“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? 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 in January, 2019.
Many people have forgotten about this. When Prime TV was closed down this month, some members of the public bought into the government’s narrative that this was to do with the station’s refusal to televise free Coronavirus awareness campaign adverts. The truth is that this agenda to close down the private television station has always been there. PF hated Prime TV with a passion. It was a pain in their flesh, as could be seen from Davies Mwila’s outburst. The closure of Prime is about 2021 elections. PF don’t want to go to the next elections with a robust private media. They want to ride on a campaign of misinformation.
This is not new. In 2016, two months before the general election, the PF closed down the country’s biggest private newspaper on claims that the company was owing irreconcilable debt to the Zambia Revenue Authority in unpaid tax. The truth was that PF did not want The Post to be alive at the next election, they feared that their rigging schemes would be exposed and they would lose.
This is how the PF defines democracy and they will not stop at Prime TV. They will hunt down all critical media one by one. In fact, they will not stop at private media. After they are done with us, they will go for civil society organisations that are vocal. After CSOs, they will target the Church and the vocal clergy. They want to silence everyone!
If a miracle happens and Prime TV manages to get back its licence, the station will never be the same. The terror that their staff are currently undergoing will make it difficult for them to remain fearless. Their editorial independence will be compromised. We saw this with Muvi TV when they were temporarily closed down in 2016. Look at Muvi today, are they the same? Are they as fearless as they used to be prior to the 2016 elections? We don’t think so. This is the PF strategy; they want to remain with ZNBC, Daily Mail, Times of Zambia and a selected few private praise singers.
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 to give fair coverage to his ministers and aides who will be heavily persecuted. Those who will be toiling to court will not get any fair coverage from State-controlled media. It’s happening already, those who worked in State House not long ago have lost control of State media, they can’t issue any instructions to the editors at Daily Mail or ZNBC.
We know that to those who are in power today, we, journalists, are nothing but stupid little irritating idiots who are living at their mercy! Well, it doesn’t make us lose sleep. They closed The Post, we are here! They tamed Muvi, Prime was born. Bembas say, “pafwa abantu, pashala abantu”. More fearless journalists will be born long after we are gone. Even if they kill us, their victory won’t prevent them from joining us in the grave. All the money they want to steal from government without anyone questioning them will remain behind. Only one suit, one pair of shoes will accompany them. 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. They will remember the private media they are closing today.
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 who were not willing to sing praises. He celebrated when The Post was closed down. But karma taught Kambwili that the world is round, the private media journalists he was threatening 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.
A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, knowing he can’t live long enough to make all the mistakes by himself’. Repeating a mistake that someone else near you already made is nothing less than stupid. The PF leadership is acting stupid because it can’t learn from its own mistakes.