Friday, July 09, 2010

Sata refuses to apologise over 'Rupiah-Derby meeting'

Sata refuses to apologise over 'Rupiah-Derby meeting'
By George Chellah
Fri 09 July 2010, 04:01 CAT

PATRIOTIC Front (PF) leader Michael Sata yesterday said he will not apologise over his statement that President Rupiah Banda met Chadian leader Idris Derby in Mfuwe. And Post managing editor Amos Malupenga said the desperation by those in government to discredit The Post’s work has now reached an alarming stage.

Reacting to information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha’s demand for an apology from him and The Post for what he terms as lies about President Rupiah Banda and his government, Sata dismissed the demand.

“No government world-over reacts in arrears. Why have they taken long to react if they have nothing to hide? What type of a government is this one? A serious government is supposed to react instantly.

It’s almost four weeks since this man came to Zambia and went to Mfuwe. In fact, when I issued that statement foreign affairs and Shikapwasha himself did not deny. Was he Shikapwasha hiding in Munali Hills? Why the panic now?” Sata asked.

“If what I said was not true, why didn’t they treat this matter with the same urgency they gave to Rupiah’s embarrassing 'mwenye' remark? Is it because they are under pressure from Chad that why did they reveal a visit that was meant to be secret? They are under pressure and they are trying to justify it.

They are even using nashalaneka parties like BY Mwila and Sakwiba Sikota. That should tell you that they are desperate.

“Surely, if they were serious, could they have used finished politicians like BY Mwila, who runs a one-man party? In any case, which Zambian today takes BY seriously? Tell them that I will not apologise to this incompetent government, which is managed by Rupiah Banda because these are genuine remarks I made and I will stand by them.”

And Malupenga said The Post was not in the business of telling lies about anyone.

“Our editorial policy obliges us to offer prompt apologies and corrections whenever we have got our facts wrong. And we have demonstrated that over the years.

We have never shied away from any public apology, no matter how embarrassing that may be, “ he said
He said it was very embarrassing to see Rev Shikapwasha exhibiting high levels of panic in trying to secure his job with President Banda.

“This is not the first time he is talking about our story concerning President Banda’s meeting with President Jacob Zuma from South Africa.

When we first published this story on August 5, 2009, Rev Shikapwasha, in his usual manner, went to Parliament and attempted to mislead the House, claiming that our story was a falsehood.

For the sake of those who might not be familiar with this issue, I will summarise the facts for them,” Malupenga said.

“On or about August 3, 2009, President Banda’s official spokesperson Dickson Jere announced to the nation that President Banda was scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his South African counterpart, President Zuma, in Pretoria.

And thereafter, he was going to proceed for his medical checkup and review. On August 4, 2009, President Banda left Lusaka for South Africa for the scheduled bilateral talks with President Zuma.

The same day we made contact with President Zuma’s spokesperson by the name of Vincent Magwenya to get more details on President Banda’s meeting with President Zuma.

“To our surprise, Mr Magwenya said he did not know anything about the bilateral talks between the two Presidents. We asked Mr Magwenya on the key issues that the two Presidents would deal with in their meeting.

But Mr Magwenya’s response was ‘When is that?’ When we informed Mr Magwenya that President Banda had already left Lusaka for South Africa for his meeting with President Zuma, his response was ‘When?...I will have to come back to you on that, chief. I haven’t received any confirmation on that one.’”

He said The Post further contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota who said her desk did not have any information about President Banda’s trip to South Africa for a meeting with President Zuma.

“Her actual words were ‘I haven’t been informed by the desk which deals with Zambia. So I don’t know.

As soon as we get informed normally we send out a media advisory. We usually do this a week or two weeks in advance. On my desk there is nothing that says Zambia. It might be coming.’

We went further by contacting the then Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa Mr Leslie Mbula who also had difficulties giving us details about President Banda’s meeting with President Zuma,” Malupenga said. “When we asked him what time President Banda was scheduled to meet with President Zuma, Mr Mbula’s response was ‘Where is the President right now?’ When he was told that President Banda had just left Zambia for South Africa, Mr Mbula asked, ‘He has taken off?’

Asked further about President Banda’s programme whilst in South Africa, Mr Mbula responded, ‘I think that I am not very sure yet. Maybe after he has come when I have seen the programme, maybe you can phone. Then we can discuss.’

“After gathering all this information, the summary of the story that we wrote which Rev Shikapwasha is claming was a falsehood was to the effect that South African President Zuma’s spokesperson and the ministry of foreign affairs said they had no confirmation of an appointment for President Banda to hold bilateral talks with President Zuma.

Clearly, The Post was merely transmitting the information obtained both from South African and Zambian government officials in South Africa.”
He said The Post had no reason to doubt President Zuma’s spokesperson because he keeps the President’s diary.

“Yes, later on President Zuma and President Banda had a meeting in South Africa but it still remains a fact that at the time he was leaving, these government officials we have referred to above in South Africa as well as from the Zambian government’s side were not aware about this meeting and this is exactly what we reported.

So what lies have we told as a newspaper? These facts can be verified with these officials we have named above. If Rev Shikapwasha does not know how to contact these officials in South Africa, we will be available to provide him with all their contact details,” Malupenga said.

“From what I have said above, it is clear that we don’t have to apologise for the accurate account of events that we reported. The named officials we quoted in that story have never complained that we misrepresented their views, so why should Rev Shikapwasha claim that our story was a falsehood?

Anyway, we are not surprised that this government has been working hard day and night trying to portray us to the Zambian people that we are a newspaper without credit bent on publishing lies about those in government.

That is why Rev Shikapwasha shamelessly went to Parliament and attempted to mislead the honourable House on matters that were very clear even for a high school pupil to follow.

“We are not surprised that one year later Rev Shikapwasha has resuscitated this scheme to portray The Post as liars. These are the lies about us, which they want to use to justify their desire to regulate the media.

We know that President Banda’s apology to UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has put them in an embarrassing situation and in trying to equalise that, they want to extract an apology from The Post so that they can use that to discredit us. They will not succeed to bring down The Post with lies.”

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