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Verbatim of Lungu’s press conferenceBy Mukosha Funga on 6 Jul 2017
July 6, 2017, State House, Lusaka
This gathering has been called for the simple reason that yesterday, I issued a proclamation under Article 31 of the Constitution which might not go down very clearly for some people and the media is there to explain and extrapolate what this involves son I am here to answer questions pertaining to yesterdays proclamation and what it entails. Firstly, that power is constitutional; it is given to me as President and secondly, I exercised that power after consulting my Cabinet because I am very consultative and inclusive. The power that I have invoked will be reviewed by Parliament within seven days and Parliament will determine to approve or not to approve that proclamation and Parliament will determine whether it will last three months or six months or one week or three weeks, Parliament has power so that is the law down on the legalistic aspects of this power. And we are going to make regulations following that power which will regulate certain conduct of people’s behavior and that power is very extensive but I want to assure the public that invocation of that power was not meant to harass people or perceived opponents in the political arena but it is to curb the ever growing lawlessness which we have seen in the recent past. With those very few remarks, I will take questions pertaining to this subject.
“I will only go for media houses posing a danger to public security”
Q. Where have you placed the media under this because I understand that you may put in measures to regulate the media?
A. I am an advocate of media freedom and I consider the media fraternity as a friendly force. Under the preservation of public security and laws relating thereto, there exists power in the state of emergency to regulate the media publication, broadcast and all those things. But I have already underscored that one by saying I am not going to disrupt ordinary life in the manner that we are used to, I will only go for those who are posing a danger to public security; I am very tolerant by the way. You can call me names, no problem, but you can endanger public order or security then I will come for you.
Q. How will you ensure that police do not abuse their powers since they now have more powers under this declaration?
A. I thought I made myself clear yesterday that the regulations we have made will be intended to maintain law and order and protect the public. You see, there is also the judiciary at work in this whole process. if any powers are given to somebody, including the President, they can be subject to review by the courts of law. In the event that I go beyond the prescribed power or act unreasonably in the exercise of those powers, the aggrieved parties are free to go to the courts of law to determine whether I have actually acted excessively and I think this is what we stand for as PF and I do not want to go into the discussions which we had in Cabinet yesterday, I was in fact the custodian of good intentions and well meaningless in the application of these powers;
there is a danger that this power can be abused but you can trust me as Zambians that I am here to ensure that I protect the Zambian people against any excesses on the part of those bequeathed with authority in the execution of protection of the public good. So if anyone will be injured in the process, the courts are there and they are very independent as we have seen, they will pronounce on those powers.
Q. We have seen a lot of speculation on social media and I would like to find out, does this proclamation come with curfew?
“Things are not well, we have upped the powers of police”
A. All I can say is that we are going case by case, we cannot clamp down on social media because of one foolish person. We will look for that foolish person and bring him to book, that we will do. Similarly, we cannot make blanket regulations to cover movement of people. People are free to walk about, those who want to do over night prayer meetings can go on, those who want to go and dance in night clubs can go and dance, life will continue as usual. But the police will have added power, power to stop and search for example, power to question certain people, that comes with the proclamation. We may have power to detain people but we will ask ourselves, why are we detaining this person? Can’t we keep him at him and talk to him tomorrow? So, basically we are human beings; I was in Addis Abba just a few days ago, there is a State of Emergency there, it was put in place some six months ago and it was renewed during our visit there but people are going about their business as usual. So please don’t panic, don’t live under fear unduly, just do what you normally do but within the law. But if you break the law, certainly we will pick you up and in picking you up, you may not enjoy the rights to appear in court within 48 hours as the law
stipulates. You know that the current Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Law Practice is that if a person is held by police, they should charge him and bring him before the courts of law within 48 hours but currently, under the arrangement we have invoked, you may be held slightly longer. That is exactly the only difference but curfews can also be declared for specific areas and specific reasons and places can also be gazzetted as no go areas for ordinary citizens, that we can do but we will not unduly make it difficult for you. You may see the presence of more policemen than usual, more armed men around you than usual, but it is for a very short period; either three months or six months, depending on what Parliament will dictate because this will stand in place for seven days and within seven days we will have to go to Parliament and Parliament will debate the reasons why the President did this or why the President should have not done this. We are in a very good democratic system because this power I have invoked is only for seven days because Parliament is sitting so we will have to move a motion in Parliament by her honor the Vice-President to explain the background, to justify this, whether it should go for seven days, one week, two weeks, three weeks one month or six months. It is up to Parliament but please, take time to read the law as a layman and ask those who know to interpret it to you because law is full of jargon and I think that’s where they make their money by confusing us with words but it means nothing, it’s just telling us that the President has power to declare the country is threatened and if the current situation is allowed to continue, there may be need for a State of Emergency, that’s the power I invoked yesterday, I said ‘if we let this continue, we may find ourselves in a State of Emergency’ but for now, I am saying this is too much, it is telling me that things are not well so can we up the powers of the police and the powers of inquiry and investigations and so on, so that’s where we are.
