British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet has insisted that there is a serious corruption problem in Zambia which needs to be tackled in order to give investors confidence that their resources are safe.

And High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet says it is unfortunate that the Zambian Watchdog misconstrued his tweets to drive a wedge between Britain and the Zambian government.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji has warned that some social media pages will be clamped down once the cyber bills are passed as law.

Briefing the press after a closed door meeting this afternoon, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet insisted that corruption was a matter of concern in Zambia when he was asked whether everything he tweeted about was misconstrued.

“It is important to look at what I said in these tweets rather than look at what others have said I said. Actually look at my Twitter feed and you will see for yourselves what I said. But I do express concern about corruption, of course I do, it is very important. The British taxpayer is investing money in development in Zambia, it would be a very serious matter if some of that money was misappropriated. And investors, they need confidence to invest in Zambia and there is a corruption problem in this country and it is quite serious…and the information which the minister has shared with me just now is very reassuring and is very welcome,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said.

He said it was unfortunate that the Zambian Watchdog had misconstrued his tweets to cause a row.

“Over the last few days, what we have seen is an audacious attempt to drive a wedge between Britain and Zambia. I have been reluctant previously to mention Zambian Watchdog by name because by doing so, I didn’t want to give them any credence but I think we know that that particular organ, the way it operates is to create a distorted story in a hope that it will cause a row. So reports about my tweets and my meeting at FIC have been distorted very much. And in particular, I think it’s the way in which my reference to the Honorable Minister of Information was manipulated by changing punctuation to suggest that she is a minister of misinformation when actually, the misinformation was about Zambian Watchdog. The Honorable Minister and I have talked about the Financial Intelligence Center and we have talked about government’s efforts to tackle corruption. I have been very delighted to hear about the decision by the President to instruct law enforcement agencies to up their game, and this is something we should all be concerned about because money that is stolen is money that cannot be spent on education and health. It is very important that law enforcement agencies work effectively and people are prosecuted. And I know that government is on the case, that is very good to hear,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said, reiterating that Zambia’s relationship with his country was still intact.

High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet noted that whilst he was a proponent of freedom of the press, journalists were expected to be responsible.

“The UK and the European Union, we believe very passionately about freedom of the media and freedom of expression. However, there are responsibilities on journalists and whilst it is important that the media is as free as possible in Zambia, it is also incumbent on individual journalists to act responsibly. I think we had an example this week of a particular organization who have acted irresponsibly and I think that has tarnished the reputation of journalism in Zambia and I am sure that other journalists will rise to the challenge of being more responsible and setting the record straight,” said High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet.

Meanwhile, Malanji warned that some social media pages would be clamped down once the cyber bills were passed into law.

“The government of Zambia has had very cordial relations with the British government and it will not be in order for social media houses to try and tarnish the image of the British government, the image of the Zambian government and I know that social media has taken advantage of government and the president’s benevolence…very soon, as we enact the cyber law into place, we will make sure that these guys are brought to book because we cannot continue to have these kind of stories flying around, even when they know very well that they actually have no truth in them. You have seen situations like what happened in Rwanda, that happened because of perception, things which are not factual and people have died in numbers,” said Malanji.

“We will try and work round the clock to ensure that the culprits that want to twist information, especially people who are coming from superior offices like an ambassador, a president, a minister, people want to take advantage because we have not yet gotten to a point where cyber crime will be put in place, but it won’t be long. Sooner than later, a number of people in that industry will dance to our tune. Even you as journalists, you know very well that since the president got into office, he has been quite pragmatic in implementing all legislative objectives. There is no president who can say corruption must come on board when he knows that that is a cancer, because it goes in the opposite direction of development. So it is only prudent that freedom of expression which is in Zambia should not be abused because very soon, the law will catch up with you.”