Saturday, August 08, 2009

Shikapwasha goes for Catholics, The Post

Shikapwasha goes for Catholics, The Post
Written by George Chellah
Saturday, August 08, 2009 1:57:38 PM

THE Church is busy trying to jostle for who they should put into State House, forgetting their mandate, information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha told Parliament yesterday.

Giving a ministerial statement on the violence against journalists as reported in the media, Lt Gen Shikapwasha said the church in Rwanda took sides with newspapers and radio stations, which were fanning out falsehoods and propaganda that led to the genocide.

"The church blindly took sides in opposing camps such that it is reported Mr Speaker that 'after a century of Christian proselytisation the country was catholicized but not Christianized. Ritual was generally followed but the spirit was missing. This became tragically evident for the church, only after April to May 1994, when its people slaughtered their brethren wholesale inside the churches on orders from civil authorities and priests. This Mr Speaker is because the church took sides with men. The church must take sides with God," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "I see that the church in Zambia is taking sides with man rather than taking sides with God. We see the church in Zambia taking no stand against the things that God abhors. Where is the church when the newspaper is insulting the head of state? Where is the church when young men are insulting old men? Is it not the church to reconcile God's people in the country? The church is busy with trying to jostle for who they should put into State House, forgetting their mandate. Others are dishing out second hand clothing in the campaign for the pact. Others feel if a person does not belong to a certain political party, they are not Christian enough. Mr Speaker, all this used to happen in Rwanda before the genocide.

"The church failed in Rwanda, 25 priests have so far been imprisoned for genocide. The church in Zambia must learn from the lessons in Rwanda, the Spirit of God must rule in the lives of people. If there is any pact, that one should be packeted with it is Jesus. Therefore, my appeal to the church through you Mr Speaker and through this August House is seek ye first the Kingdom of God and Zambia shall be saved from calamities."

Lt Gen Shikapwasha also justified violence against journalists by MMD cadres, saying President Banda's supporters demand that the President be given due respect by The Post.

He said there was a consistent media attempt to identify President Rupiah Banda and his government as enemies by use of falsehoods about him and the party.

He said these media attempts provoked resentment and anger among President Banda's supporters.

He said in the last three years, the government had received information that some media personnel had been harassed by political cadres believed to belong to the MMD, PF and UPND.

"I can further confirm that this country is not threatened by these incidents nor are the acts of violence backed by people who want to give the perception of instability in the nation," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "However, it is true that coverage of these isolated incidents of violence against the media personnel is largely exaggerated and probably intended to give the world the impression that peace is threatened."

He said media irresponsibility was the cause of the violence.

He said media bodies like the Media Ethics Council of Zambia (MECOZ) shoulder a heavy responsibility of monitoring the professional conduct of journalists and media institutions.

"So that they operate within the set confines of their profession. Otherwise the public will continue to demand for a statutory body to regulate the media. It will be difficult to fend off such demands if the public continue to regard the media as a source of conflict and insults, and a source of instability in the country," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "As members may be aware, Botswana was recently rated the most peaceful country in our region. Some Zambians already conclude that this may be as a consequence of regulated media, they wouldn't fear the mark considering what is happening in Zambian media."

Lt Gen Shikapwasha who laid a number of Post newspaper copies on the table, said in Rwanda the media was abused.

"It is clear that in Rwanda, newspapers, radio and television or indeed media was grossly abused by those who were given the licences to own, work and report to the public. Arising out of their reporting, they incited a situation that led to colossal loss of life. Is it not clear Mr Speaker that the honourable members of this August House were moved or indeed incited to debate and show concern for the country in the manner they debated and demanded for action?" Lt Gen Shikapwasha asked. "Is it not true that one newspaper, The Post newspaper has not given heed to the cries of this August House to abandon its line of attacking and insulting the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda? Mr Speaker, President Banda must be respected. There are many Zambians who voted for President Banda and they demand the President be given due respect by The Post newspaper if only for those Zambians who put him in office and for the Zambians he represents."

He wondered how it was expected of people not to react if their leader was being insulted every day.

