When Taskforce on Corruption prosecutor, Mutembo Nchito sought to meet the Auditor General, Anna Orlia Chifungula recently, at former Minister of Local Government Silvia Masebo’s residence, the mission was simple; subvert the course of this ongoing forensic audit on the Taskforce.
Mutembo attempted to exploit the ‘’blood relationship’’ that Chifungula enjoys with the late president. He reflected on their shared vision of fighting abuse of public funds and on their need to strengthen the legacy of ‘’our late brother’’.
The audit is exposing some ugly matters that Mutembo and his embattled camp would wish remained buried. He underestimated Chifungula’s long-standing commitment to the public service and the nation!
Nchito who commanded until recently, wide influence on public officials and sometimes was instrumental in the appointment of key persons to institutions, has seen his circle of influence shrink so much so that it is now only consigned to the editorial columns of The Post. George Kunda has been instrumental in arresting Mutembo’s pervasive influence in the Judiciary and key law enforcement agencies!
And his sojourn to Masebo’s house was because George Kunda had created fresh troubles for them! Kunda has helped abolish the Taskforce and has even commissioned an audit!
It is for this reason that the camp has directed all its arsenals to their most urgent troubling target – George Kunda! For now President Rupiah Banda has enjoyed ‘’a ceasefire’’ with his perceived failings now being attributed to ‘’wrong advice’’ from George Kunda.
George Kunda remains the foremost enemy who knows their criminal workings and has institutional memory that constantly haunts them and threatens to expose their crimes and machinations that occurred during the reign of President Levy Mwanawasa.
It is no wonder that they formed a committee ‘’ The George Kunda must Go Campaign’’. Fred Mmembe, Mark Chona and Mutembo Nchito are keen to alienate and malign Kunda from his boss, and other ministers. The campaign is designed to weaken pillars of strong individuals that support and help the Banda Presidency so that Banda will ‘’remain politically fragile’’ as the country heads for the 2011 Elections.
WHAT HAS GEORGE KUNDA DONE?
George Kunda was a good family and professional friend to the late President, Levy Mwanawasa. When President Mwanawasa decided to sell his practice, he chose George Kunda to assume his firm, his clients and the secrets thereof.
When Mwanawasa became President, he had to summon his friend to help with the governance of the country, and owing to his legal standing in the legal fraternity, Kunda was made Minister of Legal Affairs (now Justice), and Attorney General.
However the friendship quickly came under severe test when Mwanawasa’s newly acquired political friends in Mark Chona, Mutembo Nchito and Fred Mmembe brought an ‘’Anti-Corruption Agenda’’.
For the record, George Kunda opposed the creation of an illegal body in the name of the Taskforce on Corruption advising that its lack of legal status would rob its work of legality and legitimacy!
He also advised Mwanawasa to either use legally established institutions or legalise the Taskforce. Kunda noted that the president’s reliance on Article 61 which creates commissions of enquiry was inadequate as the appointment of the Chairman of the Taskforce with given powers to investigate and prosecute criminal matters, amounted to usurping the powers of the DPP and other law enforcement agencies and was null and void at law.
Later, Kunda opposed the hounding out of office Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Mukelebai Mukelebai. The trio were instrumental in fomenting false allegations that Mukelebai had secretly been meeting former Director General of ZSIS, Xavier Chungu.
Mukelebai had also opposed the usurpation of his constitutional powers by Chona and Nchito. Mutembo had set up an illegal system where he arraigned people before courts without obtaining consent from the DPP. In some instances, accused persons were even convicted (former Press Assistant to Chiluba, Richard Sakala is one of these victims), when there was no consent for their prosecution!
Mukelabai attempted to fire Mutembo and his brother Nchima who he termed ‘’desk lawyers with no previous prosecution experience!’’ but was thwarted by Mwanawasa’s constant interference and his knack to side with the private prosecutors, every time their unorthodox and illegal workings were exposed.