Q. Are there any programmes that will be put in place to sensitise the public about the dos and donts during the period?
“If you follow the law, everything will be fine”
A. I think that we can benefit from dissemination of information to the general public but if we take it upon ourselves as government to begin telling people things, it will be propaganda, they will not attach much value to it so we would like the independent media, those stakeholders who are partners in maintaining law and order, to just tell the people that this is what the law entails, this is what you can do, this is what you can’t do, this is the genesis of this problem, opposition were going in this direction, because if we begin saying do this and don’t do this, we will go back to the days of the one party state where the voice which mattered was that of one person but I don’t think, if you were privileged to be in Cabinet yesterday, I said it, I said I am only human but I will be guided by my Cabinet and my colleagues in the party but at the end of the day, we should own the decision that we make for ourselves, so if it is talking about these issues, the church should be able to talk, the civil society should be able to talk, all those who advocate rights and liberties of people should be able to talk, your liberties are important but the liberties of those men and women who sell on the streets are also important and for me, I should protect them as I protect your rights. Your right to move at night is protected, but if you are going to move into an area where there is a danger that you might affect other people’s livelihood by setting alight the market or some filling station, I will stop you from going there. You have got the right to move yes, but I will stop you from going to that area.
So please, fear nothing because the country is in safe hands and we will continue being there for you. Go on normally and everything will be fine for you but when you transgress, the law will certainly want to ask you questions.
Q. How are you striking a balance between curbing a negative perception out there that Zambia is sliding into a dictatorship and your good intentions for the Zambian people?
“Some good for nothing rich people have regrouped to take over power in some African countries”
A. Let me tell you that there is a crusade by some good for nothing rich people in the international community who want to take over political power in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. These are rich people who once held mining rights in these economies, they have ganged up and they are busy using advocacy to champion certain groups in Zambia for example, so that they can have a regime change. This we have made it very clear, we have known for a long time so they have hired think tanks, so called, to speak ill of Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya in the international media including well respected research institutions, our answer to them has always been, come to Zambia and see if this monster you are talking about, Edgar Lungu, is indeed what you are claiming him to be. I have met representatives of the European Union, diplomats from other western world countries to just ask them that ‘what do you see in Zambia which gives you an impression that I am a dictator?’ and allow me at this point to let you in, I had a meeting with diplomats here, in State House, from the EU, I said ‘tell me, what do you see in me which shows you I am a dictator?’ one of them was good enough to say ‘your bishop wrote a letter and circulated it within and beyond Zambia saying that things have slidden into lawlessness and you are a dictator and it is on that basis that people are saying there is dictatorship in Zambia’. At that point, all I said was ‘oh my God, Zambians are the ones claiming Lungu is a dictator and there is lawlessness in the country’ but the best I can tell you is judge for yourself, you are an accomplished media practitioner, do we have a dictator in State House? Have things fallen apart in this country? The power of the pen, and as they say, falsehood has got fast legs, it runs faster, it goes around the world before the truth is finishing with tying its shoe laces to begin running. Falsehood has got faster speed, so it is up to Zambians to judge whether things have fallen apart in the manner that they want the world to perceive, it is up to Zambians to perceive whether my government is a dictatorial one, but I think let me also appeal to Zambians to just be sincere with themselves and have patriotism and pride in themselves. Zambia is one of the most accomplished democracies in this region if not the whole Africa, let us be proud of what we are, let us tell the world what we are, otherwise, we risk losing it all and if anything, if we call this a dictatorship, then there is no room for democracy in Africa. I said this to some people that if Zambia was in Africa, this wouldn’t have happened but Zambia is unique, in the political sense, Zambia is not in Africa because we tolerate so much nonsense in the name of freedoms. Some of the things those on the other side of the political divide have been doing to me and to PF, if it was in other countries, they would not be here today, they would have been gone. We have stretched the boundaries of democracy in Zambia, let us be proud of our democracy, that is all I can say. So when they say Zambia is a dictatorial system, Zambia this, you defend what you are seeing, base your arguments on facts, not speculation, not hallucination, so those who write, you should also read extensively.
