People’s Party president Mike Mulongoti says government must start by withdrawing its interference in the operations of Times of Zambia Printpak before looking for a lasting solution to financial challenges affecting the institution.

And Mulongoti has urged the PF government to set the bar in helping the Times of Zambia reclaim its position in the industry by paying for all the advertisements it places in the newspaper.

Commenting on the latest development from the Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC) attempt to acquire a shareholders’ loan to pay salaries for Times of Zambia employees by the end of this month, Mulongoti said government needed to address the management crisis at Times of Zambia first to finally put an end to its financial struggles.

According to IDC Group executive director Mateyo Kaluba, employees at Times of Zambia will be paid their three months’ salary arrears by the end of this month when resources will be made available to the corporation.

The IDC, who hold a 100 per cent shareholding in Times, added that resources would be made available to the corporation through a shareholder’s loan advanced to the Times Printpak Zambia.

“The challenges that Times of Zambia faces have got to do with management as well. It’s not so much a question to do with money because even if they pump in money, if there is no management, there will be a problem. So, we must start by overhauling management and then even overhauling the board if they have got a board. When we need to put capable people because if you put in money and people are incapable, that’s a waste of money. Number two, the government uses that newspaper for a lot of adverts and if they are not paying for them, it’s a waste of money again. We would like government to set an example by paying those people at Times of Zambia for whatever advert they take to them,” Mulongoti, a former minister of information, said.

And Mulongoti warned the PF against interfering in the operations of Times of Zambia, and also challenged the government to stop placing its adverts in the state-owned media enterprises free of charge.

“Stop interfering in their editorial policy because what attracts people is the editorial policy; the stories they carry are very important. So, if you’ve got so many people who do not want to read the paper, then you can’t have adverts in that paper. So, I think that’s where the challenge is, therefore, government must make the Times of Zambia attractive by shaping a very objective editorial policy, very liberal and people must be keen to want to read. But when people are not keen to read your paper, then where will you get adverts from? Who would want to advertise in a paper, which you don’t want to read? So, all these things that the PF are doing, they are the ones who have made the Times of Zambia collapse because when I was minister of information, I overhauled the board and even dismissed the management director! They picked up, there was no such a thing as not being paid; no such a thing in my time. Now, you can imagine how sad it is, nobody can tell me that Times of Zambia cannot pick up; it can pick up if the institution is well-managed,” said Mulongoti.

Meanwhile, Mulongoti said liquidating the Times of Zambia was not the best option because it would disappoint tax payers.

He insisted that government must instead overhaul management at the Times of Zambia to end the financial challenges affecting the paper.