Mukelebai’s decision to discontinue cases he deemed unsuitable for prosecution or those improperly brought to court without his consent (the Kashiba Bulaya case), earned him severe negative press in The Post and Mwanawasa was made to yield to its demands!
Kunda is also on record of protesting the culture of disrespecting the decisions of the DPP as he was the only one mandated by the Republican Constitution to make such decisions and not Chona, Mutembo nor The Post!
Kunda’s statements and his strong posture to stand up against the abuse of processes by Mutembo and his colleagues also earned him numerous insults from the pages of The Post!
Therefore when Mukelebai went to Livingstone with his young children for Holiday following the demise of his wife, he happened to be there when Xavier Chungu was in town.
This spawned falsehoods from The Post linking Mukelebai to ‘plunderers’ and accusing him of ‘meeting criminals’. The paper also continued to portray Mukelebai as among persons practising ‘a conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice’. The paper fuelled a huge campaign stringing allegations that Mukelebai had always stood against the anti-corruption cause.
Mwanawasa was persuaded to set up a tribunal headed by Judge Esau Chulu who however cleared Mukelebai Mukelebai of all falsehoods heaped upon him. This however was not enough to keep him in his constitutional office!
Off course Mark Chona and his colleagues succeeded in hounding Mukelebai out of office. However their attempts to employ Mrs. Caroline Sokoni backfired when Kunda succeeded in persuading Mwanawasa to employ Chalwe Mchenga, Mukelebai’s deputy, who was eminently qualified and possessed vast prosecution experience.
Parliament voted unanimously and without hesitation for Mchenga!
Chona, Mmembe and Nchito have always managed to usurp state powers they did not have through manipulative ways, trickery and threats against public officials.
In October 2005, Chona signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom when in normal legal environment; such a treaty should have been signed by the Attorney General (who was Kunda)!
The MOU created a pool fund for the ‘fight against corruption’. Chona even commenced the case against Chiluba in the London High Court in the name of the Attorney General. Chona hired a law firm to sue on behalf of the Attorney General, Howrey, Simon, Arnold and White who he paid USD1.6million.
Chona later fired this firm and hired another law firm, DLA Piper who hired William Blair (Brother to British Prime Minister, Tony Blair) as its Barrister.
Chona also paid the USD5 million required as deposit on the case from the Anti Corruption Fund (ACF) held in UK. Further Chona authorised the payment of another USD5 million.
When Justice Peter Smith demanded that the Attorney General release the 1970 Finance Charter which regulated the ZAMTROP account to help prove impropriety, Kunda refused citing the law that restrict the sight of this document to the President and the Director General (ZISS), Mutembo however disregarded Kunda’s concerns and persuaded Mwanawasa to release this secret document to foreigners!
For his part, Kunda suffered insults in The Post with editorial comments and satires rebuking and ridiculing him.
Recently Kunda was instrumental in exposing the huge loans obtained fraudulently from public institutions by Mutembo Nchito and Fred Mmembe through Zambian Airways.
Kunda called for a speedy prosecution and demanded that the duo be charged with fraud, tax evasion, racketeering, theft and other conspiracy charges connected to the USD30million they obtained or owed public institutions.
Many wondered why Zambian Airways remained a rickety and limping airline surviving on leased planes yet it had obtained about USD30million in loans and obligations! Many wondered why the duo targeted public institutions if not to commit crimes!
Kunda also ‘committed his biggest crime’ when he persuaded government to commence the process to abolish the Taskforce on Corruption in light of the establishment of the Anti Corruption Policy. This had been a cash cow for Mark Chona (USD10, 000.00 monthly allowance), Mutembo Nchito (USD20, 000.00 a month) and Max Nkole.
Following the acquittal of former president Frederick Chiluba, Nkole and Nchito without bothering to seek either consent or authority from the DPP as required by law, secretly appealed against the case!
