By Field Ruwe
It is laughable how in his editorial of June 6, 2013, titled “Lies about Zambia,” Fred Mmembe of The Post passionately defends Michael (as he calls him). Indeed “politics makes strange bedfellows.” I didn’t know the 54 year-old Mmembe and 76 year-old president Michael Sata were on first-name basis. It is a no-no in our culture. More so that “Michael” is our head of state. Decorum calls for reverence, for god’s sake.
But again, you can’t blame poor young Mmembe. He lacks journalistic proficiency and aptitude. In journalism if you use the source’s first and last name the first time in an article, you must use only the last and not the first name on the rest of the references. In this case it is not “Michael” but “Sata;” or “Banda” and not “Rupiah.”
For Mmembe die-hards and fogies who blog rabidly, let me elaborate. In journalism we do not use courtesy titles such as Mr. Sata, or Mrs. Banda unless they are part of a direct quotation or are needed to differentiate between people who have the same last name. Presidents, living and deceased, can be called by their last name—Chiluba, Obama, Thatcher, Kenyatta, Nyerere and not Frederick, Barack, Margaret, Jomo, Julius. It is simply rude and discourteous.
So, where does Mmembe pluck the courage to treat the president with such contemptuous insolence and impertinence? Why has Sata not admonished him? I will add one more question: why does Mmembe feel all-powerful, threatening, and invulnerable?
Reason: Mmembe knows King Cobra too well. He knows that the cobra does not have the venom he claims to possess; that his sharp teeth are as brittle as chalk; that his scary semantics are simply a front. Ladies and gentlemen, Mmembe knows that Sata brings with him a heavy baggage to the presidency; that president Sata is unprincipled, “satanic,” a liar, demagogue, thug, corrupt, and that he is a plunderer of our assets. I am quoting Mmembe verbatim. The words are his, and not mine. Now, before I am accused of libel, slander and defamation let me share with the reader the source of the afore-mentioned denigrating terms.
The term “Satanic” is contained in The Post editorial entitled “Watch satanic deeds.” In it Mmembe writes: “No one should believe the satanic pie in the sky promises. We all know this man and his satanic deeds. His deeds are there for all to see. They speak of him and who he is.”
The word “Satanic” can be defined as being profoundly cruel or evil; fiendish. Between 1990 and 2011, Mmembe assigned reporters, including George Chellah, Amos Malupenga, and those now serving as diplomats to track and trace the political and private life of Sata. What they discovered was glaring and is best described by Mmembe as satanic.
The Post’s findings made Mmembe to conclude thus: “It is clear Sata will say anything if it helps him get elected…this is why people must listen very carefully to the promises Sata is making. They must ask themselves ‘what is this man’s true legacy?’ It is true he has done some good here and there. But his destructive traits far outweigh any benefits.”
Notice how Mmembe qualifies the word “destructive” with “thug.” He continues: “who wants to return to the vigilante days? Who wants to return to the days when the corrupt, the crooked and the most shrewd reign[ed] supreme?” He is talking about the early MMD days.
In the early 1990s, Mmembe and Sata, both pioneers of the MMD, helped to create a climate in which the MMD frustrated and defeated KK. Sata, as MMD National Secretary, orchestrated a series of MMD vigilante demonstrations that were based on wanton destruction and looting in both Lusaka and on the copperbelt. Lives were lost.
Later Mmembe would write: “In 2001 we saw Sata as national secretary of the MMD unleash a corruption-funded thuggery on Chiluba’s political opponents within the MMD. Ministers who did not agree with the third-term campaign, which Sata was championing, were being beaten and harassed in all sorts of ways.”
It is possible that had Sata not embraced Mmembe this time around, Mmembe’s editorials would have read something like, “I told you Michael was a thug. The violence being committed by the PF militias is reminiscent of his yesteryear crimes. It is 2013, Michael has continued with his thuggish behavior. Whereas he orchestrated violence on the opposition from the MMD headquarters, he’s now doing it from State House. Not once has he condoned the behavior of his militia. He is glad they are beating the hell out of his opponents. That’s his nature. We have a violent president on our hands.”
The words “liar” “unprincipled” and “plunderer” are contained in several editorials. “This man has no principles,” Mmembe writes. “It is the same mouth that only yesterday was promising to defend Chiluba that is today saying he will not defend him and his fellow plunderers.”
It has always been Mmembe’s conviction that Sata, a one-time staunch supporter of FTJ, participated in the plundering of Zambia’s assets and shared the spoils. Going by the editorials, it is clear that Mmembe took a keen interest in the Zamtrop account and followed the movement of the money and kept record of the people involved. That’s why he was bold enough to call FTJ a thief and Sata an accomplice. Later, he was incensed when Sata openly proclaimed that he would stop the prosecution of FTJ, Xavier Chungu, and Faustin Kabwe.
In his editorial titled “Sata is not a Messiah,” Mmembe writes: “It is not difficult for anyone to realize or guess why Mr. Sata today has become the most ardent defender of people who plundered public resources. This is simply because they are his financiers,” clearly insinuating that Sata is a corrupt politician.
