“I did not direct ZNBC to broadcast freelance journalist Chanda Chiimba 111’s documentary entitled Stand up for Zambia,” former Information and Broadcasting minister Ronnie Shikapwasha has said.
Mr Shikapwasha said this yesterday in the Lusaka Magistrates Court during his defence in a matter he is jointly charged with his former permanent secretary Dr Sam Phiri for abuse of authority of office when he allegedly instructed ZNBC to broadcast the documentary and authorized the payment for it.
Lt Gen Shikapwasha denied the allegations and said he did not hold any meetings at the ministry in connection with the airing of the documentary.
He said the rules were very simple when it came to the broadcasting of documentaries and television programmes as the minister was supposed to be called or visited at his office to preview any material before being aired.
Lt Gen Shikapwasha said that he was aware that one of the witnesses told the court that there were documents purporting that there were payments for the documentary from the Ministry of Information but it was not true because the witness only produced photocopied cheques.
He added that he had served the Zambian Government for 49 years and there was no way he could have done what he was alleged to have done.
Lt Gen Shikapwasha said he worked for the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) as a commander and was later taken to Tanzania as a military advisor and later served in the ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Information and Broadcasting until former president Rupiah Banda lost the 2011 elections.
He denied he failed to adhere to legal advice in connection with the documentary and told the court his legal advisor at the time was the Attorney General of which he did not receive any call or visit from the Attorney General’s office for breaching the legal advice.
Meanwhile, the court dismissed Chiimba’s lawyer’s application to cite Information and Broadcasting permanent secretary Godfrey Malama and Reuben Jokoto for contempt of court by stating that the minister and the PS prevailed over ZNBC to run the documentary.
In his submission, Charles Lisita told the court that there was an article in the Post Newspaper’s online that Mr Malama, while the court was in recess, appeared before the Parliamentary Committee and referred to the matter before court and stated that ‘‘Chanda Chiimba’s infamous Stand up for Zambia documentary on ZNBC prior to the 2011 elections was a classic example of unprofessional journalism’’.
He added that there was an article on an online media Lusaka Times of June 7, 2016 where ZNBC Director General was quoted to have said ‘‘we will switch off our cameras if cadres continue beating our journalists’’ of which Mr Jokota was also quoted to have said that the State broadcaster was sometimes put under pressure from politicians to air defamatory contents.
Mr Lisita stated that he was quoted having cited the case of Chiimba’s documentary which he stated was overruled by politicians to have the documentary aired.
Magistrate Obister Musukwa dismissed that application and said that the court could not be persuaded by any online publication.
This is in a matter in which Shikapwasha and Dr Phiri are in count one facing a charge of abuse of authority of office by directing ZNBC to broadcast episodes against professional advice and another count of abuse of authority of office by committing the Government to pay legal fees and liabilities for the same documentary.
They are in another count jointly charged with Chiimba with an offence of being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime worth K611,440,433 and two counts of unlawful printing and publication of two publications, namely Stand up for Zambia and News of our Times, to warrant the court to place them on their defence.