THERE is nothing that anybody can do to silence us on speaking against the injustice progressive journalists like Dr Fred M’membe and all those at The Post are facing, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has declared.
And NUMSA says there is absolutely no justification for the continued scale of harassment and abuse of State power by President Edgar Lungu’s government aimed at fixing Dr M’membe and journalists of the shut Post Newspapers.
A warrant of arrest has been issued for Zambia’s celebrated journalist Dr Fred M’membe to stop him and his lawyer from challenging the dubious liquidation of Post Newspapers engineered by President Lungu’s government, using his agent Lewis Mosho.
The police two weeks ago raided Dr M’membe’s house, harassed his family, assaulted his wife Mutinta and later arrested her for allegedly tearing a search warrant.
They stopped the printing of The Mast newspaper on a small personal printing press, which they have since dismantled.
Last Thursday, the state agents, posing as Zambia Environmental Management Agency officers, visited Dr M’membe’s house with a warrant to inspect the premises where printing of the newspaper was being done.
And last Friday, the state agents went on a mission to find Mast correspondents with instructions to confiscate any equipment from them.
A check at Plot 19, Joseph Mwilwa road in Rhodespark where The Mast newsroom was believed to be operating from saw a number of plain cloth officers and state agents parked within
the premises while two walked around in search of The Mast journalists.
NUMSA had earlier issued a statement condemning the government’s attacks on Dr M’membe and Post employees and threatened to launch boycott campaigns against Zambian goods.
However, the ZCTU said NUMSA was not mandated to speak on the happenings in Zambia as they did not seek clearance from the Zambian union to do so, a position that has been condemned by several progressives within and outside trade unions.
But NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi has said the union would stand in solidarity with the workers of the closed Post Newspapers Limited because the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions had embarrassingly failed to stand for the workers of a company which was dubiously closed by the State.
“There is nothing that anybody can do to silence us on speaking against the injustice progressive journalists like Dr Fred M’membe and all those at The Post are facing. It’s a bizarre situation that ZCTU opted to attack NUMSA for speaking against that kind of oppression. We expected the labour movement in Zambia to be extremely angry and agitated on what was happening to The Post and its employees. A revolutionary trade movement must act with swiftness to defend the rights of over 2,000 workers whose livelihoods have been threatened because of the actions of what seems to be a totalitarian government. The labour movement has a moral task to stop such kind of abuses,” Hlubi said.
She said NUMSA was shocked that ZCTU went against the basic principles of international solidarity and opted to attack those that stood in defence of Post workers and media freedom.
“South Africa would never have won the battle against apartheid had it not been for international solidarity. Brothers and sisters across the globe stood with us in our struggle and it is really strange for us that a so-called revolutionary trade union would make such utterances when it is our job to highlight oppression, no matter where it takes place,” Hlubi said.
She said the union was extremely concerned with the level of aggression and abuse of State power by President Lungu’s government to fix a critical and private Zambian media.
“There is absolutely no justification for this scale of harassment. The government of Zambia, if it claims to have any semblance of democracy, should be a government that demonstrates this by embracing the media in totality. Embracing media means embracing those who do not support your position, those who disagree with you. That is the principle and basic tenets of democracy. We are extremely concerned about the aggression on ordinary citizens and it suggests the rise of totalitarianism in Zambia and it is very worrying. Even as a journalist myself, I am truly shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of the Zambian government,” Hlubi said.
She said it was important for media practitioners around the world, labour movements in democratic countries like South Africa and all over Africa, to not only express their disappointment but to show solidarity to Zambian journalists facing state persecution.
Hlubi said NUMSA would intensify its campaigns in South Africa to highlight the plight of Zambian private media.
“If the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions and others do not want to do the right thing by speaking out against abuses, NUMSA will stand in solidarity against the abuse of the progressive media,” said Hlubi. /SM/JC