Friday, August 31, 2007

A Thought on Globalisation...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Peculiar Recalling Habits

If Michael Joseph did actually attempt to mislead Parliament's Public Investment Committee by presenting forged documents as alleged in the committee report, shouldn't he be in jail? What are we to make of the fact that the principals cannot agree on when or why Telkom transferred 10% of our shareholding in Safaricom to Vodafone Plc? Why do the Safaricom CEO and government officials keep insisting that the company has only two shareholders when all evidence points to the contrary?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gathara's Silent Protest

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Brother Kenya

The Standard reports that new legislation to cover marriages, the Marriage Bill 2007, is on the way. The Bill seeks to "consolidate into one all the nine Kenyan laws regarding marriage".

The Bill seeks to reduce incidences of divorce by introducing reconciliatory measures to solve differences among couples. It now seems that the government is set to turn wedlock into padlock. If the bill makes it into law, married couples will be compelled to refer their dispute to a "conciliatory body" prior to being allowed to divorce.

Just picture a committee of bureaucrats sitting in judgement over your marital woes! What gives the state any authority to determine to whom and for how long we should be married? Seeking to "save" marriages or family through legislation is not only an exercise in futility, but is also an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of citizens.

Other features of the bill include the recognition of come-we-stay unions as well as a clause "that gives a green light to polygamous marriages, so long as the man makes it clear before undertaking the first marriage that he would be polygamous".

Now, I have nothing against polygamy so long as all involved are OK with it. My only question is whether, in the interests of fairness and gender sensitivity, we should not also register polyandrous unions. Apparently, this issue is not addressed in the Bill. It would be interesting to hear what our sisters have to say about this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Crying $hame

Onion News Network (ONN) panelists discuss whether Americans should spare Africa's feelings by not telling us about the global economy.

In The Know: Is Our Wealth Hurting Africa's Feelings?

Tha Shiznit or Whatever that Means

Just ran my blog through Gizoogle which "transizlates" pages from English into wachamacallit. Here's how my last post comes out(Hat Tip: globalizati):

In a pizzy last week, I asked ridin' in mah double R: "WH-to-tha-izzat has become of tha PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise ta git ta tha bottom of tha [Safarizzles ownership] affair?" Well, tha Siakago MP seems ta be respond'n.

Today's Nation reportsthiznat tha parliamentary watchdog committee is pimpin' tha suspension of tha firm’s public sale of shares, valued at Kshs. 34 billion, till tha issue of who owns 10% of tha company is resolved fo all my homies in the pen. The PIC states in a report that tha sharehold'n was irregularly transferred ta nigga Mobitelea Ventures Ltd or Vodafone Plc n demands its immediate return ta Telkom Kenya . Boo-Yaa!.

The report furtha suggests thizzat tha share in question, once transferred, should be held in trizzay fo` tha public n be factored into tha privatisizzles of tha company n tizzy tha Communicizzles Commission of Kenya CEO John Waweru S-T-to-tha-izzep aside "until tha investizzles is completed" fo` his roles on tha board of tha defunct Kenya Posts n Telecommunicizzles Corporizzle n Telkom at tha time of whiznen motherfucka of tha share in question tizzy place n shit. The MPs also want those officials who approved tha playa of Safarizzles shares in 1999 barred from spendin' public office and my money on my mind.

Curiously, though, tha committee report states thizzat "Mobitelea Ventures is not based in nor does it operate in Kenya" which flies in tha face of reports in tha East African that Mobitelea Ventures Ltd and yo momma. wiznas, at least tiznill 2000 a non-trad'n arm of Telkom Kenya.

Let us hizzle tha truth wizzay out rappa ratha tizzy shot calla. Drug Deala way, Safcom wizzle pay a steep price fo` tha deception.


Safcom's Ukweli Tarriff

In a post last week, I asked: "What has become of the PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise to get to the bottom of the [Safaricom ownership] affair?" Well, the Siakago MP seems to be responding.

Today's Nation reports that the parliamentary watchdog committee is recommending the suspension of the firm’s public sale of shares, valued at Kshs. 34 billion, till the issue of who owns 10% of the company is resolved. The PIC states in a report that the shareholding was irregularly transferred to either Mobitelea Ventures Ltd or Vodafone Plc and demands its immediate return to Telkom Kenya.

The report further suggests that the share in question, once transferred, should be held in trust for the public and be factored into the privatisation of the company and that the Communications Commission of Kenya CEO John Waweru step aside "until the investigations are completed" for his roles on the board of the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation and Telkom at the time of when transfer of the share in question took place. The MPs also want those officials who approved the transfer of Safaricom shares in 1999 barred from holding public office.

