Reflections on Masebo’ s responses on hearses

Sylvia Masebo

Sylvia Masebo

By Alice & Balata Musonda-“When a big guy in a dark street in Kanyama compound says I don’t want to hurt you…it’s time to run”! But my dear sister Sylvia Masebo gave a similar assurance to Zambian citizens at her Press briefing on Monday evening at Pamodzi Hotel. All we can say from the facts she has laid before us is that Sylvia can cry all she wants. The whole story doesn’t make any sense at all. Instead she went on to display amazing attributes of a spoiled girl ruined by good luck. Seriously speaking, after her display, Sylvia Masebo was lucky to be appointed a Cabinet Minister, that’s why she thinks she is more intelligent than Ben Tetantamashimba our Cabinet Minister today or any other Zambian citizen for that matter! After all, we remember Sylvia was just some simple ordinary lady, just like many of us, before she was appointed Minister! And now she must realize she is back to where she belongs before good luck knocked on her door steps – she is an ordinary Lady.
We don’t want to demean Sylvia’s self acclaimed intelligence. What we know about the rules of engagement in any tender process are:
First: The Lowest bidder does not necessarily get to win the tender…period.
Second: The track record of the bidder plays a very important role in the tender selection process.
Third: Though similar to the second, the bidder must show proof that he/she is the official appointed agent of the manufacturer of the goods or services to be provided and will honour all warranties on the equipment or services so supplied. This must be accompanied by the manufacturer’s original certificates and letters of authority.
Fourth: The bidder, in this instance, Top Motors of Zambia, must have shown proof that they have adequate workshop facilities and a compliment of a fully trained manpower to offer quality after sales service to the equipment so supplied in the various City and District Councils where they will be deployed or at the nearest central depot. In this case Lusaka.
We shall assume in Ms. Masebo’s rehearsed testimony, she will come to tell us that all the above was left to the National Procurement Authority to deal with- which will be a very fair answer. We also understand fully that as a Senior Cabinet Minister she was more interested in policy matters than the natty gritty of technical domain. But Sylvia told us she is more intelligent than Tetamashimba who was her Deputy then, surely she must, in her intelligence, have had the enquiring mind to check when TOP Motors was first registered in Zambia, not that we have any idea ourselves but a simple check in the past and current Zambian Telephone Directories of 2004/5; 2005/6 and 2006/7 show us that TOP Motors was of no fixed abode in Zambia during these periods. The company first appeared in the September issue of the 2008 telephone Directory the same year that this Tender was been floated. And by coincidence, the same year that a certain senior citizen had earlier been on a private visit to China.
In addition, Top Motors have a Yahoo.com.cn email address, the [cn] on the yahoo address stands for China, so if they are big, why not use a Zamnet, Zamtel, Microlink, Iconnect or even their own domain address? And why operate in Zambia with mainly one land line and a fax line with several cell phone numbers. They are currently situated on an off street Panganani Road top floor of some conspicuously hidden building with no visible entrance or workshop facilities to service any motorized Hearses which will be subject to harsh rural terrain. Their business is predominantly with City and District Councils around the country. This is another surprising coincidence that only the former Minister of Local Government can be able to shed light on.
Ms Masebo will obviously say it was not her business to check out Top Motors credentials and if it existed at all before 2008 or not. And she may want to re-assure us that it won’t hurt us if any of the above pertinent requirements were not met by Top Motors. But we think if this was her money she definitely could have made an effort to find out. Besides it was her Ministry that was going to use these Hearses, above all it was her Idea and her legacy to procure the Hearses, and as an intelligent Lady, wasn’t it going to show high acumen for her to ensure the Hearses once procured would stand the test of time? Now let’s suppose these Hearses fall apart before year end? Then what?
Ms Masebo in her rehearsed testimony has drugged and put many people’s heads on the chopping block. A very dangerous alibi for an intelligent lady she claims she is… indeed. First we have the former First Lady who has been drugged into this and the nation will now expect her to give us her side of the story and then we have the National Procurement Authority team, that we are told, sat to evaluate the tenders and accordingly advised Mr. Ngo her former Permanent Secretary and this Ms Zulu – they all have to give their versions of the story. But was this necessary when she already alluded to the principal of collective responsibility? And by the way, how come Sylvia was not subject to the Attorney Generals advice? How we now wish Chiluba, Katele Kalumba, Ben Mweene, Boniface Nonde, Stella Chibanda, Bed Mpande, Kashiwa Bulaya, Musonda and all the Military Generals could have been given the same opportunity given to Sylvia for them to claim collective responsibility, but instead they were singled out and selectively prosecuted. Yet, in all these security cases before the courts of law, there has been no loss to Government brought about at all.
