FROM a journalism perspective, last week was another of those eventful times of Zambia which really ought to be immortalized for posterity.
Topping the charts were the Esther US$400,000 / Immunity of the former President, the home coming of President Hichilema to the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East road Campus, the announcement of a regional COMESA Media meeting on the cards, and of course the more glamorous and picturesque HH and the First lady at the Coronation of King Charles the third in the UK.
On any day, I would go for the Esther Lungu and the US$440,000, in Kwacha terms, a mind blowing K7 Million as the chart buster; for all the twists and turns it presented and still is evolving and unfolding. In my realm, what we call a developing story. That was the story.
And just when we all thought we had heard all the best and the worst
from the former first family, than we were hit by a sizzling cannon ball which in all its fury and devastation, rattled the very shaky foundations upon which our nation is anchored.
You know as a scribe, I have never shied away from a good story, no matter how “hot” it may be, or who may be involved. I have rarely failed to call a spade a spade even when I have known full well that it may cause some consternation and discomfort to those involved.
It is for that reason that for my candor and in the blatant execution of my duties, I have found myself at the receiving end of some of the most atrocious treatment by some Very Very Important Persons (VVIP)s and their cohorts who in the exercise of their unfettered powers ensured they bruised and tormented my sorry soul, leaving me barely alive.
It is all about the art of torture of the body and mind. “Squeeze the living daylights out of him. Even if there is no case against
him, just get him in the dock for anything and let him spend the rest of his life in and out of the courts o f law.”
“Stop paying him his dues but do not hurt him physically, let him drop dead on his own, he will most likely succumb to high blood pressure or stroke and we would have sorted out a problem without any visible physical torment on him”
Many years later, after the fact, the words written above were repeated to me as having been uttered by a very senior former government minister (name withheld) who I got to learnt was one of the architects of all my blues. Of course he was working in collaboration with a host of my fellow scribes.
Even if I was far from surprised by the revelation, It still hit me like a ton of bricks. I reeled, my knees buckled like a pack of cards and I doubling as my stomach churned. I was still shocked.
Did you ever find yourself or any of your kith and kin in a situation where, they are unjustifiably fired at a public rally, their separation package is unduly frozen, they are committed to court for seven good years for a crime they did not commit and their employment prospects are brought down to nil because of the stigma associated with anyone perceived as having different views from the ruling elite? Story of my life.
All this, because of the notion that you can never, you will never put to task or unveil any skeletons in the closets of any serving leader. All that you can do at your own peril.
In fact, it is under the auspices of this very column that over 12 years ago signaled the genesis of my woes, I am still battling the scars, and without shrouding anything, it has had a telling effect on me and family.
But you may want to ask, why am I telling it all today.
Well, I feel my avid committed readers have a right to know a little bit about this author who every Tuesday, takes about 30 minutes of your life telling tales about life and what it has to offer, why I may write so passionately about certain matters and my deep belief in press freedom. Where we are coming from and where we are going as a Tribe called the Scribe.
FACT #1. I have never had to look behind my back as a journalist ever since the UPND assumed Power.
FACT#2. The journalism space is miles apart compared to the atrocities against scribes in the last political dispensation, and that I mean during the reign of terror of the Patriotic Front (PF).
I may not be the only one who suffered the heavy handedness of the last regime. There are many others who have since passed on to the other side, who in their own style of presentation of facts exposed truths about how in their eyes, they envisioned society and the dynamics about how they perceived the political landscape and society then, and yet they were criminalised.
They did not have to agree with the status quo, as all they did was package and bring to light what they thought were excesses of the leadership then. In a democratic society, that should not be criminalised. As the fourth Estate, the Tribe called the Scribe is protected as an independent entity whose area of operation is limitless.
Having said that, let us get back to the substantive matter. Esther and the US$400,000 saga
Do you ever remember how the late President Michael Sata, then in opposition was thrown into the coolers on suspicion that he had allegedly converted a government vehicle for his own use (in short, stole a vehicle). This was a law that they, themselves had enacted into law; that such a law was not bailable?
How was the Esther matter so different? A motor vehicle was reported stolen and suspects named, in this case, the former First Lady. And on further investigation, the said Motor Vehicle was found in the possession of Ms Lungu at the residence of her husband, the former President of Zambia.
And then all hell breaks loose. Immunity or no immunity, and as a matter of fact, It is not the former President who was accused of theft, but the former first lady, who has never enjoyed immunity from persecution; not as substantive First Lady, or as former first lady.
And then our learned colleagues argued and argued.
A stand-off was created; as state police insisted they had a warrant to search the premises for the missing vehicles, the opposition learned colleagues argued that the former President had immunity from being searched and from persecution. Ok, It is not the former President we are interested in, we are looking for the former first lady and a vehicle she is purported to have kept as her own when in fact, it was not hers (in short stolen)…. And the arguments went on.
Meanwhile, in the ensuing hullabaloo, the opposition PF politicians in their own wisdom saw this as a direct attack on their President Edgar Lungu. They mobilized their cadres in droves and in no time, there was a frenzied atmosphere. The police saw danger and they too mobilized and stood their ground and insisted they search.
Flares of anger as some enraged former ministers got into direct altercation with enforcement officers trading unpalatables. The former leaders claiming they were once bosses, while some no nonsense high ranking security officer retorting, he was going in.
It is surprising how mobs tend to have a mind of their own, maybe that is the reason it is called Mob psychology. They for some reason still unknown to science seem to synrconize their thinking and whichever position they take goes.
I can only imagine how they felt alone walking back home when they learnt that actually, Police did finally find the vehicle they were looking for, and the former first family agreed to report to the police.
How did they individually feel when information began to slowly emerge that there was some element of alleged kidnapping and forcible extraction of documentation pertaining to, and relevant to the matter at hand?
Ok, US$400,000. Is this the kind of money that you give to your niece as though it was pocket change?
Why did ba Esther not put that money in her account?
And if it was true that she was involved in the alleged abduction or kidnapping of her niece, after being deshrouded, un blindfolded, Unmasked, found herself in the presence of Ba Esther and Ba Chagwa for interrogations?
Also, does ba Esther not have any nieces of her own to hand such insanely colossal amount of money to Ba Chagwa’s sisters daughter?
The more I try to analyze this matter, the more I entangle myself in thought word and deed.
And just to put the matter to sleep with a question to the Police command, would I be given such preferential treatment as the case was given to the former first lady. Imagine I was found with a case of theft of Motor vehicle, the vehicle was found in my possession, and then I was asked to go home and sleep and return tomorrow?
There are still more questions than answers to this matter and the earlier it is dealt with, the better.
As for the independence of the Tribe called the Scribes, we shall never stop writing the truth no matter what it takes, no matter the price. And after all what is it have we not endured in the repressive toxic environment we have recently emerged from?
The saga continues.