Saturday, February 21, 2009

Let them go ahead

Let them go ahead
Written by Editor

Our good friend Fr Frank Bwalya wants to turn us into martyrs – certainly not religious matters but political martyrs. This is not a bad thing in itself because political ideas are worthless if they are not inspired by noble, selfless sentiments. Likewise, noble sentiments are worthless if they are not based on correct, fair ideas. We are sure that the same pillars that sustain the sacrifices a journalist makes, a person in the political arena makes sustained the sacrifices made in the past by a martyr who died for his religious faith.

We think that religious martyrs were generous, selfless men and women; they were made of the same stuff which journalism or political heroes are made. Without those qualities, there can be no religious or political heroes.

Arresting us – which won’t be a new experience – will certainly not make our Good Friday any better. This has been permanently done by Christ and no man can make Good Friday any better.

But what cannot be ignored in what Fr Bwalya is saying is the fact that there is a constant struggle between good and evil, and evil has to be punished. What’s more, Jesus tells us that there is no greater love for a wrongdoer than to prevent him from continuing to do wrong.

Wrong has to be always addressed. If something is wrong, the only sensible way to deal with it is to correct it. And if you have done something wrong, the first step in correcting that wrong is to admit it. If you are wrong, admit your wrong and after that start the process of correction.

Since Dora Siliya and her friends began their insinuations on us of having done something wrong with our investment in Zambian Airways, we have paid a lot of attention to every word they have uttered. We have tried to search everything, analyse everything we have done in regard to Zambian Airways to see if at any point we were carried away and did something wrong. We have collectively come to the conclusion that although the airline has faced a lot of problems, especially over the last twelve months, nothing wrong was done either by ourselves as The Post or our other partners in the airline or indeed the employees of that company. Of course, this is not to say everything that was done or is being done at Zambian Airways was or is the best because that will be to claim perfection. We do not claim to be perfect.

Mistakes were made but these were honest mistakes and not acts of dishonesty by dishonest or crooked people.

Nobody claims, or will ever claim, that what is being done is perfect no matter how much effort we devote to try and make things turn out in the best possible way. Only life itself will be able to tell us where the shortcomings are and which aspects or details leave something to be desired. But we will always be able to improve our work.

It is for this reason that we are not ashamed of what we have tried to do in Zambian Airways. We have not been quick to defend ourselves because we know that our actions will be weighed by others. We have always maintained that we did not invest in Zambian Airways to make a fortune. There are easier ways to make one. We did not go into Zambian Airways blindly. We understood its challenges and the risks. But we were convinced that with collective effort between ourselves and the banks that had invested in Zambian Airways, something good, something useful could be developed for our country. And we have no doubt this was the motivation of Investrust Bank, the lead bank that put together the Zambian Airways financing strategy. We also believe it was for this same reason that Investrust Bank invited the Development Bank of Zambia and Intermarket Bank to join their consortium.

There was definitely a commercial imperative for this project but we believe every Zambian who participated in this project had a patriotic incentive. There is something attractive about doing something that benefits more than oneself.

Traders who used to take two to three days to get to a place like Dar es Salaam sometimes in unsanitary conditions were able to do so in two hours. This certainly gave us pleasure as an investor. We were not just investing to make money but we were providing a service that the people needed.

The Post did not go into Zambian Airways because the picture was rosy, no. We did it because we thought we could help.

What those who are calling us names today and accusing us of all sorts of things do not know or have chosen to ignore is that The Post invested in Zambian Airways because DBZ demanded that for them to lend Zambian Airways money, the promoters of Zambian Airways should find more shareholders and bring more cash into the business. This is how The Post and Seaboard together purchased 42.5 per cent of Zambian Airways. This was after DBZ had lent Zambian Airways money – and not before. The Post and Seaboard were not party of the negotiations for this loan.

This loan was being negotiated, on behalf of Zambian Airways, by Investrust Bank who were the lead banker and arranger for Zambian Airways. This was all above board. And whoever wants to know the truth, nothing but the real truth, should go to Investrust Bank and ask its directors and managers. They are the ones who arranged for this financing. And without them, Zambian Airways would not have made the strides it made. And they deserve much credit. These are professionals who acted with utmost probity and due diligence.

We have kept quiet for a long time. But we know that during last year’s presidential election campaign, some people in government were calling officers in government controlled institutions that Zambian Airways had dealings with asking them to co-operate with Dickson Jere, now Rupiah Banda’s press aide, to provide information that would discredit and cripple the operations of Zambian Airways. This is because The Post was an investor in Zambian Airways and they believed that if they crippled Zambian Airways they could silence The Post.

What they did not seem to understand is that The Post was not dependent on Zambian Airways for its survival. It was actually Zambian Airways which needed The Post more for its survival.

And since investing in Zambian Airways, The Post or any of its directors or employees has never received a ngwee or a cent or even a free ticket from Zambian Airways. Even those who sit on the Zambian Airways board do not receive any directors’ fees. This being the case, where is the crime that Dora and her friends have been accusing The Post and its directors of?

It is for this reason that yesterday we invited Transparency International Zambia, the Law Association of Zambia, Bankers Association of Zambia, the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia, the Zambia Union of Journalists, the Press Association of Zambia, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Council of Churches in Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, the Patriotic Front, the United Party for National Development, UNIP, and the Heritage Party to check and find out if we did anything wrong with our investment in Zambian Airways.

And we have since written to Investrust Bank, Finance Bank, Intermarket Bank, the Development Bank of Zambia and National Airports Corporation asking them to disclose all aspects of our dealings with them pertaining to Zambian Airways.

We have nothing to hide and we believe that where there are allegations or insinuations, the best way to deal with them is to be transparent and allow the truth to be established by others.

There is no denying that Zambian Airways has a commercial debt with National Airports Corporation, like all other airlines operating in Zambia. If this is a criminal offence, then we don’t know what a crime is. And if all those who hold shares in companies that owe National Airports have committed a crime, then no airline will operate in Zambia. The thinking of our desperate friends defies logic. But this is what happens when people are blinded by greed, ambition and hate.

And if those who hold shares in companies that owe DBZ money have all committed a crime, we do not know how many Zambian entrepreneurs will run into the bush to hide to escape being arrested on Rupiah’s orders. If corporate debts were a crime for the shareholders and directors, then even Rupiah himself would have to run in the bush to hide. But again, this is how blind people become when their only discernible preoccupation is destruction, the crushing of those who question them.

Moreover, development banks exist to finance difficult projects. And the aviation industry is one such sector – a very difficult sector. And it is not surprising that even the mighty British Airways is today facing difficulties and making losses. And over the last twelve months, the world lost not less than 50 airlines.

If we have committed any criminal offences, let them arrest us. Those who think that arresting us is the solution, let them go ahead.

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