Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Beginnings: New President

The votes have all been tallied and last Friday (23 September), the Electoral Commission of Zambia officially announced the victor, Michael Sata, the lead presidential candidate against incumbent, Rupiah Banda. The inauguration was televised Friday during the day, and Michael Sata, representing the PF (Patriotic Front) party was expected to immediately assume office the following week. Sata’s ascendency also signifies the end of more than ten years of the reign of the MMD party. 

While Rupiah Banda’s political platform focused on his development accomplishments during his presidency, he refused to acknowledge the patron-client relations that have tethered Zambian politics to institutionalized corruption. In comparison, Sata was highly critical of high-powered MMD corruption, which he alleged had gripped Zambia’s political and economic system for over ten years. If elected, he told the voters to expect him to combat political alliances unhealthy to the prosperity of Zambia. He also endeavored to bring justice and equity to Zambia’s poor. Sata’s campaign evidently struck a chord with the voters, especially those who live in the southern provinces because he won many of the southern constituencies by a landslide. I also suspect that the reason many of the rural residents favored him was because they were deficient in basic services, specifically water, and the MMD failed to bring this basic need to their communities timely, despite promises to do so. 

Apart from some news of bursts of anger primarily in the southern provinces, the elections were relatively calm. The celebrations were plentiful in Chipata, with Sata supporters hooting and beeping their horns on the streets, expressing their ecstasy over his victory. What Sata’s ascendency means for urban planning in Zambia and here in Chipata remains to be seen. I am hopeful, anyway, that Sata will maintain the progress made in urban planning over the last four years and will continue to make progress towards an integrated way of doing planning.

During the week of the elections, I stayed mainly in my motel room, trying to finish up the schedule for the comprehensive planning training. Admittedly, it was hard to concentrate on what I was writing because I was eager to see how both lead presidential candidates were making out in the polls. I have developed most of the training schedule and anticipate finishing it this week. The training will take place over three days in the mornings; I have strong expectations about the outcome. I think comprehensive planning will become clearer to the planning staff and its value more urgent as they proceed with the training.

Now that the elections have finished, life - and the pace of life - are back to normal. I am under less stress now, as well, which is good considering last week I was feeling antsy about all the coordination and other work that I had to complete. I was able to pinpoint a schedule for the cost-benefit presentation for waste management and secure the projector. The permissions were formally requested and I don’t anticipate any problems with doing the presentation next week. 

I’ve also noticed changes in the climate. Chipata Valley got hit with a heat wave last week, which lasted into Sunday. The heat seemed to have crept into my duvet, as I had trouble sleeping and took cool baths for a change. But then, this morning, it seemed a big gust of cool, savannah wind, had swept into the mountains to make me want to bring my black, winter sweater to work. It’s a good thing I didn’t because the heat wave came back this afternoon around lunch time (that’s 1:00pm here in Zambia). I went for my daily post-lunch walk on the roads of the neighborhoods encircling the center of town and could feel the heat scratching the inside of my blue, cotton blouse, causing me some discomfort.

During my walk, I noticed that many of the buds of the mango trees have started to sprout into fruits. I’ve noted several trees on the streets where I take my daily walks that will be within reach of my short stature, which means I will be able to bring home arm loads of the fruit when they are ripe enough to pick.

I have also taken photographs of the many artisans lining the road leading into Kapata Ward to illustrate to blog readers the talent of Zambians. The furniture makers and basket weavers like to display their wares on the road in easy view of passers-by, who might be interested in buying something. The three piece Morris chairs are my favorite. The craftsmanship is similar to that in Malawi and the quality is the same. The cushions are made out of soft, velvet-like fabric and the frame of the chairs from timber collected or bought from someplace unknown to me. For all of my partiality towards protecting rainforests and jungles, I admittedly find handcrafted furniture made out of quality wood difficult to pass up. I guess living at the Chipata Motel has its advantages: I am not tempted to buy this exquisite furniture, as my room is fully furnished.   
Furniture maker

Morris Chairs
More furniture making

As I move out of my seventh month and into my eighth (October), I wish to remind my blog readers to please contribute to this placement with $10 or more. Your contribution helps CUSO-VSO continue doing their work of sending volunteers overseas to do the needed work that brings skills and resources aid to communities, such as urban planning to Chipata. You can donate easily through the “My Fundraising Page” button to the right of this blog. Or, you can send in your contribution with a check. The address of CUSO-VSO can be found on the website, which can also be accessed through the “CUSO-VSO” button visible to the right of this blog. Checks should be made out to CUSO-VSO and the addressee should read: c/o Tara Henderson.

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