Post workers on duty today
Post workers on duty today

The International Press Institute (IPI)’s Executive Board has blasted what it calls an ongoing campaign of harassment targeting daily newspaper The Post in Zambia, saying that if efforts to silence independent media persist, upcoming general elections would be rendered “little more than a sham; an exercise inconsistent with democracy”.

Citing a number of recent events targeting The Post – including its recent shutdown by revenue authorities over tax debts and the alleged beating by police of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Fred M’membe– the Board members in an open letter called on President Edgar Lungu to allow all media outlets to operate independently and to cover all parties contesting the August 11 elections in a free and fair manner.

They also specifically called for an end to government harassment of The Post; for charges against Mr M’membe and others to be dropped and for police officers who allegedly assaulted them to be held accountable; for Zambia’s Revenue Authority to be allowed to do its job without political pressure; and for the government to respect the judiciary’s independence.

“As a result of recent events, we greatly fear that Zambians overall are being prevented from sharing and receiving the information that they need to make an informed decision about their future when they go to the polls in August to elect their country’s leaders,” the Board members said.

Mr M’membe, his wife Mutintand Deputy News Editor Joseph Mwenda were released on bail Tuesday afternoon and charged with criminal trespass and uttering a forged document after he was detained early yesterday morning when he attempted to enter The Post’s shuttered offices after obtaining a court order directing the Zambian Revenue Authority (ZRA) to release assets it seized early this week to satisfy tax debts.

The Post disputes the amounts owed to the government and argues that the ZRA’s attempts to collect the debt on the eve of the upcoming election to choose the country’s president and General Assembly – rather than waiting until an appeals court rules on the matter – represent an attempt by Lungu and his ruling Patriotic Front (PF) Party to stifle debate and rig the election.

The full text of the letter appears below.

His Excellency Mr. Edgar C. Lungu
President of the Republic of Zambia
State House
Independence Avenue
PO Box 30135
10101 Lusaka
Zambia
Vienna, 29 June 2016

RE: Ongoing pressure against The Post

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned members of the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI) – a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to protecting press freedom – write to show our support for our Zambian colleague and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Fred M’membe, editor-in-chief of The Post newspaper, and to condemn a campaign of government harassment targeting The Post.

On June 21, officers of the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) raided The Post’s offices and printing press to collect a reported 68 million kwacha (approx. €5.47 million) in allegedly unpaid taxes. Employees were forced to leave, the premises were locked and heavily armed police guards were stationed outside. The Post has disputed the amount due and the raid came despite The Post’s pending appeal to determine the correct amount owed.

Notwithstanding being locked out of its offices and printing press, The Post continued to print and distribute copies daily. The Post also obtained a court order compelling the ZRA to allow The Post to reopen its offices. However, in response, we understand that you appeared on state broadcaster ZNBC to condemn the court for issuing the order.

At approximately 1 a.m. yesterday morning, M’membe, armed with the court order, attempted to enter The Post’s premises with his wife, Mutinta Mazoka-M’membe, and Post Deputy Managing Editor Joseph Mwenda. Police refused to recognise the order, instead detaining them and summoning additional officers from the presidential palace.

Led by your special advisor for political affairs, Kaizer Zulu, officers from the State House also refused to recognise the order. M’membe and the others were held for two hours before being taken to a police station. During this period, they claim that M’membe was beaten and the others manhandled. The newspaper’s lawyer, Nchima Nchito, was also reportedly beaten. M’membe, his wife and Mwenda were subsequently charged with criminal trespass and uttering a false document – the court order, which prosecutors apparently claim was illegally obtained – and released on bail.

Yesterday’s developments are the latest in a series of incidents over the last 18 months in which your ruling Patriotic Front (PF) Party government has increased pressure on The Post. In April, two Post journalists were criminally charged with defaming you for reporting an opposition politician’s allegation that you used taxpayer money to vacation.

In November of last year, the ZRA raided The Post over disputed tax obligations, leading a court to issue an injunction against immediate collection while The Post appealed. The court noted that allowing collection would shutter the Post, making the appeal pointless. That followed an incident in which a bullet penetrated the paper’s newsroom. Authorities last July also brought criminal charges against M’membe for allegedly disclosing classified information in an investigative piece about alleged corruption in the PF.

