By Field Ruwe
“Field, I have always known you as a chancer, now you have shown your old stupid begging shabeen manners, you’ve even become more useless than those old dead prostitutes. You have no capacity to be called a monkey at the least [more irksome epithets]…” wrote blogger non de plume “Cat Power.”
This was in response to my article “Day of reckoning 9/19: Devotees vs. Skeptics, who won?” in which I refer to the president as looking pale, gaunt, and sick, and lash out at him for not being honest with the Zambian people about his illness. My article got Cat Power’s adrenaline and cortisol flooding the brain and caused him such wicked convulsive rabid rage he portrayed me as a vagabond and much worse in his concoction. I am lucky I was not in his line of fire.
Cat Power’s derangement shot a chill in my spine because there is a Chicago-based self-proclaimed Zambian “executioner” by the name of Chanda Chashi who is threatening to kill journalists and their families for “wishing Sata death.” In typical psychopathic assassin-style unprecedented in Zambia, Chisha has posted a chilling message on journalist Gershom Ndhlovu’s Facebook:
“It seems u can’t wait to see Sata dead, huh? Well, I have bad news for u. U will first die from a very painful death before Sata. But before u die, u will first witness some accident deaths from your family members and your loved ones. This shall come to pass. Mark my words…ONLY IF U REPENT FROM YOUR ENVY, BITTERNESS AND JEALOUS. Your heart is full of evil and hatred. Wait and see…”
Never has a Zambian publicly threatened another with death in such a manner. In a state of murderous gratification, Chashi has turned himself into an assassin. He even has the audacity to dare the Chicago Police Department. In his second message to Ndhlovu he writes:
“Let me tell u sir, I only fear God. I’m not scared of anyone who breaths in oxygen. Go on and report me to Chicago Police. Do u think American Police can tolerate that nonsense? Well, let me give u my details so that u can give the Chicago Police to come and arrest me. My phone number is; 314 229 7725. My home address is; 526 South Elis street, Hyde Park, Chicago.”
This is what is called snapping with tragic consequences. Coincidentally, I am also grappling with my own apprehensions. Cat Power’s outburst was awfully familiar. Only last month I had a similar escapade. After my A
ugust article “Sata’s Dynasty: Is God sending a message?” I received a rather strange call.
“Is that Field Ruwe?”
“Can I help you?” I calmly asked.
“If you are the one, you better stop the nonsense, you Sata hater. Who are you to evoke God’s name on Sata’s so-called illness? You are the one spreading lies that he is ill. Get it in your thick head, he is not ill, do you understand? What wrong has the president done to you? Is this a way of wanting a job from him, you lousy chancer? There’s a better way than writing your stupid articles day after day. You have no respect for the president…”
“Could this be Cat Power?” I wondered.
Apparently, Cat Power, who is believed to be residing in Australia, claims to have my phone number. In his contrite response to chastisement by bloggers, he writes the following: “Next time I’ll call you [me] when unhappy about your post.”
Ndhlovu’s situation and mine offer one lens through which to look at journalism in Zambia under the Sata regime. Since Sata and his PF party gained the presidency journalists have been operating in a field of landmines. Those with dissenting voices are likely to lose a limb or two. As president, Sata has failed to condone PF lethal violence whenever it has occurred. It is partly the reason some PF cadres, supporters, and dangerous individuals like Chashi are able to make such outlandish threats. They are prepared to harm or kill because they believe that their martyrdom will win them redemption.
I for one, spent four years in a university studying among other specialties, Investigative Journalism [Accountability Reporting], a course in which reporters deeply investigate serious crimes and political malpractices. I was hoping to help people of my country uncover information that is in the public interest and expose hypocritical behavior by those in power.
Over the years, I have staked my soul to provide information necessary to shape public opinion and government policy, and also to prevent the public from being misled by President Sata and his subordinates. Sadly, I am being forced to succumb to intimidation and threats by PF cadres, and emotional and dangerous madmen like Chashi and Cat Power. Such people, many who are employed as story killers by the ruling party, spend time chasing after anti-Sata articles and disembowel authors with insults and fabrications in their effort to distract and dictate public response and behavior.
In as far as people like Chashi and Cat Power are concerned, we cannot hold Sata accountable. We cannot question or differ with him. He was democratically elected by the people and is therefore sacrosanct and off-limits. Between now and when his term ends he is a demi-god. He can do whatever he wants. We can’t question his Machiavellian tactics and crippled policies. We should praise him even when he is the most disengaged president in our history; a dishonest propagandist who is often and clearly contradictory, inconsistent, and ambiguous in his views. We should support and promote his agenda to create a dynasty.
Let’s face it, currently Sata is afflicted by serious illness. We all know; the UN knows; the entire world knows. And yet Zambian journalists cannot find out the nature of his illness and discuss its effects on the country. Not even his close subordinates will give a hint. Sata, who was erroneously reported to have expired by the foreign media, would rather be responding to the Associated Press, Newsweek, and ABC than letting his own reporters disseminate the actuality.
The president would rather we reported lies. When he is weak and frail we should inform the public that it is fatigue and weight loss due to old age. When he spends millions of dollars on accommodation, and jet fuel in search of hospitals and medical expenses abroad, we should regard it as a deserved presidential dispensation. When he goes to the UN and fails to address the Security Council we should give the impression it is not mandatory for a head of head to make a speech.
As a result, our papers are filled with false headlines like “President Sata is in perfect health—Scott,” “Sata is on a working holiday in Israel—Mwansa Kapeya,” “President Sata is not fatigued—spokesman Joseph Katema.” These men have stripped journalists of their vocation and subjected them to the usual citizenry principle of appeasement, lies, and flattery. They are the reason rumors of Sata’s death are swelling. Kapeya even has the audacity to issue a threat; “those who are spreading falsehoods will be arrested.” One would think his transformation from a broadcaster to a cabinet minister would benefit media practitioners.
Let me get back to Chashi. If indeed Ndhlovu had wished the president death or celebrated at reading the story in the Associated Press, it is most unfortunate. Ndhlovu should know that as a journalist he has to show compassion for those affected by the news. Having said that, you Chashi and your murdering squad in Zambia have no right to take the law in your hands and slay him and members of his family. The law will catch up with you.
Moreover, in Chicago, where you currently reside, your utterances fall under the Terrorist Threat. It is a crime in Illinois and in every U.S. state to knowingly utter or convey a threat to cause death or bodily hard to any person. You must also understand that transmitting death threats via an Internet social tool is a federal crime in the United States.
I also see that you are an educator at Cleo A School, in Chicago. In the U.S. the education code requires that an educator values the worth and dignity of every person. You are required to strive to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct. The fact that you have caused Ndhlovu and his family fear and terror, deems you unfit to teach and work with students. The minute your employers, the principal, fellow teachers, and parents read your death threat, they will perceive you as a danger to them and students. You will be dismissed never to work in the U.S. again. If you go to prison, you will serve many years and will be deported. This applies to all Zambians with similar motives.
Finally, threats and intimidation should not cow any Zambian journalist. The Zambian people need our voice. They need us to convey to them what is happening in the chambers of power. We should therefore be courageous in gathering and reporting. We should tell the story as it is, even when it is unpopular to some.
Please Note: Four months ago when I saw the picture of a frail looking president, I set aside my “Hunt for Successor” series out of sheer respect. Now that succession has become the elephant in the PF room, I would like to help break the doors and let it out.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.