Fred M’membe Pioneered Zambia’s Darkest Period In His Harmful Tribal Campaign Against The Tongas- Laura Miti

Fred M'membe
Fred M'membe


By Laura Miti

As a prelude to me sharing, again, my unsolicited thoughts about Socialist Party President, Fred M’membe, I thought I should say that I am unlikely to stop, speaking about him, every so often. I am like that when, in my estimation, something or someone impacts my good old Zambia.

I would like to assure Dr M’membe, though, that, as always, my comment will, to my mind at least, be fair. It will be based only on what is in the public interest and is in the public arena. No rumours and certainly no personal slights.

Point is it is none of our collective business what Fred or any other politician for that matter, has for breakfast or the colour of his living room walls. What is ours to comment on is the public Fred and how his history impacted Zambia. Importantly, we must interrogate how what we know about that history, as well as his present, may affect Zambia. This is a citizen national duty – to use our brains and muse about everyone who impacts that which is ours together.

All that to say, no matter how shrilly protesting voices screech, there are issues that, for me, make Fred a very dangerous person to want power. I say so on the basis of the Fred we have known publicly.

It does not need debating is that the only way society can judge what a person’s future is likely to be, is by,
interrogating their known past. It is why prior convictions come into play when an accused person is tried for a crime. And why all employers ask for references. If they are serious about recruiting the best, that is.

So back to Fred! Unfortunately for him, there are issues that the former owner and Managing Editor of the Post Newspaper was responsible for that he cannot avoid confronting in his current incarnation. These are matters that suggest to us how Fred yields power and influence.

I will set some out below:

1. The Post Newspaper and, therefore, it’s Managing Editor, who had final say on what the paper published, carried out vicious personal attacks on individuals, leaving people battered and humiliated. In the way of the current Watchdog and other faceless online publications, the Post had no qualms about influencing politics by savaging individuals personally.

Examples are:

1. How cruelly former Vice President George Kunda’s illness was reported. I will leave it there.

2. UPND founder, Anderson Mazoka’s illness received similar unfeeling attention.

3. President Mwanawasa was a “cabbage” because of the unfortunate car accident he had had.

4. The country was treated to details (true or not) of former President Lungu’s health.

5. As for Rupiah Banda! Goodness! The butchering he got that had nothing to do with anything that could be called fair comment, after President Mwanawasa died, was alarming.

Then we move on to the more troubling stuff:

6. The Post carried out a vicious and nationally harmful tribal campaign against the Tonga that was the beginning of the dark period we suffered in the decade between 2011 and 2012. (This, for me, was Fred’s greatest and unforgivable sin against Zambia.)

7. He has shown a frightening inconsistency in his positions that seem to be decided only by self-interest. Having maligned Former President, Michael Sata, for years, Fred seemed to have decided that the PF Leader he was the only one who could help him punish Rupiah Banda for contesting elections, and thus preventing Fred’s preferred candidate – Peter Mangande. (I always agreed, by the way, that Mr Mangande would have been way better for Zambia than RB, but to attack him for wanting an office with his grasp was inexplicable.) Anyhow, the issue is the dizzying 180-degree turnabout Fred then made on his public view of Michael Sata. He went on a sanitisation campaign that would put bleachplus the strongest disinfectant known to man to shame. He successfully became kingmaker of a man he had suggested was the political pits.

8. Related to 7, is the simple question of how a politician, who has lived an unapologetic capitalist life, with attendant accumulation of wealth and expansionist business strategies, now says he is a life long socialist.

9. With President Sata in office, Fred M’membe was in the wonderfully untouchable space that those close to Zambian presidencies can inhabit. He became arrogantly lawless. The Post did not pay taxes nor remit other statutory deductions like NAPSA, at a time when it looked, to all observing, that the paper was enjoying its most profitable period. Because of that, he gave a tyrannical regime the excuse to close (for political reasons) a paper that was an important and needful space for critical discussions, and that held much of Zambia’s recent history.

10. This one disturbed me. Fred and one or both of the Nchito brothers (can’t quite remember) stormed out of a court presided over by a judge they did not like. They got away without even a reprimand for something that should have landed them in jail for contempt. They, as friends of the sitting President, were, I guess, not subject to established rules. What shocked me was the showing-off of that protected status in an unprecedented act of belligerence and disrespect of a court of law.

11. In the time when Michael Sata was President, he could do no wrong for the Post. He was Saint Michael. Holding Mr Sata to account was not going to be done on the then leading independent newspaper’s pages. An important-for-public-discource platform was taken away because it was friends with power.

My question to Fred is, what should we, in all fairness and honesty, expect that someone who behaves as described above will do when occupying the ultimate office. One which in Zambia makes one Sun Moon and Stars. God!

All I am saying is I hope we never get to know, but this is Zambia. We treat history like a fairy tale.


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