He also cited The Post's August 5, 2009, Wednesday edition headlined: ‘Zuma not aware of Rupiah's visit’.

"Whilst this article is a total fabrication. Mr Speaker, it is meant to embarrass the head of state and naturally it will incite both, positive emotions for those who do not like the President and above all negative emotions for those who love the President," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "At the time The Post newspaper were printing this fabrication, His Excellency President Rupiah Bwezani Banda was in the midst of President to President discussion with the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr, Jacob Zuma. It is such irresponsible reporting that brings incitement."

He wondered why The Post never called him to get information when he had given the newspaper all his numbers.

He also wondered why The Post never contacted Zambia's High Commissioner to South Africa Leslie Mbula.

However, on Tuesday August 4, 2009, Post journalist Chibaula Silwamba interviewed Zambia's High Commissioner to South Africa Mbula, South African President Jacob Zuma's spokesperson Vincent Magwenya and South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota about Zambian President Rupiah Banda's visit to South Africa to hold bilateral talks with President Zuma in Pretoria.

Silwamba started by asking High Commissioner Mbula about the time President Banda would meet President Zuma for their bilateral talks and what were to be the key issues to be discussed between the presidents.

Below is the verbatim of the recorded conversation.

High Commissioner Mbula: Where is the President right now?

Silwamba: The President has just left.

High Commissioner Mbula: He has taken off?

Silwamba: Yes!

High Commissioner Mbula: Aha.


High Commissioner Mbula: I think that I am not very sure yet.

Silwamba: Okay?

High Commissioner Mbula: Maybe after he has come, when I have seen the programme, you can let me, you can phone me.

Silwamba: Okay. Alright.

High Commissioner Mbula: Aha!

Silwamba: Then I will phone you again.

High Commissioner Mbula: Then we can discuss. Thank you.

Silwamba: Okay. Thank you.

Later, Silwamba telephoned South Africa Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson [or former spokesperson] Ronnie Mamoepa.

Mamoepa: Contact Nomfanelo Kota on [mobile number].

Silwamba: [Reads out the mobile number]

Mamoepa: That is correct.

Silwamba: Ms who?

Mamoepa: Kota

Silwamba: She is the spokesperson for the President.

Mamoepa: For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Silwamba: Okay, Alright. Thank you very much

Mamoepa: Thank you. Bye!

After that Silwamba telephoned Nomfenalo Kota.

Silwamba: What time are the bilateral talks between our President, His Excellency the President of Zambia Mr Rupiah Banda and President Jacob Zuma starting and what is the agenda?

Kota: I have not been informed by the desk that deals with Zambian issues. So I am in the dark.

Silwamba: Okay?

Kota: As soon as we get informed, normally, we do send out a media advisory. Usually it is one week or two weeks in advance.

Silwamba: So far there is nothing?

Kota: On my desk there is nothing that says Zambia.

Silwamba: Okay, okay. Alright!

Kota: It might still be coming

Silwamba: Then I will call you again.

Kota: No problem.

Silwamba: Your first name is?

Kota: Nomfanelo

Silwamba: Nomsa.

Kota: Nomfanelo. Not Nomsa. Nomfanelo

Silwamba: Okay Nomfanelo Kota.

Kota: Yes!

Silwamba: Spokesperson for?

Kota: The Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

Silwamba: Alright. Thank you very much. We will keep in touch.

Silwamba later telephoned Magwenya and asked him when the meeting between the two presidents would take place and the key issues that were to be discussed during their bilateral talks.

Magwenya [sounds surprised]: When is that?

Silwamba: He [President Banda] left today; he left this morning for South Africa saying he is having bilateral talks with President Zuma.


Magwenya: When?

Silwamba: They didn't say, we were just told that 'he is leaving today; he is having bilateral talks with the President, President Zuma and that’s it. And after that he will go for his medical review.' So we just wanted to be sure [about their meeting and agenda].

Magwenya: Well, I will have to come back to you on that, chief.

Silwamba: Okay.

Magwenya: I haven't received any confirmation on that one.

Silwamba: Okay.

Magwenya: Yah!

