Chanda Chimba III, a freelance filmmaker who made documentaries denouncing Michael Sata, while he was the opposition Patriotic Front leader and before he became the President of Zambia, has been arrested.
Chimba is charged with unlawful printing and publication and for being in “possession of property suspected of being proceeds from a crime.”
His critics call him a propagandist and his supporters an investigative journalist. Chimba's ”Stand Up For Zambia” documentaries portray negative attributes of Sata and prophesied what life would be like for Zambians if Sata was voted into office. The series aired on state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation TV in the months running up to the September 20, 2011 elections.
Once reviled, the documentaries are now hits on YouTube as most of the things that Chimba predicted, like the arrest of opposition leaders and preventing them from holding public meetings, are now a reality.
Chimba whom netizens have nicknamed the “Prophet” for his foresight, has been arrested along with the former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha, former Zambia Daily Mail Deputy Managing Editor Davis Mataka and media consultant Ng'ande Mwanajiti for offences related to pre-election publications.
An introduction to one of the episodes of “Stand Up For Zambia” on YouTube uploaded by impeachsata reads:
Stand Up For Zambia was a documentary series produced by the investigative journalist Chanda Chimba for ZNBC in 2010-2011. Since the Patriotic Front government was elected into power last year, Mr. Chimba has faced arrests and constant harassment by the new government. His films predicted many of the authoritarian abuses of power now being practiced by the Sata regime of Zambia. For more info, please write to email@example.com.
There were numerous reactions to Chimba's arrest on various citizen media websites. On Zambia Peoples Pact, an open Facebook group, Nawa Mukwati Sibongo, writes:
I await to see Fred Meembe [Post Newspaper owner and editor] support Chanda Chimba III as a fellow scribe they may not agree in content and style but they should fight for the freedoms of speech by those in the media. I also await the media organisations to lend the young man support.
Responding to Sibongo, Emmanuel Khantafu Zulu gave a breakdown of what Chimba was arrested for:
Particulars of the offence are that Chanda Chimba III Unlawfully did cause to be printed or published newspapers called” Stand up for Zambia” and “News of our times” Which were not registered at the office of the Director National Archives of Zambia. He was found in possession or control of an accumulated total of K611, 440,433.12 money he paid for private media and printing services to Zambia National Broadcasting Services Corporation, Muvi Television and the Daily Mail limited respectively, which is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of a crime.
Mbwantu, on the ZambianWatchdog [comments on this website do not have permanent links], writes:
Man Sata should just get to his senses and prove that Chanda Chimba was a liar. Arresting people who told the truth for the sake of mother Zambia cannot help the cobra in any way. If anything he is comfirming what Chimba said about him.
After all, BEING UNDER SATA’S RULE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE FROM BEING DEAD OR IMPRISONED.
A reader calling herself Margaret Thatcher writes:
Chanda Chimba was dutifully reminding people with short memory, of a man who always says things that he does not mean to. A man who will say this today and change when it suits him. A man who could tell a dangerous lie all in the name of gaining some political mileage. We are very cheap lot! really to say the least.
Wanzelu ku Choma writes in support of the arrests:
Doesn’t bother me. Man needs to account for his action when time comes.
On Lusaka Times, Rocky warned Patriotic Front leaders might meet the same fate:
That’s the nature of African politics.
Sata and his cohorts should also not forget that they equally will be hunted down and tried before the courts of law the minute the PF leaves power
Concerned about the political developments in Zambia, the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR), quotes a member and international lawyer, Robert Amsterdam on its website:
President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front government of Zambia must immediately halt their unlawful arrests and prosecutions of journalists and opposition leaders, according to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).
“These politically motivated arrests represent a campaign of intimidation that violates the rights of all Zambian citizens to free and fair assembly and freedom of expression,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any country calling itself a rule-of-law democracy to have the leadership behave with such impunity, violating both local and international law to persecute their opponents.”