By Field Ruwe
Did the Post stage the assassination hoax to kill “Hunt for Successor”? I can hear condemnations, curses, obscenities, profanities and many how dare yous! Hold on. When M’membe called FTJ a thief you did not respond with bile and wrath. When he called Mwanawasa a man of “foolishness, stupidity, and lack of humanity,” some of you sniggered under your breaths. Not one elder admonished him. M’membe began to feel immortal and these days he feels like a saint. No, he’s not. It is our naiveté that has made him so.
What I am about to unveil should provide food for thought. I will do my best to be as clear as possible, so help me God. I will write like a true journalist—boldly, factually and precisely. That’s what I was trained to do. I am not a politician. The details and timeline I am about to layout coincide with the events of Monday 23, 2012.
Here is my take. Following the election of PF leader now President Michael Chilufya Sata I started a series of articles entitled “Hunt for Successor” in which I urge our senior politicians to groom and support a young and youthful leader at the end of the president’s two terms, hence the use of the word “Successor.” It’s high time. I also try to inspire the youth to think big because Zambia is their country and the future is theirs.
Some bloggers have castigated me over the use of the word “Successor.” They insist it implies that the president has passed. To the contrary, I use the word to describe any person who will win the election in 2016 or 2021. After the president has served his term/s in accordance with our constitution the person who will take over from him will be his SUCCESSOR as simple as that.
I write my articles because I am concerned about youth apathy and lack of civic engagement by young professional resulting in limited pool of individuals from which our leadership is drawn. I have so far written ten articles, most of which are featured on online media outlets.
I want to emphasize that in all the articles I have exhibited high regard and respect for the office of the president and the incumbent President Sata. I have been careful not to offend him to the extent of being labeled a PF cadre by some bloggers. I know him personally and admire his clout. He knows it.
Here is my interpretation of the conundrum. On December 19, 2011 I wrote an article entitled “Purging Fred M’membe’s Contempt” in which I took a swipe at M’membe for posing as a journalist and claiming heroism at the expense of his staff. I did so because I have closely followed the development of The Post from the time John Hall and Masautso Phiri launched the Weekly Post.
Admittedly, I am callous in my tone because some of his reporters were my friends. Aware of the state of The Post after elections, I envisioned the president weakening the newspaper by appointing some of M’membe’s staff namely George Chellah and Amos Malupenga to government positions. In my article I poke fun at Chellah and Malupenga for dumping M’membe.
The article gave me an opportunity to gauge how “powerful” M’membe was. He surely is feared by many politicians in our country and has a loyal following. He has taught us one lesson. If you want to get under the skin of presidents be like Fred M’membe—crude, shrewd, vulgar, improper and impolite. Call political leaders stupid and senseless and you will live in a beehive like a king. Realizing how “powerful” we have let M’membe become I knew I had rattled the king-bee. The sting would be fatal and I was not wrong.
On January 15, 2011 at 5.41 a.m. EST, I received a Facebook message which read as follows:
Dear Mr. Ruwe. My name is Bivan Saluseki, managing editor at The Post newspaper in Zambia. I am asking for your contact details. There is something I need to communicate with you.
It struck me as strange for The Post to write to me because Fred M’membe had become my nemesis. He had not taken kindly to my article and as such I was bracing myself for any eventuality. Because Saluseki’s message was ambiguous I sent him my email address via Facebook. The following day January 16, 2012 I accessed mail from him, it read:
Hai Field, thanks for responding to my mail. I wanted to request if we could use some of your articles and opinions in The Post newspaper in Zambia. I have seen some of them online and I must admit they are very interesting. Let me know and the conditions.
Now, on two occasions prior, last year September and October to be precise, I mailed my first two articles to The Post. When they did not feature them I resorted to online media outlets. Saluseki’s request after four months was therefore dubious. I knew Fred M’membe was craving for revenge. It scared me to think The Post would be editing my articles. I therefore chose not to respond to Saluseki’s query.
On Monday, January 23, 2012, I received a message from Joshua Chongo of Livingstone an ardent reader and follower of “Hunt for Successor” who had asked permission to distribute the articles among his personal friends for personal use. He wrote:
Thank you again for your response, I am happy The Post published Hunt for Successor 8 as a feature in yesterday’s edition, I had forwarded it to them, as they never responded to my request I thought they will not do it, but thank God, I would humbly suggest that you have a column in their paper so that all Zambians can benefit from well written works…
I had not read the Sunday Post edition of January 22, 2011. I called a few of my friends back home to ascertain and they all confirmed to have read the article in the printed edition. On Monday, January 23, 2012, I was greeted by The Post story entitled “Sata assassination story annoys government” written by Ernest Chanda. I read the story with thoroughness because it was written a day after mine. When George Chellah’s quotes digressed into online journalists writing horrid stories, the coincidence was of even greater concern to me and so was my suspicion.