But the main question is for how long has Top Motors been operational in Zambia or even in China for that matter? This reminds us of OVAG an overseas investigations company that was formed just three months of the Task Force on Corruption yet it was awarded several contracts involving huge amounts of money by some chaps at the Task Force on Corruption and nothing has happened to them. That aside, does Top Motors have any local accounts records? This contract involved a colossal amount of money and at least 3 years accounts records to prove the company truck record of sound business must have been demanded. For example is Top Motors in Zambia registered with ZRA and if so when were they registered? Do they pay VAT? PAYE, Personal Levy? Workman’s Compensation, NAPSA and company tax? For that matter and just for the record, is Top Motors registered with the Zambia Tender Board if so under what category? As a local company we shall assume this company will record this sale in this year’s accounts for the government to get its due taxes. If this was, however, a direct sale which we assume it was, we still expect to see the local commission component earned to reflect in their books and the due taxes paid on it in the 2009 accounts.
There are many important questions that Ms Masebo deliberately left unanswered and instead concentrated on mediocrity herself. Ben Tetamashimba said he was not party to the Hearses procurement process even if he was indeed drugged into a meeting were it was put forward by Sylvia and we now see from Ms Masebo’s reaction, she never had any regard for Ben at all to have been able to have taken Hon. Tentamashimba’s advice in that meeting and there was no reason therefore, for her to shower blame on him at her press briefing which she used to hull more scorn and abuses on the poor fellow. If the guy says “I know nothing”- that’s all- she should have gone ahead and proven to us that she was right.
Besides Ms Masebo is lucky, Mwanawasa did not offer the same opportunity to his predecessor to exculpate himself in parliament when his immunity was being removed. Parliament also allowed this injustice to occur. But Rupiah Banda allowed her to explain herself which she did very badly. Then we have the other fellows such as Xavier Chungu, Samuel Musonda, Lt. Gen Musengule, Kayumba, Singogo and Brig Gen Nyirongo who were all carrying out Military orders from their Commander in Chief President Mwanawasa. They were not taken before Military Tribunals but were drugged into civilian courts were some resemblance of justice was meted out on them. The subordinate courts did not even allow these military Generals the opportunity to explain military procedures as to what happened to the tender procedures they were supposed to have flouted. We have read the Defence act, there is no such a thing as flouting Tender procedures in the Defence act. Imagine going to tender to purchase ammunition, uniforms or fuels for operations? If we follow Sylvia’s collective responsibility thing, it was the commander in Chief who was to explain in all these military trials, but not so, he was instead in the forefront of jailing his own Defence Chiefs. The first in the entire History of the commonwealth. God forbid!
We can ask Sylvia: Do our Municipal and City Councils have Ambulances? What comes first, Sickness or Death? So why did Sylvia find it necessary to buy Hearses before Ambulances which carry the sick to clinics and Hospitals? What logic is that? In the same vein this leads us to another stupid question. What should cost more, a Hearse or an Ambulance? If indeed she is as clever as she claims she is, we ask Sylvia to visit the internet site and Google: “Beijing Motor Works Ambulances and Hearses” or Trade China.com. Let her come back and tell the nation exactly what range of prices she will find out for herself. We live in an information Technology age where lies can become stupidly embarrassing for the teller. On the other hand, we can ask another silly question, such as which country is supposed to be more expensive with regards to sourcing of Hearses amongst China, South Korea, Japan, Germany, USA and the UK? The obvious answer would be China. The next question then would be why would Japan, South Korea and even the USA be cheaper than US$29,000 per standard Hearse? Are the Chinese using gold plated chassis or to come to the point do we really need state of the art Hearses for our rural areas? And we have our doubts if the Chinese Hearses are state of the art that come with state of the art air conditioning to cool the dead, air suspension, ABS braking system, key less entry and full surround quad music? The whole Sylvia Masebo story is really ridiculous. And if these Chinese Hearses she procured do not have these state of the art specifications then we paid too much for them. She should have done well to keep quite.
We are sure for orders above 50-100 pieces the discount rates will be even higher. It is a replica of a Toyota Hiace Mini Bus. It has a high raised rigid chassis and spring suspension system that would be suitable for rural areas and towns. It has an inbuilt capability of carrying a few relatives as well as the deceased remains. But on the other hand, if we look at the daily burials in Lusaka alone, we doubt if 100 Hearses would be adequate. Perhaps she could have done better to buy open Long Wheel base Toyota vannets at US$19,000 with a capability to carry out other ordinary work such as Ambulance services, road maintenance and so forth-after all most often we have been seeing people ferrying the dead in open vans since Independence.
With regard to payments for this tender it appears full payment was done in two very quick stages against a standard guarantee which was not shown to the public by Ms Masebo. Usually we expected her tell us that there was a performance Bond and a 10% retainer pending full delivery of the Hearses to Zambia. Perhaps she was right to claim this payment was being done at a time she had already left office. But how about the accounts staff who worked with her, did they also leave office? Could we be seeing another Ministry of Health scandal here? We’ll leave this to the investigators if at all there will be any investigations carried out-but we doubt it.
In short we think Ms Masebo was trying to justify a lie in her press statement last Monday evening. She was trying to tell us that she won’t hurt us – when in fact she has. She must accept the pending investigations like all others have done and let the law enforcement agencies clear her. Chiluba did it, Dora Siliya did it, Katele Kalumba did it, and Regina Chiluba did it why can’t she did it too? Regards to you all.

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