The Friday episode of the much followed Radio Phoenix ‘Let the People Talk’ Program, discussing privatisation of companies in Zambia, was marred with controversy as callers were harassed and harangued by the studio panel.
Leading the onslaught on callers opposed to renationalisation of industry was Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Robert Sichinga, who declared Zambia would now go back to Zambians.
Former Minister of Transport and Communications, Andrew Kashita, who was Minister during the liquidation of Zambia Airways, claimed parastatal companies in the first republic were profitable, citing Indeco where he was Chief Executive Officer as one of them.
Several callers who questioned the authenticity and practicality of nationalising privatised companies were ridiculed and harangued through constant intersections where they were proded to provide evidence of failed parastatals. The usually versatile and probing host,Frank Mutubila, decided not to wreck his new appointment to the Zambian Embassy in Italy by inciting the studio guests to tear apart any caller seemingly opposed to nationalisation or Patriotic Front (PF) programmes.
‘This caller has been brought down to size,’ commented Mutubila after a caller, who identified himself as JK, was ridiculed by the studio panel for questioning the integrity of Kashita in advising government on nationalisation when he had been responsible for the collapse of industry.
It took another panelist, Dennis Wood, to remind Mutubila, Kashita and the vocal Sichinga that the programme was meant to allow citizens express divergent views.
‘This is Let the People Talk, let us allow people to talk,’ advised Wood but that could not stop Sichinga to get at economist Chibamba Kanyama who had called in to express disappointment at the manner the Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry was leading the submissions over the hearings on the sale of Zanaco. Kanyama further advised Zambia did not yet have capacity to revert to parastatals.
Sichinga responded, ‘Chibamba Kanyama is my good friend, but I want to disagree with him. He would not be at Zambian Breweries if it was not formerly a parastatal. Chibamba Kanyama, Andrew Kashita are competent to run parastatals. We must own our country’.
When another caller wanted to remind Sichinga that Zambian Breweries was a private company before it was nationalised, he was curtailed.
The precursor to the programme was an attack on the personality and credibility of former Vice President George Kunda, who was not in the studio.
The Friday show was Mutubila’s last appearance though his motive was immediately detected by callers who expressed disappointment at the manner he exhibited himself on the programme.