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Only 58 per cent of the Zambian population has access to clean drinking water. Because of this, many people depend on rainwater, shallow wells or unclean or contaminated water from streams. This situation has led to many people contracting water-borne diseases like cholera, which is the second biggest killer of Zambia’s children after malaria.
For this reason, the government, non-governmental organizations, the donor community and other stakeholders have come on board to help the situation by pumping more funds into the national rural and urban water supply program in order to improve infrastructure and extend services to underserved areas. Unfortunately, some corrupt people, including those holding higher positions who find themselves in charge of such funds, have taken money meant to serve people in need of water for their personal gain.
In this program, we see how many people from different backgrounds were affected because a heartless prison commissioner corruptly used his position and without remorse gained a bore hole meant for the prison for himself.
This script is based on actual interviews with prison inmates, staff, and members of a nearby community. Some of the names of the people interviewed have been changed. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
Good day to all listeners. Today we look at corruption in the water sector. In particular, we look at the effects of not having access to water due to corruption in one of the prisons in the Copperbelt of Zambia.
Corruption involves the misuse or abuse of power for private gain. It can happen in both the public and the private sector. Corruption undermines development, contributes to poverty and inequality and threatens the stability of the nation. Even though water is a natural resource that every living thing needs, corruption has not left it untouched.
Water is Life. So goes the saying. And without water, death looms. Because water is so important, managing water calls for integrity and honesty for those serving communities and the nation at large.
Today, we focus on Kamfinsa prison. The prison is in the city of Kitwe in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. The Japanese International Cooperating Agency or JICA is a part of the Japanese government which provides funds to enhance development in developing countries. This agency donated funds to buy and sink a bore hole at Kamfinsa prison. The prison had been without water for 10 years because of dilapidated and vandalized water pipes and taps. When the prison received funding to sink the bore hole in 2005, the commissioner of the prison manipulated the whole arrangement. He found a way to convince the engineers who were supposed to sink the bore hole to install it at his farm. This illegal act resulted in a lot of problems, including the loss of lives.
Seven people are here to speak about and explain this situation. We will hear from the chief accountant of the prison, three prisoners – two male and one female – two women from a nearby community, and a Director of Health. They will tell us what they went through during the time when there was no water at the prison. We begin with Chambo Chipasha, who is one of the oldest prisoners at Kamfinsa.
I have been in this prison for 28 years now. I came to Kamfinsa when the prison was just newly built. Everything was running normally with the water and sanitation in this place. We used to have a cold shower every morning. Our toilets were flushable and we had a hectare of land where we would farm. We grew vegetables and other crops for our own consumption. We also sold them to the community nearby. In turn, the prison would purchase other basic needs like meat, chickens and groceries from the community. But the moment the water stopped running, everything came to a standstill and we could not grow anything. So a lot of things changed. For instance, because we could not produce anything from the prison farm to sell to the nearby community, our diet changed drastically. We started surviving on beans alone. The groceries we used to receive stopped coming. Life became tough.
Chambo, what did you do about the situation?
Personally, I wrote a letter to the Human Rights Commission because I realized we were being kept like animals. Unfortunately, no-one replied to the letter. The food was pathetic. The surroundings became like rubbish pits. Worse still, we failed to maintain the toilets. Later on, we were told to dig pit latrines because the toilets became a health hazard for all of us at the prison. The latrines helped a bit, but the situation was still bad.
We now bring on board a marketer from Mulenga compound, about one kilometre from the prison. Mrs. Emelder Mumba tells us how she was affected as a marketer.
My business was affected. I would usually buy farm produce from the prison worth 200, 000 kwachas (Editor’s note: approximately 40 US dollars or 30 Euros
). I bought all these products in one day and I would make a profit of 100,000 kwachas or more. This money helped me pay for my children’s school fees. I am a widow and I raise my children single-handedly. But the moment the water situation changed, my business went downwards. I had to start thinking about venturing into another business for us to survive.
Well listeners, let’s now listen to Mary Chanda, who was also at the prison. She will tell us from a woman’s point of view her side of the story.
