COMMUNITY development minister Michael Kaingu on Monday openly differed with Post assistant news editor George Chellah over the dog-loyalty editorial comment published in the newspaper on that day.
Kaingu was not happy with the said editorial comment which was based on his remarks that it was unacceptable for ministers to undermine President Rupiah Banda because even a dog had allegiance to its owner.
Kaingu who had called for a briefing of all media houses to dispel the comment got infuriated when Chellah introduce himself as a reporter from The Post.
Kaingu immediately put it to Chellah that he was not disputing the story on which the comment was based, but that the comment itself was insulting.
The story published in this newspaper on Monday carried the headline: We have to be loyal, even a dog is loyal to its master - Kaingu.
Below is a verbatim report of what transpired between Kaingu and Chellah:
Kaingu: What I am saying which even you, you learnt in school so for somebody to say…because I said that even dogs or a dog has got an allegiance to its owner that does not mean the ministers or myself I'm a dog, you know. It's an abuse of power and an abuse of the power of the pen and it's corruption what somebody has said. And you see, your paper is petty, an issue like that they want to underplay it. It's petty, it's being petty. What I want you to know; whoever wrote that opinion is a little devil. Yes, that's what you must know and he is childish, he is childish and we no longer wonder as people of Zambia.
We buy The Post newspaper and you just read the headline, you will know the rest of the stories. So it's corrupting words to say that because I used that metaphor that even a dog has allegiance to its owner, it's abuse of the pen.
It's corrupting the words and that is very, very unfair. But we have come to live with it, we are now used. So it will not change us whatsoever, we are focused; we are going to deliver on people of Zambia and nobody, nobody will remove us from the track. We are on the track. If you people at The Post you want to join the politics, which we have already seen anyway because it looks like there will never ever be a good President. You fought president Chiluba, you fought president Mwanawasa up to his grave, now you are fighting President Rupiah Bwezani Banda. So there will never be a good President until your…the guy who is writing this opinion becomes a President, that's what I have seen myself. There will never ever be a good President as long as Post newspaper is not in the seat running this government; that's what you are telling us. There is no good minister, all of us we are rubbish.
You are really over-qualified because you seem to know everything. So you write your stories and I will not ask you as Mr Mwanza has said to apologise or to retract the story or seek legal litigation, I will not do things like that mwalibelela, borrowing from our relatives the Bembas. You are used and you are uncultured because to you there is no big person. If you can write like that to a person who is 73-years-old, you can call him names like that. My young brother, as a minister, as ministers we are appointed by the President. These jobs belong to the President, they belong to the President. He can hold them himself at State House there today if he wanted, he can be a minister of home affairs, he can be a minister of community development, it's true that's how it works! So if he appoints me I must work in tandem with him, I must give him the support that he deserves. If I don't then the best is to resign.
Chellah: So Honourable the contention, is it about the comment or the story, are you disputing…
Kaingu: The story is very good; I have nothing against the story. If you are the one who phoned me and talked to, me I am actually happy with the story.
Chellah: I am actually the one…
Kaingu: Yes! Exactly, what I am not happy with is the opinion. You know because the opinion even you yourself as the person who wrote the story I think that opinion is not your opinion, is that your opinion?
Chellah: It's the organisation's opinion, which I fall under and I agree with it.
Kaingu: So, your organisation it's okay you can work as a team. You don't want my organisation to work as a team?
Chellah: And I agree with the opinion actually…
Kaingu: You agree with the opinion? Yes! I agree with you so you agree with your opinion, now you don't want me and my colleagues to work as a team. You are not the one who wrote the opinion because you are not qualified to write the opinions for the paper.
Chellah: I am an assistant news editor, actually.
Kaingu interjects: Yes! But you are not the one who wrote the opinion.
Chellah: laughs Don't be too sure…
Kaingu: But you have joined the person who wrote the opinion because you have to work as a team.