Today, an anti-Sata-Mmembe would have led us to where the Zamtrop money is buried. It is possible he would be insisting that Xavier Chungu and Faustin Kabwe be rearrested to help recover the money. He would be calling Sata a thief and a plunderer and accusing him of having pocketed $40 million said to be in the Zamtrop account. Where is the money?” he would be asking.
In “Don’t allow thieves to govern” editorial, Mmembe writes: [Sata] is a populist who will say what he thinks his audience wants to hear…he has no morals to defend and no principles to fight for.” He calls him a “demagogue” of the worst kind. In his editorial “Cheap demagogy” Mmembe writes: “Zambians should not be cheated by the demagogy that Sata is engaging in. This man will say anything to be elected but Zambians will not be fooled.”
In other words Sata is a liar. Had Mmembe remained a critic of Sata, he would written; “I told you so. Michael lied that he would put money in our pockets in 90 days. That’s who he is, a liar who will do anything to win an election.”
Don’t forget that Mmembe has often called Sata dishonest because of the president’s ambiguous and highly suspicious background. His Wikipedia biography is a slap in the faces of Zambians. Sata himself has claimed to have been born under a tree. Where in Mpika? We do not exactly know. He does not tell us who he grew up with in Mpika. There is no mention of the schools he attended; the games he played; his best friends; his teachers; and level of education. None of his close friends and teachers has cleared the air; and none of those who served in the police force have surfaced to tell us why he was dismissed. Chiluba tried to expose Sata when the two became rivals.
Here are Chiluba’s own words: “Let me ask Mr. Sata to tell the country the truth. Were you a police constable in the colonial government which was oppressing us or a freedom fighter? Were you imprisoned for your participation in the fight for independence? Or can you say why you were jailed and dismissed from the police force? Remember I was in office for ten years as President and I had records on every one of my Ministers. As the appointing authority of the Prisons and Police Services Commission I came to know the truth about you Mr. Sata.”
Mmembe knows why Sata was dismissed—he has his own version. He knows how Sata got to England to work as a sweeper, and his role as a member of UPP. Lest we forget, it is Mmembe’s newspaper that first brought Sata’s origin to the fore. At the height of KK’s citizenship wrangle, The Post reported for the first time that Sata was from Tanzania and that he came to Zambia as a child. This was after Mmembe and his staff had reported that FTJ was a Congolese whose father was Luka Chabala Kafupi.
Sata’s failure to provide a succinct biography to the media has pushed the rumors to another level. In 2001, his close associate, Willie Nsanda revealed that Sata’s middle-name was not Chilufya, but Zondwa and that he indeed was a Tanzanian. Years later, MMD Chief Government spokesman Ronnie Shikapwasha and other opponents challenged Sata to come clean and tell the nation who he really was.
This is the kind of stuff that makes Sata serve at the pleasure of Mmembe. He has removed the venom from his fangs and can get anything he wants from him. He can even cause the president to fake his own assassination. I have said it before and will say it again that the Sata assassination hoax of January 23, 2012 was the biggest lie ever told. It did not originate from the UK or US, but from The Post offices.
In my article of January 29, 2012 titled “Did Fred M’membe stage the Assassination Hoax?” I offer my own version of how I still believe the hoax was planned and provide “evidence” in form of mails from The Post Managing Editor Bivan Saluseki to me. The prank was staged by Saluseki, Mmembe, and George Chellah. They altered the Wikipedia biography of Sata and deleted it soon after alarming Zambians. Defense Minister GBM vowed to find the anonymous editor and “bring him to book.” He has since kept quiet about it.
The Wikipedia deleted version can still be detected by the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Department (JWID) by using its high-level intelligence communications system. What happened to the US and British embassies’ pledge to help the Zambian government to catch the culprit? Saluseki, Mmembe, and Chellah ought to be arrested and subjected to a polygraph test provided by the U.S. or UK. Of course they won’t because Sata has called off the investigation. Reason: It points back to the trio.
Mmembe is a dangerous self-serving opportunist and a neurotic liar who can best be described as a predator and a narcissist whose behavior is characterized by egotism, vanity, and pride. He seeks self-gratification, and domination. He sees himself as a powerful and influential individual and enjoys dumping shame onto others. He truly believes that people are hooked to the stuff he peddles. His hypocritical “Lie about Zambia” editorial is preposterous. Read it again and you will see him licking his own wounds.
The hastily written article exposes him as a desperate megalomaniac and a ranting media neophyte who is suffering from a great deficit of self-esteem. His claim about an international campaign to discredit the president and Zambia is outrageous and another of his many lies. In his usual witch-hunting stance he fails to mention the names of “some of the Zambians and their foreign agents” involved in this so-called syndicate created to “discredit Zambia and the government of Michael Sata.” Like the narcissist he is, he casts his net wide to implicate others.
Mmembe wishes to give the impression that critics of the president and his PF party are paid conspirators and traitors who hate Zambia. Instead of directing his raw sentiments on former president Rupiah Banda and naming all his collaborators, he is dragging us all in. There is no Zambian who is campaigning against his own country. Of course Zambians are free to campaign against Sata if they find him wanting, just as Mmembe himself did in his quest for adulation, and admiration. Mmembe, of all the people, does not have the moral compass to stop others from expressing the same freedom of expression he enjoyed as a renegade.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012