ZNBC, TopStar deal can’t be justified – Chishimba

ZNBC, TopStar deal can’t be justified – Chishimba

By Prosper Miyoba

UNITED Progressive People party leader Saviour Chishimba says the government’s decision to give 60 per cent of ZNBC shares to a Chinese company is one of the effects of having a chancer as President.

ZNBC has gone into a joint venture with Chinese digital television provider TopStar to roll out top set boxes for digital television under the TopStar brand.

Features of the deal are that for the next 25 years, TopStar will be collecting all ZNBC advertising revenues and tower rental fees and that the money would go towards servicing the US$273 million loan government contracted from the Export-Import Bank of China to invest in a digital broadcasting network and building of provincial studios.

But Chishimba in an interview said the sale of state-owned enterprises had been tried before and never benefited Zambians but selfish leaders in office.

He said the transaction could not be justified.

“ZNBC is a state-owned institution, now giving 60 per cent shareholding to a foreign company is tantamount to privatisation. Technically, the national broadcaster is privatised. This is just one of the many effects of having a chancer for President. Government runs a lot of adverts on ZNBC so that means money from our government will be going to the Chinese government. What President Lungu is implementing are Rupiah Banda’s policies, which were to sell all national assets so that him personally can benefit. So this whole deal is questionable and cannot be justified at all,” Chishimba said.

He wondered how a country with sensible leaders would think of giving a national broadcaster to a private entity.

“How can sensible leaders think of such a thing of giving the highest shareholding of a national broadcaster to a foreign company?” Chishimba wondered.

The former Kasama Central member of parliament said the government was supposed to consult Zambians before going into the joint venture with the Chinese.

He said his party would in the next weeks file in a compliant and request the Ministry of Information to explain the whole deal to the Zambians.

“We are all stakeholders in ZNBC. We pay TV levy, so we have the right to be consulted before a decision is made, especially with a public broadcaster. In the next weeks, we will formally file in a compliant and petition the Minister of Information Kampamba Mulenga to explain the whole deal,” said Chishimba.