Friday, 3 October 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

History has that nasty tendency—to repeat itself.

Thank you, James Lukuku, former New Revolutionary Party (NRP) national secretary, for “confirming” what we always suspected since the days of former President Chiluba’ attempt to go for a third term.

At that time, chiefs, churchmen, some non-governmental organisations and characters of all hues and shades would allow themselves to be assembled to the public calling for Chiluba to go for a third term.

For some of us who were unfortunate to work in state-owned newspapers, it was such a pain in the wrong place to be subjected to write stories from statements brought to newspapers from State House, sneaked in by District Administrators or brought by brazen NGO leaders, all supporting the third term.

A group of radical journalists could whisper among themselves about the possibility of money exchanging hands for people to be so paraded. Some gullible people even had the chance of being accommodated at exotic lodges such as Lilayi Lodge for a reward of a moment’s appearance on TV and their names appearing in newspapers.

The most unforgettable episode of that Third Term tragic-comedy was the 90 Pentecostal pastors bussed from Ndola to make fools of themselves by lending credence to the charade the majority of well reasoning Zambians were saying no to.

What was unfortunate at the time was the conspiracy of heads of state-owned media institutions who could alter the outlook of the next day’s paper even when it was about to go for printing if a statement came through State House or certain influential NGOs of the time supporting the third term. It was sickening!

If what Lukuku has exposed, and indeed chief government spokesman and minister of information Mike Mulongoti has admitted, that the MMD “helps” smaller parties, the nation should shudder to think about what “help” the chiefs who have joined the “Vote Rupiah Banda” chorus receive through the District Administrators who always seem to be there when the statements are made and, indeed, all others who have suddenly fallen in love with the man who shares his name with the currency of Indonesia which he used to boast about in the past.

Surely, political parties that have no money have no reason to exist if they are going to be parasites of the ruling party. Strangely enough, these opposition parties come up with all sorts of absurd statements not only against other opposition parties, but flabbergasting statements in support of the ruling party at venues that straight forward opposition leaders just dream about.

If it is alright for the MMD to support other parties through the back door, why has it always opposed suggestions by citizens to the Constitution Review Commissions that have been constituted under its watch, that government should financially support political parties particularly those with members of parliament?

If the MMD is able to dish out money like it allegedly did to the NRP recently, can someone explain if the ruling party has liquidated the huge debt it had a few years ago which resulted in one former trustee even losing his farm because he used it as collateral for the party’s debt?

May be it is time, MMD members and the nation at large demanded to see the MMD’s statement of accounts since it has been in government for 17 years now and it is therefore “public property”, to see where it gets its money from and how it spends it. This is the only way citizens will clear their minds that “ako kanono” given to someone was not from state coffers.

The country has had an opportunity to learn from the episode of the plunder of national resources for which former President Chiluba is facing court charges. The people need to be alert to be on guard against such nefarious activities by leaders.

Zambians living today should make their leaders accountable because they, themselves, will be answerable to more enlightened future generations who would question why the country they would inherit will have been left in a mess even when it was endowed with plenty of natural resources.

 The NRP case needs to be taken up by all governance institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, Electoral Commission of Zambia, Human Rights Commission and related NGOs to get down to its root. Those found culpable, whoever they are, must be prosecuted in accordance with the law. My worry though is that when it is an opposition party involved, such institutions move in even swifter than lightning.



Am I surprised that Information and Broadcasting permanent secretary Emmanuel Noel Kapaipi Nyirenda has banned live phone in programmes on private radio stations? No, I am not.

Nyirenda was, under Kaunda’s regime, plucked out of the media to go and work as a diplomatic at the Zambian High Commission in London and he was recalled, he was posted to Cabinet Office were he worked as an under secretary. In 1992 he was appointed as Zambia Daily Mail managing editor until 1995 when he was transferred to the Times of Zambia in the same capacity.

Nyirenda changed the way the two newspapers reported and wrote stories to an extent where his legacy still remains, almost six years after he left the Times. Reporters always kicked off stories with a reaction from government and relegated whatever anybody said against the government to the very last paragraph or paragraphs.

Nyirenda’s reasons for banning live phone in programmes do not hold water because he knows the existence of the laws of civil and criminal libel for which whoever falls short of the same, is hauled before the courts of law and where liable, they pay damages or go to jail.

Equally, in terms of biased coverage under the electoral laws, liable media organisations are supposed to be carpeted by the Electoral Commission of Zambia which would impose whatever penalties are prescribed under that law.

QFM and other radio stations should have been subjected to the same existing laws rather than be banned by the whims and caprices of a permanent secretary who probably wants to secure himself a job in the new administration.

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