Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda says police must start being proactive by storming radio stations to stop provocative interviews which he says have started incite xenophobic attacks in Zambia.
Last week, Lufwanyama police fought running battles with ZAFFICO workers following reports that the institution had been sold to the Chinese.
And when President Edgar Lungu arrived in the province for the two-day working visit, Sunday, provincial minister Japhen Mwakalombe told him that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema had told lies that ZAFFICO had been sold to the Chinese when he featured on Sun FM radio earlier last week.
But the Head of State said he would ignore such detractors.
However, Kitwe’s Kawama, Chimwemwe, Buchi and Kwacha residents yesterday joined in a riot ignited by saw millers demanding that government tells the truth regarding the alleged sale of ZAFFICO to the Chinese.
Residents denounced government through anti-regime slogans, expressing displeasure on the Chinese influence as they burnt tyres and blocked roads.
They charged that since 2016, government had been making wrong decisions which had affected their livelihoods.
Some residents were badly injured during the crash with anti-riot police, in protests that lasted over an hour.
And speaking to journalists after President Lungu concluded his visit, Chanda ordered police to start stopping provocative radio programmes featuring government critics.
“There is an outbreak of malice and propaganda which is resulting in near incidents of xenophobic reactions among the population…when you politic in a manner where you incite people, that ceases to be politics but criminal activities. There is a failure of common sense. You can’t anticipate that someone is going to lie that this one is a criminal. So I can’t wake up in the morning and say Bwali is not a criminal, then you say I am proactive. So the listing of ZAFFICO was actually announced proactively by the President last year, but someone has turned it in a xenophobic manner to target a certain nationality. That’s why we are saying that we can’t apply pressure on the police but I think they have the responsibility, when there is a real threat to the breakdown of social order, we must be telling the police to be proactive. If they must go to a radio station to stop a propagandist who is inciting xenophobia, it is not a violation of media freedom, police must go into the studio and stop that nonsense because if they don’t, it will turn out in riots and probably loss of life. So maybe that’s the proactivity [that we can have]. Maybe the state, at the level of the police, must be more proactive and stop messages of incitement that are resulting in these unnecessary tensions,” Chanda said.
He said Ministers must not get tired explaining the ZAFFICO decision even if people don’t understand.
“Somebody says you can’t wash a pig. If you wash a pig and think that it will remain clean, you are mistaken, it will go back in the mud. The least you can do is emphasis, maybe I take this opportunity to announce here that ministers are under instructions, particularly Honorable Chitotela, Honorable Mwanakatwe, to issue ministerial statements on these matters. Particularly on ZAFFICO, maybe we should be talking about these things every morning. If this is what it will take, we will, there is a public broadcaster. We can make ZAFFICO a national anthem if you please…even IDC will issue a statement.”
He also urged journalists to curtail their interviewees if they became provocative.
“If you are interviewing someone on Radio and they go that far, you stop them, because there is a public responsibility, a higher call to duty by the media is to stop this information from going out. It is not just because I have a mouth I can say it, just because I have a hand to punch I can, no! They were supposed to stop that irresponsible leader, whoever it was who gave that statement and tell them, there was a public statement and this is what it was,” said Chanda.
“There are people whose speciality is to dispose off public assets. That feeling in them, they see it in others so that again is a personal problem which we can’t deal with. The PF when it took power has not sold a single enterprise. From 2011 up to now, there has not been a single company sold by the PF. In fact, the PF reversed the concession of Zambia Railways and also reversed the sale of Zamtel. Those who are taking about selling are talking about themselves because this feeling is so strong in them that they cannot run away from it.”
Meanwhile, Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga said about 101 were arrested and charged with riotous behavior; among them 22 females and 79 men.
She disclosed that a 28-year-old Victor Chanda was in Kitwe Teaching Hospitals nursing injuries he sustained during the riot.
Katanga narrated that Chanda sustained injuries on his face after the residents tried to break into a Chinese smelter but an alert officer shot at them and some pellets landed on him.