By Zaza, Lusaka Lawyer.
I write this article as a patriotic citizen with a duty to help out remove the false rumors circulating in the country. Patriotism means standing by the country and not any person , party or institution. Views expressed herein are my personal views from a clear conscience and understanding of the matter in issue.
ZNBC is a corporation created by an Act of parliament called the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Act chapter 154 of the laws of Zambia. ZNBC is fully owned by the Zambian government and has no shares to even talk about because it is a statutory body.
ZNBC and startimes of China entered into a joint venture business for the purpose of migrating from analogue to digital transmission. For purposes of this venture, the two companies decided to create a special purpose vehicle called Topstar. Topstar is a joint venture project company created for the migration purposes. In this respect, ZNBC invested 40% and Startimes 60% in Topstar. It must be made clear here that ZNBC and Startimes are shareholders in Topstar. Startimes is not a shareholder in ZNBC. As a result, a loan was procured to finance the smooth running of the project and guaranteed by the Zambian government.
This venture will pay the loan itself from the operations because its a build operate and transfer (BOT)project. The Zambian government is merely a guarantor of the loan that was procured and not the one to pay the loan. The loan is to be paid from the proceeds of the operation and in fact, the project has already started paying the interest on loan. The Zambian government as guarantor will only be made to pay the loan should the project default to service the loan from the money realized from the operation.
It is not true to say that the digital migration in zambia is more expensive compared to other countries such as South Africa. It is important to note that while most countries in Africa have embarked on digital migration, most of the countries have only migrated partially. For instance, South Africa, has not migrated fully. Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda are the best examples of countries in Africa that have migrated fully. It is therefore not true to argue that the Zambian migration is expensive as compared to the South African one. In fact, South Africa has realized that it made a mistake to just migrate partially as it was expensive to so do. It is now lobbying for funds to migrate fully which is going to be more expensive for them.
Back to the joint venture project in Zambia, the loan has a repayment period of 25 years. During that period, Startimes will manage the operation of the project together with ZNBC. After 25 years, the steak of Startimes in Topstar will be relinquished to 30% and znbc will have the majority shareholding of 40%. The other shares will be held by public institutions 20% and 10% will be held by Zambian individuals.
We should therefore not peddle falsity that the loan is paid by taxpayers money. The loan is paid through our subscriptions. We must support Topstar by buying its decoders and paying subscriptions hence making it easy for the liquidation of the loan without stifling government revenue. Furthermore, it is not true that Startimes owns shares in ZNBC. ZNBC is fully owed by the Zambian government as a statutory body. For any company to own shares in ZNBC, it means that ZNBC has to be incorporated under the companies Act.