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Retract your lies or else, Sishuwa warns Ambassador Mwamba

HISTORIAN and political commentator Sishuwa Sishuwa has asked Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the African Union Emmanuel Mwamba to retract the defamatory statements that he published against him on Facebook.

Last week, the Mail & Guardian newspaper of South Africa published an opinion piece written by Dr Sishuwa titled ‘Zambia may burn after the August elections. Here’s how to prevent this’. In the article, Dr Sishuwa warned that if Zambia descends into large-scale political unrest after the 12 August general elections, ‘there are three major factors that would have driven the country to that outcome.

“These include the public’s increasing lack of trust in (and outright contempt for) formal institutions such as the Judiciary, the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the police as arbiters of the contest between those who wield state power and those seeking to acquire it.

“A second factor is that this is a high-stakes election, featuring two ruthless groups of political elites. One wants to perpetuate its stay in power to continue accumulating resources and to escape possible prosecution and imprisonment; the other seeks to win power to prevent a crushing end to its members’ political careers. Leaders and supporters of both groups see the August election as a matter of life and death and are likely to rebel violently against an outcome that does not favour them – particularly if the electoral process lacks credibility,” Dr Sishuwa wrote before providing 15 examples of the political and socio-economic factors that he said potentially leaves the forthcoming high-stakes election as a tinderbox.

“What has emboldened these two factors is the third: the incriminating silence of international, mainly Western institutions and actors who once spoke out against human rights violations and murderous attacks on democracy, thus exercising some kind of leverage on the actions of the political elites in power.”

On Monday this week, Ambassador Mwamba responded with an article alleging that Dr Sishuwa’s opinion piece was a paid for comment.

In a write-up posted on his Facebook page, the diplomat added that having previously served as High Commissioner to South Africa, he could even guess who paid for the article.

“After serving for four years as High Commissioner to South Africa, I can even guess who paid for that Op-Ed article in the Mail & Guardian. My appeal is that despite one’s disdain for the PF, or deep contempt for its government and its leader, we should never be driven to desperate levels deliberately designed to injure the reputation and good standing of our country,” wrote Ambassador Mwamba in an article that was later republished on Smart Eagles and other online media outlets. “For Zambia is above all of us, Zambia will be there beyond the ruling Patriotic Front. Why burn Zambia because one is facing a possible and inevitable electoral loss of his party or one that he or she sympathizes with? Mulefwaya uku filila munsenga?”

But Dr Sishuwa has demanded a retraction and apology from Zambia’s head of mission to Ethiopia.

In a letter of demand dated 29 March 2021, the academic stated that Ambassador Mwamba’s “false and malicious allegations are defamatory and injurious to my character and reputation, as the innuendo in your statements is that I am unprofessional and a hired gun championing someone else’s agenda. As you may appreciate, I am an academic whose integrity and professionalism have never been impugned.”

“Your assertion that my article in the Mail & Guardian was a ‘paid for Op-Ed’ is a lie. The truth is that the opinion piece was published for free, something I am sure the editors of the newspaper would be happy to confirm. While I welcome public debate and content-based discussion founded on facts, I detest the invention and circulation of lies which are simply meant to cast aspersions on one’s character and professional standing,” stated Dr Sishuwa. “In this regard, I find your statements that my article was a paid for comment and that you could guess who paid for it most contemptible and malicious. Your false and malicious allegations are defamatory and injurious to my character and reputation, as the innuendo in your statements is that I am unprofessional and a hired gun championing someone else’s agenda. As you may appreciate, I am an academic whose integrity and professionalism have never been impugned. I therefore demand a formal retraction and apology from you to be published in like manner and with equal prominence to the defamatory statement. I further demand that the apology and retraction must be published before close of business on Wednesday, 31 March 2021, failure to which I reserve the right to take legal action against you. Kindly note that owing to the public nature of your actions, and because you have used your diplomatic office to publish lies about me, I have no choice but to publish a copy of this letter in the media.”

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