Thank you. That time was the most miserable, uncomfortable and rough time of my life. As women, we took a bath only once in three or four days, even when one was menstruating. We began to live and stink like animals. We would even eat from the same dirty plates over and over without having them washed. The most unfortunate part for the women was that there’s a prison warden’s compound within the prison. We were sent by the wardens to go and fetch water from the stream and take it to their homes like maids. But while there, most of us ended up getting sexually abused by the prison wardens.
Did you report this matter, Mary?
Several times. Even when we reported this to the authorities, the cases didn’t seem to get anywhere. I remember we even spoke to a journalist who later wrote a story which came out in the paper. But to our surprise, nothing happened to the wardens. They got off scot-free. That incident made me feel like I was less human. I felt like no one valued us at all because we were prisoners.
Here is Situmbeko Sitwala. She is a mother of nine, also from Mulenga compound. She used to buy soya beans and groundnuts from the prisoners. She took them to the miller to have them made into powder for her baby’s porridge. This helped her child receive a balanced diet.
My fifth-born daughter almost died during the time that the prisoners stopped bringing their products to the market. Most nursing mothers in this community had nowhere else to go to buy soya beans and groundnuts for their children’s porridge. They could only be bought from the city, which is about 25 kilometres from our compound. The road was extremely bad, and it was expensive for us to travel. So we made plain maize meal porridge.
My daughter started suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. Then her legs started swelling up. Later on when I took my child to the clinic, I was told she was suffering from malnutrition. At that time, many children in Mulenga compound died due to the lack of nutritious foods.
We also hear from Doctor Vernon Mwape, a Director of Health at the time. He reveals to us that Kitwe Central Hospital was affected as well during the time the prison stopped producing fresh fruits and vegetables due to the water shortage.
Kitwe Central Hospital is the central hospital for the whole town. And half of our tomatoes, cabbages, and leguminous products were supplied by Kamfinsa prison. The majority of our patients suffer from diseases that can be easily cured if they have enough good food. A balanced diet helps patients to recover quickly. The hospital used to buy products from the prison and give them to our patients. This helped a lot of the patients to recover and go home faster and healthier than they came. But the moment the prison stopped supplying us with all those fresh products, it became difficult for us and we lost many lives. We later engaged a local agriculture college to supply us with those products. But the college could not meet all our needs and they were not as reliable as the prison.
In case you’ve just tuned in, you are listening to a program in which we look at the effects of corruption in the water sector. As you may know, innocent people can suffer when one person decides to be selfish. We are featuring the stories of some prisoners and others who lived near Kamfinsa prison at a time when the prison had no running water. We hear what the prisoners went through and of course how this whole problem was solved. Next we have Kangwa Mulenga.
I arrived at the prison when the water had just stopped flowing. The day I arrived, I was shown my cell and given a 20-liter container. I was supposed to go and fetch water together with other inmates from a nearby stream so that I could clean my cell. At the time, I thought it was part of my punishment. But as days went by, I realized it was a way of life at this prison. We were told to wake up as early as 4:30 to fetch water to clean the toilets, fill the reserve tank, and clean the surroundings. Some of us who had the chance to go to the stream and fetch water bathed in the stream before going back to the prison. Little did we know that the water in the stream was contaminated. And so, all of us who bathed in that stream got different diseases. I contracted bilharzia, others had dysentery, and others cholera. All of us had to be hospitalized for at least two weeks. At that time, I thought I would die
Well listeners, we move on with this program on corruption in the water sector.
We now have Mr. Sylvester Mubukwa, the chief accountant at Kamfinsa prison. He tells us how the funds for the bore hole were misappropriated, and how the bore hole was sunk on a private farm and not in the intended place.
Thank you, Alice. At that time, I was just a senior accountant and I was running the office alone because my assistant was on leave. We were informed by the commissioner in a meeting that JICA had sent money to our prison. The money was to sink a bore hole, as the lack of water was getting out of hand. The inmates were getting sick one after the other from different water-borne diseases, and the place was dry as a desert. The prison couldn’t grow anything, and so we were lacking a lot of things.