Nchito and Mmembe also reverted to the ‘diplomatic influence’ of Mark Chona to raise donor funds for the campaign to force the State to support the appeal and raise a lobby from civil society groupings for the cause.
Mchenga withdrew the appeal as it was not sanctioned by his office. Nchito was his agent and merely exercised delegated authority. Mchenga also doubted the success of the appeal if it was launched as the evidence against Chiluba from all the 35 witnesses had not rebutted the issue of private funds in the ZAMTROP.
President Rupiah Banda fired Nkole for this misconduct.
The empire was furious!
CAMPAIGN AGAINST GEORGE KUNDA
Chona organised a consortium of 18 civil society grouping to lunch an orchestrated nationwide campaign of mass protests and demonstrations against Banda’s government.
On 6th and 7th October the 18 NGOs publicised in the national press that they would be launching country-wide anti-government activities. Their key demands were; the resignation of George Kunda and Chalwe Mchenga, and the restoration of the appeal against Chiluba.
The campaign failed to launch as Chona’s activities were quickly exposed and the demands of the 18 NGOs was unmasked as an opportunistic plot to destabilise Banda’s government by known elements.
The campaign against Kunda and Mchenga however proceeded with scurrilous editorials by Mmembe and Mutembo.
The current discussions on the regulation of the media have given them a ‘golden’ opportunity to ‘legitimately’ attack Kunda.
Clearly Kunda has sought the exercise of the law than allow their fraud and favour seeking patronage. Their financial muscle is dissipating quickly. The loss of Zambian Airways and the dissolution of the Taskforce on Corruption have hurt them immensely. And Kunda remains the man to blame.
Kunda possesses institutional memory of their crimes and has battled Mutembo and his associates since the Mwanawasa days. Now that they have little or no influence on President Banda, who appears to rely upon the wise counsel of Kunda, this has continued to unsettle them.
The previous attempts to bring Banda’s government through a parliamentary impeachment or through mass demonstrations, protests and industrial strike has so far lamentably failed! So maybe if they collapse Banda’s government, piece by piece, maybe it would work!
The campaign spearheaded by The Post appear to be gathering momentum as the paper has sought ‘credible opinions’ from LAZ, Godfrey Miyanda(who is aggrieved with Kunda over the Rodger Chongwe affair) and Edith Nawakwi ( who has always wanted the position of VP from Banda).
The campaign to rid Kunda from Banda’s government has heightened since he was instrumental in abolishing the Taskforce on Corruption and directed that a forensic audit be done.
The Taskforce is held as a prime symbol of Mwanawasa’s legacy. Yet the rot being unravelled by the audit shows abuse, theft and wanton fraud during its existence.
Donor funds were not properly utilised and this exposure will sink the bare ‘achievements’ the Taskforce made. The country will learn that Chona, Nkole and Nchito used the Taskforce as an oppressive political tool, a cash cow and an intelligence unit for their foreign backers.
The paper was founded by veteran journalists Masautso Phiri and John Mukela and Michael Hall and was an instrument to help democratise the country by exposing public rot, give credible analysis, and force politicians to swallow the transparency pill.
A junior accountant the trio employed in the name of Fred Mmembe soon became the Managing Director to help administer and run the business side of the paper.
The trio mobilised credible local investors such as Enoch Kavindele, Anderson Mazoka, Ronald Penza, Baldwin Nkumbula and others.
Over the last few years, it’s the Camel and Arab story, where the paper has lost its diversified shareholding leaving Mmembe as the majority shareholder.
Mmembe has turned a respected tabloid into a scandal sheet and a rag for purveying only opinions from the same sources. Although he has increased the paper’s circulation and helped institutionalise it, he has accumulated serious wealth along the way.
Mmembe controls the paper as a shareholder and as Editor in chief. The paper has degenerated from a journalistic product to a pamphlet and campaign tool for Mmembe’s various political and financial causes.
Mmembe has also diversified the business to include a courier, internet service provider and his ill fated USD3milllion investment in the Zambian Airways.
