FORMER ZNBC director general Chibamba Kanyama has written to German television channel, DW, for producing a documentary, currently in circulation, that links him to a purported award of a multimillion digital migration contract to Star Times of China. DW TV is a set of television channels provided by Deutsche Welle. The channels concentrate on news and information and first started broadcasting on April 1, 1992 and they are broadcast on satellite and produced in Berlin, Germany.
According to a letter availed to The Mast, Kanyama, who is Bridges Limited managing consultant, stated that the DW documentary mentioned him as one of the facilitators in the purported award of contract to Star Times, “having served as director general of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.”
“I refer to the above named documentary currently in circulation and having been produced by DW. In the documentary, I am mentioned as one of the facilitators in the purported award of contract to Star Times, having served as Director General of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation,” Kanyama stated.
“You may wish to check the following facts: I served as director general of ZNBC for the period 7th March 2012 and June 30, 2014.”
He stated that he joined the IMF in Washington DC on July 7, 2014 and that that meant he served as a ZNBC director general under president Michael Sata, who died in October 2014.
“Mr Amos Malupenga, who is also mentioned as an accomplice, having served as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, was in that position between 2011 and August 2013. These records can be checked,” Kanyama stated.
“The purported award of contract to Start Times took place during or after one of your sources, Mr Chishimba Kambwili served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting (this is according to the clip). He served as information minister between 2015 – 2016. This is the period this award of contract he is referring to in the documentary is believed to have taken place.”
Kanyama asked how then he was being a party to the purported transaction when “I had long left ZNBC and living in Washington DC at the time?”
“We are seriously studying this matter as it is grossly injurious to my reputation and the general public is currently debating how I got involved if at all what you are alleging in the documentary is true. I need clarity on the matter. Regards,” stated Kanyama.
In November last year, ZNBC director general Richard Mwanza said, on the public broadcaster’s Sunday Interview programme, that the partnership between the public broadcaster and TopStar was the best for Zambia.
On February 9, 2018, The Mast reported that the government had given ZNBC to a Chinese company over a US$273 million digital migration loan obtained just before the August 11, 2016 general elections.
Sources told The Mast, at the time, that the agreement between ZNBC and China’s TopStar, which was being called a joint venture, would see the public broadcaster cede revenues for 25 years to service the US$273 million loan.
But Mwanza, in November last year, said ZNBC was too financially susceptible to carry out digital migration without backup.
“Star Times, like I mentioned, is the contractor who will be putting up the digital migration. To do this digital migration, it’s not cheap, let alone the capital cost is colossal! But once you put up this network, to operate it, is even more expensive. So, ZNBC went into a joint venture with Star Times where we formed a company called TopStar Communications Limited [and] this is the company that will run the network. In running the network, they will be able to generate some money for operations but more so, generate some money to pay back the loan,” Mwanza said.
He noted that Star Times did not give anybody a loan but that it was the Chinese government, through Exim Bank, that gave the loan to the Ministry of Information to facilitate the digital migration project.
“In facilitating the project, the way it will be paid back is that we will have a special purpose vehicle called TopStar – they will manage the network and this is how the loan will be paid back. There is no taxpayers’ money involved…. It’s a 25-year loan and I’m just positive that maybe within 15 years, if all goes well, we could pay back this loan,” he explained.
“I mean, look at the mobile sector, these people make a lot of money and if we can produce very good films and we have more subscribers, definitely we can pay back that in a very short space of time.”
When asked by the programme host, Grevazio Zulu, to plainly clarify whether or not ZNBC had been sold, Mwanza responded: “Let’s be serious; do you think if ZNBC was sold I would be here laughing? If ZNBC had been sold, I would not sit here. It hasn’t been sold [and] so whoever is telling you that ZNBC has been sold….”
He further stressed that Star Times and ZNBC were simply shareholders in TopStar.
“Star Times has 60 per cent shareholding while ZNBC has 40 per cent shareholding in a company called TopStar. ZNBC is right now struggling to operate the analogue network and you need support otherwise it will be a white elephant! You install a US$273 million network and fail to operate it? Imagine!” noted Mwanza, adding that the role of the Zambian government in the deal would only be to support the parastatal, ZNBC.
“So, this joint venture will help us to maintain the network, make money and pay back the loan. This arrangement is the best for the country!”