Private owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) has, by Beyond FM of Lilongwe, been implicated in a scathing transmitter theft scandal which the latter says was orchestrated by the former’s engineer, Solomon Haswell who was reportedly arrested by Police.
But both Haswell and ZBS managing director, Gospel Kazako, laughed off the matter in separate interviews .
Kazako told Nyasa Times that there was “no story.”
Interfering with investigation
However, Beyond FM director, Patrick Kamwenje, insisted that Haswell dismounted their transmitters in Dowa, Kasungu and Ntcheu.
Kamwenje said that they had reported the missing of two of four transmitters to the police, and that the latter were handling the matter.
“We’re sure of the two because those are the ones are in possession of Haswell. We’ve all evidence regarding this. We’re still trying to locate the other two,” he said.
Kamwenje estimated the cost of each transmitter at about K6 million.
He accused Kazako of interfering with the investigation process alleging that the decorated media owner was “using his influence” to make sure police’s decisions are in his favour.
According to Kamwenje, Kazako was doing all he could to protect Haswell and influenced police to release him on bail.
Said Kamwenje: “He [Kazako] knows about the theft. He is trying to save himself as well as ZBS but the good thing is that we’ve got all the evidence as far as this issue of theft is concerned.”
He promised to send documents with information regarding the transmitters to Nyasa Times via email. We never got the email.
Kamwenje further told Nyasa Times what ZBS had done impacted negatively on their business.
“We have lost business because we can’t be heard to several of our listeners,” he said.
No ZBS link
But in an interview Haswell said it was unfortunate that the whole issue was being “linked to ZBS.”
While he said that he really worked for ZBS, he said he was being implicated in the transmitter issue as Hachi-Tech Consultants – a consultancy firm which he owns.
“It is unfortunate that there is mention of ZBS. It was me and Hachi-Tech Consultants. I was hired by Beyond FM to install their transmitters but even after charging them fairly, they still have not given me my money. It is almost about a year now,” said Haswell.
He blamed Kamwenje of not being honest enough.
“He is honest. He knows how many times I have reminded them of a remainder of my payment. Beyond FM took my pleas with a grain of salt. I have been taken for granted,” said Kamwenje.
According to emails Haswell has shared with Nyasa Times, Beyond FM still owes Hachi-Tech Consultants K450 000 of a K950 000 fee that was charged.
He confirmed keeping about six transmitters but insisted he had dismounted them because he was “tired of giving reminders” that bore no fruit.
According to an email from Khumbo Sambo of Nile Holdings Limited – Beyond FM partners – request was made to Hachi-Tech Consultants to decommission six transmitters located in Dedza, Kasungu, Dowa and Dowa “at the earliest opportunity.”
Nile Holdings Limited (NHL), we understand, was roped into the Beyond FM deal after Kamwenje had failed to “manage” the radio.
NHL is reportedly said to have procured the transmitters and other equipment of the radio as part of the deal.
“NHL actually owns 59 per cent shares in Beyond FM with only 41 per cent for Kamwenje,” a Beyond FM insider who refused to be named told Nyasa Times.
The insider added: “Kamwenje and NHL must first resolve their issues before they can start accusing Haswell of anything. There are issues that need to be resolved in Beyond FM.”
Asked why Beyond FM accused him of theft, Haswell said there was nothing like theft.
“What I need is my money. I have no issues with Kamwenje or Beyond FM. It is my money that I want,” he said.
He emphasized that it was a “non-ZBS issue” and rebutted media claims that he had been nabbed by the Malawi Police Service (MPS).
“ZBS allows me to work with my private company. I have worked and continue to work with a number of radio stations including Mudzi and Neno Community Radio,” said Haswell.
He said he has “never slept” in a police cell. “Maybe in the future,” he laughed.
Kazako laughed heartily over the matter saying it did “not make sense.”
He said he found it baffling that his company was being accused of stealing transmitters when he had tens of transmitters staying idle.
“It does not make sense,” he said. “Do you know that we actually lend out our transmitters to other local radio stations for free?”
He added: “I don’t know, but if you asked me: there’s no story.”
Central Region Police spokesperson, Ramsey Mushani, confirmed knowing about the matter but said they were not handling it.
“It is not a criminal case. It is a civil case, and the two sides are sorting it by themselves through their lawyers. We are not handling it,” said Mushani.
Nyasa Times has confirmed that the radio station is persistently dogged by financial challenges. At its headquarters in Lilongwe, the radio’s understaffed personnel work on voluntary basis.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :