Friday, 30 November 2007


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Last Friday I received the following letter from PF president Michael Sata reacting to my recent article, “Sata’s Political Swansong”:
“I read your article five times looking for anything wrong I said in Harvard about your Chinese friends. To my disappointment, the entire article is to divert attention from the focus on your Chinese friends to personalise attack on Michael Sata.
“You are relatively intelligent you can manufacture another page to undress me. But for Zambia’s sake your Chinese friends can never be defended no matter how much talk time they give you. You are a Zambian learn to defend Zambia instead of becoming Editor-in-Chief for the Pekin or is it Beijing Daily.
“Remember, Comrade Ndhlovu, I shall leave the political arena just as you shall leave the Media arena. In spite of our past mistakes you should emulate Freedom Fighters and compliment [sic] our forefathers who had no education but the will to fight to prepare Zambia for you, young men.
“One thing surprising, it is the Zambians in government and the Media like yourself defending the Chinese invasion of Zambia, why can’t the Chinese defend themselves and make the comparisons or observations you have made in your column[?] Comrade Ndhlovu may I please have a copy of your contribution to the Chinese Media in praise of their invasion of Zambia.
“Thank you for your sentiments, but remember you only have one Zambia. Anyway, privileged people like you may have some room in China when Zambia has been completely overrun by your Chinese friends.
“The more you defend them, the more encouragement you give me to attack the Chinese all over the world. For your information in the last two weeks I have spoken on the Japanese and Swedish televisions, two days ago I was on the BBC.
Good luck and have more talk time from the Chinese Ambassador. (Signed) M.C. Sata.”
In 1983, when I just finished Form Five at Kitwe Boys’ Secondary School, one fellow we lived with in Kwacha, Jim who only had one arm, wanted to draft me into UNIP. He was ready to push me for scholarships and stuff like that, but even as politically unconscious as I was then, I sensed something was wrong with the system then and I refused.
Several years later, when it was fashionable among State Media journalists to support former President Chiluba’s third term attempt for which Sata was in the forefront as MMD National Secretary and Minister without Portfolio, I refused to join the bandwagon.
My refusal to sing the third term chorus meant that I gave away the “benefits” that went with it -- brown envelopes, cars and houses which some journalists directly benefited from that political lunacy.
As for the Chinese Ambassador buying me talk time, I must hasten to say that I do not even know his name, nor can I tell the difference between him and the director of Baoxing Company in Ndola whose directors are in the coolers for copper theft.
As much as I have my own weaknesses, receiving money from sources has never been one of them. I have bought sources beer in an environment where it is the other way round, and lent some of them money (I won’t mention names) such that I have no need to get money or talk time from the Chinese Ambassador.
I am sure the Chinese government auditor’s office would query the man if it was discovered that he gave me money equivalent to how much I personally use for my talk time per month.
Without necessarily dragging the National Mirror in the issue, the amount of money the newspaper pays me for the column is far less than it costs me in terms of time, phones and the internet to transmit the column. What drives me is the passion to make a difference.
Lastly, Sata should know that I am one of the few journalists who have been consistently critical of the Chinese invasion of Zambia and Africa at large if only he can go back to my previous articles.


Nkhula said...

I don't know about the Daily Mail, but when Sata was engaged in a dogfight with other MMD leaders for the top position in the late 1990s, he also was allowed to publish stories in the Times of Zambia, under an alias.

The articles had no substance but malice aimed at undermining his opponents. One article I clearly remember was about Ben Mwila--one of his fierce rivals--being broke.

Sata was not the only "journalist" in the MMD, Chiluba's State House produced a series of aritcles aimed at misleading the nation on various issues.

To "give these articles a face", one editor wanted to use the bylines of reporters on the paper, including myself. I refused, others did accepted.

What I am trying to say is Sata was at the very center of a sleazy government that did everything to systematically mislead and con the Zambian people. He did everything Chiluba did. He should have gone down with Chiluba.

That is not to say Mwanawasa is squeaky clean. He is a product of corruption. If he were above that he would have called for another election soon after being sworn in in 2001.

