BANNING, A SIGN OF INTELLECTUAL LAZINESS IN ZAMBIA

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My father often reminds me that when I was a small boy, I asked him what the best job in the world was, to which he responded, “Thinking!” I was surprised by the answer and yet it is so true.

Why is it that in Zambia we always rush to ban things without being calm and thinking things through? There is a ban on night time driving of PSV’s (trucks and buses) and now there is increased day time road carnage because all the PSV traffic that used to be distributed over 24 hours is now squeezed into 15 hours with probably more than 50% more day time traffic. I wonder if they will also ban day time PSV driving.

And now they want to do a review on the impact of this ridiculous ban. Why didn’t the technocrats at RTSA and the Ministry in charge of Transport simply take a few weeks to think this ban through? Why didn’t they hold public hearings BEFORE the ban? It was obvious to so many of us the ban would not work.

When there is excessive cutting of hardwood trees, the government bans it, but this just advantages the big cartels with tons of money to bribe law enforcement officers. The illegal dealers actually love bans, contrary to conventional wisdom. Same reason drug cartels support laws banning drugs.

Why can’t people in government use their brains and think that maybe, it is better to have a massive 30 year tree planting exercise of the Mukula and other trees to replenish the ones being cut down? Mukula wood is like gold in China and banning it will never stop the illegal business, the same way banning trading in ivory and Rhino horns has never stopped the illegal trade (We have the environmentalists to thank for these misguided ideas).

Instead of banning, fully legalize the hardwood trade and require timber logging companies to devote a portion of their profits to tree planting as a condition for getting a license. The government or private sector can even set up a genetic engineering lab to come up with a Mukula tree that can grow within ten or twenty years. How hard is that surely, compared to policing the entire Zambian forests and increasing corruption? Taxing legalized controlled business is far better than incurring massive costs enforcing useless pointless hopeless bans.

During the despotic UNIP era, selling foreign exchange was banned by unthinking Socialist technocrats yet Katondo Street flourished and the dealers made sack-loads of money. MMD legalized it and look how great the forex business is today.

Exporting maize is also banned in Zambia. During the El niño last year, we could have made hundreds of millions of Dollars exporting maize to the whole Southern African region. Maize produced in Chembe District is not allowed to move 85km across the Pedicle Road into Mufulira in Copperbelt because of this same silly maize export ban.

The maize has to go round Tuta route via Serenje and arrive in Copperbelt too expensive. Our leaders and civil servants decide to be mediocre and do the intellectually lazy thing since it requires little mental effort. Absurdities abound and nobody is bothered.

And you see this pattern of lack of thinking everywhere. Banning is always the first reaction (especially when a few people make noise), instead of deep thinking and analysis. If our technocrats cannot do it, they deserve to be fired. To make things worse, government hires consultants at great cost to write endless reports which just sit gathering dust on office shelves with little to zero action.

It seems thinking is greatly undervalued in Zambia. That is why we fail to solve simple problems like congestion on the roads and at bus stops, garbage collection,poor drainages, land management, etc. All the great inventions of the world came about due to thinking. The telephone, Internet, motor vehicles, computer, electricity, space rockets, ad infinitum.

Thinking is indeed the greatest job in the world.

Michael Chishala

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1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t think banning the operating licence for mazhandu bus service is the solution to curbing accidents on public service vehicles. What happened to the proposal of installing speed limiters on public service buses? Let government in collaboration with ratsa start implementing that proposal and make bus owners bear the costs. Then ratsa should be issuing certificates of compliance for each and every bus

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