Columnists

Who stole the ZAPRA award?

PATSON Phiri.

Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
IN THE evening of Friday, March 2, 2018, the Zambia Public Relations Association (ZAPRA) announced that the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) had won the 2017 award in the category of crisis management.
ZAPRA, for starters, is an association of professional public relations practitioners drawn from both public and private firms operating in Zambia. They held their annual general meeting In Livingstone last week which included an award gala dinner.  Now since that announcement and the delivery of a shield to symbolise that honour, I have been asking questions. Who owns the 2017 ZAPRA award?
The question appears to have been asked by someone who should be destined for Chainama mental health institute for some attention but let me elucidate.
LWSC deals with several stakeholders such as customers or consumers of the water the company supplies, there are also employees, the line ministry, the media and many others.
That is what comes to my mind when a development such as this takes place. Whose award is it? In my view, the award is for the people who took heed to the many appeals advanced by the company to settle their anxiety during the period of water scarcity and cholera outbreak.
It is an award for those women and men in Kalingalinga, Avondale, Garden, Woodlands, Mtendere, Chelstone, Kaunda Square who have had to contend with water scarcity during the 86 days when supply was rationed.
In their decision to hand over this award to LWSC, ZAPRA said the company accounted itself very well during that period. I have struggled to accept that this is how that citation should end.
I beg to remind the readers that just when the residents were drawing closer to the end of the 86-day rationing period, there came an outbreak of cholera.
The burden that the company assumed involved supply of clean water while educational materials had to be put together to convince the residents for them to stop consuming and using water from any other source than Lusaka Water.
So two burdens took the stage; water rationing and cholera. Added to that were sporadic incidents in which unscrupulous people wrote distorted statements to scupper those efforts by LWSC.
While it is admitted that the company played a role in settling negative reactions, including violent ones, the major part was played by the people who stood firm with Lusaka Water and continued to consume water produced and supplied by the company.
It is very clear that if the residents had declined to abide by the call to listen to LWSC, the award would not have been given to the company.
It is actually an award that recognises the positive attitude displayed by the residents of Lusaka to understand the position in which LWSC found itself. The company engaged in water rationing in response to the on-going repairs of the water infrastructure both in Kafue and the city of Lusaka.
Their decision to listen and share the word with others is the basis for the award. LWSC’s role was merely to facilitate information-sharing through the media and other staged meetings with residents in order for them to appreciate the position in which the company found itself.
It is an award owned jointly by the Zambian journalists, the customers of water, the government and ZAPRA for their decision to use their wits to isolate LWSC from many firms for purposes of the award.
So yes thank you for the award but in the interest of truth, please take it back and celebrate with the hope that you will continue to heed to similar calls that might be made in future. The company has little to do with any form of award that goes to the core of service delivery.
The award rests on you the stakeholders. If I had a way, I would do more than speak for you as regards this award. I have heard of people who are lifted high for winning awards but remember, I am not that Goliath in the Bible.
This is the best I can do and I hope you will share in the little that I can offer. Now I can answer the question who stole the award? The award is yours and yours severally. That’s the verdict and the case is over.
The author is LWSC marketing and public relations manager.

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