Despite your public assertions to the contrary, it is difficult to conclude that the ZRA is operating independent of political pressure, given that outstanding tax debts of media outlets widely perceived to be pro-government – such as ZNBC, the Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia – reportedly have gone ignored.

As you know, Zambians are scheduled to choose their president and General Assembly on Aug. 11. However, the PF has apparently engaged in an active strategy to deny media coverage to opposition parties, including blocking coverage of any criticism of your government in mainstream media outlets, most of which are funded by taxpayers.

On June 12, excerpts from a leaked document were published purporting to outline a PF strategy to rig election results and brutalise the opposition. Among other efforts, the document indicated that “No form of media should be given to the [United Party for National Development (UPND)] in the form of news or campaign advertisements” and that a “massive media character assassination” campaign should be launched against UPND presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema. The document also said that “prime efforts” would be made to eliminate coverage by The Post.

The Post is one of the only major media outlets giving balanced political coverage of the ruling PF government and the upcoming election, including providing a platform for opposition parties to be heard. While many online news outlets are able to operate more freely, very few Zambians have regular access to online media, making independent newspapers and broadcasters vitally important.

We note that The Post and M’membe have not refused to pay taxes that are indeed owed. They have simply asked that the ZRA delay collection until Zambia’s judiciary is allowed to fully consider the matter. However, rather than allow the courts to rule, the ZRA opted to seize The Post, risking its complete shutdown some 51 days before an election.

We also note that the newspaper was not accused of endangering public safety or other impropriety as to its reporting. There is therefore no reason not to allow it to continue to publish through the election and to give courts time to determine how much tax is owed. A failure to do so would cause irreparable harm to both The Post and to Zambian voters.

As a result of recent events, we greatly fear that Zambians overall are being prevented from sharing and receiving the information that they need to make an informed decision about their future when they go to the polls in August to elect their country’s leaders.

We therefore call on you, on all representatives of Zambia’s government and on representatives of the PF to immediately halt the campaign of harassment targeting The Post and to allow it to report freely on the upcoming election.

We also call on your government to:

• Drop the criminal charges against M’membe and the others detained with him immediately, and hold those responsible for assaults on them accountable;
• Allow all media outlets in Zambia to operate independently and to cover all parties contesting the upcoming elections in a free and fair manner;
• Ensure that the ZRA is allowed to fulfil its statutory functions without political interference; and
• Respect the independence of the judiciary and ensure that all parties in Zambia respect and abide by orders issued by the courts.

If the current situation is allowed to stand, it would render the upcoming elections little more than a sham; an exercise inconsistent with democracy. Zambia deserves better.

Yours respectfully and sincerely,

The Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI)
• John Yearwood, Chair; Former World Editor, The Miami Herald, USA
• Ken MacQuarrie, Vice Chair; Director, BBC Scotland, UK
• Markus Spillmann, Vice Chair; Founder & CEO, SPILLMANN Media Strategy Management GmbH, Switzerland
• Dawn Thomas, Vice Chair; Chief Executive Officer, One Caribbean Media Ltd., Trinidad & Tobago
• Owais Aslam Ali, Chairman, Pakistan Press International (PPI), Pakistan
• Karl Amon, Director of Radio, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), Austria
• Beata Balogová, Editor-in-Chief, SME, Slovakia
• Ole Kristian Bjellaanes, Managing Editor, Norwegian News Agency, Norway
• Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Editor-in-Chief & CEO, Boishakhi TV, Bangladesh
• Ken Choi, Deputy Editor, ChosunIlbo, South Korea
• Sami El Haj, Head, Human Rights and Public Liberties Desk, Aljazeera Media Network, Qatar
• Kim Fletcher, Editor, The British Journalism Review, UK
• Kadri Gürsel, Political Columnist, Cumhuriyet and Al-Monitor, Turkey
• Daniel Hadad, CEO, Grupo Infobae, Argentina
• Ferial Haffajee, Editor-in-Chief, City Press, South Africa
• Johannes Hano, Bureau Chief, ZDF German Television (New York/Canada), Germany
• Hiroshi Komatsu, Chief Editorial Writer, the Mainichi Shimbun, Japan
• Daoud Kuttab, Director General, Founder, Community Media Network, AmmanNet, Jordan
• Joe Muganda, Group CEO, Nation Media Group, Kenya
• Kaius Niemi, Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat, Sanoma Media, Finland
• Virginia Pérez Alonso, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, El Mundo, Spain
• N. Ravi, Director, The Hindu, India
• Martha Steffens, Professor, SABEW Chair in Business and Financial Reporting, University of Missouri School of Journalism, USA
• Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman, Media Trust Ltd, Nigeria

