TRANSPARENCY International Zambia says the PF government must stop fueling ethnic violence before it degenerates into something they won’t contain.
And TIZ says ZNBC is highly irresponsible in its reporting.
State funded Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and ZNBC have been carrying a running story about alleged ethnic attacks orchestrated by the Tonga people in Southern Province.
The government controlled media houses report that UPND cadres have specifically embarked on an ‘ethnic cleansing’ exercise in Namwala.
But in an interview yesterday, TIZ president Lee Habasonda observed that government was “playing with fire”.
“Government must stop taking the position of inciting tribal hatred. That story in the Times of Zambia is irresponsible and if they think that when violence breaks out, it is going to spare them, they are really mistaken. They are playing with fire and we are urging those in authority to ensure that government is not leading and inciting tribal divisions. We know that there are many atrocities being committed by the Patriotic Front and now they have been blacked out and we now have media that was covering the other side also illegally closed down,” Habasonda said.
“I am certainly shocked and I hope that right thinking Zambians will advise those who are controlling the state institutions to really own up and prevent Zambia from being further torn apart. This is not helping at all. We need leadership. We think that really, if PF has to govern everybody in harmony, they have to be careful how they incite the population around tribal matters. This is really unfortunate and regrettable that government institutions can be in the forefront of fanning some kind of violence that they cannot be able to contain.”
He said if there were indeed Tongas involved in violence, they should be arrested instead of stereotyping the whole tribe.
“This is a wrong time to incite people because it is a very sensitive period and people will not be hoodwinked. We don’t even know if this incident, which is being reported in a one sided manner, is genuine. They may be a planned move to paint the Tongas against everybody else. They must stop this anti Tonga campaign, they must stop…; this is a concept where you say ‘us and them’. This is really scary because really, there are Tonga people in Luwingu, my own brother is working in Luwingu so if people read what is being propagated in the Times of Zambia, they may kill my brother,” Habasonda said.
“So they are being irresponsible, it is irresponsibility of the highest order to be carrying news and information that is inciting and encouraging violence. If there are any Tonga people who are committing acts of reprisals against any PF person, they must be arrested. But labeling every Tonga and calling it tribal cleansing is alarming and shocking and I am surprised that the editors and the people in charge of these newspapers can allow such a callous thing to be carried in the newspapers and on ZNBC.”
And Habasonda said ZNBC was not showing responsibility in its reporting.
“Anyway, we have given advice, if they want to kill the Tonga people let them do it but they will not succeed. They are only planting a seed that is going to devour them in the future. Certainly if we don’t handle ourselves at this particular moment, which is very sensitive, then it is not by coincidence that government has closed down Muvi and the other stations,” said Habasonda.
“I think there’s an agenda and unfortunately what we see from the other side, ZNBC and the other government controlled media are also highly irresponsible and if the other media has been closed for the purposes of irresponsibility, I don’t know what responsibility ZNBC is trying to carry.”
On Monday, re-elected Namwala UPND member of parliament Moono Lubezhi said there was no war in her constituency as was being portrayed by state owned media.