On Tuesday morning, patrons of Zambia’s state-owned newspaper, Times of Zambia, found more than the usual English they expected in their copies.
The paper had published an article in Mandarin – The dialect of Chinese spoken in Beijing and adopted as the official language for all of China.
The Chinese article in question was titled ‘We’ve still got it’ and was written by one Steven Zande.
The story, which was the main story of the day was reporting about President Edgar Lungu’s pledge to maintain Zambian interest in dealing with donors – be they from the east or west.
This is the latest in a China-dominated last few days for the southern African country.
Reports emerged over the week that the country had deported Kenyan pan-Africanist PLO Lumumba reportedly over his hard stance on China.
Then on Monday, police in the capital announced the arrest of a Chinese national for allegedly giving illegal military training to a security firm.
The publishers of the paper are yet to comment on the move but it has not stopped citizens from expressing outrage at the event.
A leading local portal, Mwebantu asked on their Twitter handle if Mandarin had been added to the list of national languages.
#ZAMBIA: Times of Chambia ?: Mwebantu, is Chinese Mandarin, now the 8th official Zambian language now?
Can an article written in Chibemba, Chitonga or Silozi appear in a major national newspaper in #China ?
DISCUSS (100 Marks) pic.twitter.com/vFFBZM0tkT
— Mwebantu (@Mwebantu) October 2, 2018
The relationship between China and Zambia has been one that many global political watchers have raised questions about.
Zambia, despite concerns that the money it owes China is reaching unsustainable levels, continues to borrow from the Asian country.
An article by Africa Confidential on the current relationship between Zambia and China concluded that “the state-owned TV and radio news channel ZNBC is already Chinese-owned.”
Chinese involvement in Zambia’s media space appears more complex than assumed.
In 2017, the Zambian government created a joint venture, TopStar Communications Limited, to digitize its broadcast infrastructure, Tumfweko, a local news site, reported last year.
The Chinese firm Star Times owns 60 percent of TopStar, and ZNBC, a Zambian state broadcaster, owns 40 percent. The company is overseeing the distribution of some 1.25 million set-top boxes throughout the country, while generating revenue to repay a $273 million Chinese loan for the project.
By: Jonas Nyabor, with additional information from Africanews