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47 COMMENTS

  1. Letter to the ICC, EU, USA, SADC, AU, COMESA:

    How can there be free and fair election when Lungu:
    1. is killing opposition supporters and celebrates the deaths by taunting the opposition
    2. campaigns on and promotes the unprecedented PF violence and killing machine
    3. preventing opposition campaigning by brutality
    4. ordering Police not to protect opposition who are killed by PF
    5. ordering public media not to cover the opposition
    6. using State resources he lies that his party PF are the ones that funded and constructed infrastructure projects

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    • We request the World to immediately come and help Zambians who are being killed by their own President in cold blood. I agree that the ICC prosecutor should open a docket against President Edgar Chagwa Lungu like they did in Kenya. Lives have already been lost and more are likely to be lost if an immediate stop is not ordered by the international community. This country is now more oppressed that Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda and is approaching Syria’s madness.

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    • If the electoral commission of Zambia knew the meaning of the word fair,
      they would have already disqualified the fastest developing tyrant in Africa one Vodiga Rungu.

      Zambia is still essentially a one party state and the revised constitution does nothing to curtail the powers of the office of the president which are at the heart of this continued defacto one party state situation.

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    • One of the many reasons Lungu must go. We don’t need a dictator to drag ZAmbia backwards

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    • @ Bruno Banda…The docket automatically enetered when you see USA comments and insists to comment without due diplomatic regards…Thats how it works..USA is the largest funder of ICC and has bigger say who to put on the roll..Drunk Edgar is a very easy chicken to catch…he can be caught within 30 minutes, as he is always drunk…. and can be flown via Euro Cargo Airliner to the Hague within 6 hours. So no worries Bruno

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    • This is a cheap and poorly written position by The International Press Institute (IPI). You have a point but your presentation is that of a street Journalist. And before you publish such biased view, learn to get the second person or opinion. Otherwise this is utter nonsense and Zambia is not on fire.

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  2. Theres no revolution in Zambia. Majority of citizens are happy with the current leadership. Being human they are not perfect but they meet the standard of leadership to drive this country forward. The IPI have lies in their letter e.g The President appearing on ZNBC to condemn a court order, Kaizer Zulu leading the Police Officers to the Post, Zambians overall being denied receiving information etc. If this is the reasoning of IPI and the letter is not forged like the other publications, then IPI is a shame to the international community. How can an international Organisation ignore the fact that their ‘hero’ forged a court order, has stolen PAYE, VAT, and has refused to comply with ZRA payment plans since 2009. I repeat if this letter is not a forged letter then IPI is a shame to the…

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  3. Please Zambians don’t be cheated that these western countries help us with money, they get more from Africa than the aid they send here. The EURO bonds are not free. We will pay back with interest. IMF and WORLD BANK funds are paid back with interest. They are purely business transactions and they find Zambia to be a client they can make money on. What we should work on as zambians is to improve entrepreneurship than holding one anothers throats and condoning lawlessness whilst the western countries are busy collecting our wealthy for their children.

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    • I refuse your PF lies. Which Zambians do you represent other than your PF thugs.

      PF Lungu are annihilating innocent people to maintain their grip on corrupt looting of borrowed money. Lungu has looted more than K15 million of the Eurobond money. Today he is getting fatter faster than a maggot in a sewer.

