GOOD governance activist Brebner Changala has requested President Hakainde Hichilema to appoint a commission of inquiry into the liquidation of The Post Newspapers Limited.
The company was closed and liquidated with backing from the Edgar Lungu administration on June 21, 2016 over a disputed tax bill.
Five years down, only a handful of former employees have received paltry amounts, while 22 of them have since died without getting anything from what they worked for.
Provisional liquidator Lewis Mosho who was appointed by five former Post employees has sold all the company’s valuable assets.
The former employees are Andrew Chiwenda, Roy Habaalu who both work for the Road Transport and Safety Agency; the trio of Abel Mboozi, Mwendalubi Mweene, and Bonaventure Bwalya have since been employed by the Zambia Revenue Authority.
In an interview, Changala said time had come to seek justice in the matter.
“Now that we have a new administration and knowing the circumstances under which The Post newspaper was closed, it is very important we go stage by stage. That the President, using the powers vested in him, establishes a commission of inquiry on the closure of The Post Newspaper and the criminality that surrounded the closure,” Changala said. “And the last terms of reference must be the restoration of The Post Newspaper with all the players, refunding the assets that have been destroyed with interest so that no State capture will happen. Because The Post Newspaper was destroyed through a syndicate that had captured State House. So, we need to find out through a commission of inquiry. That is my earnest appeal.”
Giving a historical background to the closure and subsequent liquidation, Changala said the process was criminal.
“The Post Newspaper was closed, not liquidated. It was closed by the Zambia Revenue Authority when they were trying to reconcile their tax returns. Then later on, a group of Post Newspaper employees, whether retired or serving at Post Newspapers, hired a gentleman called [Lewis] Mosho and went to the High Court where there was a newly appointed judge in the name of Sunday Nkonde,” Changala explained. “And the lawyer and the judge, in chambers, liquidated the newspaper on the basis of five employees’ complaint without hearing the employer. The employer was supposed to certify as to whether those were genuine employees. And whether the newspaper indeed owed those employees the money. And as to whether the figures being displayed before the judge were authentic, and if the newspaper indeed failed to pay them.”
He described the matter as one sided since the company has never been heard to date.
Changala referred to President Hichilema’s inaugural speech where he promised to respect media freedom.
“This is a matter that was one-sided litigated without the company which was being sued being heard. And the judge at that time went ahead and liquidated the newspaper in the most bizarre manner. And The Post Newspaper up to this very day has never been heard,” he added. “I am making this appeal while reading the inaugural speech by President Hakainde Hichilema at Heroes Stadium when he was sworn in as the Seventh President. He did make a pronouncement that the media in this country is officially a fourth estate. And no media house will close or be intimidated. And he called upon the media in the country to self-regulate as a professional body in which individual interests and those of the media houses will be protected and enhanced.”
Changala argued that revisiting the matter would also send a message to the nation that the UPND government had come to correct mistakes made by the PF.
“Now, knowing that the closure of The Post newspaper was politically inspired by the previous regime, the PF regime, and to make sure that such a criminal act does not happen now or in future, we need an inquiry and determine as to what extent was the court abused in order to destroy a business entity that was deemed to be unfriendly to the PF administration,” said Changala. “This will also serve and remind the people of Zambia that the current administration headed by Hakainde Hichilema has come to correct the rot that was inspired by PF masquerading as a political party when it was a criminal organisation.”