HUMPHRY Nkonde, a 42-year-old Zambian investigative reporter who has been writing on sensitive political issues, has been found dead afloat a lake, 10 days after he went missing.
Before his demise, Nkonde was the assistant editor at the Catholic-run Mission Press in the northern town of Ndola.
He went missing on 22 September, a day before his departure to Germany for the 2019 11th Global Investigative Journalism Conference held in Hamburg.
Reports by the police claimed the award-winning journalist dead body was found afloat in a lake in the rural district of Masaiti, Zambia. Upon retrieving the body on the 26, the police also buried Nkonde without the knowledge or consent of his family members or employers.
The quick action of the Police in the burial of the London School of Journalism scholar has been criticised by different bodies including the North Regional Media Club of which Nkonde was a member.
“How did the Police bury without anyone witnessing? Why did the Police claim it was an unidentified body when they themselves revealed that he had his passport in his pocket? The Police must answer these questions,” said Clinton Masumba, the Secretary for the Northern Region Media Club.
His last stories are said to torchlight the escalating mealie meal and fuel prices in Zambia.
“The Police must come out clean on this matter, we want conclusive investigations into the death of our colleague. His death is a big blow to the Ndola Press Club,” said Ndola Press Club President Chishala Musonda.
A public outcry and criticism mounts on the sudden death and burial of Nkonde, a post-mortem was conducted by the police on 5 October on the exhumed body of the journalist–results on the examination are yet to be announced.
However, Nkonde had worked for the Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and also supposed to take a three weeks course in Investigative Journalism at the Radio Netherlands Training Centre in November.
His family members- who had refused a post- mortem, claimed he was led by a demon to commit suicide after they failed to report his disappearance for the 10 days to the police.
Fr. Ferena Lambe, Nkonde employer at the Mission Press, has countered the family opinion and called for a conclusive investigation.
“On the evening of 22 September, he came home to say bye because the following day he was scheduled to fly to Germany for a journalism conference. He was in a good mood, he wasn’t confused as his family is claiming. I even suggested to him that when he is back, we will hold a workshop for Zambian journalists to learn from his investigatory skills,” said Mission Press Human Resources Manager Honorius Chilufya.
Some claim Nkonde’s death might not be unrelated to previous “too sensitive” political issues he had earlier written.
Joan Chirwa, the Free Pree Initiative founder and coordinator, has also called on the police in Zambia to solve the puzzles surrounding the death of the journalist.