There are a number of institutions which are being used to mislead the world but luckily, the people who know Zambia are there to support Zambia and I am very proud of our record.
Q. Don’t you think that this decision is likely to prolong discussions with the IMF? And secondly, you have changed the strategy in fighting lawlessness, aren’t you also changing the team? I have got an example for instance, the Minister of Home Affairs told us that he had information on what people are going to do to cause havoc in the country but nothing has happened in terms of arrests. Is there a need for your Cabinet to be changed so that you put in people who can do the job very well?
“No one will force me to fire any of my ministers”
A. First, let me say in response to the last part of the question that my Cabinet ministers and all other appointees serve under my discretion and it is my absolute discretion to determine whether they keep their jobs or not. And when I decide to revisit the appointments, the nation will be told. You cannot stampede me into firing people because it is not my nature. The reason why it is not my nature is that I don’t want to undermine myself because if I fire a minister because you have demanded that he be fired, it means that the other one who will come in will totally be incapacitated. They will just tell him that ‘we got that man fired, who are you not to do what we are asking you to do? We will inform the boss you will be fired’. My strategy is not to fire people on the basis of a call for no good reason at all by the public because when I appointed them, I had certain expectations. Take the example of the young man Bowman Lusambo whom they are calling a boy on the Copperbelt, I appointed him, I saw a man in him and some people are seeing a boy in him and he will serve at my pleasure. So when I find that it is time to part with Bowman Lusambo, I will call him and we will discuss with him but that is not how I fire people. So if my minister says there are people who are doing wrong things and he hasn’t brought them to book, there must be a reason why because we do not want to act with impunity, when we hear that that man is doing something wrong, there are processes which should be followed in investigating and making sure that he is the right person because sometimes we get information based on personal differences and the desire to just settle scores, people come to me and say ‘that man is against you’ when all they want probably is for me to use my wrath and power against that person so that I give them a clear way in which they want to exercise their own desires without being controlled. So we must be very careful with the calls we make upon the Head of State to fire and hire people, it is not an easy decision to hire or fire people. It is a well thought one and I will continue thinking through these things. I don’t think my Minister of Home Affairs has said anything deserving of him to be fired for now so in short, I am saying give me space to consider who is serving and who is not serving.
“IMF can go if they think I have gone astray”
You are talking about the IMF, I don’t think the IMF would like this country to go into flames, I don’t think any investor would like to see this country destroyed, the measures that we have put in place are intended to safeguard the IMF program if it comes to be but for the IMF to say ‘Lungu has gone out of the way, I will refer them to Article 31 of the Constitution which gives me that power. Everything we do, we consult and I want to be remembered for just sticking to the law and doing things within the expectations of the people so IMF is they want to go because of this, they can go and I am saying this openly, if IMF thinks we have gone beyond the norms of good governance and democracy, they are free to go. We cannot sacrifice the Zambian people at the altar of economic expediency. What are we investing for? We invest the money today and tomorrow they burn the money up? No, as long as the people are safe, the IMF, their programme will be safe but if the people are not safe and infrastructure is being burnt left right and centre, we have to spend money to build those markets again, we have to spend money to put the electricity pylons, this is what the IMF would like? I am sure the IMF would not like that kind of thing. The IMF would like to come into a country which is stable, growing, and where they are sure that their money or programmes will yield desired results. But I have made it very clear that if they think I have gone astray, let them go.
