President Michael Sata’ spokesperson George Chellah has ordered ZNBC to fire reporter Effie Mpande.
Effie has already been suspended and just waiting for a letter of dismissal from Chibamba Kanyama, the director General who has been directed to come up with trumped up charges.
Trouble seems to have started during a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit in Malawi where Effie is said to have differed and in the process told off fellow government reporters from Zambian News and Information Services (ZANIS).
Zambia was represented by vice-president Guy Scott. Effie and ZANIS staff quarreled over how to cover the vice-president.
ZANIS reporters later complained to their director, who reported to George Chellah.
Chellah phoned Effie to blast her and insult her on the phone for a long time until she could not stomach any longer and decided to cut the line. George followed up the issue with a long text message (sms) to her threatening to deal with her.
The text, which is circulating among ZNBC employees and in media organizations reads:
‘Effie you hung up on me? When people complained over your attitude. I doubted them and defended you. Alas they were right – foolish me! I wish I had known what I was defending. You are cheeky, self-opinionated and a person with a bloated ego who overrates her influence. Please come back to earth and lower yourself, you are too junior to stir unnecessary controversies. You are just an individual and we shall not allow you to pollute and frustrate the public media landscape with your childlike attitude neither are you indespensible. Just like youself all those state media journalists you want to treat like trash are as useful as yourself. Govt work will not be frustrated by you so stop the nonsense.’
It is believed that Effie to ask the vice-president to intervene but president Michael Sata also ordered that she must be fired.
Chibamba Kanyama on the other hand is in a fix. He is dilly-dallying to fire her because he fears that she would sue ZNBC for wrongful dismissal and go to the nearest ZANACO branch smiling.
Effie is said to be trying to get media associations to protect her from George Chellah, the god of government owned and controlled media in Zambia.
ZNBC sources said the poor administration by Chibamba Kanyama is the source of this confusion at the national broadcaster because he has allowed a culture where reporters have been personalised by ministers and other government official.
The situation has completely demoralised other equally hard working journalists who now have no opportunity to travel as the PF ministers choose which journalists to personalize for both local and international assignments which attract good financial incentives.
In the case of Effie Mpande, she was taking up all the assignments for the vice-president.
This is a very terrible precedent that PF cadre Chibamba Kanyama created and that has also created serious enmity and suspicion among reporters and other employees at ZNBC to a point where others are now looking for support from opposition political parties with a view to enjoy good working culture in the new government.
For those reporters who are mainly favoured by the PF ministers, the situation is even worse as they feel they are untouchable since they are protected by higher authorities.