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By Milimo Mwiba

On Thursday more than a thousand people will be in London to stand up for justice. Just by turning up to the Tea Time for Change mass lobby on international development issues, they are showing solidarity with the poorest people in the world. By sitting down with their MPs and lobbying them to take action, they can make a profound difference to those people’s futures.

Zambia, my home, is rich in natural resources such as timber, minerals and wildlife, but my people are some of the poorest in the world – still struggling to meet their basic needs. Despite the improvements of recent years – with rising economic growth, debt cancellation and more effective poverty reduction programmes – more than 60% of Zambians still live in abject poverty, unable to afford a daily decent meal.

Zambia is ranked 150 out of 169 on the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) with the average life-expectancy of my fellow countrymen and women standing at just 47 years. For every 100,000 women who give birth, nearly 600 die; and for every 1,000 children born alive, more than 100 will die before their fifth birthday. The improvements of recent years are real and tangible, but they are still too little and too late for many of my fellow citizens.

How can this happen in a country so rich in resources? Zambia is unable to benefit from that natural wealth, especially in the mining sector, because it lacks the expertise and the necessary capital to create indigenous industries and recycle the resulting profits here at home. As a result, Zambia relies heavily on foreign direct investment. The efforts of successive governments to attract those foreign investors have forced Zambia to create a so-called enabling environment of financial incentives and lax regulation, which provides huge profits for multinational companies setting up shop in our country, but little benefit for the population as a whole.

Not content with those advantages, many multinationals use avoidance schemes to minimise their tax bills even further, and in some cases, make under-the-table payments to officials to secure additional concessions. These are major industries in Zambia operating as the equivalent of “cowboy builders” in Britain, their payments and profits hidden from view. As a result, the mining sector only contributes 2% to Zambia’s official GDP, compared with 17% in the 1980s when the mines’ majority shareholdings were held by the government.

There is a critical need for transparency in the operations of these companies and the way they deal with governments like ours. How can the Zambian people hold its democratically elected government to account if it does not know what payments it receives from these companies, what concessions it offers them, and how much tax they should properly be paying? With transparency in tax and all payments to government, Zambia would be able to meet its obligations to its people – to create well-paid jobs and improve living standards, and to provide the funds needed to offer better healthcare and education, and build roads, hospitals and schools.

In recent years, a new policy regime on investments has been developed in Zambia, including better promotion of transparency and accountability, and that in turn has improved the confidence of companies who want a stable and reputable business environment to invest in our country for the long term. But much more can still be achieved if Britain and other countries ensure that multinational companies taking profits out of Zambia are obliged to open up their books to public scrutiny and are prevented from dodging the taxes owed to our government.

At the Tea Time for Change mass lobby of parliament in London, people from all over Britain will be standing up for economic justice and transparency in my country and in many other poor nations around the world. Please add your voice and urge the UK to make it easier for the people in poor countries to get what is due to them.

• Follow http://twitter.com/#!/teatime4change and #tt4c for updates through the day

• Milimo Mwiba is head of the justice and peace programme at Caritas Zambia

George Tizirai-Chapwanya (solicitor with Bake & Co Solicitors)

BRITAIN has announced a new student policy which points to plans to restrict the current Post-Study Work Migrant programme from April 2012. The purpose of the new reforms is to encourage graduates who have studied in the United Kingdom to stay on and do skilled or highly-skilled work.

Readers will remember the requirements for either leave to enter or to remain under this category. I shall not concern myself with these requirements here with these requirements, suffice to indicate that the applicant must score a minimum points under Appendix A, B and C. These mainly relate to: Attributes, English language and Maintenance (funds).

Whilst it has not been problematic to satisfy most of requirements where leave to remain was being sought, it will be noted that the perennial problem seems to have centred on the £800 requirement (This has been discussed extensively by colleagues in the legal fraternity).

Be that as it may, what the new student policy says is that this current arrangement will be removed and those graduating from a United Kingdom university will be able to switch into Tier 2. It must be remembered that the purpose of the Tier 2 route is to enable United Kingdom employers to recruit workers from outside the EEA in order to fill a particular vacancy that cannot be filled by a British/EEA or settled worker.

The requirements of this route are generally known and I will not be going through them here as well, suffice to mention the particular important requirement for employers to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test. This is the process an employer must follow before employing a person who is not a permanent resident of the United Kingdom if he or she is first required to show that no resident worker could be found to take a particular job. The fact that employers will not be required to satisfy this test may be viewed in a positive way as it widely opens the job market to students from outside the EEA area.

The new policy indicates that the normal Tier 2 requirements will continue to apply except for the Resident Labour Market Test. However, what is also pertinent to note is that applicants will only be able to switch if they are in the United Kingdom before their current student visa expires. What it means, therefore, is that current students who want to exercise their right to switch to Post Study Work Migrant must take note of these requirements and make sure that all supporting documentary evidence is in place by the time of the intended application.

Another interesting aspect that may be a source of worry to current students who may want to switch to Tier 2 Migrant is the so called immigration cap or whether in pursuit of this policy the UK Border Agency will impose a limit on switchers. The good news is that there will not be a limit to those who can switch.