Q. You have talked about investments, I would like to find out from you, don’t you think that your declaration that the country is no longer safe is going to deter…
A. [cuts journalist off] is that what I said? I didn’t say the country is no longer safe, I said the country is sliding into a worrisome state which might lead me into declaring a State of Emergency under Article 30. If you read the Constitution, under Article 30, there is a State of Emergency, under Article 31, there is a threat to peace which is,
you may call it a mini state of emergency
but I didn’t say the country is sliding into, I didn’t say that, you may wish to rephrase your question.
Q. Maybe I meant to say what are you going to do as government to assure investors that the country is still safe for investments because there could be some investors who are thinking twice about investing in the country.
A. If you want to invest in a country, it’s like if you want to lend money to a person, you do what is called due diligence. So all those people who are affected by my pronouncement are free to come to Zambia and do a due
diligence and if they find that the country is unsafe, they can go but for me, I am making it safer for them and their money and for our people to continue being free so my dear lady, this pronouncement is intended to win the confidence of those people who may have been living in Zambia already who are investors, who are getting worried about the sporadic fires that we have encountered and the breaking down of infrastructure and so on. They were, I’m sure, saying ‘what is happening? Is there a government in place? Today we hear there is no power, electricity pylons have been brought down, that shop is on fire and so on, I am sure Zambian investors were getting worried about the luxity on our part in taking these issues seriously. So I would like to believe that we are on course and I think any investor who is well meaning, a new one, is supposed to come and do due diligence and come and say ‘is what I hear correct?’ because there is a lot of propaganda out there. So it is a personal decision, if you are lending money to somebody, and you know he won’t pay back the money, you don’t lend him the money. So those who want to invest in Zambia should have confidence in what we do. And if they think we are not able to sustain their investment, they will go but I am sure, in answering your question, people should do due diligence, as much as they are reading stories of Zambia having gone astray in terms of good governance.
Q. There’s some talk that this will be a serious dent on Zambia’s image and that whatever is happening, including the suspected arson cases are all acts organized by the ruling party to punish an opposition leader who is already in custody. And there have been some concerns in countries where this state of emergency has been declared that it has been difficult to handle that so do you think Zambia is ready to handle that in case we slide to that level? And there have been some cases where the military has taken over, is Zambia ready for that?
“I am not targeting political players”
A. We are not ready for a military government to start with and we shall not allow that. Time is long gone for military governments. It is time for people to rule themselves, if soldiers want to join politics, they should come out of politics and join us. I think I must make that very clear, any soldier who wants to take over power should come out of his uniform, surrender his commission and become a civilian so that we work together. But going further, let me tell you that the power I have used is a democratic one, the power I have used to declare a state of emergency of threaten emergency is coming from the Constitution, it is not from outside the Constitution so how can any well meaning person within Zambia and outside say ‘our Constitution is going to suffer a dent’? The Constitution says that when things are hard and things happen, the President can use this power. If this was not in the Constitution then you can say ‘things are bad because the President is acting outside the Constitution’. So there is no way Zambia can suffer a dent by following the Constitution which provides for this power and that is why this power is going to be subjected to debate by Parliament. If the power has been used excessively, Parliament will say we are giving you one month, six months, to review the situation. Parliament will just say, sorry, there is no basis to review the situation. What more do you want in a democracy? So I don’t think that there is room for anyone to act outside the law, to do things which the law does not permit because even under this state, we are governed by the laws and that’s why I alluded to the involvement of the courts of law.
