“I run this institution, and when I make a decision, it’s final! You are not supposed to be here! When I do a press briefing, they are not supposed to be here. That’s a decision I have made because they don’t cover us. Chapwa! You can leave. I have made a decision, they can leave. Tamuleumfwa, mulefwaya ndande muchibemba (Are you not hearing what I am saying? Do you want me to speak in Bemba?) Go!” This was PF Secretary General Davies Mwila chasing away Prime TV journalists Njenje Chizu and Toliwe Chanda from the ruling party secretariat where they went to cover a press conference.
The vivid anger and irritation on Mr Mwila’s face was not shocking to the journalists alone, his own PF officials, who had welcomed the ‘unwanted’ journalists could not believe what they were seeing. This was not a typical Davies Mwila move; they were at pains to comprehend where his bitterness was emanating from. In fact, it was not even true that Prime TV has never covered PF press briefings.
But even assuming that Mwila’s claim was true, so what if they don’t cover you? Do you pay for their news coverage? Do you contribute to paying salaries for the journalists at the private media house? Does the station use any ngwee from taxpayers’ money to run its operations? If not, then what makes you think you are entitled to the Prime TV news coverage?
Look, Mr Mwila, Prime TV has no obligation to cover you. They are free to decide what they think constitutes news, and if they don’t find most of your press briefings newsworthy, they have the right to choose when to cover you, but you don’t have the right to chase them away. By way of the fact that you are occupying the chief executive position of the ruling party, you are in ‘public office.’ That is not a private office for Davies Mwila & Sons. Remember that you told Zambians that after the Republican President and Vice-President, you are third in government seniority; ministers report to you. So, when journalists from private media decide to cover you, you have no right to chase them.
This hurt that Mr Mwila exhibited tells us that the ruling party regards journalists as tools for advancing their agenda, nothing else. They want journalists who will do the dirty job and protect them in the process. That is wrong; journalists are not condoms whom you can only use and dispose, as and when you want. They have rights and their liberties are enshrined in the national Constitution.
Our worry is that the PF’s record of press freedom tolerance is already very bad, and any efforts to push it further will result in ‘mysterious’ deaths of journalists. A few years ago, we would say this was a little too far-fetched, but in today’s Africa where money and power means everything, anything can happen. Less than two weeks ago, a private investigative journalist, Ahmed Hussain, was shot three times by assailants in what used to be known as a media friendly Ghana, after he exposed corruption. It all starts with such outrage and intolerance for media practitioners, as Mr Mwila has exhibited.
But we need to remind those in power that the positions they hold are not permanent. They will need the same private media houses that they are harassing today. Mr Davies Mwila will look for Nyenje and Toliwe’s phone numbers when the bells come tolling on him. When Mr Lungu leaves State House and the new regime turns against him, the Zambia Daily Mail and ZNBC will not be there for Mr Mwila. Mr Amos Chanda will no longer have powers to tell ZNBC what to put on the evening main news. The news editors running public media will only be interested in court news involving those who will be facing prosecution from this regime, and nothing more. When that time comes, it is Prime TV that will be there to cover Mr Mwila and his party.
We know that to those who are in power today, we look like ants. We are nothing, but stupid little twats who are living at their mercy! They even boast within their circles that: “if we can manage to shut down The Post, what is Prime TV, what is News Diggers?” They think their power to close down Prime TV or News Diggers with just one phone call makes them invincible.
It doesn’t make us lose sleep. Even if they kill us, like the criminals in Ghana killed Hussain, their victory won’t prevent them from joining us in the grave. No matter how much money and power they may have today, their corpses will come and lie next to ours, waiting for judgment day where we will all be expected to exculpate ourselves. A time will come soon when State House and the PF secretariat will be taken over by new bosses. This sounds mythical right now, but it is a reality waiting to happen.
There used to be a man in government called Chishimba Kambwili. He was such a powerful man. As Chief Government Spokesperson at his last posting, his everyday-job was to threaten private media journalists, warning them about how their employers were going to use and dump them. But Karma taught Kambwili that the world is round, the private media journalists he was threatening and feeling sorry for are the ones wiping his tears. Today, he wishes The Post newspaper was still around so that he could ride on its aggression and financial muscle to fight the bad governance in this PF administration.
Today, a person whom Honourable Kambwili vowed never to accept as a member of the ruling party, a woman whom he said he would rather sell his soul to the devil than eat on the same table with, is running his office and he is in court challenging his own expulsion from the party.
There is a an old adage that says, ‘a wise man learns from the mistakes of others, knowing that he can’t live long enough to make them all by himself’. Repeating a mistake that someone else near you already made is nothing less than stupid. And Mr Mwila is doing just that!