Friday 31 October 2014

THE MICHAEL SATA I KNEW: From A Reporter’s Perspective

Michael Sata, Paul Shalala and Justine Kawisha in Senanga, May 2011
By Paul Shalala

I first came to learn of Michael Sata from his several mentions on ZNBC radio when i was growing up in Nangoma area of Mumbwa District in central Zambia during the 1990s.

In those typical Mumbwa-Mumbwa days, radio was more prominent in the villages as it was the most reliable source of news because newspapers, the internet and TVs were a luxury.

I never knew what position Mr Sata held in the Frederick Chiluba-led government at the time but i only knew his name through his many news items on state media.

My first opportunity to see Mr Sata was somewhere between 1993 and 1994 when President Chiluba came to my village to tour the Catholic-run Nangoma Mission Hospital.

It was my second time to see the presidency in my village and it was some how strange as it wasn’t election time.

Earlier in 1990, President Kenneth Kaunda became the first head of state to visit my village.

While on his road trip to Mongu, Dr. Kaunda made a stop-over at Lubanze village and spent a few minutes at Kasalu Basic School where i was doing Grade 1.

My father Mr. Namasiku Kamuti Shalala, who was the school headmaster, received the head of state as we the pupils did the usual chisokone salute while lined up along the Lusaka-Mongu road.

Fast forward to 1993-1994, Dr. Chiluba came with dozens of vehicles and my fellow villagers were excited to have found something to entertain themselves with for a while.

In Chiluba’s entourage, i saw this well built man who stood so close to the eloquent head of state and he was quiet and attentive to whatever the president was saying, nodding his heard from side to side as Dr. Chiluba spoke.

And when i looked closer, it was the King Cobra himself, Michael Sata, the man who would one day rule Zambia for three years and a month.

After that event in Nangoma, ten years passed and i never saw the King Cobra again until 2006.

In that year, i covered one of his rallies in Mandevu area of Lusaka during the campaigns which preceded the 2006 general elections.

At the time, i was a student reporter at the college-run Hone FM radio.

In 2006, Mr Sata was a firebrand opposition leader who spat venom on the Levy Mwanawasa-led New Deal government which he did not spare with every opportunity he had to address the people of Zambia.

The following year, i did my industrial attachments for three months at the Zambia Daily Mail.

During my time at the Longolongo road-based broadsheet, i covered a press briefing by Operation Young Vote President Guess Nyirenda who issued a statement on Mr Sata and i was forced to get a reaction from the Cobra.

With fear in my body, i peacefully picked up the phone and rung Mr Sata who answered me politely and even gave a reaction without hesitation.
From then on, i kept calling him for stories for the rest of his years in the opposition.
After college, i spent two years at the New Vision Newspaper where i covered Mr Sata several times.

Being a newspaper, we used to get stories from the Cobra on the phone without really bothering to interview him face to face.

When phoning him, i would go like: “Mr President, this is Paul Shalala from the New Vision Newspaper, am asking for a phone interview with you sir………..”

Then he would answer: “Go ahead Mr New Vision with your questions……………….”

It was always a great experience to speak to him on phone.

When i worked at Muvi Television from 2010 to 2012, i had several close encounters and one on one interviews with the Cobra that still reminds me of a man who gave stories to reporters as and when they needed them.

In May 2011, my employer then, Muvi Television assigned me to cover Mr Sata when he traveled to Western Province to hold rallies in Mongu and Senanga.

We traveled with the Cobra’s advance party, arrived in Mongu on a Friday evening and slept.

The Cobra landed the following morning on a chartered aircraft and in his usual populist style, he wore the traditional Lozi siziba which charmed hundreds of Mongu residents who welcomed him at the airport.
President Sata upon arrival at Mongu Airport

Mr Sata straight away went to the Blue Gums Ground where he addressed a huge rally and tore down the Rupiah Banda-led MMD administration which he accused of having killed innocent people during the January 14, 2011 Mongu riots.

As a proponent of populist politics, the Cobra read people’s mood and spoke only what they wanted to hear.

I filed my story the same day and it aired on MUVI TV’s 18:30 main news.

The following morning on Sunday, while Mr. Sata was attending mass at a Catholic church in the neighbouring town of Senanga, i sat a seat behind him in the church and listened attentively and watched how Catholics conduct their services.

As mass went on, i just saw the Cobra extend his hand to me and he gave me a folded paper which i quickly read and made me smile for a few minutes.

On that paper, the opposition leader wrote: “Thank you very much Mr MUVI TV. People in Lusaka have told me that the story you sent on yesterday’s rally in Mongu was aired on MUVI TV. Good job.”

At first, i was shocked that the venomous Cobra could write a personal note to me.

To this day, i regret having lost that paper. I wish i had kept it as a souvenir for my children and their children to read in future.

After the church service, Mr Sata went to a lodge to rest as he waited for his public rally in the riverside town of Senanga that afternoon.

As was his habit, the Cobra started reading newspapers to update himself with what was going on around the world.

With my colleague Justine Kawisha who was then working at Radio Mazabuka, we saw Mr Sata’s free time as a photo opportunity.

