Post Newspaper Limited Liquidation Recoveries Manager Robert Chabinga says the company has been wound up because its shareholders wasted time branding people crooks instead of challenging the matter in court.
And Chabinga has vented over what he terms baseless allegations which he and Liquidator Lewis Mosho suffered from the time The Post was closed.
At a media breakfast, Sunday, the Lusaka lawyer said after all Post assets were sold, the Liquidator’s priority would be to pay secured creditors, Post employees and ZRA.
Chabinga also ceased the opportunity to react to allegations that Mosho swindled Shoprite, saying Zambians had a habit of branding intelligent people as crooks.
Meanwhile, Chabinga also said State House had nothing to do with the winding up of The Post.
Below is the summary of Chabinga’s address:
As you all know, by judgement of the High Court dated 10th January 2018, The Post Newspaper Limited in Liquidation was finally closed and wound up for failure to pay its debts as they fell due with no possibility of being rescued or rehabilitated.
This means that the life of The Post Newspaper Limited is now terminated and has come to an end and ceases to exist.
The court also confirmed provisional liquidator Mr Lewis Chisanga Mosho as the full liquidator to now exercise all the functions and powers of the liquidator including dissolution of the company.
Following this wound up order, my office now speaks to you over some matters that every creditor needs to know on how this process was undertaken and the challenges we have had to this end.
Our initial effort to resuscitate the company was to a large extent frustrated by some shareholders. My office initially tried to find options to resuscitate the company so that it could be turned into a going concern to pay off all the debts and handed over back to the shareholders. This effort was however frustrated by some shareholders in the following ways. First, the main shareholders and former directors concealed the company records. These records could have assisted us to develop a commercial option for the company. Secondly, the main shareholders and former directors elected or preferred to treat this winding up transaction as a political conjecture rather than a conjent commercial transaction in which commercial solutions would have been pursued.
I would like to emphasis on this point that the main shareholders perceived this action as a political one and at some point we were accused with the provisional liquidator, personally and with Mr Mosho that we were agents of State House when in fact not.
We were appointed by the court. We are officers of the court, not State House at all. I need to categorically state that State House had nothing to do with our operations. Most politicians also joined to make comments into making comments on the winding up proceedings while the matters were in court. We all know that this is subjudice and that is illegal and not allowed. Further, most politicians were using the commercial liquidation to try and achieve their own political ambitions. I would like to warn such politicians to leave the business world alone without interference and in an ideal situation, such politicians would be taking the law into their own hands and it might not be too late for possible private prosecutions since the offenses were already committed.
We have the statements in the archives but we did not want to waste a lot of time arguing with politicians over this matter.
And some people thought by saying ‘when we win in 2021 we shall reverse the liquidation’, I think it is very wise that before we utter or do any statement, it is very important that we research. Some of our brothers and colleagues who are politicians were speaking from without and without researching or understanding the law.
This company was owing! Therefore it needed to pay the debt. If you are owing, you need to pay. If you are owing and people say ‘can you pay’ and you start saying people are victimising me, no! it shouldn’t be the case. I would like to advise the politicians that from now on they have to be very careful, we are not threatening, I am just putting things very clear that nature sometimes has to take its course.
Thirdly, the shareholders also concentrated on promoting false social media reports on the winding up rather than addressing the real commercial issues which were before court. They went all the way and the media and the public believed that Mr Lewis Mosho and Mr Chabinga are crooks who cannot be entrusted to run or manage the affairs of The Post. I have to state this very clearly that you the members of the press if you didn’t know this, you have to know that Mr Lewis Mosho has been on the bar for over 22 years. Go and ask LAZ if Mr Mosho has at any given point had his license revoked. Not even a single [day].
All what was there was ‘he is a crook, he swindled Shoprite’. I want to say even about Shoprite, yes, he was the lawyer for Shoprite and he was being prosecuted on the basis that he was a whistle blower. And some of the shareholders who were saying Mr Mosho is a crook, you are the media and you reported, he was acquitted in the same Shoprite case. And some of the shareholders like the Mutembo Nchitos of this world, he personally, when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, he took the case personally to say I want to prosecute and he failed so for us he showed incompetence. People who are crooks and thieves are supposed to be in jail, not walking around the streets so we need to be very clear.
The liquidator, Mr Mosho, is an expert on stock markets. I can proudly say go at LAZ, there is no lawyer in this country who knows stock markets like Mr Mosho. Unfortunate in this country, because of this same social media and cheap politicking where if you are intelligent you will be called a crook or a thief, that’s what it is. If you are a good reporter even yourself, you will be called a crook, you need to be a very bad reporter to be called a gentleman. That’s how it is in this country at the moment.
Consequently, the company fell terminally ill such that it was difficult to resuscitate or rehabilitate the company in any way. There was no single document from the shareholders of this company that was availed to the provisional liquidator.
In normal circumstances when the company is going under liquidation, the shareholders or directors of the company have to provide a catalogue to the provisional liquidator to see how best you can resuscitate the company but this was not done. People were hiding things. Others were concealed somewhere in the bush, others were concealed in South Africa, they even put two 40-foot containers so that nobody should come and open to pick up the trucks. Surely, you are the media, between the people who are investigating and recovering and the people who have hidden the properties and have not paid debts, they were even failing to pay the workers properly so who are the crooks? We were quiet and we didn’t want to talk about these things saying time will come. The people of Zambia and you members of the press will be the ones to judge.