If the power is used excessively or arbitrary, you are free to go to court and the court will adjudicate and say ‘this power is unconstitutional, it is outside the realm of good governance and reasonableness. That’s where we are. I know that people think I am targeting political players, I am not targeting political players, I am just bringing sanity to our country so there is law and order, people’s property is not destroyed in the manner that we have seen and those who are careless and they are inciting people by way of peddling falsehood through the social media and other print media, are checked. How can you celebrate that there is a fire in Soweto Market, right now Soweto is on fire next it will be State House, how? A normal person? And me I should sit down that the media will interpret that I am targeting the opposition party leader? No! let us segment these stories and follow them the way they happen.
The reason why that gentleman is being held is totally different, the police know better and they will bring the case to court and see what happens of it. The reason why I am declaring a Threatened State of Emergency is clear, we are coming from a situation where people were saying ‘if this election is not won by me, there will be mayhem, there will be Armageddon’, and we saw what happened after elections and it has continued progressively, and me I should sit here smiling and saying no, it’s okay they will say I am a dictator, I am not that dumb, I have got a job to do. So if those people are saying I am being excessive, yes, allow me to be excessive for once in the interest of the Zambian people but that excess is within the law, that is what people need to understand, there is no excess here, everything is in white and black so it’s sad that someone is incarcerated, I hope they can hear his case quickly, either convict him or free him, I don’t care.
Q. How far has government gone in investigating these incidents?
“Under this environment, we shall have more room to bring criminals to book”
A: We are investigating, a few people have been held, some have been released, some people have been caught with devices and instruments which could be linked to this kind of thing and I am told the courts acquitted them or convicted them, I am not really sure but I think I don’t want to go into the realm of challenging the courts, I would rather see how the courts run the show. People have been arrested yes and taken to courts of law. Some have been given lesser charges and fined and so on, how do you account for somebody being found in the early hours of the morning carrying gelatin, carrying explosive devices and so on in the night and you say he is a common burglar? I don’t know, I don’t want to go into that because the court system is something sacred to me, I don’t want to attach judges or anything but I am talking to you as executive, yes we have investigated, we have gotten some people, probably the evidence might not be sufficient for us to bring charges but under this regime that we have invoked now, it might give us more room and latitude, including tiff that we will get to the root of this very carefully because we know where some of these have been having meetings but freedom of assembly will be invoked, they will say ‘we are just discussing, what’s your problem?’ so really, the whole purpose of creating this environment now is intended to give the police a bit more clout and also allow the police latititude to be more effective and I think that is all I can say on that score.
Q. Will the decision by the National Assembly be based on the situation in the nation in the next seven days or the fires that we have seen in the past?
A. Obviously mum, there is a history to this and the history goes prior to elections, during elections and afterwards. And there has been accumulation of events. So as Parliament debates, I am sure they will be mindful of where we are coming from and where we are; and what prompted the President to arrive at that decision. But I am sure members of the Executive who were in Cabinet will stand and meet the challenge of explaining. But is there any Zambian who is wondering as to what has led to this honestly? Does any well meaning Zambian want to know what has brought this about? Where we are coming from like I was saying last night; Katambalala market, local court in Mongu, you name it… it’s just too much. Electricity pylons, Lusaka West, Shantumbu. In Ndola there you go and set alight systems and thousands of people are left without light and so on. Surely the pattern has shown than this is manipulated and orchestrated by some people who are hellbent on just brinking chaos into the country. Every well meaning Zambian knows that we are under siege, there is terrorism building up, but we don’t want to allow it to escalate to a level beyond which you can control it for you to say its an emergency. A stitch in time saves nine, that’s old English…So you don’t have to wait at first chilepuke nkabila mailo (let it be torn i will mend it tomorrow) when you see it, you tie it quickly quickly so that you save nine stitches. So what I have done is to stitch it before I require nine stitches.
Q. Your Excellency, a few voices have said the invocation of Article 31 has been hastily done as there was no conclusion in the investigations. I would like to find out if this proclamation is confirmation that acts that happened at City Market are Sabotage.
