Many people have raised concern over how Mr Amos Chanda, President Edgar Lungu’s special assistant for press and public relations, has been carrying himself as a jack of all trades. Some have labeled Mr Chanda a know-it-all, because he has seemingly assumed the role of PF spokesperson, Inspector General of Police, State House chief of staff, political advisor, Central Bank consultant, foreign investment expert – name it.
To some extent, people who have made such observations have a point. No wonder fraudsters find it necessary to use his name to swindle business houses because it is very easy for anyone in Zambia to believe when told that Mr Chanda is fundraising for a State House event. There isn’t an area of the PF and its government where it is impossible to hear Mr Chanda’s name. He is basically all over.
We have seen Mr Chanda on TV propounding political ideologies, announcing health policies, analysing economic issues, arguing governance theories and so on and so forth. It seems Mr Chanda finds it a weakness to tell the person interviewing him that, “I am not sure about that, ask the economic advisor” or better still “Let me consult and get back to you on that because it is not my area of expertise”. He seems to know quite a lot about everything.
But it is common knowledge that a jack-of-all-trades is usually a master of none. We are concerned that Mr Chanda is turning so many tables, crossing many paths with so many people – sometimes unknowingly – and in the process, forsaking the job which he was appointed to do. He is neglecting areas where his services are greatly valued.
We say this because whenever Mr Chanda speaks as a journalist, he scores. Every time he steps out of his so many shoes and puts on his journalistic glasses, he sees clearly, he shines. He articulates issues sensibly because that is his strength. That is an area where he spent years in college and accrued years of field experience.
This is exactly what happened on August 26, 2017 when Mr Chanda called a press conference at Twangale Park and invoked the journalist in him. You can say all the bad things about the former Zambia Daily Mail news editor, but it is hard to disagree with much of what he said on that day.
“We have received reports, some of [them] confirmed, some of [them] unconfirmed that police have said they will not allow the UPND to proceed with the card renewal exercise…Police have informed us that in fact they have not stopped that card renewal exercise but I wish to place it on record that even if police had to stop that, I think that they were going to be guided to allow that process to proceed…Let me place it on record that the action to stop a (UPND) church meeting, obviously is regretted because even under the environment where there are emergency regulations, I think police are expected to exercise judgment, very good judgment as they try to balance the need for public security on one hand and also the need to ensure that civil liberties of citizens are not infringed upon,” Mr Chanda said.
He added, “But we must understand that the police have been under extreme pressure to ensure that, in light of what has happened in the past, public security is safeguarded. But it is with regret that that happened and I think now I can reveal that positive interventions were made and the police was overruled…The police have been encouraged to exercise very good judgment as they police the country under the circumstances. More importantly, they should ensure that only when circumstances exist where public security or danger to public property would be visible, should they stop a public procession.”
We can go on and on repeating the many wise words Mr Chanda spoke at Twangale Park because we were very proud that he espoused the noble cause of journalism in a diligent manner. That’s just the summary of his excellent observations. To that, we say bravo Mr Chanda for bravely sticking your neck out and condemning injustice.
In just one statement, the journalist in Mr Chanda informed the nation about how the police are making emotional and irrational decisions as they implement the current Threatened State of Emergency. He told us how much the police command is under pressure and how so often they are having to be corrected, guided on what to do; how to apply the law. How can anyone disagree with Mr Chanda?
That is the Amos Chanda Zambia needs. The Amos Chanda who can publicly admit that a wrong was committed and further name, caution the wrongdoer. That is the part of Amos Chanda we have been missing; frank, objective and truthful. In fact, he was very diplomatic in the manner he pointed out the incompetence of the police command. He was using words like unfortunate, regrettable, good judgment, etc. But his message was clear.
It is true that police officers are trying so hard to justify the declaration of a Threatened State of Emergency. It is also true that the police command is working hard to create hostile situations in a peaceful country so that they can make use of the extra powers given to them by the invocation of Article 31. There is no civil unrest anywhere in Zambia, no demonstrations or protests, but police are itching for some action. They have nothing to do because Zambians are ignoring them and minding their own business.
Our view is that the police must take time to appreciate the caution from Mr Chanda. We believe that if the action by the police to stop a church service did not hurt the presidency, the State House press aide would not have spoken against them in that manner. The PF government already has so many problems to deal with; it would not be fair for our police service to aggravate the state of affairs by making horrible decisions which ignite public anger against the Head of State.
Once again, we salute Mr Amos Chanda for speaking like ba shi Mpundu, a brave man. We encourage him to do this, which he does best, more often. Let him leave technical issues to technocrats and stick to his calling. Our country will move forward faster. In fact, we can suggest the same to President Edgar Lungu. We have never socialised with the President of Zambia before, so we don’t exactly know what he is famous for or what he does best, but whatever it is, he must stick to that and our country will be a much safer place.