After that, Silwamba asked Magwenya if he could call him back if there were any changes and the meeting would take place.

But Magwenya advised Silwamba to send him a text message so that he [Magwenya] could get his number.

Silwamba later sent text to Magwenya but the latter did not call back with any new information.

On Wednesday August 5, 2009 after the story was published, Silwamba telephoned Magwenya who confirmed that presidents Banda and Zuma had a private meeting but declined to disclose whether it was bilateral talks or personal discussion and what the resolutions of the two presidents' meeting were.

Magwenya: They met. Yah! It was a private meeting, chief.

Silwamba: They met.

Magwenya: Yah, they met but it was a private meeting.

Silwamba: Okay, okay. Thanks.

Magwenya: Okay.

And Lt Gen Shikapwasha said the government condemned the reported violence against journalists.

"It is criminal, uncalled for and unacceptable," he said.

He said on countless occasions, government leaders up to President Banda were on record as having condemned violence against journalists.

"During his very first press conference as President at State House on 15th November, 2008, President Banda personally intervened in defence of a Reuters correspondent when some people in the audience jeered and booed the reporter for asking the President a question which apparently displeased him. On 26th May, 2009, President Rupiah Bwezani Banda, through the special assistant to President-press and public relations, wrote to The Post newspaper on 'continued harassment of your journalists by MMD cadres'. I shall read this letter and will lay it on the table," said Lt Gen Shikapwasha as he read the letter to Parliament. "As recently as 30th July, 2009 and Tuesday this week, among other occasions, President Banda again condemned the reported acts of violence against journalists and called for an immediate end to the vice."

He said incidents of violence were not the monopoly of the MMD and that the ruling party has equally condemned violence.

He said the police was committed to providing high quality service by upholding and applying the law firmly and fairly to all.

"With regard to the airport incident, I wish to inform the House that contrary to reports that police were spectators to the violence, in fact they actually intervened by calming the situation. The intervention of the senior officers may not have been conspicuous because they do not personally get involved but use their operatives in such situations. Right now, police are doing everything possible to bring the culprits to book," he said.

Lt Gen Shikapwasha said the only way forward was to face the truth.

"Jesus said 'the truth shall set you free. We must free ourselves from this scourge.' The contention seems to be premised on grounds that while the media practitioners feel they have a duty to report incidents as they happen without restrictions, some members of society on the other hand, find reports by some media houses biased, unfair and insulting to their leaders and to the elders in society and find such reporting against Zambian custom and culture leading to some of the confrontations we have witnessed," he said.

He warned media personnel when commenting on foreign heads of state or their culture and governance.

"Indeed it does not help Zambia's relations with other states to suggest that the visit to our country by a head of state is for sharing women, as was suggested by a caller allowed by Sky FM radio station recently. Or indeed that nurses from a certain country were prostitutes again from Sky FM radio," Lt Gen Shikapwasha said. "Such media reports naturally provoke reaction, unfortunately violent ones in some cases. Such irresponsible reporting will bring animosity between the people of that country and Zambia. This is bound to bring about tension between Zambia and other countries. It will affect the position of Zambians in that country."

He said freedom and responsible reporting could be highly controversial and subjective.

"We need sober minds and level headedness in what we say or do as well as in the news coverage of the same. For overreaction to what is published can be as bad as inciting of violence itself. Similarly, poor judgment of what to publish can also be as bad as inciting violence itself," he said.

Lt Gen Shikapwasha also referred to the findings made during the trial of the media after the genocide, which claimed hundreds of lives in Rwanda.

"In the Zambian case, there is a consistent media attempt to identify President Banda and his government as MMD as enemies by use of falsehoods about him and the party. This provokes resentment and anger among his supporters," he said.

He also said Zambians in the diaspora recently explained to him that the bad image of the country that was being painted by the media was not only damaging the country's image but also would scare away would be investors.

Upon finishing presenting his ministerial statement, Lt Gen Shikapwasha resumed his seat amidst cheering from MMD members of parliament.

Vice-President George Kunda excitedly shook his hand before he resumed his seat.

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