How was the Post allowed to owe Govt?
Fred M’membe and the Post newspaper fought crusades against corruption and attacked literally every President of corruption and failure to govern. However, I wonder how this paper was allowed to owe so much money to the Government. Was the Government intimidated into acquiescence or was there some form of relationship in existence which prevented execution of due processes of law? His use of the media to intimidate continued to the very end when he accused the Judge and other people involved in the matter of bearing skeletons which he intended to expose at an opportune time. This is not only an abuse of the trust the public reposes in the media in the hope that operators will not use it to champion their own personal interest, but is also criminal because it sought to influence the outcome of the current litigation before the courts of law. This type of conduct makes it pertinent to establish why and how ZRA wrote off K16 million of tax debt. This matter must be resuscitated considering that the paper has failed to honour the terms and conditions under which it was given. That money could have gone a long way in saving the lives of children that died due to lack of medicine in our hospitals. More importantly an investigation must be undertaken to determine if political influence was brought to bear on ZRA not to claim the money from M’membe. We know for certain that late President Sata was under the control of the cartel and it is possible that undue influence was placed on the ZRA to act against the better judgment of the law. It is only fair that the previous Commissioner General and his entire Board are brought to book for this act of national betrayal. After all, anything done with bad intentions cannot enjoy the protection of law. The nation must be told why the K16 million was written off from M’membe debts. Was he so special compared to other tax payers who were made to close down companies in order to pay their tax obligations? Is this not mocking the thousands of workers who pay their taxes diligently every month? It is criminal that money deducted for taxes is pocketed by individuals. This should not be allowed in the case of M’membe or anybody else for that matter. That is why the people of Zambia are looking at this matter very anxiously because those who claim a moral high ground must be absolutely scrupulous in their dealings and not use the mask of propriety to earn corrupt privilege. The first thing we must be told is why Government institutions allowed M’membe to owe so much money.
Is Fred M’membe down and out?
In setting himself up firmly against the current President of the ruling PF and that of the country, Fred M’membe was expected to be in for a rough ride. The Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) has joined the petition to have the Post Newspaper liquidated and is demanding K97 million from the newspaper now under compulsory liquidation, heightening fears that the newspaper and its owner Fred M’membe may be tottering on the verge of bankruptcy (“M’membe faces bankruptcy ”Daily Nation, November 7, 2016). Without the trappings of his office, as well as with the huge psychological damage of his media company’s liquidation, M’membe would diminish over time. The Post newspaper office was the man. He seemed untouchable until he was slammed with property, plant and machinery seizure by ZRA over his unpaid K53 million tax debt. His reckless and disrespectful print media pronouncements under the guise of media freedom were taken as gospel by his admirers, especially when there were no consequences. He picked on populist themes that resonated with the unemployed youth, the poor and the marginalised, mostly the rural poor. He added fuel by radicalising the issues of poverty, often railing against the PF ruling elite, the iniquities of land distribution, and the iniquities of the mining industry and why mining policies should be rationalised. What he said on issues had somewhat a ring of truth, but the problem was how it was said in the editorials, his style. Before the 2016 polls, he had signalled a campaign to topple PF’s current leadership, more especially the presidency of Edgar Lungu, having successfully mobilised to make the late president Michael Sata succeed in his presidential attempt of 2011. But times have changed. At the time, M’membe had a media office, and late Michael Sata was riding a wave of nationwide popularity, while the incumbent, the MMD leader Rupiah Banda had too many virulent enemies on the local political landscape. This time it is M’membe who has managed to make many enemies amongst his creditors. Now reports keep surfacing of his imminent bankruptcy, following the petition to have the Post Newspapers liquidated by a motley array of creditors. It has also been reported that some of his trusted lieutenants and rivals have already started repositioning for life after him. A case in point is the launch of The Mast newspaper, which ZRA complained about that the newly launched newspaper currently vending on the streets was an illegal publication as it was operating without tax registration. So, is Fred M’membe down and out? Most likely. But watch the media space as the typical ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon scenario’s twists and turns unravel. Mubanga Luchembe, LUSAKA
Gutting of markets economic sabotage
The recent incidences regarding gutting of markets and other buildings across the country is a source of great concern. There is hardly a week that passes without hearing of an inferno occurring where a house, a market and an office building burnt to debris. The cause of inferno can be attributed to electrical faults due to poor wiring by untrained or bush electricians and to some individuals with criminal or ill motives, who deliberately set ablaze the above stated buildings with impunity. These incidences of fire breaking out have been occurring from time to time again. The City councils through the Fire Fighting Service departments have been helpful in quenching out fires whenever the building is gutted. Lusaka’s Buseko market, Nakadoli market on the Copperbelt and more recently, Maramba Cultural village are some of the infrastructures that have been affected by incidences of inferno. Whatever the cause of the inferno, the lasting solution should be found to avert the incidences. President Edgar Lungu not too long ago tasked Lusaka Province Minister, Japhen Mwakalombe to establish the main cause of inferno that has engulfed markets and other buildings across the country. The inferno is an economic sabotage to the country. This is because the inferno results in loss of properties and in some cases, money. The Zambia Police Service through the Inspector General of Police, Kakoma Kanganja has offered a reward of K100, 000 to the general public, to assist the police in arresting the people involved in torching the markets. My considered view is that the initiative by the police is highly commendable and it should be supported by everyone. Furthermore, the people behind gutting markets should get arrested and condemned for imprisonment so that they serve jail sentences. Ultimately, this will deter the would-be offenders. All said and done, let us show patriotism by reporting those behind torching of markets and other buildings.
Elemiya Phiri, Lusaka