      My call to the International Community is that ignore the lies of these PF cadres and send an expeditionary force to monitor, supervise and police Zambia during the campaign, elections and after the elections for at least six months. Lungu will kill more and more of us if you the international community do not protect us.

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    • @Dominion…IMF and World Bank funds are paid back with interest…that’s exactly the reason why your fossil material Chikwanda and your drunkmanship Lungu is crap and need to be flushed out on 11 August.

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    • Come August Lungu will wine and you can hang The International Press Institute (IPI). And those citing ICC, I would just say save your ignorance. Some one cannot be taken to ICC for collecting whats due for his people. Continue bluffing – otherwise Lungu is winning.

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  4. Lungu the thief and violent thug President is deaf so will not listen. He is pre-occupied with rigging these elections at all costs. Lungu should be stopped b4 he causes a civil war in Zambia. If we turn out to vote in huge numbers Lungu’s rigging manoeuvres will come to nought. Lungu should realise that Zambians have already made up their minds to vote for HH and Lungu cannot rig their minds to vote otherwise. Viva HH,GBM & UPND.

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    • Desperate talk ba Moya na imwe, ka HH Kaliba indalama sha privatisation and you are there supporting blindly. Imwe ba fi..Ka..la Kanshi mwaba shani. Uli..to.le sana wembwa..iwe.

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    • The International Press Institute (IPI).. Ku wayayaya fyw… You don’t vote. So shut up. We need that money the Post owes. Period. Otherwise show me your voters car The International Press Institute (IPI). Me I have one and I am voting for ECL. Simple.

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    • Moya, we thank you for auctioning your party to Bembas, pantu fat john ngatamwakamusunge bwino akamiponona mwe fiwelewelemwe

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  5. When a person is brutalized by the police, they obtain a police report and sue the state. A lot of
    litigants have succeeded. Membe and his wife should sue the state. Zambia has a well known
    record of successful cases. Criminal trespassing and forgery are equally offences under the
    penal code for which people are arraigned in court. Tax avoidance has its limits, it is not a
    perpetual disposition, if that occurs, anarchy sets in, we all stop paying taxes and run to the
    courts for protection when we are confronted by zra. The reality is that the cartel had it
    smooth under Levy and Sata. We know that ex post newspapers employees filled the
    diplomatic service. The days of the cartel are gone, this is a reality. So, membe, just pay what
    is due to ZRA you are not more equal than the…

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  6. …….you are not more equal than the pigs referred to in the book ”Animal Farm” by
    George Owell. This is not persecution, its correcting a wrong that has dogged this
    nation where the perpetrators of this wrong have turned themselves into small
    gods and in the process cowing a whole nation into believing that every head
    of state can not do without them, just like in the book ”Animal Farm” .

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  7. This is a very simple issue to ‘concerned’ international ‘voices’; bail out the tax evader and see if the so called ‘political’ harassment will continue. On others who owe ZRA debts, they don’t try to pull off all tricks in their imagination to run away from paying tax but do make reasonable efforts to do so. So please spare Zambia from misleading lies; not all tax debtors are law breakers!

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    • Umwina Nkana YOU ARE SPORT ON. Bail him out. How many families has this Post guy taken to the grave with his unsubtantialed report. Ati the Post is the only media institution giving balanced coverage.. Nonesense. These Board members are just carders. How do you say such.

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  8. Chagwa on watch list, pleaase whoever sees ECL please report to the nearest ICC for his arreast. , A reward will be given on August 15.

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  9. Ba IPI help your friend to pay and you will see them operating freely if i the teacher can pay. what of The Post who are they ?

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  10. This chap called Lungu should be brought to book. Killings, stealings are happening, using government money, killing innocent people, we will cage him in few weeks, GBM has already said we will go for hs throat.

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  11. membe, its painful when you loose your position as kingmaker. History is full of such
    episodes, read ”the rise and fall of empires” it will console you. very soon, all that army
    of your former employees you shunted into the diplomatic service will also be recalled,
    and this nation will once again move on without being manipulated on who should be
    head of state, minister, DPP, and so on and so forth to borrow your childish term

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  12. The IPI is arguing that the Post and Mmembe have not refused to pay taxes and have simply asked ZRA to delay collection until Zambia’s judiciary considers the matter. But even before the courts could rule, ZRA seized the Post, “risking its complete shutdown some 51 days before an election.”

