Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Chishimba Kambwili has advised government to list the State-owned Times of Zambia newspaper company on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LUSE) and raise more capital, instead of liquidating the Printpak due to financial challenges.
And Kambwili, who is also Roan PF member of parliament, says he has decided to pay back the money he accumulated through salaries during the ministers’ illegal stay in office after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016, so that he can later sue the State for making him work without pay.
Commenting on a statement by Information Minister Dora Siliya who said liquidating Times of Zambia was among the options that could be considered, Kambwili told News Diggers! in an interview, that government was responsible for the challenges that the newspaper was facing.
“I don’t think what she (Siliya) said has any backing of the Cabinet, she was just giving her own view. What times of Zambia and indeed any other state owned media institution needs is just to remove the influence of government and let them run as businesses. [It has to run as] business in such a way that they are not restricted on what to cover, that way people can be buying the papers. Today the sales of the Times of Zambia and Daily Mail are reduced because the only stories they carry are those that promote the agenda of the PF. But people are not interested in that, they want balanced news where they can read about the opposition, read about tourism, football and everything. But today those newspapers have been turned into propaganda for PF. As a result not many people buy Times and Daily Mail,” Kambwili said.
“I think the way forward is to open up the Times of Zambia on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) so that they can raise more capital. To recapitalise it properly and run it as a business. I wonder what government’s position is about Times of Zambia but I think Dora was just giving her position because when I was minister, we never discussed any issue concerning privatising of the public media or indeed liquidating it. What is important to note is that government owes the Times of Zambia a lot of money. Let them pay and once government pays, I think the operations can improve because they are being owed a lot of money in adverts.”
Kambwili said during his reign as Minister of Information, government departments were never allowed to advertise with public media house on credit.
“When I was minister I brought in a rule that anyone who comes to advertise in the Times of Zambia without coming with a chaque, they will not be allowed whether government department or otherwise. But immediately I left they went back to the Nkongole style. But their cash flow improved during my time [as minister] because there was no advert which was accepted on credit. But now we have gone back to the trend where ministers would just wake up and say they are going to advertise without even paying for the advert. So how do they expect Times of Zambia to run, because the biggest income generation in a newspaper business is advertisement. Selling the actual newspaper is not so much of a business but in adverts, so if those adverts are not paid for, a newspaper cannot survive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kambwili committed to paying back the money he accumulated through salaries after the dissolution of Parliament in 2016.
“If the government insists that we pay, I will pay but I will sue the state. Because they would have to pay me for the services I offered during those four months. As far as I am concerned in our labour laws here in Zambia, there is no way you can work without being paid. Whether there was a mistake in giving you the contract but as long as you have given him [your employer] labour, because your labour is a cost and you have to be paid. I was going for work every morning to go and do a job on behalf of government so I except to be paid,” said Kambwili.
“There is no way I could have worked for nothing. So if the government insists that we pay, then I will pay but I will sue government to claim the same money that I will pay. This is just a situation of ‘plus one minus one equals zero’. Because whatever circumstance, the courts will rule in our favour that we worked and if we worked, we should be paid.”