No person opposed the petition to the winding up of the company in court. One of the shareholders concentrated on the attacking of the appointment of the now confirmed liquidator without filing any opposition to the winding up proceedings. Go and do a search at the court, there was no single day that the shareholders had opposed that the company cannot be winded up, instead they were attacking individuals. They were busy wasting time on this side, us we were busy following the law!
Upon review of the assets vs liabilities of the company from the available information, it was found that assets whose value was about US$1 million were far much less than liabilities which stood at about US$16 million.
This figure of liabilities does not include employee emoluments due and payable to employees. We have not received any, apart from the petitioners, any claim from any of the former employees because of social media and some of us who were very close were told ‘fikabafye bwino’. You are fighting from the base your friends are fighting from the court ati fikabafye bwino? People ended up being misled because others believed that he was a messiah, the editor-in-chief was a messiah and therefore he could fight tooth and nail. Fight in court! That’s where you can see men who are learned. Even when you are a man and you have a wife, for you to be known that you are man enough, it is the bedroom.
When you look at the liabilities between US$11 million and US$16 million, between 2011 and 2014, Mr Fred M’membe signed a contract at the company, his salary was US$60,000. I have the signed documents. I don’t know how much those people who had worked at The Post how much they were getting. 2014, his salary, he went further to sign an agreement with the company of US$100,000. In 2014, the dollar was around K13 so it meant that somebody was getting aroundK1.3 million. When the other workers who were toiling from 8 to 17, 1 to 30 got under K3,000. You are the media, you have to judge for yourselves.
My office has and shall proceed to sell off the assets available to pay the creditors. Priority of payment will follow the priority set out under the Company’s Act…these laws were not made by Mosho or Chabinga but by us Zambians.
First priority will go to the secured creditors. The second beneficiaries will be former employees of The Post. Third, ZRA and then the list can go on and on.
We would like to call upon all the former employees and anyone who is holding on to company assets that we know them and they should come over and declare to my office so that we see how we can set off against what the company may be owing to them. Pa Post pali pa chiwanse. When ZRA moved in, anyone who had a car went with a car and I don’t know how they have been registering the vehicles. So let them come and bring their claims. We are not going to grab anyone the vehicles or assets that they have but what we will do is assess the value of the vehicles and clear them.
He also appealed to ZICTA and the Ministry of Transport to quickly start regulating social media usage in order to contain malicious reports.
Q: I notice that it appears you have some personal issues with Mr M’membe, is that the case?
A: Believe you me, I do not hold any personal grudge whatsoever neither personal issues with Mr M’membe, actually me I am Tumbuka and he is Bemba and half cast Lozi but he is more of a Chinsali. He is my tribal cousin and in anyway, when he saw that I was doing operations and recoveries, he would have even called me on the table to say ‘young man, let’s sit here, things go like this’. And on a lighter note, I will tell you that Mr Mosho is from Chinsali, Mr M’membe is from Chinsali, Judge Sunday Nkonde who was also attacked left right and centre is also from Chinsali. So it was very interesting and at one point I was telling someone that this is a Lenshina fight, you don’t go into Lenshina fight, you end up burning your fingers.
So as a person, I respect Mr M’membe a lot. He created a lot of employment and groomed a lot of people especially in journalism. That fact, no one can take it away from him. We only differed on commercial transaction where we were the officers of the courts and we needed certain information which I needed to recover on behalf of the public because the largest creditor was public funds, which was non remittance of taxes. And when people start creating enemities, no, it is clearly business and even if today if I had an opportunity to meet him, I would even shake hands with him because it has nothing to do with personal transactions, this is a commercial transaction.
Q: Are you agents of State House?
A: Everyone wants to make a name and wants to lean to the powers that be but I want to tell you straight forward that I don’t know whether you have seen Mr Chabinga or Mr Mosho at the airport when the President is going or when the President is coming. I don’t know whether you have seen Mr Chabinga or Mr Mosho at State House during state bonquets. Because we don’t even receive cards., if we used to, we would have been part and parcel of State House and how lovely it would have been.
The only problem that has been there is that Whatever was done at The Post was not done by State House but by the courts, unless you tell me that State House controls the courts and I think a lot of cases which are connected to State House would have been won but we have seen some cases which are also attached to state house, the court has ruled. So even if State House was to be in play, they have nothing to do with The Post proceedings, all these matters were done in court. They were not done at State House.
Q: Do you have statistics of Post employees who have died?
A: The Post Newspaper had 325 workers plus and of those, I will tell you that some of the deaths, some of the relatives were calling us directly. I will tell you that we had some of the employees that were helpful and they were telling us that this person has died so from my records, officially, some of them we have helped and some of the deaths we were knowing after they have buried. I remember one of the most recent one I remember must have been Jeff something. The relatives came and we had to help even the widow.
Others were fearing the unknown to say ‘these people are bad people, you cannot even stand with them. You cannot eat with them’. Why should it be like that?
And I will be honest with you, the priority are those who are not even in management. They didn’t have their survival of other clandestine operations, those we will take care of their interests regardless of wherever they are as long as they provide us with their last payslips…by the way, I am the husband of a reverend in church so I cannot be a person who is so bad hearted towards other people. It goes against my ethics and God has to come and punish me. We will make sure the interests of the poor are taken care of.
Q: How do you feel that The Post has finally been closed?
A: How do I feel that it is gone? First and foremost I feel like the way you are feeling. What you are feeling yourself is what I am feeling.