    Are these people in IPI seriously following events in Zambia? The fact are as follows: ZRA only seized the Posts’ assets after a Supreme Court ruling, not before. In fact, ZRA have been trying to get the Post to pay ZRA since 2009 and Mmembe and the Post have been avoiding paying what they owe ZRA. Is IPI to be taken seriously if they cannot even get their facts right?

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    • I have never seen such a bunch of m.orons in the same place at the same time waffling about an issue on which they only have a razor-thin idea …

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  13. PF government is averse to criticism of any kind. PF government have penchant of closing down media that does not pick their filthy feet. PF with the help of china at great cost to the tax payers closed the Zambian watchdog because it was exposing its looting of financial resources. Post newspaper is no longer products pf government.
    Alleged non payment of tax by the post is just an excuse by one Edgar Hitler rungu to denied opposition coverage.

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  14. nononono people should mind their own shamba like bob said u mind u i mimd my so if people think that goverment is wrong than pay and get on he is enjoying him self and dont want to pay tex but y

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  15. All these institutions are wrong,
    LAZ
    DIPLOMATS
    MISA
    IPI
    OPPOSITION PARTIES AND GENERAL CITIZENS
    Only PF and its cadres are right. Mind you Edgar when you start receiving such bad publicity against international organisation be careful with ba mundye surrounding you, Your end will be very sour.

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  16. Dear John as Zambians we are happy to hear from you. First we would like to say the letter sent to your from Mr. Fred Membe is well noted which you have now reproduced as your won letter to the President. Second we note that you have based your address to the President on what you persistently refer to as ‘what you hear’. Indeed when an alarmist writes you will no doubt know as an ex-scribe yourself that a one sided story doesn’t hold water. Perhaps what Fred has done is to cry wolf. He has not told you that he has been in the forefront of reducing the powers of the president as so to ask him to intervene in this matter goes contrary to principle. Further his tax dues of up to 16m were written off by the state to allow him relief and he undertook to pay the reminder. Later he declared…

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  17. If you check the reputation of the individuals that have signed that letter you should start getting worried. These guys have very high respect internationally and what they may do may be something that is of great damage to Edgar’s reputation and Zambia as a whole. Ba Edgar please ignore these vuvuzela bloggers and save yourself from possible problems once you leave office. Even if you win on the 11th August there will still be time when you will leave that office.

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  18. He declared a dispute and sought redress i the high court where an he obtained an order in his favor. The Revenue Authority appealed the lower courts decision. In the long many years Fred ceased offsetting what he owed. When the SUPREME COURT rued in favor of ZRA, Fred then began to make calls to the Presidents and his aids to have the head of state interfere in the ruling. ZRA executed the order and as they did Fred mocked them he stated he didn’t owe anything to the state. However as fate would have it in obtaining ‘relief’ he sought to substitute the assets that ZRA could seize. It is this order he thought could reopen his premises which by the way he had stated he didn’t need to continue to function.

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  19. All these nosy scribes above should just ask their own institutions to chip in and pay Fred’s outstanding taxes, instead of writing a letter full of errors and misinformation.
    Fred M’membe has been avoiding to pay tax since 2009 and sicne he is still circulating the post at ZMW15, each paper he sells is again adding to his tax obligation by ZMW2.40.
    This letter was most likely drafted by Fred and he asked all these media houses to sign so that he could pressurize ECL. This will not help you Fred, just pay the taxes and from where I am sitting I can see your assets auctioned off by ZRA immediately after these elections.
    Maybe your friends will lend you another startup capital so that you can spew more hatred for the next 5 years.