Curiously, though, the committee report states that "Mobitelea Ventures is not based in nor does it operate in Kenya" which flies in the face of reports in the East African that Mobitelea Ventures Ltd. was, at least till 2000 a non-trading arm of Telkom Kenya.

Let us hope the truth will out sooner rather than later. Either way, Safcom will pay a steep price for the deception.

Monday, August 06, 2007

When a Journalist is not a Journalist

In the past few weeks, the local media has been beside itself over the passage of the Media Bill 2007. In editorial after howling editorial, parliamentarians have been excoriated (and rightly so) over their attempts to force journalists to reveal their sources. However, the mainstream media is itself far from blameless.

In May, Bankelele wrote a post on the difficulty of obtaining an online copy of the just passed Media Bill 2007. Back then he wrote: "It was disappointing that so far everyone talks about it, but few (member of the public) have seen it. Even media houses have remained selfish with the document, withholding it and only telling us what’s bad about it." The original Media Bill 2007 authored by Information minister Mutahi Kagwe is available online here, though considering the reports of "deals" between "media stakeholders" and the government, it is unlikely that it was passed in this form. And perhaps therein lies the reason why neither the government nor the media houses want you to see it.

One of those "deals" was amending the clause defining who is a journalist. The original definition in Kagwe's bill reads: "'journalist' means any person who earns a living from the practice of journalism, or any person who habitually engages in the practice of journalism and is recognized as such by the Council". According to the Standard, some "media stakeholders" would like to replace this definition with one that includes the provision that a journalist is one who "holds a diploma or degree in mass communication from a recognised institution of higher learning and is recognised by the council as such". Media Owners Association (MOA) chairman, Mr Hannington Gaya thinks, "[The proposed amendment] makes journalism a respected profession as it distinguishes who is a journalist and who is not".

However the effect of such a clause would be to deny many lifelong journalists (including cartoonists such as GADO and MADD) legal recognition on the pretext that they do not possess the requisite academic qualifications. By this definition, Wahome Mutahi would not be considered a journalist. Many self-published individuals such as bloggers would also be denied similar recognition as would members of the so-called "alternative press". Since this is a statutory definition, all of us would lose any protections offered to mainstream "journalists" under the Bill.

Nothing more than a thieves' bargain, this is a crude attempt by the established Media houses who make up the MOA to hog the media space. Far from seeking to bring "respectability" to what Paul Muite calls "a necessary evil", the amendment seeks to place limits on who may or may not practice journalism. It also plays into the hands of politicians who would like nothing more than to limit the avenues through which information can be conveyed to the public. It needs to be opposed by all.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Weird Notions of the Daily Nation

Today's Daily Nation editorial should give us all some pause for thought, but not for the reasons the Nation editors would like. For the newspaper actually seems to equate democracy with freedom from the constraints of law. It treats our statutes as something of an inconvenience, to be disregarded whenever expediency demands, in the rush to avail ourselves of the right to protest. The editorial states:
"It is often said that nobody has the right to hold processions without permission. That is usually just an excuse to block, for political reasons, the exercise of free expression. Every other day, all manner of groups hold processions without hindrance. The only time police interference would be justified is when such groups present threats to law and order."
This is what the relevant law (Public Order Act, Chapter 56, Section 5) has to say:
5.(1) No person shall hold a public meeting or a public procession except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(2) Any person intending to convene a public meeting or a public procession shall notify the regulating officer of such intent at least three days but not more than fourteen days before the proposed date of the public meeting or procession.

. . . . . . . .

(8) The regulating officer or any police officer of or above the of inspector may stop or prevent the holding of-

(a) any public meeting or public procession held contrary to the provisions of sub-sections (2) or (6);
Clearly, the police do have every right to stop the proposed marches if the organisers fail to provide notice of the intended demonstrations. Furthermore, it is a nullity to argue, as the editorial does, that the police should have done nothing because the protesters were voicing "a very genuine public concern — a proposed send-off package by MPs". The Penal Code, Chapter 63, Section 9 has this to say concerning intentions and motives:
9.(1) Subject to the express provisions of this Code relating to negligent acts and omissions, a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission which occurs independently of the exercise of his will, or for an event which occurs by accident.

(2) Unless the intention to cause a particular result is expressly declared to be an element of the offence constituted, in whole or part, by an act or omission, the result intended to be caused by an act or omission is immaterial.