“Lusaka City Market Fire was sabotage”
A. Obviously it’s sabotage because Zesco has told us that there was no electrical fault or problem and given the background of where we are coming from, it conforms what they said that there was going to be mayhem in the country. So for us we see this as a culmination of acts. Coming to the hastiness of decision making, I think we probed that and interrogated it as Cabinet and we are sure that its time we moved under that law.
And I can tell you that politics is not true science; it’s an art.
Every politician has got his own way of doing things. For me as President sitting where I sit with the power that I have, I think it’s time to move in this direction. Probably is you were in my saddle, you would have said there is time to wait and so on, but me where I stand and what I know and what I see, it was the right time. When people say the President has acted hastily, its because they don’t know what I know. They don’t know the dynamics of this problem. So they can criticise, yes I will hear them, but I think going by my judgement, it is the right time to move in this direction.
Q. You invoking Article 31 yesterday, does it mean that you agree with other stake holders that there is tension in the country?
“There’s no tension, there’s terrorism building in Zambia”
No there is no tension in the country, there is acts of terrorism which is intended to intimidate me and other people in power; to revisit the decision of the electoral process we had last time in August 2016.
The theory is that we must put pressure on the government so that the government starts talking to us so that we renegotiate the outcome of of the elections. That can’t be done. When you lose an election, you petition, according to Zambian law, when you petition, the courts will adjudicate and the matter ends there you go back to the drawing board. But what is happening in Zambia is a systematic approach by the opposition to stampede us into talks, talks which will culminate into us revisiting the results of the electoral process. To say lets do some power sharing process, I am afraid we can’t do that because winner takes all. The Zambia electoral process provides for winner takes all. 50 per cent plus, you have won, you takeover the whole country, that’s what it says. So I can tell you that there was a deliberate strategy on the part of the opposition to to drive us into the negotiating table.
First what they did is that they unleashed violence in the southern part of this country who are none…eeh… how can I say…who are not of the same ethnic grouping or traditionally resident in those areas. They started by beating them, touching their houses… and incase you don’t know, we embargoed that statement for one week as our people were being butchered in Namwala, in Itezhi-Tezhi and parts of Kalomo. We embargoed that for one week. I told Amos Chanda to say please, if this goes out, people in other areas will respond and when they respond, they will be driven into the Rwanda tragedy where there will be ethnic cleaning and retribution. I even made calls to other traditional rulers in the North, in the East, in Luapula, I said please hold on. tell the people out there not to retaliate, I prevailed on them to visit Southern Province and tell the chiefs there not to encourage people to continue searching for none Tonga speaking people there and beating them up. And that strategy worked. But the idea was to say lets seat down and talk, because what could have happened is that non Tonga speaking people for example could have been victims of retribution there. Some people said we will retaliate, I said no, that is all governance. So I can tell you now that their strategy is to create terror and panic, so that people come and say there is tension in the country, why don’t you talk to them? What talk? What will be the subject if I meat the opposition now? What are we going to talk about? And in what capacity will I meet them? So lets call a spade a spade, we are in charge because we won 50 plus, that’s what the constitution says. But if one says if you got 47 you can negotiate, there is no room for negotiations now, power belongs to us and we will use it for the well being of all of us including themselves. So the strategy is well known to me and us, to put us together to say why don’t you share power with me… we have shared power with the MMD because MMD helped us, who else can we share power with? 50 plus, that’s what the Constitution says. Unless you want to change the rules you can change now. I am hearing that in South Africa there is a policy conference, I saw on television that there is a proposal that the second loser in the party becomes deputy president, that’s what they are saying there, it’s their rules. But for us here, the Constitution says 50 plus, you have made it, you can form government and that’s what we have done. We have been very inclusive in the formation of government. So we can talk if there are issues. I appeal to the Church to say, bring the issue, but don;t force us to be compelled to form a government of national unity.
There is no scope for national unity, there is no government of national unity in Zambia. If you win 50 plus, you form government, you include everybody; even those who got 47 become part of you. That’s where we are; winner takes all. So we have the power, but we will look after them.
About Mukosha Funga
Mukosha Funga is a Zambian journalist interested in good governance and anti corruption reporting.
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