FORMER Commerce Minister Robert Sichinga has challenged the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to produce the board resolutions that recommended the cancellation of the broadcasting license of Prime TV to prove the legitimacy of the closure of the TV station.
And Sichinga has charged that the directive to close Prime TV came from Minister of Information Dora Siliya.
Meanwhile, Sichinga says President Edgar Lungu will not get a third term of office no matter what he does because it is unconstitutional to contest elections three times in Zambia.
In an interview, Sichinga said the closure of Prime TV had been engineered by PF to prolong their stay in office.
“This is simply unacceptable because this is like taking us back to 1990. The whole essence of that change to bring about MMD was basically to allow for democracy and free expression of people’s views. But when you shut the media, what are you doing? You are shutting the only voice which people use to express their feelings. The IBA say this has been done in the public interest, but who in the public complained? And if there was any particular person that complained, who are they? IBA is accountable to the people because it’s a public institution and we pay our taxes to sustain it. So they can’t just decide when they are going to close it. But I can tell you that it is not IBA that has decided, this is a directive from the Minister herself. This is from the government of Lungu himself. The closure of Prime TV is not something that has been decided by IBA board, no! If it was a decision of IBA, where are the board resolutions that were passed and arguments that were made in that particular board meeting? They cannot produce them because they never held a meeting, they were just directed to do it by the government,” Sichinga said.
He said the closure of Prime TV was a good example of what people meant when they talked about oppression and abuse of incumbency by a government without accountability of any kind.
“Where is the Public Protector? The office of Public Protector, where are they? These are our basic rights. The basic rights of people are to express their views and share with others, so that the other people can share with them as well. So who has got the power to take away rights from the people? Certainly not Lungu and certainly not Dora, not IBA and certainly not any Director General of IBA. So these are our basic rights and they ought to be protected. What is happening now will continue if we don’t do anything as citizens to stop it. Didn’t they shut down the Post Newspaper? Now they’ve shut down Prime TV, tomorrow they will shut down Hot FM, next it will be [News] Diggers. What kind of government is this? This is exactly our concern and that is why that Bill 10 must be rejected because the intention is for PF to abuse the Constitution for personal gain,” Sichinga said.
“Prime TV must be opened…And then they tell Prime TV to appeal to the same minister that ordered for its closure, that is against the rules of natural justice; you cannot be the judge and jury at the same time. So we are not going to tolerate this anymore, it has to stop and PF has to stop this nonsense. Honestly, we can’t carry on like this. And we’ve got a lawyer for a President, he knows these are human rights. So can’t he stand up and stop this? Because no minister can issue such a statement without the President knowing, I can tell you that, I have been in government before. The President knows, but we are not going to allow this.”
And Sichinga warned that Zambians would not allow President Lungu to get a third term of office because it was unconstitutional.
“PF is ready to do anything to prolong their stay in power but they can’t just do this because we have laws. There is a Constitution to be abided by and in the same way we said ‘no’ to Chiluba, we will say ‘no’ to Lungu. We will simply say ‘sorry Sir, you cannot have it again, you have served your two terms but don’t manipulate the Constitution’. He should be worrying about people eating now. How are the people going to survive the coronavirus? That is what should be preoccupying the government, not shutting down Prime TV,” said Sichinga. “If there are people that are criticizing the government, the government must answer, that’s their duty. We are not going to allow a third term. We said ‘no’ to Chiluba and we will say ‘no’ to Mr Lungu as well because he has had his two terms, period! There are other people who are also interested in leading the country in a particular direction. Mr Lungu can’t even manage the country now but he’s already asking for a third term, for what? What is it that he wants to do in a third term that he has not done in his second term now?”