Our fellow journalists from the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation are under siege from the ruling party and government officials. They are being victimized for not being loyal civil servants. Some have been threatened with dismissal from employment while others are being frustrated through politically motivated provincial transfers and departmental re-deployments.
We have a lot of respect for some of the journalists who are being targeted at ZNBC because they have been in the game for many years before the Patriotic Front was even formed. They have covered all presidents in and outside State House and they have very little left to offer the national broadcaster now; other than sharing their experiences and lessons with young upcoming cameramen and reporters. They have worked under abusive ministers, brutal regimes and dictatorial heads of state. To be threatened with dismissal today, shows that there is something awfully wrong with the current government.
We also sympathize with the young ZNBC journalists who are full of energy because, as we interact with them in the field, they share horrific stories about the environment under which they operate. When their editors send them to cover an opposition figure, they usually say, “we are recording for the archives” because they know that such news never makes it on ZNBC bulletins.
But they are not dull, incompetent or less qualified. In their heads, ZNBC reporters are just as professional as any other sober journalist you may think of. Some are actually more exposed than the rest of us; the only difference is that they are not allowed to practice their professionalism. Their work environment doesn’t give them room to practice the skills they learnt in college. If they have to investigate anything, they are free to research on bilharzia in adults or causes of elephantiasis, but they should never touch on topics such as corruption or abuse of office among government officials; otherwise the next thing they will be investigating is how they were fired.
The Patriotic Front, just like other political parties that have ruled Zambia in the past, have taken advantage of these ZNBC journalists. They have trained them that news is what the President and his ministers say. Sometimes when you arrive at a ministerial assignment before the ZNBC camera crew, the minister makes everyone else wait because “the media has not yet arrived”. Some ministers have gone to the extent of personalizing these journalists; every local and international trip they make carries one specific reporter or cameraperson.
Today government officials are complaining that some ZNBC reporters are working with the opposition. Their own PF-trained journalists are being labeled as traitors. They are being linked to newly formed National Democratic Congress – a breakaway party from the PF. In fact, they are being called NDC cadres!
But the PF must not complain because they created these cadres out of journalists. They must not complain when these cadres switch their loyalties because cadres by nature like to go where it’s funky. Right now, there is chimwela in NDC and some few coins here and there. Cadres, just like mercenaries, are good at reading the political mood in the country and their inclinations can tell you a lot about who is making the right noise on the political battlefield. If it is true that our fellow journalists at ZNBC have started flirting with Kambwili’s party, it means they see a revolution through it and they want to position themselves ahead of time in order to get jobs.
The PF must not forget that Chishimba Kambwili was a Cabinet minister, member of the Central Committee and member of parliament. He had power and influence in all the ministries where he served including Information and Broadcasting. He employed some of the journalists who work at Mass Media, so they are willing to share certain information with him.
What has happened to PF is that the ZNBC journalist-cadres are giving them a taste of their own medicine. When these reporters were flirting with PF, the ruling party had no quarrel with them; not a single one of them was fired, suspended or transferred. On many occasions, the opposition complained about the lack of professionalism among some reporters, especially during the last election campaigns, but the PF responded by rewarding these journalists with diplomatic positions. Now, the ‘ZNBC cadres’ that were left out on those diplomatic postings are not happy, they are also looking for greener pastures; so don’t punish them for applying their political survival skills. This is what happens when you create rules and laws that suit your current circumstance in order to stifle political adversaries.
While we are still talking about disloyalty and betrayal, we would like to warn government officials who are clapping for Bowman Lusambo over his statement that he is number one bootlicker for President Edgar Lungu. The Copperbelt Province Minister says if the President asks him to dance he will dance, jump he will jump. In other words, he is telling citizens that he will execute any instruction given to him by President Lungu without any question. It means if the President woke up angry one morning and ordered the minister to kill Kambwili, Mr Bowman will not hesitate to hire assassins; he will not refuse or ask the President “why?”
We are sure that everybody in the PF government, including President Lungu himself appreciates that the statement from Mr Bowman was uncivilised and wrong, but no one will raise a finger against him because the Copperbelt Province Minister is wagging his ‘tail’ for the ruling party. What PF doesn’t see is that when they eventually get out of power and Mr Bowman manages to vampire his way back into government, he will be willing to execute the same orders against those who will be outside.
We would like to further remind President Lungu that before Mr Bowman started ‘bootylicking’ him, he was ‘bootylicking’ Mr Rupiah Banda and later Mr Nevers Mumba. And during that time, when he was ordered to beat someone, he did not hesitate; Major Richard Kachingwe can attest to this. Therefore, President Lungu must not think his booty is the last one that Mr Bowman will be licking.