Chellah: Honourable you can't be too sure on that one, you can't be too sure…
Kaingu interjects: Let's not argue, you we have just said...
Chellah: No, I am telling you because I'm an assistant editor.
Kaingu interjects: Don't come here and argue with me. You have said you are working as a team and I am saying here please let me give you the respect and give me the respect that I deserve.
Chellah: Which I am doing.
Kaingu: Well, you don't have to tell me, I'll know.
Deputy community development minister Friday Malwa interjects: No, when the minister is answering he is your minister, listen…
Chellah: But when he's not being factual, I shall not stand here and be dressed out like that.
Kaingu: What do you mean factual?
Malwa: No, no, no, but you wait and…
Chellah interjects: No, no, no what you should understand is that I've been very respectful. He has said a lot of things and I've been listening. I've done more listening than talking. If I'm not going to be allowed to give my side, then definitely we shall not proceed that way. The respect I've done, and I'm still doing it.
Kaingu: I think the, the, we have….
Malwa interjects: Give the minister respect and he is an elderly person.
Chellah: Yes, he is a minister and he's an elderly person, that I've done. You can't accuse me that I've insulted him.
Malwa: You know that it's an insult and this is against the Constitution. It's an insult to argue with an elderly person. You know as an elderly person, you can't be calling him a liar.
Chellah: Those are semantics I can't venture into.
Malwa: No, I'm just advising you.
Chellah: Being cultured and being a minister doesn't mean the same. You can't have a minister lying, and that I have to put on record.
Kaingu: You are telling me that I'm lying?
Chellah: Yes, if my words are being twisted right in front of me what do you want me to do?
Malwa interjects: I wanted you to give him time, but you…
Chellah interjects: I came in peace, I came with respect. He has spoken for almost I don't know how many minutes? And he has gone for over an hour, and I was listening. What's wrong with me clarifying a point, which I'm uncomfortable with?
Mwalwa: But you see, what we are saying is confrontation…
Chellah interjects: No, no, no, you are a politician, he is too. This is a democracy, so you should not…
Malwa: But does that mean you should be confrontational?
Chellah: No, there's no confrontation. I'm only giving my side; just like he's giving his side.
Malwa: What I'm saying is he is talking and you are also talking, how do we listen?
Chellah: I'm answering, I'm answering. He hasn't given me an opportunity to answer. You don't treat people that way. Worse of all you don't abuse power that way, I should put it on record. Don't abuse people that way; you don't abuse power that way. These powers you have are temporal; people have been here and they went, and you will do the same.
Kaingu: I'm sure that's your intention, isn't it? That is your intention?
Chellah: No, no, it's not about that, I just have to tell you. Why should you hold me hostage? Why should you hold me hostage?
Kaingu: I think we are done.
Chellah: No, no, no, your understanding of reporters is totally wrong. We are humans with feelings. We are your children, respect us and we will respect you. Above all, I'm a citizen and I pay tax. It is my government, which you are running.
Malwa: That's right, ya, that's right.
Chellah: But what you should know is that I'm not your servant; that much you should know. You are not supposed to abuse people that way because you are in authority. I respected you and there are many witnesses including these people pointing to other scribes, you spoke throughout. You tried to twist something that was clear.
Ministry public relations officer Ndulo interjects: You know my brother, all these are qualified reporters. It doesn't mean that when you are from The Post you shouldn't be guided. You are all reporters here.
Chellah: It's not about that, the minister should say whatever he has to say and I listen? You don't abuse power that way. This is not how we operate.
At this point, Radio Phoenix journalist Robert Mwanza persuaded Chellah to walk out of the minister's office and he obliged.
Later a Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) crew walked into the room and Kaingu repeated the briefing.
At the end of the briefing, Malwa gives a directive: In fact it is good that now we have the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and ZNBC, what you do is go and team up, you do a story that will dilute what The Post will write tomorrow Tuesday.
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