We approached him and asked to take pictures with him and the Cobra shockingly agreed.

We stood behind him and asked someone to take photos.

That person (i cant remember the name) took three photos which to this day are the only photos i have with Mr. Sata (Check photo above).

When the time for the rally came, we went to a ground where Mr Sata addressed the people of Senanga who came in their hundreds.

It was at that Senanga rally that Mr Sata issued the famous 90 days promise to produce a new constitution and restore the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.

My TV report for Mr Sata’s rallies in Mongu and Senanga which aired on MUVI TV contained that story and you can watch it on this Youtube link:

In September 2011 when presidential candidates while filing their nominations at the Supreme Court ahead of the 20 September general elections, Muvi TV assigned me to cover all the candidates and i spent the whole week camped at the venue.

When the day for the Cobra’s turn came, there was confusion as hundreds, if not thousands, of Patriotic Front cadres thronged the Supreme Court grounds to see Mr Sata file in his papers.

I remember in my TV report which aired on Muvi TV that evening, i showed a confrontation between PF cadres and Zambia Police Director of Operations Dr. Solomon Jere.

I remember also showing Supreme Court staff peeping through the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the Cobra who was driven to the Supreme Court in a Toyota GX vehicle and escorted by a huge boat.

My TV report for that day can be watched on this youtube link:

After winning the September 20, 2011 with 43% of the vote, Mr Sata soon became a national asset whose access to reporters became scarce.

I covered him on a number of occasions at State House and during campaign rallies in the numerous parliamentary by-elections Zambia has had since 2011.

On June 2, 2014 while i covered the head of state at State House,  he jokingly said he had not been evacuated abroad for medical attention as was alleged by some sections of the online media.

My story on that State House event can be read on this link which i blogged that same day:

The last time i saw the King Cobra in person was on 19th September, 2014 when he went to Parliament Grounds and opened the first meeting of the fourth session of the eleventh National Assembly.

The head of state in his usual humorous mood, opened the house and punctuated his speech with

On that day, i sat upstairs in the press gallery not knowing that i was seeing Zambia’s fifth republican president for the last time.
I took a selfie at Sata's rally in Msanzala in February 2012

And for sure i never saw the Cobra alive again. I may only see him again in the coffin when his remains return to his beloved country tomorrow.

He died on 28th October, 2014 while receiving medical attention in the British capital London.

When my close friend Boston Chambuluka phoned me from Kafue at around 03:00hrs on 29th October, 2014 to break the bad news of the demise of the President, i remembered the King Cobra who i had a few chats with in the opposition and who later became the head of state thanks to his populist style of politics which easily wooed him votes.

If someone was to ask me to describe the late Zambian President Michael Chilufya Sata in a few words from a reporters’ perspective, i would describe him as a news source who needed no research to give out a news story at any given  time.

What a loss to us the so-called amutola nkani. Our source is gone.... gone forever.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Over 200 Pupils In Mongu Being Funded By CDF To Attend School

Nathaniel Mubukwanu (left)
 By Paul Shalala in Mongu

Over 200 pupils in Mongu District of Western Province are being funded by the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to attend school.

CDF is an annual allocation in the National Budget to all the 150 constituencies countrywide which is used to implement developmental projects.

The 200 pupils are specially selected by the Mongu Central Constituency CDF Committee and the criteria is picking pupils whose parents are unable to support them or pupils who are orphans.

"These children we are supporting are those whose parents have failed to take them to school. Our priority is to see these children contribute to this country's development," said Nathaniel Mubukwanu, Mongu Central Member of Parliament.

Mr Mubukwanu, who is also North Western Province Minister, recently commissioned a classroom block at Mukoko Basic School in Mongu which was refurbished at the cost of K30,000 using CDF.

The classroom block will be used for Home Economics and it has been equipped with various chicken utensils.

"Our focus as the PF Government is to rehabilite education infrastructure in Western Province as a way of improving education standards which are considered the lowest in the country. We are not happy with the low pass rate in the province," said Mubukwanu.

And Western Province Education Standards Officer Loveness Mubisi says the refurbishing of the classroom will help in the implementation of the revised school curriculum.

"I call upon other members of parliament to emulate Honourable Mubukwanu and use their CDF to help implement the newly revised education curriculum," said Ms Mubisi.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Rupiah Banda, Elias Chipimo, NGOs React To President Sata's Death

 Below are statements issued by various Zambians and organisations in reaction to President Michael Sata's death in London last night

Brothers and Sisters, we find ourselves in mourning today with the devastating news of our President's passing.
Rupiah Banda

Michael Chilufya Sata was more than a public servant. He was a passionate competitor, a man of conviction and determination. He was also a loving son, a husband, a father, and to me, despite everything we have been through, a friend.

Above all, Michael Sata was a Zambian, in body, soul, and spirit.

 In these moments of grief, my thoughts and prayers are with the President's family. Though the sadness weighs heavily on your hearts, may God grant you peace, strength, and resolve.

You may count on the support of your fellow countrymen in this difficult time.

It is natural that some people may feel a passionate reaction to this sadness.

But it is most important in this moment to remain calm; to reflect and honour the President with dignity. Others may be unsettled and searching for answers, but we must remain patient and have trust in one another.