(3) Unless otherwise expressly declared, the motive by which a person is induced to do or omit to do an act, or to form an intention, is immaterial so far as regards criminal responsibility.
So it matters not that the organisers sought to do good. That does not absolve them of their legal obligations.

Now, while it is perfectly clear that the police had every right to stop the demonstration, the arrest of the organisers is another matter entirely. The Police Act, Chapter 84, Section 16 says:
16.(1) It shall be the duty of the Force to regulate and control traffic and to keep order on and prevent obstructions in public places, and to prevent unnecessary obstruction on the occasions of assemblies, meetings and processions on public roads and streets, or in the neighbourhood of places of worship during the time of worship therein.

(2) Any person who disobeys any lawful order given by any police officer acting under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence, and may be arrested without a warrant unless he gives his name and address and satisfies the police officer that he will duly answer any summons or other proceedings which may be taken against him.

It seems obvious that the 5 activists would have easily been able to fulfil the conditions set out in sub-section (2) above and therefore their arrest was totally unnecessary. In this, and in unleashing violence on a largely peaceful though illegal gathering, the police over-reacted. In that sense I do agree with the Nation's call for the police to apologise and "take action" against the concerned officers. I only wish that the newspaper was as vocal in calling for the punishment of the other lawbreakers in this sorry tale.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Still the Bitter Option

Now that Safaricom shares are set to make their debut on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, has anyone cleared the air over the ownership of, and relationship between, Safaricom, Vodafone Kenya Ltd. and Mobitelea? Or is this one of those issues that Kenyans love make a lot of noise about and then promptly sweep under the carpet?

Here are the issues I would still like addressed:

However, the government insists that there are only two shareholders of Safcom i.e. Telkom Kenya (60%) and Vodafone Kenya Ltd (40%). According to the East African, Mobitelea Ventures Ltd. was, at least till 2000 a non-trading arm of Telkom Kenya. It appears that sometime between March 2001 and May 2002, Mobitelea acquired a stake in Vodafone Kenya Ltd. (which by then was wholly owned by Vodafone Plc) . This implies either of two things.

One, that Telkom, through Mobitelea and using public money, bought shares in VKL thus increasing its effective shareholding in Safaricom to 70% without informing the public. It then sold the equivalent of 5% of that shareholding back to Vodafone Plc generating $10 million and again failed to report this. It would also mean that contrary to its declarations, Telkom actually effectively owns 65% of Safaricom and is trying to hide that 5% from us.

Or two, Telkom had by then quietly sold (or given) Mobitelea to someone who then managed to convince Vodafone Plc to sell them a piece of VKL on the hush-hush. This begs many questions. Whom did Telkom sell (or give) Mobitelea to (last year a search at the Company Registry conducted by The East African failed to determine the ownership or directors of Mobitelea Ventures), why and for how much? Were the proceeds declared in the company's accounts? Can Telkom so easily dispose of a public asset without informing anyone? Why doesn't the company come clean on this matter?

Isn't there a contradiction in Safcom CEO Michael Joseph refusing to divulge the details of Safcom's ownership structure to Parliament's Public Investment Committee, while at the same time seeking to access more of the public's money through a listing on the NSE? And do the rules of the NSE not compel him to release that information now?

What has become of the PIC Chairman Justin Muturi's promise to get to the bottom of the affair?

Tsk.. Tsk..

In keeping with my stated respect for the rule of law, I must admit that a few things about yesterday's demonstration and its aftermath do not sit well with me.

First, the careless disregard exhibited by the protesters of the legal requirement to inform the police before holding a public demonstration. Today's Daily Nation quotes one of them, Ms Ann Njogu from Creaw, admitting to the police yesterday that “some matters were urgent and we are angered to an extent of forgetting the need to notify you”. There can be no excuse for such an oversight and the police were well within their rights to declare it an illegal gathering and to order them to disperse. It is the height of hypocrisy to demand that the government comport itself within the bounds of law while the very activists demanding this are busy ignoring its provisions. That said, I still maintain that the subsequent police reaction (lobbying tear gas canisters etc.) was excessive and unwarranted. Furthermore, locking up people who clearly pose no threat to the public is an abuse of police powers. It would have sufficed to get them to record statements and order them to appear before some magistrate the next day.

Secondly, the Nation article also reports on Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu successfully abetting the escape of Ms. Njogu from police custody. Again, this is a flagrant violation of our statutes and does much harm to the cause Ms. Njogu and her fellow protesters were fighting. Just because one disagrees (as I do) with the premise of their arrest does not suddenly relieve one of the responsibility to act in a lawful manner. I hope to see the Minister for Health presently arraigned in court along with Ms. Njogu.