Is the Post Newspaper suffering a brain drain?
By Daimone Siulapwa
It is very difficult to see how the Patriotic Front (PF) would have been able to win last year’s general elections without the support of the Post newspaper. Maybe, they would have managed in a way, seeing that the majority of Zambians in general and voters in particular, had grown increasingly disaffected with the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD)20-year- rule.
Either way, the Post did play a very pivotal role towards Michael Chilufya Sata’s decisive victory in the September 20.
It will be remembered that in the 2006 general elections, Michael Sata and the PF did stand a good chance of winning those elections; in fact, some sections of society believe that they actually won.However, the Post was not on their side then, and they eventually lost, although it must be said, by not so a big margin.
Just like in last year’s general election, Michael Sata rode on a platform of anti-China and lower taxes, two issues that endeared him well with the urban youth. But also, he promised to quash all the corruption charges that former President Frederick Chiluba was facing. This stance, some believe, helped him win votes in the Luapula province. However, his support for Chiluba did not go well with the Post, who were determined to see the former President brought to book by late President Mwanawasa for all the wrongs that he did while in power for 10 years.
In a way, the Post somehow threw their support behind Levy, and did help him to win the 2006 general elections. Following his death in 2008, and the subsequent by-election that followed, the Post seemed to be in the middle until the MMD chose its presidential candidate. Clearly, the Post were not in favour of Rupiah Banda, instead, they preferred Ng’andu Magande, then Minister of Finance.
But with Magande losing to RB, as the former president is fondly referred to, the Post was willing to give Sata some space. And to his credit, he changed his stance over Chiluba.
While RB had taken a soft stance on Chiluba, even refusing to register the London judgement and also refusing to appeal his criminal case here, Sata promised to do the exact opposite once voted into power. That earned him the support of the Post, which takes strong issue with corruption matters.
And from 2008, the Post has been with Sata, giving him unprecedented coverage wherever he went. When the PF entered into a Pact with the United Party for National Development (UPND), the Post in a systematic and sometimes obvious manner, worked to ensure that Michael Sata was President of the Pact.
When it became clear that the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was also interested in the Presidency of the Pact, the Post did everything to make him, and the majority of Zambians, believe and understand that the interests of the Pact were better served under the leadership of Sata.
After the pull-out of the UPND from the Pact, the Post again, did everything possible to make it known that UPND and HH were not a factor in the elections, if anything, they better accept the reality of being a junior partner.
In the end, the PF and Sata won the general elections, and subsequently formed government. Since then, the PF government has appointed a number of staff from the Post to various positions, some in the diplomatic service and others at State House.
Some of these appointments include George Chellah as the his special assistant for press and public relations, Amos Malupenga as the permanent secretary at the ministry of information, broadcasting and tourism, Eddie Mwanaleza, chief photographer State House, Thomas Nsama, photographer, State House while others like Joe Kaunda, Chibaulwa Silwamba, Patson Chilemba, Chansa Kabwela and Yvonne Shibemba among others have been appointed to the diplomatic service. Word has it that more are likely to be appointed.
Now, these appointments are understandable, President Sata is not only showing appreciation, but is also being seen to show real appreciation to the Post for the wonderful work they did on his behalf, to ensure that he ascended to the highest office in the land.
With the kind of coverage that was seen from the public media, particularly the Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia and the state broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), Sata and the PF would have had difficulties winning the elections without the tacit support of the Post.
It is with background that the appointments are somehow justified. But then, by the Post allowing such senior and experienced personnel to leave, are they not risking it too much? Is this not a brain drain to the Post? Is the Post going to successfully fill-up the spaces left by these experienced members of staff?
This is of concern to us readers of the Post, particularly those of us who appreciate and understand where we are coming. We do appreciate the role that the Post has played for two decades in advancing our democracy. And precisely because of that, we do not want a situation where it runs itself in a ditch, by retaining only staff that may not be able to live up to the high standards that have been set.
Of course, one ought to realise that an organisation cannot entirely depend on one person or a selected few. If anything, the Post has in the past lost some valuable journalists such as Bright Mwape, undoubtedly, one of their brightest reporters in the two decades that they have been running.
That said, one would want the Post to retain some formidable reporters. If anything, every newspaper goes for the best in the industry, and always fights to keep its best reporters and editors. If it means promoting or improving their conditions of service, then be it. Or if it means poaching, then also be it.
As a keen follower and reader of the Post since its inception, I would want to see it retain the best that there is in the industry so that it can continue playing its role of a watchdog with very sharp teeth!