Readers will be aware of my previous article when I gave a critique of the immigration cap policy, especially as it relates to those applicants from the Commonwealth countries, who by virtue of historical links may be deemed more closer than most EEA countries, yet appear as being treated unfairly when it comes to exercising their right to stay in the United Kingdom. Whilst it is the UK’s right to frame its immigration rules as it pleases, and in this regard could have applied a cap, it must be applauded that the Secretary of State saw it prudent that the immigration cap will not be activated in this instance and this must obviously allow all those who meet the requirements of switching to Tier 2 to be processed.

Tied to this discussion is also the debate on what happens to current Post Study Work Migrants. The immigration rules provide that one can be assigned certificate of sponsorship and score 30 points if switching from Tier 1 (Post-Study Work). Conditions attached here are that you must have worked for your current sponsor for a continuous period of at least six months immediately before the date of your application and you must be applying to continue to work in the same job that you are doing in the UK on your application date.

The important point to note is that if your application is approved, you will be given permission to remain in the United Kingdom for a maximum of three years or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever is shorter. Following up on this obviously is the fact that you may be able to extend this leave as appropriate until you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain.

However, since this article has been concerned with those who are yet to enter the Post-Study Work category, it must also be highlighted that, the UK Border Agency nevertheless remains committed to ensure that those students with exceptional entrepreneurial ideas would be able to remain in the United Kingdom in order to turn their business ideas into concrete projects. On this basis, it is hoped the quandary currently besetting the student fraternity may just be a passing phase; and who knows the new rules may actually turn to be a blessing in disguise after all!

George Tizirai-Chapwanya, BL (Hons) LLB LLM is a Solicitor with Bake & Co Solicitors. He can be contacted on gtchapwanya@bakesolicitors.co.uk or visit Bake & Co Solicitors’ website at www.bakesolicitors.co.uk; 0121 616 5025 or 07815958475

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By Austin Kaluba

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It has been already of old time, which was before us. Ecclesiastes 1 vs 10

It is 200 years plus now since that barbaric  practice-trafficking in human beings was abolished and yet, the former slave masters have just reincarnated into absentee imperialists controlling Africa’s wealth and even the so called independent states from 10 Downing Street and Washington Capitol.

In short the Trans Atlantic Slave trade has just metaphorsised into Trans Atlantic State trade!

The wind of change that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan spoke about only birthed pseudo-political independent state heavily dependent on former colonial masters who still control the economies and political direction of their former colonies.

In Nigeria, one of the most significant and most populous African country, independence has been marred by carryover of ethnic differences (many fanned by colonial masters), control of oil fields, regionalism and chaotic leadership making the west-influenced country almost ungovernable.

Since Portuguese explorers, Nigeria has had many uncaring and profit-minded lovers who have exploited its rich natural resources in connivance with chiefs and in Post-colonial Nigeria-politicians, mostly army leaders.

It was in 1885 though that the troubled country was ‘officially’ chartered by Britain following the Royal Niger Company under the leadership of one Sir George Taubman Goldie. It was the beginning of an illicit, cunning and highly manipulative influence that needs radical changes to redeem.

In 1900, the company’s territory came under control of the British government, which consolidated its illegal control of what was to become modern Nigeria. The following year in January saw the country becoming a British protectorate.

In 1914, the Niger area was formally united as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the northern and southern provinces and Lagos colony. Western education and encompassing of British values developed much faster in the south than in the north especially among the Ibos who were open to progressive change while maintaining their rich indigenous culture.

Many historians have identified the unifying of the north and south as being one of the major problems affecting the country complete with the two different religions -Islam and Christianity practised by in the two regions.

The British colonialists used the divide and rule tactics successfully by discouraging the better-educated southerners in holding political office in preference to their ill-educated northern brothers whom they favoured to hold positions of leadership.

Following the wind of change that saw Nigeria get independence in 1960, the problems that had been sown by the now absentee colonial masters who were still interested in the country’s economy surfaced with grave consequences.

Further down south, one notorious imperialist Cecil Rhodes who dreamed of a Cairo to Cape imperialistic scheme opened the Southern Africa to plunder and looting through the British South African Company, which like the Royal Niger Company was formed to enrich the small European island by looting resources from Africa.

Like in the case of Nigeria, several charters, treaties and pacts were signed with chiefs like Lobengula and Lewanika to allow the mine prospectors access to the wealth that lay in the once African-owned regions.

One would think I am delving too much into history which has no significance to our modern Africa, but it is history that determines who we are now. In southern Africa, the alliances which started with chiefs still has effects on the economy of countries in the region.

Throughout his reign Kaunda had a love/hate relationship with Anglo/America who run the mines in Zambia. Kaunda knew the colossal profits they reaped from owning the mines despite Zambia also getting some substantial income.

One has to look at countries like South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, which are not independent per se considering the influence of the whites over the economies of these states. Zimbabwe freed herself recently from the control of whites recently by grabbing land from the few farmers and redistributing it to the rightful owners.

In Congo, which King Leopold of Belgium considered as his own farm, the western world especially America intervened by orchestrating the murder of Patrice Lumumba who championed communism to replace him with their blue-eyed boy Mobutu SeSe Seko. Mobutu shocked the world with the same cruelty of former colonial masters by taking the country as his personal property.

