We admire the talent of editors at Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia and Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation because to launder some of the actions of the current PF government requires an extraordinary set of skills. Our friends at government funded media organisations seem to be so proficient at what they do – showing how perfect this government is and how much it has allowed democracy to flourish. They deserve respect.
We are striving to remain a balanced and objective media house in Zambia with no political inclination whatsoever – giving a platform to critics to rebuke the government and providing an avenue for the ruling party to “set the record straight”. We don’t believe that ever since President Edgar Lungu came into power, there is not a single thing he has done right, so we would like the public to hear that good side of his leadership. It has not been easy. Of course there are many sober politicians in PF, honest and clean leaders serving in this government. But we must admit that finding areas where the PF government remains scandal-free is as hard as finding dust under the seabed – you can claim it exists but no one will believe you.
On August 24, 2017, the Zambia Police command cancelled a planned prayer meeting by a church organisation meant to thank God for allowing the peaceful release of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema from prison. They did not stop there – an armed police battalion was sent to seal off the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross venue and threatened to arrest anyone who dared to pass on the church premises, never mind entering the building.
When we heard this development, we felt that there must have been an exaggeration somewhere because no sane government would do such a stupid thing. We were convinced that Pastor Kangwa Chileshe was just seeking unnecessary attention, and we saw the need for the government to set the record straight. So we called the Lusaka Province Police Commissioner to get the correct position in order for us to balance the complaint from UPND with a reasonable explanation from the Police command.
“Yes we have cancelled them (the prayer meeting) because they did not inform us that they will have such a meeting. That was going to be an illegal gathering because they did not inform the police that they would have such a gathering,” said commissioner Nelson Phiri.
As far as Mr Nelson Phiri was concerned, this was a very wise response. He was probably feeling proud that he had perfectly represented the government and Police command in a clever way.
But to a journalist, how do you report such news without making those in government appear foolish? How do we manage to convince our readers that the people they voted for are still in charge of their faculties? How do our friends at public media institutions do it; because this is the kind of news that if you report accurately brands you an enemy of the State.
We challenge Commissioner Phiri today to look into his files and see if he will find any records of his predecessors granting any Church organisation in Lusaka a permit to conduct prayers inside their church buildings. How does it make sense for Mr Commissioner to say it is illegal to worship God without permission, in a Christian nation for that matter? This is indeed beyond bizarre. So Lungu and HH must dialogue, but no dialogue with God? Who are these people? Are we still under the leadership of a humble President, a God fearing Head of State? We don’t know.
What we know is that a picture of police officers on horses, with German Shepard dogs manning the entrance of a church, preventing citizens from going in to worship their God, would not be believed anywhere in the world. Not even Hollywood filmmakers have ever before contrived such an imagination in a movie to portray the wrath of a dictator. For all his barbaric actions, Idi Amin of Uganda did not go that far, neither did the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
As a matter of fact, Yoweri Museveni and Robert Mugabe must be watching in awe over what is happening in Zambia. They must be astonished and wondering where President Edgar Lungu and his advisors are getting such colonial ideas. Police permit for a church service? Where on earth? Which law was Commissioner Phiri following?
And that is not even all the scandal there was in one day over this matter. Another government official in the name of Religious Affairs Minister jumped from her boredom to justify her pay cheque. Rev Godfridah Sumaili overruled the decision by the police command – taking over the powers and responsibility of the Minister of Home Affairs. Surely, if our government leaders were practicing for Chipantepante Olympics somewhere, we would rest assured of our country scooping all gold, silver and bronze.
We are not schooled in politics, but we can confidently deduce that the PF has no qualified political strategists. If they have, then their strategists have no strategy. We say this because at one point, we thought President Lungu timed the announcement of the mandatory HIV testing to coincide with the release of Mr Hichilema so as to overshadow the opposition leader, to divert people’s attention, to subdue public anger around the treason case. Somehow, it worked; the treason case was forgotten overnight and the accused were no longer in the news.
There came Mr Nelson Phiri, launching Hichilema back into the news with a bang. Next he is invited to attend Kulamba in Katete and the PF starts complaining. Where is the political strategy here? While President Lungu is relaxing and probably wetting his throat on vacation in Mfuwe, his political appointees back in Lusaka are securing a permanent slot in the “stranger than fiction” category of world newspapers. Indeed, power in Zambia has gone to the dumb dumber, dumbest.