In many respects, the Zambian government’s media campaign against Henry Banda plays a key role in their strategy to go after political opponents. By repeatedly publishing salacious and libelous allegations against Henry – despite a total absence of actual charges, trials, or convictions – they can tarnish his reputation and eliminate his constitutional right to the presumption of innocence. Basically, they are looking to convince Zambians of a false idea of wrongdoing in order to shore up public support to eventually remove the former President Rupiah Banda’s immunity. Instead of due process and the rule of law, they are looking to the court of public opinion.
The latest example is a real gem: the state-owned Daily Mail newspaper is running a classic anti-Henry story under the headline “Henry’s world shrinks,” which quotes some statements from Police Inspector General Stella Libongani, and reports the urgent revelation “the noose around the neck of fugitive son of former President Rupiah Banda is tightening.”
What exactly is “news” here? We remind you of another Daily Mail article dating all the way back to January 20th, that reported virtually the exact same non-story: “The noose is tightening on former President Rupiah Banda’s son Henry, following Inspector-General of Police Martin Malama’s disclosure that international law agencies have now been involved in bringing him to book, by all means possible.” That’s quite a lot of “noose tightening” between January and April.
Of course Martin Malama would go on to be fired for his performance, and then the media spent the next month kicking up all these false stories about Mr. Banda living in Kenya’s State House when in fact they knew for a fact that he was in South Africa, as his counsel had already contacted the authorities, requesting details of the “investigation.” The Zambian authorities did not respond, but instead caused an unnecessary diplomatic incident with Kenya.
You know things have gotten particularly dire when the propagandists in the state-owned media are forced to recycle the same, empty attack articles because they have no actual evidence at their disposal (of course we can expect that soon the state will fabricate some sort of false evidence, but the fact is if it were real they would have already presented it). An article like this should make many Zambians ask some questions of their government:
- Why have the authorities refused to define the nature of the allegations?
- Why has Zambia violated protocol and handled the requests concerning Henry Banda so irregularly?
- Why have they made so many accusations in the press before there has even been a charge?
- Why have they attacked and threatened Henry’s legal counsel?
- And, after so many prejudicial statements from political figures outside of the judiciary, why should Henry have any expectation that he could receive fair treatment in this witch hunt?
Until such questions are answered, it is very difficult to take any report in the Zambian media concerning this matter with any level of seriousness.