Zambia is still in search of a leader since Kaunda left (He may not have been perfect, but he was clearly a leader). There are alot of brialliant Zambians who can modernize the country, but they are scared, and rightly so, because they may end up like Baldwin Nkumbula, and Dean Mung'omba whose throats were slashed because of their political ambitions.

Yes, there might be a problem with the Chinese investment. Zambia needs to attract plum investment from Europe and North America.But we cannot entrust such responsibility with a cadaverous man like Mr Sata.

Remember this is the man who was found guilty of stealing money from Mezaff (sp) housing project in Chilenje. He never spent a day in jail. Instead he walked and kept ascending in Chiluba's cabinet until he became the third most powerful man in government.

Zambia needs a leader, but not Sata. I hope the nation realizes that.

Unknown said...

Thanks Nkhula.
There were a number of journalists at the Mail who were clearly working for Sata. He himself brought to the Mail two reporters from the Confidential who went on to cause confusion at the paper.
I know that some of these reporters faxed stories, speeches and statements perceived to be anti-MMD to Sata's office and awaited his reaction which then formed the basis of those stories.
When Sata left the MMD, he would at his press briefings/conferences public criticize one of the reporters who has since left mainstream journalism.
At the time I was deputy news editor, I would highlight critical paragraphs in stories in the Post which one journalist would then take to State House, the ministry of information, or indeed, Sata's office. It was such a shame working in an environment like that. i am not surprised that you never went back to the Times after your studies.

Nkhula said...

When I resigned I thought people would respect the fact that I decided to move on. But many felt insulted, and embarked on a mudslinging campaign. They tried to recruit everyone in the media against me. I am surprised you are not one of them.

I was not bothered by that until someone physically started tampering with everything I was doing. He pretended to be a friend while behind my back he tried so hard to undo everything I was doing. He became the hitman of a group of state agents that had tasked itself to "disqualify" me from journalism.

This is someone who once lifted an an article from the Newsweek about Tony Blair, retyped it and replaced Blair with Sony Mulenga.

He did another one where he lifted Thabo Mbeki's "I am an African" speech and replaced the South African "Hills" and "Mountains" that Mbeki was citing with the hills and mountains in Sony Mulenga's constituency. He was trying to please Mulenga in exchange for a sit on a plane taking the Zambian delegation to Cuba during the world youth conference in 1997.

It worked. One guy who was picked on merit was removed from the plane at the airport and replaced with the "author" of the stores that were not his. He had no mission in Cuba, not even reporting, he went there to swim and have a feel of what it was like to fly.

The good thing is that someone who had seen the Newsweek article photopied the original and the one that appeared in the Times of Zambia and posted it to plagiarizer. Other people would have lost their jobs. But this fella was "well connected," and he still is. He was working for a newspaper as a reporter, but his job had nothing to do with journalism.

The same person is today brazen enough to say I am not a journalist. However, nothing really surprises me about some Zambian journalists and the people they work for. This fella worked so hard for his wages at Zamtrop. He worked for everything he picked up from Zamtrop in London. Thank God, I rediscovered my niche in the profession. I know now that next time I go to dinner with such people, I will have to carry by plate to the restroom.

If Sata today created a Zamtrop account, or if he became president, they would join him. They, like Sata, are animated by opportunism. No principles, no convictions.

However, there are so many people I respect in the media in Zambia, both private, being the Post and the Times. These individuals are true professionals. Thank God for the Post, the nation came to know how rotten Sata and Chiluba were.

Zedian said...

I think it is rather petty of an aspiring president to accuse a critic of obtaining "mobile talk-time", of all things. Shouldn't the "Patriotic Front" leader be explaining what is so patriotic about obtaining funding from foreigners and then lobbying for those foreigners on the international stage?
And while the topic of Political Party funding is hot right now in the UK, it is an opportunity for young democracies like Zambia to learn lessons from it and avoid such pitfalls. Zambia does not have to learn the hard way.
The current status quo is unacceptable where foreign organisations are freely funding Zambian political parties to influence Zambian politics for their own political ambitions. Complete transparency in political party funding must be sought if the current lunacy we're seeing in Zambia is to be curbed.