Information permanent secretary Amos Malupenga has ordered UTH urologist Dr Francis Manda off air because his popular Saturday morning Manzi Radio 4 Show concluding remarks contained alleged messages of attacks on the Patriotic Front government using the state owned ZNBC.
Dr Manda, a seasoned physician and widely respected consultant in the country, has been running a sponsored advise corner on ZNBC Radio 4 which was first aired on Radio Phoenix over five years ago.
Sources at the Ministry of Information disclosed that Malupenga ordered ZNBC management to either cancel the contract with Manzi or find an alternative for Dr Manda. The replacement, according to sources, should strictly concern their comments to issues dealing with patients calling in for advise.
The programme is considered one of the most popular health shows in the country and Dr Manda, since the days of the late president Levy Mwanawasa and during the time of fourth president Rupiah Banda, would use the opportunity on radio to give advise to politicians on any issue.
“What I don’t like, and that is my policy in life, is for people not to tell the truth. The oxygen issue at UTH, when it started, Pauline Mbangweta (UTH spokesperson) came out and said everything was normal, when she knew very well that things were not,” he said.
“Phase three theatre had no gas cylinders until this came to light when the media picked it up. We were not operating before that time almost three weeks. They (management) panicked, they brought in small cylinders which could not even last one hour,” Dr Manda explained.
“Make a tour of UTH theatres…there are different types of operations which we do. There are emergency operations which are catered for by the oxygen from the central supply, which comes from the plant. Then we have cylinders which we use when the central supply shuts off like now. That is what she (Mbangweta) should have said. This is oxygen directly from the plant going into theatres, going to Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” he is quoted in a recent interview by The Post.
The interview by The Post was carried after Dr Manda had made similar comments on the oxygen situation at UTH during the Radio 4 Manzi programme.
But Malupenga, who enjoyed Dr Manda’s advise to government when working as managing director at the Post Newspapers which is viewed as PF aligned, is becoming allergic to the same comments now that he is on the other side (government) of operations.
Before ordering ZNBC director general Chibamba Kanyama to pull off the plug on the programme presented by Herbert Mutabi, Malupenga publicly accused Dr Manda of developing a habit of misleading people by commenting on things he alleges the physician least understood.
“If people at the level of Dr Manda are not aware of what the Government has done in readiness for the conference, then I am worried for a common man,” Malupenga was quoted by the Times of Zambia after the physician made his comments during the show in view of concerns the country may not be ready to host the United Nations World Tourism Conference later this year.
Dr Manda was also critical of what politicians, mostly PF ministers and officials, were making of the oxygen crisis at UTH and in an apparent indictment on information minister Kennedy Sakeni’s public relations statement called on them to be sincere and save lives.
The are unconfirmed reports that more than 20 people have died at UTH in connection with cases that could not be handled due to the oxygen crisis at the country’s biggest referral hospital.
Most doctors are upset with the situation but are too scared to speak out due to what they perceive as a cruel crop of leaders. Dr Manda, who is former husband of chiefs minister Nkandu Luo, is obe of the few doctors that is brave enough to publicly talk about the crisis.
Sakeni recently told Zambians that the oxygen situation at UTH was under control but these untrue comments prompting Dr Manda to issue a lengthy and passionate appeal for people to be honest about the crisis at the hospital revealing that major operations on patients in critical conditions had been suspended due to the lack of oxygen.
“…if I am to remove the bladder because it has cancer, it takes me four to six hours just operating on one case. Now if they fit those theatres with small cylinders which can hardly last one hour, just imagine what can happen to that patient! Not until now, they had fitted in small cylinders to the machines which are in phase three theatres which you can use to operate small operations which last 30, 20 minutes. What about the big ones?”
“We had to send them [patients] home and up to now they are home. We told them we would call them back when things have normalised,” he said.
These cumulative comments have made Malupenga and the PF government upset that they have now decided to limit Dr Manda’s freedom of expression using what should be a public media – ZNBC – but is currently under the control of a group of President Michael Sata’s loyalists.