By Patrick Soko
Zambia’s Ambassador to Germany Anthony Mukwita has cautioned foreign media against using ‘pedestrian’ experts that make alarming and damaging statements about Zambia on their programmes as they often lack or possess no facts to validate their claims.
Ambassador Mukwita has also advised interviewers to challenge guests that make allegations with the potential to injure a country’s image to demonstrate the basis of their claims.
The senior diplomat was reacting to an interview German television DW conducted with a Chiponda Chimbelu that discussed the question of Konkola Copper Mines, KCM and the legal actions taken by the Zambian government.
Mr Chimbelu believed to be a Zambian by origin claimed the Zambian government was cash-strapped hence the reason it commenced an action to liquidate KCM, as a shareholder contrary to the facts given by President Edgar Lungu when he announced the legal route.
This is not the first time DW is quoting an ‘offside’ toxic analyst regarding important Zambian issues without seeking a Zambian comment from the embassy in Berlin or indeed Lusaka.
Recently another DW story in which they were quoting Nick Branson identified as a Senior Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft went on air without the side of the Zambian government as required by basic journalism standards.
Ambassador Mukwita said such remarks smack of ‘an agenda’ intended to control and direct the narrative, adding, “they are also misleading, inflammatory and injurious to Zambia’s international image.”
Given the seriousness of the remarks, the senior diplomat said basic standards of fairness in journalism demanded that the views are balanced with a voice from Zambia’s government.
“It is now common practice on many international media platforms to check allegations made against facts. We see this happen often on CNN as a way of protecting viewers against the injury that arises from misleading statements. If these standards are applied when allegations are being made against western governments, why are not similar standards applied when dealing with an African story? Are we any less important or any less human?”, Ambassador Mukwita asked.
‘’Zambia has consistently maintained a single-digit inflation, a growth rate close to 4 percent, an external debt of 10billion dollars in a 20 billion and more economy with growth in the mining, manufacturing, energy and ICT sectors”, Ambassador Mukwita said, and added, “and we still service our debt as evidenced by the more than 700million dollars we paid in debt servicing at the end of 2018”.
Ambassador Mukwita said the Zambian government has in the past only borrowed for production and not consumption as can be seen through the sprouting of infrastructure countrywide.
The Ambassador said Zambia has adopted measures intended to run the affairs of the country smoothly during financially challenging times.
“The Zambian government took a calculated risk when it took on public works that we have spent so much money on. Each one of these works was absolutely necessary as Public infrastructure needed for any meaningful activity was crumbling at the time the current government assumed power. This is the story the so-called experts being paraded in international media studios do not know or are purposely ignoring”, Ambassador Mukwita said.
He dismissed as farfetched and imaginary the conclusion that government decided to take over the operations of KCM to raise money to pay debts saying the action was taken to forestall the perennial poor management of the company by Vedanta Resources.
Ambassador Mukwita further dismissed the notion of looming nationalisation of the mining sector saying there was no such policy by the government of President Edgar Lungu saying, “such a policy exists only in the minds of pedestrian commentators.”
The Zambian envoy recently visited DW at their Berlin offices and met Director General Peter Limbourg who was in the company of Managing Director Ms. Gelder Moyer, Head of Africa Programs Mr. Claus Stacker and Media and Public Affairs Officer Mr. Benjamin Rietdorf.
In the company of embassy press officer Kellys Kaunda, Ambassador Mukwita raised concern over recent media reports on Zambia that carried no official government comment. He told them that his office was open for comment on matters that involve the Zambian government. A few days after this meeting, DW conducted a phone interview that largely centred on ZNBC and Star Times. Whether that interview ran or not is unknown to the embassy.