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 1:47 p.m. EST, I wrote to Saluseki:
You plagiarized my article “Hunting for Successor 8” undercutting your integrity as managing editor and exposing your motive. You must know that plagiarism is considered a professional fraud and a breach of journalistic ethics. In the real world you should cease to be a managing editor and never to practice journalism. I have no idea how you acquired the article, cut and paste or forwarded to you, I did not grant you permission. In journalism it is the author that grants permission.
When I first got your email it struck me as strange that you would be sourcing my articles after what I had written about Fred M’membe. I gave it to you anyway because I wanted to catch you and I did. I have retained our correspondence to share with the media and my lawyers. I will feature them in my article—to show how you are running the Post.
If you don’t apologize in the next 12 hours on the front page of your Post, a copy of which you must email to me, I shall write an article to expose you and your boss. I will also instruct my lawyers to sue for thousands of dollars. We may not win due to the political climate in which the Post finds itself, but we surely will do some damage.
If your intention and that of the Post and your cohorts is to destroy me, I can assure you it going to be a bitter battle—mark my words. I will fall on you like a ton of bricks—professionally of course. I am watching you and the unfolding events very closely.
The following day, January 25, I received the following note from Saluseki:
Hellow Mr. Ruwe,
If it is possible, send me your phone number then I can talk to you. I am on +260968 192643. Thank you.
There is a computer at The Post or at Saluseki’s home that contains my communication with him. I have saved all his messages in my computer and printed them for my records.
It is possible that beginning January 15, 2012 when Saluseki first wrote me, M’membe and Saluseki had figured out a ferocious assault on me. My “Hunt for Successor” articles are in series. There is no way M’membe was going to publish “Purging Fred M’membe’s Contempt” in his newspaper.
When they obtained my article “Hunt for Successor 8: Zambian Intellectuals are Lazy,” they had a sinister motive. They had planned. They went ahead and published it without my permission—plagiarized. Those in the writing business know how serious a crime this is. It has been the downfall of many newsmen.
Why did Saluseki from nowhere suddenly get in touch with me? Why did M’membe go ahead and publish a story illegally? Why did The Post publish my story on the eve of the hoax story? Why did Chellah’s press release deviate to the condemnation of online media outlets? Professional journalists in Zambia and experts around the world help me answer these questions. Is there something I am missing?
As I gathered my thoughts and I began to think that perhaps the assassination hoax is a fluke; that it was internally planned by M’membe and Saluseki with the knowledge of George Chellah. For those who think I am wrong, convince me that M’membe may not have had a hand in the hoax. I have provided the timeline now I need to understand the coincidence.
I wish to make an earnest appeal to the president to extend the investigation to The Post newspaper. Allow independent US and UK agents to examine my correspondence with Saluseki and examine the IP addresses in their computers and George Chellah’s computer. You notice I include Chellah because he is featured in my M’membe article.
Now, should the president shield the three gentlemen and resort to rhetorical defense and intimidation, as is usually the case, it will confirm to the world that there is some truth in my assertions. Carelessly handled this might turn out to be the biggest scandal of the year or much to do about nothing.
Countrymen, I have courageously gone where no one dare because I am aggrieved. I need support. My work was stolen. I appeal to the Zambian media organizations and associations and MISA to charge The Post with theft and plagiarism. Fred M’membe is the sole owner of The Post and the buck ends there. He has chosen not to apologize because he has never said sorry in his media career. He feels indispensible. He is a sadist who relishes on people’s pain.
Proper etiquette calls a revelation of this magnitude to be addressed to relevant authorities. I do not know who to address it to. If I write to the president it will be intercepted. If I address it to the Inspector General he will throw it out. If I approach the state-run media organizations they will be too scared to publish it. That’s why I am turning to online outlets. I wish to share my experience with a few of my readers. They are good at spreading the news. They make great twitters.
Boldly and daringly I have stated, not under disguise. I hope you now understand why I am advocating for Chellah’s firing. Okay, now you can get up and march to State House or call me what you like.
I hereby grant permission to the media and interested parties around the world to publish this article and the other articles in their entirety. They all found online. Facts and quotes must be reported as they appear in the articles.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate with a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism, and an M.A. in History.