Before the money was released, we had several staff meetings concerning the situation at the prison. In those meetings, we also discussed a tender to be posted in the newspaper. The tender would call for drilling companies to bid for the job of digging a bore hole at the prison. However, when the funds were finally deposited into the prison’s bank account, and before the tender was even advertised in the papers, at one of the committee meetings, the commissioner brought forward a name of an organization that deals in bore hole drilling. After suggesting the name, he then made everyone believe that that organization was the best organization in town and would do a good job for the prison. So everyone was convinced and we didn’t even question him further.
Sorry to cut you short Sylvester, but don’t you think everyone in that meeting was wrong to keep quiet about giving a tender to an organization that had never applied for it? Why didn’t you advise the commissioner to follow the right procedure? Was this the first time your administration purchased something without following the correct procedure?
No! There are a lot of things the prison bought without following the correct procedure. For instance, the government gave us some money to buy blankets for all the inmates. The correct number of blankets was bought, but I know the purchase price was low because the quality of the blankets was very low. When we asked the commissioner about it, we didn’t get a concrete answer. As time went by, we just brushed it aside for fear of being victimized by him if anyone seemed to question him.
Most of the groceries we bought didn’t have proper receipts. In some cases, the number of things bought did not match with the prices he would mention. However, we remained mute; we could not say anything. We used to fear him because some of our workmates who questioned him were transferred to other prisons in faraway places. Others suffered directly at his hands.So, for fear of all that, we chose to keep quiet. We let him make all the decisions even when some of us sensed that the man was corrupt.
How did the commissioner get the money for the bore hole? Was he the only signatory to the prison account?
No! He was not even one of the signatories. But he just gave orders and instructions to do this and that concerning the bore hole. After the staff endorsed the proposed organization to go ahead and sink the bore hole, the commissioner instructed me to immediately pay the organization so that the whole process could be started and everything done in the shortest possible time.
So what happened after you made the payment to that organization?
Well, we all expected that in no time at all we would see the company come to the prison to drill the bore hole. But after we had waited for a month, we realized it was taking longer than necessary. However, when I asked him about it, he just answered jokingly that I should be patient as patience is a virtue. And so I brushed it aside and believed his words. He was my boss. I had to be loyal to him.
How did the prisoners respond to the news of JICA funding the sinking of a bore hole at the prison? And how did they react when there were delays?
At first the prisoners were excited, because it was difficult for them to go fetch the water from the stream. For the women, it was a heavy load lifted off their shoulders. Even the wardens were excited because they were worried the prisoners might escape when they went to draw water from the stream. So it was good news for all of us.
But when the news leaked to the prisoners that the bore hole that was supposed to be at the prison was in fact at the commissioner’s farm, everything went haywire. We had to order a lockdown at the prison. To cut a long story short, three wardens and five prisoners died in the whole conflict.
Sylvester, tell us how the truth was unveiled.
As days went by, a representative from JICA came to visit the prison to check how the bore hole had brought development to the prison. When he realized the bore hole was not there and knew that the money was already released, he made his own investigation. He found out the name of the organization that had been paid to sink the bore hole, and followed up with the organization. He found that the bore hole was dug and was working properly, except that it was in a different place and not the prison, and that the place was none other than the commissioner’s farm. The issue was later reported to the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission. The commissioner was prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment for five years with hard labour.
Where is the bore hole now – still at the commissioner’s farm?
No, Alice! According to the laws of Zambia, any person who commits a corrupt offence, in addition to any other penalty, will forfeit to the state any resource, property or advantage received in the act of corruption. So the bore hole and everything that was supposed to go with it like the tank and the pipes were removed from his farm and are now installed at the prison. The prison is back to its normal state. We are even growing and selling different crops.
Well listeners, we now come to the end of the program. I believe you learned one or two things from today’s program. We focused on how corruption in the water sector caused many innocent people to suffer and even die because of one selfish act by a person who did not consider others. The onus remains on all Zambians to fight corruption with all their might in order to save this country from the pangs of corruption.
Contributed by: Senior writer Alice Lungu.
Reviewed by: Erik Nielsen, Manager Country Based Programmes, Water Integrity Network and Alexandra Malmqvist, Assistant Communications Coordinator, Water Integrity Network.