Congo is not the only country in Africa where leaders have been imposed from the west. The list of leaders who have been remote-throned from the west is long and it include almost all regions in Africa especially those blessed with natural resources.

However, arm-chair critics of African politics and pedestrian analysts who do not dig deeper in understanding the country’s problems don’t know what is involved in the Faustian pact Africa leaders make with the former colonial masters.

In the case of Nigeria, the west intervenes in order to buy oil for a song. In other countries which have diamonds, it is the same story of plundering the country’s minerals while the locals are fighting. Ian Fleming, the late British author was right when he wrote that Diamonds are Forever. He forgot to add, so are wars especially in African countries which have the precious stone.

The Western media has deafened our ears with shouts of bad governance in Africa and corruption. While this is true, the West also plays a part in banking the money of former and serving African leaders.

The strategies which have been used to fight this Trans Atlantic State Trade by concerned parties has been flawed with misunderstanding of what the problems is, or worse still the intervention needed to address them. It is high time the new progressive African patriots organised better strategies to bring permanent solutions affecting the vast continent./ End…

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A fall in mortgage rates during the last three years means that an average three bedroom property costs £608 a month in mortgage payments compared to £709 in rent.

It is a sharp turnaround compared to three years ago at the height of the credit crisis when higher mortgage rates meant it was more expensive to buy.

In March 2008, it cost £1,060 to buy the property compared to £761 to rent it, according to the research by Halifax, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender.

Back then, average mortgages rates were 5.82 per cent compared to 3.59 per cent today.

Although the current trade-off between buying and renting is expected to narrow when interest rates start to rise again, the long-term benefits associated with investing in bricks and mortar are likely to ensure that buying will continue to be viewed favourably by many.

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LONDON: The British Conservative party pro-rich bias appears intact if its latest immigration policy is any indication.

Under a fast track scheme,any foreigner willing to park 5 million pounds in a British bank or building society will be granted leave of indefinite stay in the UK. An investor who keeps 10 million will secure this right even faster in two years. The residency right will come after an entrepreneur visa is granted.

The UK remains open for business and we want those who have the most to offer to come and settle here, said Whitehalls immigration minister Damian Green while announcing the policy at a London Stock Exchange event on Wednesday. Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery, he said.

Rules for entrepreneurs are also to be tweaked if they either create 10 full-time jobs or generate an annual turnover of 10 million in a UK business, they will be entitled to settlement within three years.

Alex Ruffel, a lawyer who specialises in immigration matters, was quoted as forecasting that the number of super-rich entrepreneurs and investors pitching their tents in the UK per annum would double from last years figure of 275.

A person maintaining a balance of 1 million in a British bank would also benefit by being guaranteed indefinite stay after five years without having to pass an otherwise mandatory English language test.

The policy towards the wealthy contrasts sharply with the British governments plan to do away with the automatic right to settle hitherto enjoyed by students and temporary residents after a five year stay in this country.

Indeed, definitive proposals to impose deep cuts in the number of overseas students coming to Britain so as to adhere to the Conservative partys election manifesto promise of containing net migration to below 100,000 a year are expected to be announced soon.

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Under the new rules which come into effect this April, foreign students at the many private colleges in the UK will be banned from doing any work or allowed to bring in their spouses or family members…

The rules are expected to reduce the number of study visas for people from outside the European Union by 80000.

Experts say the new law blocks the foreign students from working in the UK, and therefore many will be unable to fund their studies – and hence get student visas.

They will not be allowed to bring in their spouses or family members either, who usually were able to work full-time and help fund their studies.

Under the new rules which come into effect this April, foreign students at the many private colleges in the UK will be banned from doing any work.

Previously, they could work part-time during term time and full-time during holidays, which helped many of them earn money to pay the steep international fees.

The popular “post-study work route”, which allowed students two years to seek employment after their course will also close. Foreign students can pay up to £10000 per year (or more) for a course.

In December, Immigration Minister Damian Green stated that the government was focusing on reforming the current 300000-a-year student immigration programme, which is understood to account for two thirds of migrants to Britain annually.

Cutting down immigration figures is a key policy of the Tories, who have pledged to drastically reduce the numbers of immigrants to the UK.

High levels of immigration remain a hot issue for the British public. The Home Office insists these new rules will curb the number of bogus students in the country.

Marissa Murdock, a legal advisor at the London-based Visa Bureau says the rules will affect students from Africa badly.

“I think it will have a massive impact,” she says, “the fees are very high. A lot of them used to rely on being able work to pay their fees while they were studying. This will put pressure on families (back home) to fund their children.”

In addition, the students will be banned from bringing their spouses or family members along to live with them, unless they are on a postgraduate course at university. At the moment all students on longer courses are able to bring dependants.

Home Secretary Theresa May says of the new rules: “It has become very apparent that the old student visa regime failed to control immigration and failed to protect legitimate students from poor-quality colleges.”

“The new system is designed to ensure that students come for a limited period, to study not to work, and make a positive contribution while they are here.”

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