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  20. And so John it was that having obtained an order (during the day) which was really to re-open matters exhausted in the Supreme Court,Fred accompanied by his wife and a columnist Joseph, he went in the dead of the night to seek to reopen his premise. Now this was irregular why? An injunction functions to stop an action i.e. if ZRA has not already taken possession of the premises. Second an order to ‘hand back’ property seized and substitute them with ‘trucks and trailers of unknown value and state’ but by some magic in the exact sum of 53m (judgment sum) is not a matter for injunction these are matters for the main trail….

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  21. Thus in conclusion John we know Fred has written to you as a fellow scribe even though Fred is not really a scribe by training but rather a former account clerk, night school lawyer and a wanna be scribe. He should have gone with this proposal to ZRA for the ‘trucks and trailers and other property’ which ZRA would have to evaluate, and determine if they were worth auctioning. But do feel free to contact the ZRA offices and please be advised our President will not interfere in payment of individual tax obligations we have a fully fledged authority that does that. And as I said we have increasingly fought for the reduction of Presidential powers and this includes interfering with ZRA ops. Citizen

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  22. You do not live in Zambia and you are not Zambian. Tax is something every government needs in order to survive. The same post has been dodging paying tax since MMD days and even if the next ruling party that is supporting them wins, the post will refuse to pay. Critisize where it is necessary.

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  23. david – But this is an issue your president publicly announced. Advise him to start hiding his hatred since you call him a humble christian. He announces that he will sort out someone and when the sorting out starts he hides behind those institution. Who does not know that Kaiser Zulu is behind this and issuing instructions to ZRA? You call that independent and not interference? It is only independent when Edgar is issuing instructions. What is the difference between studying in the evening and being a day scholar if you can write the same exam and still pass even better than the day school student. More over he paased his exam on first practising exam on the first attempt. Discuss issues. I know that he holds a degree in accounting from CBU , LLB from UNZA, Master in policy Management…

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  24. Mmembe li c’rook ilya kamamo namenshi. He is very cunning and has the so called IPS on his hook..an organization which like its member the POST thrives on lies, going by what they have written above. His plan is yielding the desired results and the naïve US Government has fallen for it. We have yet to hear from their crony, the UK.
    MMEMBE’S PLAN: This man, armed with a fake court order, deliberately went to the Post premises knowing the Police were there and he knew exactly how the Police would react. They reacted according to his expectation and Mmembe had the Police where he wanted them. His plan yielded the desired results – sympathy from the so-called International Community. Theses hypocrites have reacted with a barrage of demands without asking for the Zambian Government’s…

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  25. These hypocrites have reacted with a barrage of demands without asking for the Zambian Government’s position on this issue.
    Mmembe is playing the victim while contributing to the suffering of Zambians by stealing from them. To owe Zambians such a colossal figure in taxes, Mmembe must have previously enjoyed a tax holiday through manipulation, which has seen him become very rich. The ZRA worked out a plan which he defaulted. What more des he want. The least he can do is to be a gentlemen and own up to his debt instead of slapping Zambians in the face and taking us for fools.

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  26. These maggots who are making noise have no idea on what is happening and the best they can do is to shut their beaks! The same idiet these maggots are supporting hides in the name of press freedom to fight personal battles on his perceived enemies who have no means of defending themselves!
    For your information bafikala this idiet is a criminal and he has reached a dead end in his judicial battle! If you wish sonkeni impiya and bail him out! Fonyo, fonyo,fonyo ba swine even on things you dont know! Maggots!

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  27. ”ndetila nati” First, the current President is Zambia’s head of state not just mine. The lack of respect for authority can be ones undoing. Your hero Fred, did not earn his grades in law he coerced for them when his essays were often warped. You ask what’s wrong with shibukeni? well, being a jack of all trades makes you a master of none. Your freds knowledge of the law is limited to book knowledge as is your MA from RSA. Your Fred has been to playing catch up to try and fill the academic/life void he has always felt since his days as an accounts clerk at zisc. Well just as ECL professes a faith your Fred is an atheist. Lastly Kasier is an adult and if at fault he will account for his actions unless you know better.

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  28. IPS YOU WRITING MA RABISH. POST WONT OPEN TILL THEY PAY WHAT THEY OWE MONEYS ZAMBIANS .YOU’RE JUST *****S

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Comments are closed.