Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Let Us Reject Prof Clive Chirwa Outrageous Contract Demands

By Nyalubinge Ngwende
They say if you want to pay peanuts, employ monkeys! But Professor Clive Chirwa is not such a one among the primates; he is an educated fellow, with not just academic excellence but the practical skills and innovative ideas that the Patriotic Front President Sata thinks will help to inject new life into our railway sector and get our locomotives engines rolling back in a much modernised way.

ZRL CEO Prof Clive Chirwa
According to his ‘white talk’, to borrow the meaning from white paper, Prof. Chirwa intends put on our rails supersonic trains, jetting on solar power through underground tubes that take your journey during day into bowels of the earth only to eject you at the anal of the other town in a jiff. Can you pay such a fellow peanuts? No, I do not think so! 

It is now in the public domain that he is being paid Kr248,000 (K248 million) per month, which is the budget of running half the country’s high schools in six months), sits in an executive cottage that costs Kr72,000 (K72 million) and, among other things, and some astronomical figure in gratuity every two years while demanding a 25 percentage cut of shares in the Zambia Rails Limited at the end of his contract.

To the Professor this is a modest demand that was approved by the government and far below what he was getting in UK engagements.Is this really modest pay?

In the harsh reality of the Zambian poor economy, his demands tickles ridicule as a cruel joke to the 80 percent of Zambian people living in abject poverty. It is especially cruel that the Patriotic Front government approved these extravagant demands, while prostrating itself in the public as a government that does not support personal largess at the expense of national interest. President Sata has been assuring the nation that he will not trade in deals that rob the citizens of their national assets. But approving the demands of Chirwa do not show streak of any responsibility on the part of the Patriotic Front; there is no trace of patriotism, but another political conspiracy to defraud Zambians of their national asset. Sata promised us he would run a transparent government, but the Zambian people would have not known what is at stake of their national railways at the end of the professor’s contract if Chirwa did not started fighting with his board members over allowances that he, apparently, refused to pay them describing them as unnecessary.

Chirwa said the board members were demanding allowances for 28 board meetings held in three months of being appointed and for mere individual member pop-in chats with his management team. He said he wouldn’t pay for such outrageous demands. Government listened to the professor’s egocentric position and dissolved the board.

It is fair to ask whether Chirwa is some sort of egocentric. His fired board members revealed a list of his largess in terms of demands for his contract. His refusal to honour the board members sitting allowances claiming he cannot pay people for doing nothing, while he cannot show us the fruits for his salaries and allowances just points to a questionable attitude. His sense of patriotism is not there and his coming to Zambia looks like self seeking venture, with two targets: if it is merely for his profession, he is out to make a fortune out of whatever he will contribute to the Zambia rail system; and, if it is for his political overtures, his intentions are to build popularity for his contributions to prepare to run for political office.

There is also a serious matter that implicates the Government of Sata in a rail-gate scandal. How can they approve the demands by a CEO to bag as part of his package at the expiry of his contract 48 percent of the shares of a national company? There must be someone on whose behalf Professor Chirwa wants to take that chunk of shares for. Are we not seeing someone trying to turn fortunes from a rail sweeper to the mighty owner of the country’s railway business, modernised at the cost of public finances? This is outrageous and Zambians must reject this feature of the Chirwa contract as Zambia Rail Limited chief executive. They should demand forthwith a white paper of Chirwa’s plans at ZRL so that it can be debated and approved by parliament. These are the same problems that we talk about when we raise concern about too much powers of the executive.

How could they, even in their wildest of dreams to defraud the country in broad daylight give out free shares to their friend Chirwa when they condemned the idea of the previous government to concession the rail system to a private company? We say this is free offer of quarter of the company because Chirwa is being paid for his services at ZRL and why should he also demand for a huge chunk of the system as though he is going to contribute his skills for nothing. In fact he is not going to build and modernise the Zambian rail system using his resources that he would be eligible to demand for conversion into shareholding at the end of his contract. 

Further the Zambian people who elected Sata to run the affairs of this country on their behalf must demand that Chirwa’s emoluments should go with a strong approval of his assessed improvements to the railway system. He should not be allowed to milk the country out of a wreck of a system that cannot make butter. We need to see butter on our table, see the locomotives roll again and start making money that is when he can demand for his largess.

The dream tube Prof Chirwa promises to put on Zambia's rails
Real patriotic Zambians will not compromise with this government to wait until Sata’s tenure of office comes to an end for them to start demanding for investigations in this pure act of plunder. We demand that this whole saga is rectified and the President must offer unequivocal apology to the country. Chirwa claims he is here to contribute to national building, but cannot show the slightest of sacrifice in that contribution.

Chirwa did not come here as a Zambian patriot who wants to pay-back to the country but as an expatriate who wants to earn a living. And what is more worrying is that government did not negotiate to vary his salary based on the amount of improvements he brings to the rail system. If Chirwa indeed was here to make a genuine contribution to the country, he would not demand so much he his getting today before he even puts a straight on a single bend of the too many that are causing derailments on our railway line.  

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