had I contemplated the manufacture of baboon skulls and neon-lit chameleons for the perimeter of my castle, the use of the oldest African weapon of all, witchcraft.

“…fulfill your contractual obligations promptly, or face a bitter and cruel consequence.”  Quite so.

 Then Kulusika finishes with a knee squeezer, “Story about witchcraft (e.g., loss of penis) should not be treated as merely grotesque fables. These are serious matters. Let us do things in good faith. Adventurism and dishonesty will lead to genitalia shrinking melodramatically.” Ouch and mahwee!

So, in my declared war with the Zambia Wildlife Authority, supposedly my partners in a tourism concession agreement – yet at any minute about to break the agreement as they have done with another concessionaire – even though the matter is still before the Courts, and nationalize the concession, I should eschew the services of the admirable and steadfast Wynter Kabimba, legal scourge of ZAWA, should not bother further the firm and reliable supports of Transparency International Zambia in my search as an investor for a state of good faith with Immigration, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Zambia Development Agency, but should bring in that powerful n’ganga from Malawi, whom some of the Luangwa chiefs consult for a witchery-power charge-up, and get him to do his business. Once the grisly deeds are done, however, will they all sing from the same hymn sheet, and if so, in what key?



Zambia’s state of conservation and development, and the way forward.

The state of conservation in Zambia – something affecting mainly rural people,  is parlous: rampant poaching to supply the bushmeat trade and the ivory market; the illegal alienation to developers of state land having the highest protective status; the demise of a National Park and the impoverishment of a cattle owning people as a result of a hydro power barrage and 30 years of managerial apathy; the pollution of a major river; the gathering clouds of future river impoundments – probably by China, in one of the best watered countries in Africa;  the irresponsible invasion of our rural areas by donated mosquito nets, now sown together and used to pillage the fishery on which the bushfolk depend; the sport hunting of elephant when all concerned had recommended it should not be allowed; the poorly managed safari hunting industry, milked without much thought for conservation – and now undergoing nationalization by stealth; the failure to recognize the traditional rights of the hunter-gatherers and shifting agriculturists who are in the throes of their Neolithic Revolution; the failure to support conservancies which, under suitable Trust models, point the way to a liberation of the people from a failed and corrupt western capitalist model clamped upon the increasingly irrelevant (to the bushfolk) urban areas.  But what is the way forward ?  Zambians must, out of the long night of their community and survival traditions – their culture, discover their future, one more Karl Marx than Adam Smith. This does not lie  in looking to the West and China for support in embracing industrialization, in escaping the Malthusian Trap by a futile attempt to make all Zambians in the image of the waPajero – that small group of westernized Zambians who are in a mutualistic parasitic relationship with the donors and direct foreign investors. It lies in an appreciation of rural Zambia, of their distinct culture, where people, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, do live happy lives – though they have few schools, medicine and other facilities, and where the land does provide for them. But open access regimes inevitably destroys the ecology on which a community depends: so ownership of the natural resources is the key, the decentralization of a highly centralized western model to a system where traditional areas have greater autonomy. Such talk is considered seditious in Zambia, though it is what the Constitution and various Acts of Parliament supports – not least the numerous International Conventions to which Zambia is signatory.