The paper has since occupied a major political space in the life of this country playing usually a negative and disruptive role.
The paper decides who has committed crimes and who has not, who ought to be scandalised or not, who requires public support or not. In 2001, the paper roosted for the FDD led by Christon Tembo. The FDD only garnered 12% at the polls.
In 2006, the paper supported Mwanawasa who ‘won’ a second term.
In 2008, The Post supported PF leader Michael Sata against Rupiah Banda. Banda won the elections with a 40% margin.
Currently the paper is supporting the UPND/PF Pact but roosting for Michael Sata while consigning Hakainde Hichilema to the role of a junior partner in the alliance.
The paper has gained influence in political circles especially in the absence of a credible independent daily paper.
THE REGULATION OF THE MEDIA
Since the dawn of Democracy in 1991, both government and media practitioners have agreed that freedom comes with responsibilities. To this effect measures were introduced to co-opt in the media the practice of responsible and ethical journalism.
Various ethical committees have in the past been formed under media associations. The Post enshrined in their paper ‘’the right to reply’’ (which is now moribund) to promote fair coverage.
A milestone was achieved when in 2002, media houses, editors and other players in the industry came together to form a self regulatory body called Media council of Zambia (MECOZ).
MECOZ was doomed to suffer a still birth as The Post refused to recognise this institution. Although it was founded through a credible process and had respected members on its Board, The Post which is guilty of most media, ethical and other violations regard any form of regulation as ‘’stifling press freedom’’!
Zambia seems to be the only country existing so far and so long without any regulation of the media (either self or statutory).
Mmembe proceeded to abandon the natural requirement of recruiting professional journalists and introduced for his paper an internal program where he taught his new recruits, without any media training ‘’Post Journalism’’.
The numerous insults, derogatory language and flagrant abuse of press freedom by Mmembe is a deep source of embarrassment to many professionals, and both members of the public and government officials have called on the fraternity to curb the abuse of the profession and limit the damage done to other freedoms enjoyed by citizens.
MECOZ received a death knell when its Executive Director Sister Rose Nyondo, issued a condemnatory statement criticising The Post for its insulting editorials referring to the derogatory language as unethical.
The paper embarked on a sustained campaign to scandalise MECOZ and alienate it from the media fraternity. A respected catholic nun in Sister Nyondo was also insulted and her Board tagged as an instrument of the State!
Government has since shown exasperation and in July 2009, gave media associations an ultimatum of six months to come up with a self regulatory body.
The media association embarked on the process in October 2009 following repeated warnings from Minister of Information, Ronnie Shikapwasha, who reminded the fraternity that time, was ticking. The Post with professed reluctance participated in this process.
Following the expiration of the 6 month ultimatum, the Ministry of Justice began to draw a statutory media regulation Bill. Drafters were instructed to borrow widely from Western Democracies and other African states especially Kenya which has vibrant private media with strong private television and radio stations, and well resourced independent newspapers but has a statutory media council.
But on December 22nd, the media associations under the umbrella body called Media Liaison Committee, comprising Press Association of Zambia (PAZA), Media institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA), Zambia Union of Broadcasters and Information Disseminators (ZUBID), Press Freedom Committee of The Post (PFC), Panos Southern Africa and Catholic Media Services, issued a statement with startling allegations!
The allegations were that Vice-President George Kunda, was singularly crafting and developing a punitive media bill targeting ‘’his enemies in the media’’. The statement also stated that Kunda’s ‘’strange appetite to settle scores in the media, civil society and ‘legal practitioners who cannot bow to his trademark manipulative behaviour’ was his motive’’!
The statement proceeded to declare Kunda ‘’as the most hostile public officer since 1991’’ and was termed as ‘’ the number one enemy of Media Freedom’’
The statement proceeded to highlight details of the ‘’George Kunda Media Council Bill 2009’’!
