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State House.

Those cameras ruined my State House mission

I HAD done all the necessary preparations for President Lungu’s second press conference at State House, which I had been assigned to cover.
After jostling, wriggling, wiggling and elbowing my way past the mass of bodies milling in the screening alley of the security room at the State House gate I went to look for a seat at the venue of the press conference.
Once inside the presidential marquee erected on the lawn I met several old friends and former work mates.
At 11:30 hours the President, accompanied by his aides and protocol staff, walked into the marquee and took his seat.
I had been looking forward to this honourable assignment, and expected to leave State House with a trove of stories for the Zambia Daily Mail for the next day.
And I managed to get all the stories I wanted, but I hardly enjoyed the conference thanks to the overzealous camera people.
These colleagues of mine were really determined to make my life miserable.
As usual they had mounted their television cameras in a line in front forming a formidable wall which completely shielded the President away from my view and that of many others.
I just sat there brooding helplessly, as did the others. As the President delivered his statement on the state of the nation I was taking copious notes in my note book based on the sound coming from the giant speakers of the address system.
I couldn’t see my beloved President except hear his kopala voice. As a result I missed his body language, which I wanted to visually capture for my colour story.
Ladies and gentlemen, I mean cameramen and women and photojournalists; you were unfair to me.
I don’t know what I have done to you people. You did the same during President Lungu’s maiden press conference in November 2015.
Fortunately, I managed to find a chink in the human wall you had formed through which I could peek at the head of State as he addressed us then.
At the recent press conference, the one I am whining about, he started delivering his statement at 11:35 hours and I feasted on it like food, making mental notes of the stories as they shaped and what angles they would take.
After the President had delivered his well-written statement his special assistant for press and public relations, Mr Amos Chanda, a former Daily Mail editor, invited questions from journalists on the issues the boss had discussed.
I was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt, as the learned counsels would say, that my time had come to ask my question, which I had carefully and thoughtfully formulated in my note book.
I raised my hand as high as I could in the hope that Mr Chanda would see it and point at me, but the cameramen and women and photojournalists were doing everything in their power to ensure he didn’t see me.
I even toyed with the temptation to stand up. May be my hand would catch Mr Chanda’s eye.
But eish! Those heartless camera people had made up their minds. I was not going to ask my President the important question.
All I could see was their backs and their not-so-impressive butts.
At one time there was a little opening and I thought Mr Chanda had caught a glimpse of my hand, but some cameraman swung his big TV camera to do a pan completely shutting me out of Mr Chanda’s sight.
It was over. All my hopes to ask President Lungu my question collapsed into a heap of rubble.
The lucky ones had already formed a queue outside the marquee waiting for their turn at the microphone.
As I sat there gnashing my teeth I was comforted by the sight of my colleague, Chimwemwe Mwale, walking over to the microphone, and he did not disappoint me.
But I wondered how the young man is always beating me at my own game; worming his way to a position where Mr Chanda can easily see him and point at him.
At the next press conference I know where I will sit. None of you, camera people, is going to stop me this time around. You were not there when the President shook my hand twice in Rome, Italy, and Paris, France.
Now you think you can stop me from speaking to the boss, as if he knows you?
I am assuring you that at the next press conference you will not succeed because I have a plan on how to outwit you, which I cannot divulge just now.
There was a brighter side, though; my furry, long-tailed and nimble-limbed friends whose clan name I withhold for now were not putting up a side show this particular day, but allowed the President to deliver his statement in peace.
It was not the case in November last year, when the shifty-eyed, tree-loving ‘acrobats’ and their children kept racing across the length and breadth of the presidential tent’s roof in the middle of President Lungu’s address.
President Lungu had generally ignored the troublesome members of his homestead.
But this time around even the vocal and showy peacocks were conspicuously silent and absent.
I am not too sure whether some Easterner had bribed them with some fruits to keep them away from this particular press conference.
Finally, I am appealing to you, dear camera people. When you see me next time at State House mount your cameras in such a manner that you will not block my view of the President.
Mr Chanda had not said the President was going to address a ‘camera conference’.
He said a “press conference”, which meant it was for all journalists.
Ukwali nsoke takwafwile muntu (forewarned forearmed) bane!