Dipak Patel Blames ZNBC for Collapse of Presidential Debate

Filed under: Statements |

dipakWe wish to make clear the events that transpired yesterday evening at the scheduled presidential debate organised by the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ).

Along with MMD candidate Nevers Mumba, FDD candidate Edith Nawakwi and PF candidate Edgar Lungu, our candidate Hakainde Hichilema had agreed to participate in the debate, recognising that it would be a valuable opportunity for the Zambian public to evaluate the major contenders side by side in a transparent arena with no where to hide.

The PF Secretary General Davies Chama signed an agreement committing Edgar Lungu to the debate. Edgar Lungu dishonourably violated this agreement by not showing up. This in itself is disrespectful to the EAZ, the participants and the people of Zambia.

Having changed our schedule and flown our candidate back mid-campaign from Eastern Province we were ready to go ahead with the debate with or without Edgar Lungu.

The EAZ had agreed with ZNBC to record the debate and then broadcast it at a later date. Unfortunately once it became clear that Mr Lungu was not attending the ZNBC crew packed up and left. Attempts to find an alternative at last minute were explored but nothing viable was established.

This is not only a missed opportunity but it appears to be a blatant violation of media freedom. Despite the concerns we have raised time and time again, yesterday evening’s events show that the PF is still interfering with ZNBC and seeking to control their campaign coverage.

Acting President Guy Scott has repeatedly stated his commitment to overseeing free and fair elections. We call for him to immediately take action to end this interference with the affairs of the public broadcaster. We further call on all parties and civil society to speak out and condemn this abuse.

Dipak Patel
UPND Campaign Manager