 As a country, we have gone through this before, and we made it to the other side because we were united. 

Let this be a time that we set aside the ideas that separate us, and embrace the humanity and dignity that unites us as a country and defines us as a people.

For now, we all mourn and pray for the Sata family, who shall feel our love and compassion. But we will also remain strong, and remember that the darkest hour comes before dawn.

Rupiah Banda
Former President of Zambia

 The Death of our President
Elias Chipimo

Today we mourn the passing of our republican president. Make no mistake about it, whether we voted for him or not, whether we supported or opposed his ideas or style of leadership, he was our president. His parting is a huge loss to our nation and brings to the fore memories of the passing of the late Levy Mwanawasa.

The passing of Mr. Sata comes at a time when we have just commemorated and celebrated our Golden Jubilee. It is a time that will therefore carry with it, bitter-sweet memories in the years to come.

Our immediate concern must be to mourn our departed leader and to console the first family and our nation. This must not be a time to campaign but a time to mourn. This should not be a time for division but a time to heal. There can be no joy in the death of another but only a sense of awareness of our own death and what we each must do while we are alive to make the most of the remaining time allotted to us by our Creator.

Let us reflect the Zambian spirit that shows there is more that unites than separates us. Let us mourn the passing of our president with the sense of dignity and unity befitting the death of a head of state.

Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)
29 October 2014


Statement by the Grand Coalition on the passing on of President Michael Sata

Father Leonard Chiti
The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a new People Driven Constitution in Zambia has learnt with great shock about the passing on of the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Michael ChilufyaSata.

We would like to express our deepest condolences to his family and the people of Zambia over this loss.

Following the death of President Michael Sata, the Grand Coalition would like to inform the nation that we have cancelled our Press Briefing that was scheduled for tomorrow Thursday 30th October 2014 at the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Lusaka.

Fr. Leonard Chiti
Chairperson, Grand Coalition Campaign for a People Driven Constitution in Zambia


PRISCCA has received with shock and sadness news on the death of Republican President Michael Chilufya Sata. 

PRISCCA has in the past hailed the late president for his compassion for the less privileged and despised in society and specifically his compassion towards prisoners. He is the only president to have pardoned close to five thousand prisoners using prerogative of mercy in the short time he has been in office. He demonstrated his compassion by releasing deserving prisoners amid attacks from some sections of society who felt prisoners being pardoned were posing a danger to society.

Today, a dark cloud has fallen over the prison community. The prison community mourns because the late president and his administration also demonstrated compassion for the prison community by putting various measures in place to alleviate the suffering of prisoners. It was during his reign that we saw rehabilitation of prisons and also the completion of Mwembeshi Maximum B, Luwingu Prison in Northern Province and others. 

Zambia has indeed lost a gallant leader who will be remembered for many years to come by the prison community.

We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Sata family and Zambia as a whole. Let us put our political affiliations aside and mourn our president in peace. May His Soul Rest in Peace.     

Godfrey Malembeka
Executive Director
Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISSCA


On behalf of the NAREP Youth Council and indeed on my own behalf, may I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Sata family and the nation of Zambia on the death of His Excellency, President Michael Sata. The youths of NAREP stand in solidarity with his family and all Zambians at this sad time.

This is not the time to divide ourselves or start politicking the death of our President but to join the family and the nation to mourn our President. We urge all the youths and all Zambians countrywide to hold hands and Pray for this nation during this difficult time.

May the good Lord bless our Nation.

Issued by:

Frank Sichone
NAREP Secretary for youth and Sports.
29th October, 2014

                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senior Chief Nsokolo of Mbala has joined the rest of the world and Zambians in mourning President Michael Chilufya Sata, the country’s fifth President who died in London on Tuesday Oct. 28 after an illness.

His Royal Highness has learnt with deep shock over the untimely death of the Zambian leader who he described as a “dedicated leader and a friend” because of constructive interactions the duo had before the demise of the President.

The Mambwe Chiefdom has since sent its heartfelt and deepest condolences to the First Family and indeed Zambians over the death of the President.  He has described President Sata a selfless leader, servant and a person who lived to bettering the welfare of the poor in society.

His Royal Highness has since appealed to the First Family and indeed Zambians to ensure President Sata’s life is celebrated with the honor and respect it deserves particularly that Zambia is just emerging from Celebrating its Jubilee to mark 50 years of independence.

Issued by:

Jeff .S. Kapembwa
Personal Assistant  (PA)
Chief Nsokolo


Press Statement
29 October 2014
MISA Zambia saddened with death of President Sata

Hellen Mwale
 The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia has learnt with deep sorrow about the death of Zambian President Michael Sata at the time Zambia is celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

 MISA Zambia will remember President Sata for his contribution towards media freedom which included making the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act of 2002 operational and allowing the Zambian media to self-regulate through the Zambian Media Council (ZAMEC).

We convey our deepest condolences to the President’s family as we mourn with the people of Zambia and pray for God’s comfort during this sad period.
 May the soul of our departed President rest in peace.

Hellen Mwale
Chairperson – MISA Zambia
29 October 2014