FORMER Republican vice-president Enoch Kavindele says the Patriotic Front government will not manage to close down The Post just like previous regimes, regardless of the methods employed, failed to stop the newspaper’s operations.
Kavindele, who served twice as vice-president under Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa, warned that closing down The Post and throwing the over a thousand workers out of employment will worsen poverty levels in the country as the workers are breadwinners “young as they look”.
Last Friday, the Zambia Revenue Authority, in the company of police officers armed with AK-47 rifles, made several attempts to close down The Post under instructions from State House, demanding that the company makes an immediate payment of K16.9 million to the authority.
But Kavindele said he had been privy to attempts by previous regimes to close down The Post using state institutions but the efforts had failed.
“In my time as vice-president, the government was very concerned with The Post Newspaper and as vice-president, I was detailed and tasked to meet Fred M’membe and some of the directors of The Post, who included Mebelo Mutukwa, and we met at Blue Boar Hotel near Linda Township on one Saturday morning,” he explained. “I was tasked to tell M’membe that look, because of your attitude… my mission was to inform M’membe that the government was disappointed with the style of The Post and that the government planned to take drastic measures against the newspaper, which included closing down the newspaper. M’membe’s reply was that we [government] were free to close down the paper but warned that with the prevailing technological advances, he could produce an online newspaper from his bedroom which we as government would fail to control. I reported the matter to President Levy Mwanawasa who had been the subject of direct attacks by The Post.”
Kavindele also said Mwanawasa was warned by key donors and ordinary Zambians on the consequence of banning The Post.
He explained that banning The Post could breed irresponsible journalism that would pose a serious threat to the country’s stability and security.
“Meanwhile, the president also received information from a friendly government that to ban The Post would in fact cause more problems than it would solve,” Kavindele said. “President Mwanawasa was told that we have heard that you want to close down The Post; in fact, you will have more problems without The Post than with its existence. It will hurt more if the reporters who will have no jobs will now go under and there will be no rules and government would fail to control the flow of information, which would include rumours and falsehoods.”
Kavindele told President Edgar Lungu’s government to reflect on failed past attempts to close down The Post.
“So, attempts to ban The Post, no matter what method you use, have been there before,” he said. “For me, I discussed the issue of The Post with two presidents – late Frederick Chiluba and later Levy Mwanawasa and they both didn’t succeed. The attempts failed as they affected support from the cooperating partners who advised against banning the paper. The time when M’membe and [human rights advocate] Lucy Sichone hid from being arrested by state security agents, almost all cooperating partners made representations against GRZ’s attempts to ban The Post.”
Kavindele urged the current regime to be more tolerant to divergent views as The Post, as an independent newspaper, had not always been a darling of previous regimes.
“The Post Newspaper has been part and parcel of the Zambian economic and social fabric, and on many occasions, it has not been the favourite of the systems, beginning with Dr Kenneth Kaunda, so the present leadership should learn to tolerate The Post, no matter how much they are irritated,” he advised.
Kavindele wondered why the Zambia Revenue Authority was rushing to victimise The Post when he was aware that a number of companies in the country were struggling to meet their tax obligations owing to the waning economy, among other factors.
“The issues of taxes affects every business in the country and it is the duty of all to pay and if there are issues, I am sure given time, The Post will pay,” said Kavindele.