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Opinion: Are we that forgetful?

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Emmanuel Mwamba

Emmanuel Mwamba

There is a troubling trait exhibited by most of our politicians- they impute to us an almost childish collective forgetfulness. For some unknown reason, our political actors seem to think that we all have very short memories. They are so confident in this belief that they have no qualms in serially engaging in activities or supporting causes which they were once passionately opposed to.

For instance, in a more rational society where experience informs future actions, Emmanuel Mwamba would, for the public humiliation he suffered at the hands of the late President Sata, (MHSRIP) whose vision Edgar Lungu is sworn to continue, be the last person to support the PFs’ Edgar Lungu.

The footage of that Cabinet Meeting at which Sata embarrassed and humiliated Mwamba who was simply doing his work must still be very vivid in the minds of some Zambians. There was Sata, imperious and in his typical dictatorial fashion haranguing and berating Mwamba who upon taking his appointment as PS, Ministry of Information had wasted no time in issuing two national coverage broadcasting licences – believing that he has implementing the PF’s manifesto to liberalise the air waves. Having been away in Western Province, Mwamba seemed to have received the memo that the PF manifesto and its actions were not being necessarily identical.

Like the school playground bully picking on a new boy at school, Sata howled at Mwamba to stand up so that his humiliation would be complete and unambiguous. “You Mr Mwamba do you know why ……stand up! “ Sata growled as the rest of cabinet ministers who had now become familiar with their leader’s new found pleasure in humiliating others cowed in informed expectation of what was to follow. “…..do you know why the previous administration did not give national wide coverage to all other people apart from ZNBC , do you know why ?” He continued “You are very clever intelligent; you thought all of us are very stupid, you thought all the people who died before independence are stupid. You come to the ministry and start giving coverage to all so that HH can now speak on Phoenix, can you tell me the justification. Did you come to see me about it …?”

Thinking he was in a meeting where discourse is to be expected, Mwamba attempted to explain himself and justify his actions, and offered a reasonable explanation – which only further infuriated and made Sata look bad . Dictators are not accustomed to being answered. There would be only one outcome to this. Two days later, Mwamba was fired and later replaced with a Mr Wamunyima Muwana, husband of President Sata‘s relative by the name of Edith Muwana, the District Commissioner for Chilanga District. Edith Muwana is said to be a niece of Dr Christine Kaseba. Cynical as it may sound, Sata had converted Mwamba’s misfortune into an opportunity to employ one of his relatives. Sata’s nepotism and tribalism are still very much evident in the profile of his cabinet, top government and ambassadorial appointments. Zambia once had the distinction of having a treasury headed by an uncle, nephew and brother- in -marriage of Mr Sata. But that is a topic for another day.

Sata’s tirade against Emmanuel Mwamba was as revealing as it was embarrassing . Sata’s poor leadership style was on full display once again – there he was castigating his appointee in public, and seemingly enjoying it. Sata’s tirade showed us that the PF was and is not committed to media freedom. While the PF’s manifesto advocates for liberalization of the air waves by, among other things, issuance of various broadcasting licences, Sata’s actions were clearly at variance with his party’s manifesto. It was therefore surprising to hear one radio station owner whose licence had been revoked by Sata praise the PF for having liberalized the air waves – of course this was during the national mourning period when some people understandably tend to be overly gracious in their characterization of the recently departed.

The fact that Sata singled out and mentioned HH by name is also confirmation that Sata and the PF had always viewed the UPND leader as the only formidable contender for the five yearly tenancy at Sate House. It would appear Sata and the PF were therefore prepared to deny the UPND space to communicate with Zambians, even if this meant going against their own PF manifesto. Contrast this with the freedom enjoyed by Sata as an opposition leader and how he toured the whole country and was a constant guest of many a radio station.

Equally startling was Sata’s expectation that Mwamba should first have consulted with him before issuing the licences. Sata’s expectation to have been consulted is contrary to the Independent Broadcasting Act which states that the IBA shall not be subject to the direction of any other person or authority. The dangers in having a licensing authority consult with the President on its licensing decisions are too obvious to require further elaboration.

I envy Mwamba’s stoic ability to erase all these events from his hard-drive, and carry on as though nothing ever transpired between him and Sata – the PF brand owner. But for Mwamba to expect all of us to file away these memories into some inaccessible recesses of our minds is to expect too much. Given the treatment that he received at the hands of the PF, you would not have expected Mwamba to be the chief propagandist for Lungu’s election.

Mwamba’s actions, like some of our politicians, are often irreconcilable with their past experiences and public pronouncements , and seem to be taken with scant regard to their own reputations ,legacies or public reaction – the thinking being that Zambians are either too forgetful, daft or both .

How else do you explain Wynter saying the PF has suddenly become too violent for his liking or Masebo endorsing HH ,or the once chibuku –drenched Father Frank Bwalya endorsing the PF, saying nothing of Rupiah Banda endorsing the PF ? Are we really that forgetful?

By Correspondent

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