This statement snugly fits into the larger agenda fomented against George Kunda bearing all hallmarks of the earlier advertised campaign against him and Mchenga by the 18NGOs. The revolutionary language and strong allegations without foundation, documentary proof, or credible support is however baffling in comparison. In the absence of evidence, the attacks from the Committee is mere hot air.
The Committee seems to have obtained leaked working papers of George Kunda. Until it is gazetted and lined up for legislation, criticism of the unseen Bill is premature. A media consultant hired to help with the Bill confessed that what the Committee are crying Wolf as the Bill bears no resemblance to the allegations being spewed in their advert. He insisted that the Committee had sight of a proposed government and does not substantially differ with what it’s working on. He shown ignorance about the ‘’George Kunda Media Council Bill of 2009’’!
This Bill has not been gazetted and it is not before Parliament. Therefore it is unknown if the alleged ‘’draconian contents’’ are what the ‘Media Liaison Committee’ say there are.
This statement has since been sponsored by The Post and is given full coverage everyday relentlessly and without ceasing for 10 days so far!
The paper has also sought supportive comments on the statement from the Committee from Michael Sata, Given Lubinda, Hakainde Hichilema, Godfrey Miyanda, Edith Nawakwi, Ken ngondo and others to force a resignation or dismissal of both Kunda and Mchenga.
They say history repeats itself. But when it repeats itself the next time, it’s a fuss! Really, what a fuss!
This campaign is similar to past campaigns against Mukelebai Mukelebai and recently the template used against Dora Siliya. This campaign is now in full swing against George Kunda and Chalwe Mchenga and the outcome raises a De javu feeling and might spell foreboding consequences for Kunda and Mchenga.
It is strange how a limited and small pool of Sources are used repeatedly against government and constantly enlisted to champion Mmembe’s cause.
The Post’s strange mix of reward and punishment does help, and seems to succeed in freezing credible voices who to fail to speak out and help guide the nation. The Post manages to portray that every ‘’credible voice’’ is on their side and lends weight to their stated campaign.
However, in the event that their friend speaks against them, the full weight of insulting editorials is unleashed against such a person. Ask those that have received the brunt of these vile attacks including their erstwhile friend Dr. Neo Simutanyi.
The silent motto that guides Mmembe appears to be ‘’you are either with us or against us’’! ‘’And if you are against us keep quiet or the dogs will be unleashed on you’’.
In this practise there are no sacred cows, even their revered friend and respected elder statesman Kenneth Kaunda, this rule applies. If old KK is quiet or speaks for their cause, all is well and his statesmanship is extolled and revered!
However the moment KK issues a political statement against their establishment a torrent of attacks besiege him and ‘old munshumfwa’’ is reviled with ugly reprisals!
Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel warns that Evil only exist because good people refuse to condemn it, refuse to take action against it and decide to be ‘neutral’; In his famous statement when accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace, Wiesel stated that;
‘’I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure sufferings and humiliations. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’’
Mukelebai might appear like he died a vain death, hounded out office and followed up with death while he sought the privacy, solace, silence and peace as an ordinary lecturer at the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa. Shall we let the same cabal hound out of office another set of dedicated and noble public servants in George Kunda and Chalwe Mchenga?
We are reminded of rich words of Black Jamaican Novelist, poet and leading light of Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay (1920), whose words were stolen and appropriated by War British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who used theses words when he rallied his nation to war against Nazi Germany;
‘’If we must die, let it not be like hogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, while around us, bark the mad and hungry dogs, making their mock at our accursed lot, if we must die, let us die nobly, so the our precious blood is not shed in vain. Even when the monsters we defy shall be constrained to honour us. Though outnumbered, let us show brave. For their thousand blows, what lies before us is an open grave, we face the murderous, cowardly pack, (although we are) pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!’’ If We Must Die; Claude McKay (1920).
Disclaimer: The Watchdog did not write this article. We just provided a platform and will continue doing so.