Honourable Kampamba Mulenga, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, has impressed us with what she has been able to learn in just less than 10 months of being in Cabinet. The chief government spokesperson has really sharpened her skills in terms of defending government policies and most importantly defending her appointing authority, President Edgar Lungu.
We say this because around December 2016, barely a month after she took over from Chishimba Kambwili, we had a rare opportunity of interacting with the Kalulushi PF member of parliament in her office. We went to introduce ourselves as newcomers in the private sector of the media industry. We further wanted her views on various issues that fall under her ministry, ranging from press freedom to progress on the Access to Information Bill.
Despite giving us a very warm welcome, the Minister chickened out of the interview after looking at the questionnaire we prepared for her. She spent time studying the questions and went further to solicit for guidance from junior officers in her ministry on how to deal with us. But still, she terminated the interview after our cameras had already started rolling. She could not go ahead. Instead, the minister came up with an excuse of having received a call for an emergency meeting with the President at State House, which we easily established was not true. We were forced to switch off our cameras before being sent away – in a very civil manner we must admit.
We could tell then that the Minister was empty. She understood very little about government policy, let alone media related issues. She had no capacity to answer pressing questions and the best she could do was lie low, take cover. Honourable Mulenga avoided embarrassing herself on camera, she did not want to expose her ignorance. The minister found various smart ways of keeping away from discussing things which she had little or no knowledge about. She was still struggling switching from being a PF cadre to a senior government executive.
We understood Honourable Mulenga and took no issue with her decision to chicken out of the interview she had already granted us. We knew she needed time to develop her capacity to face journalists and debate pressing national issues. After all, she was not the first low caliber minister serving in government – those who had an opportunity to interview Vera Chiluba years back can agree with us.
Anyway, 10 months later this week, Honourable Kampamba Mulenga granted us a long winding interview where she seized an opportunity to react to Kambwili’s charges against President Edgar Lungu. She spoke so eloquently without any signs of hesitation. The minister went as far as challenging us to practice real investigative journalism and not just report any “nonsense” we record from bitter politicians like Kambwili. She was on fire!
After analysing her rebuttal to Kambwili, we feel we have no right to remain silent and not applaud the Minister over what she has learnt within such a short period of being in the PF government. Honourable Mulenga is really a fast learner. From November 2016 when she was appointed to date, the Information Minister has transformed into a fully-baked government official ready to take on anyone on any issue. She seems to finally understand what her role in government is, and what she is expected to do whenever those opposing the President speak out.
Our amusement is around the Minister’s capacity to lie with insolence. Responding to Kambwili’s question of how President Lungu had accrued so much wealth within a short period, Honourable Mulenga said the Head of State was not poor before going to State House. She claimed the former Chawama member of parliament made a lot of money as a lawyer in private practice.
“First and foremost, President Lungu is a very well educated man, he was a lawyer before, it is not like he just came in a poor man, no! We know lawyers are one of the most handsomely paid professionals in Zambia. Questioning the aspect of whether President Lungu can own property, yes he is a Zambian entitled under the Constitution to own property. It is not true that President Lungu came into State House a poor man. He had a life before…,” said Mulenga.
We agree with the Chief government spokesperson that Mr Lungu had a life before becoming President – otherwise he would be at Chingwere today and not State House – but we have difficulties agreeing that he was a rich man. In fact, not even President Lungu and his wife Esther can agree with the Minister’s claim. This is a blue lie, or a green lie if you like, because the PF has turned the blue lies of MMD into green.
We don’t want to waste time debating the fact that President Lungu did not practice law for so many years because LAZ suspended his license for chewing a client’s money. But how does Honourable Mulenga reconcile the fact that President Lungu declared K2.5 million worth of assets in 2015 and K23 million before the 2016 elections? How does the minister account for K10.4 million being reported as only 10 per cent of the President’s earnings in the past 30 months, money which has been dished out in the name of Presidential Empowerment Initiative? Did President Lungu make all these billions in private law practice?
Seriously, this is taking lies too far. We respect the fact that the Minister of Information has mastered the art of lying, using fancy expressions like “first and foremost”, “by and large”, “over and above” etc, but to expect Zambians to believe this misinformation is an insult to their intelligence. It’s demeaning to those who work so hard to pay their taxes to the government, including us.
What the chief government spokesperson should realise is that she doesn’t need to belabour too much in defending the truth because the truth defends itself. But one lie requires 10 other lies to cover it up. Lying on behalf of President Lungu will isolate her from the truth when nature takes course and facts begin to unveil themselves. Honourable Mulenga should not get carried away with her ministerial position and assume that those who are not in government are dull and have no means of knowing what goes on inside there. This is the mistake that her now miserable predecessor, Kambwili, made when he was in her position.
And by the way, we would also like to report back to the minister that we took her challenge to us to investigate some of the issues raised by Kambwili; and of course we established very easily that President’s Lungu’s ministerial house on Lewanika Close is still occupied by his relatives. The Minister should not tell other journalists this lie that government is not aware of this fact. She should instead, inform the nation why this has been allowed and what the law enforcement will do about this clear criminality and abuse of authority.