– It can defeat corruption
SOME two weeks ago or so, it was reported that stakeholders came together to protest against the influx of cheap imported farm produce which was negatively affecting the pockets of our farmers and processors who add value to our local vegetables, poultry, pork and beef.
The government’s reaction was quick and positive; import permits for all farm produce and processed foods that can be produced locally were immediately suspended pending permanent banning of importation of foods for human consumption as well as animal feeds for which we have capacity to produce and meet national demand.
I was so happy I felt like flying. I was elated not only by the government’s reaction but by the positive use of people power. People power is one way we can stop corruption and get public service workers to think twice before acting against the interests of the people of Zambia.
Zambia is a democracy and it is right to use people power positively such as happened two weeks ago. In West Africa where public opinion has been an integral part of community behaviour, people power has been used to get corporations to pay for their sins and governments to serve the people in line with the law.
There was an incident in Nigeria where the populace came together to force a mobile provider to reverse its rates. There was another incident where the people boycotted a mobile phone provider because its country of origin was mistreating Nigerians.
Recently, the Nigerian government punished a leading international bank; an action which was supported by many citizens of that country.
In Ivory Coast, people power got a powerful multinational company to pay compensation to the government and to nearly 30, 000 Ivoirians who were affected by the illegal and corrupt dumping of toxic waste.
According to Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: “The 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump was a health crisis in Ivory Coast in which a ship registered in Panama, the Probo Koala, chartered by the Singaporean-based oil and commodity shipping company Trafigura Beheer BV, offloaded toxic waste to an Ivorian waste handling company which disposed of it at the port of Abidjan.
The local contractor, a company called Tommy, dumped the waste at 12 sites in and around the city in August 2006. The dumping, which took place against a backdrop of instability in Abidjan as a result of the country’s first civil war, allegedly led to the death of 17 and the injury of 30, 000.
In the days after the dumping, almost 100, 000 Ivorians sought medical attention after Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny opened the hospitals and offered free healthcare to the capital’s residents.
Trafigura originally planned to dispose of the slops – which resulted from cleaning the vessel and contained 500 tonnes of a mixture of fuel, caustic soda, and hydrogen sulphide – at the port of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The company refused to pay Dutch company Amsterdam Port Services (APS) for disposal after APS raised its charge from €27 to €1, 000 per cubic meter.
The Probo Koala was reportedly turned away by several countries before offloading the toxic waste at the Port of Abidjan. An inquiry in the Netherlands in late 2006 confirmed the composition of the waste substance.
Trafigura denied any waste was transported from the Netherlands, saying that the substances contained only tiny amounts of hydrogen sulphide, and that the company did not know the substance was to be disposed of improperly.
After two Trafigura officials who travelled to Ivory Coast to offer assistance were arrested and subsequently attacked in jail, the company paid US$198 million for cleanup to the Ivorian government, without admitting wrongdoing in early 2007. A series of protests and resignations of Ivorian government officials followed this deal.
Civil lawsuit in London
In 2008, a civil lawsuit in London was launched by almost 30, 000 Ivoirians against Trafigura. In May 2009, Trafigura announced it would sue the BBC for libel after its Newsnight programme alleged the company had knowingly sought to cover up its role in the incident.
In September 2009, The Guardian obtained and published internal Trafigura emails showing that the traders responsible knew how dangerous the chemicals were.
Trafigura agreed to a settlement of £30 million (US$42.4 million) to settle the class action suit against it. Law firm Leigh Day, which represented the Ivorian claimants, was found guilty of negligence after £6 million of the settlement funds were embezzled.”
The people of Ivory Coast came together to act in the interest of their fellow citizens. People power works for just causes.
Recently in South Africa, people power forced an insurance company to pay the family of a murdered person his insured value. The dead man insured his life for R2 million, but when he was murdered by car hijackers, the insurance company refused to pay the dead person’s family on grounds that he had diabetes and BP.
There was an outcry by the entire nation against the insurance firm. I happened to be in South Africa at the time and almost all the radio and TV stations carried protest messages from the public. Social media as well was flooded with protests against the insurance company and the R2 million was immediately paid.
This was a true measure of people power. A whole nation rises to protest the right of its citizens. When corporations engage in corruption to conceal their crime or deny any citizen their right, it is right and the duty of every citizen to support the victims.
Corrupt the entire governance system
Multinational companies can corrupt the entire governance system of a country, but they cannot corrupt people power. We should not all act like some Zambian lawyers who are busy receiving dirty money to corrupt public officials to defeat the justice they are supposed to protect.
When the #tag command is given to boycott some filling stations in Zambia, we must act in unison. We must send a message to the multinationals that they cannot continue accusing our public institutions of corruption when they are the ones that initiate and sponsor the worst corruption.
Nothing stops people power. The oppressive South African apartheid regime crumbled when the people boycotted white businesses. People power works.
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