Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya has advised all diplomats accredited to Zambia to voice out any concerns they have on governance matters in the country, including on the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends Report, through established channels.
And Siliya has insisted that there was professional misconduct in the manner the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) acted by disseminating its findings to the public.
Meanwhile, Siliya refuted suggestions that Copperbelt Province Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe really meant that the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) should ban TV and radio stations that don’t give President Edgar Lungu favourable coverage.
On Tuesday, British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, alongside other diplomats met FIC Director-General Mary Tshuma, to discuss the controversial Trends Report and tweeted praise for Tshuma’s work.
Other tweets from High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet in recent days have centred on political violence, especially after having observed a bloody Chilanga by-election on June 5, and mounting corruption allegations.
One of his notable tweets on the FIC Report read: “Essential #Zambian Govt takes Financial Intelligence Centre allegations seriously. Evidence of serious corruption. Risk that political elite close ranks to hide their complicity?”
But speaking during her weekly press briefing in Lusaka, Wednesday, Siliya advised all diplomats accredited to Zambia to use official channels of communication such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to voice out any grievance on governance matters in the country.
“I think that, in any situation, whenever we believe that, our very dear partners, particularly diplomats, and particularly the British relations that we have, if our colleagues observe any issue that they wish to comment on, there are channels through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where observations or grievances can be expressed,” Siliya told journalists yesterday in response to a question on whether government would consider expelling High Commissioner Dyet in the manner former Cuban Ambassador to Zambia, Nelson Pages Vilas, was sent packing on April 1 following his ill-fated appearance at the launch of the Socialist Party in Zambia the day before,” Siliya said.
“We will continue to encourage our diplomats to use the diplomatic channels and continue to desist from…In this case, for me, this document was already out there anyway. So, whether it is the British Ambassador, the EU, it’s the Zimbabwean Ambassador…they have all had sight of it, just like all of us. But I think that, in diplomatic relations, we always hope that, we continue to have cordial relations; we continue to be diplomatic in terms of our observations and comments on these matters.”
She, however, hastened to add that she didn’t believe High Commissioner Dyet’s remarks should be put in the same context as his former Cuban counterpart who was recalled for “supporting an opposition party”.
“I do not believe that this situation is the same as the [former] Cuban [Ambassador]. I think that this matter is already public; the point is that this document [2017 FIC Trends Report] should first of all never have been in the public, that is the most important thing. I have not said that, ‘Zambia will expel the British Ambassador,’ let us be clear!” Siliya stressed, amidst rapturous laughter from reporters.
And Siliya, who also doubles as Minister of Information & Broadcasting Services, insisted that there was professional misconduct in the manner the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) acted by disseminating its findings to the public.
She also wondered how CSOs, who had access to the Trends Report since last month, could deliver the document at State House last Friday, while claiming that President Lungu did not have a copy following its initial May 31 release.
“The President’s [press] aide, Amos Chanda, did confirm that the President had no sight of the Report; I had no sight of the Report personally until I called FIC! Now, if the law says, ‘that the Report should be given to law enforcement agencies,’ but the Report was given to the public; I think that’s why the Minister of Home Affairs [Stephen Kampyongo] yesterday [Tuesday] on radio, referred that to: ‘professional misconduct’,” Siliya added.
Asked why government, among other PF-aligned agencies, had chosen to rebuke Tshuma publicly as opposed to reprimanding her privately, Siliya insisted that government did not intend to rebuke her or any other FIC official.
“Government by no means intended or planned to rebuke or embarrass anybody publicly. In this case, this matter went to the public in an unprofessional manner,” she responded.
Meanwhile, Siliya refuted suggestions that Copperbelt Province PS, Nundwe, really meant that the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) should ban TV and radio stations that don’t give President Edgar Lungu favourable coverage.
Recently, Nundwe asked the Independent Broadcasting Authority to pounce on people who did not cover President Lungu well.
“Be firm on TV and radio stations that do not cover the President fairly or well. On the Copperbelt, we want ethical reporting. Don’t be toothless on people that are unethical, pounce on them please. We see a lot of radio stations, TV and other media coming up as we go to 2021 elections,” said Nundwe.
But when asked whether she considered positive media coverage of President Lungu a yardstick of “ethical journalism” in the country as Nundwe suggested, she clarified what the Copperbelt PS meant.
“No, no…I think that there was something lost in translation there. The Copperbelt PS was making an important point about…in fact, one of the words he used was even ‘fair’ coverage. I think that he just meant: ‘palatable’ coverage. It’s one thing to cover the President, and try to cover him in a negative manner, but it’s also another thing to be palatable about it,” explained Siliya.
“I think he was trying to make a point because the IBA is responsible for sort of enforcing the content in media, particularly broadcasting media. The Copperbelt PS was just trying to make that point that, ‘yes, people can cover the President, but they must cover the President in a fair manner.’ And fair doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be positive, but I think he just meant in a palatable manner.”