Zambia’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has urged his man rival for the August elections President Edgar Lungu not to use the Covid-19 pandemic to disadvantage his opponents.
Mr Hichilema said it is unfortunate that President Lungu and the PF who have been campaigning for the last two years even at the peak of the Covid pandemic could turn around today and ban rallies.
Mr Hichilema said President Lungu should not weaponise the Covid-19 pandemic against the opposition.
The UPND leader was speaking on Wednesday evening when he featured on a Beyond the Headlines, a radio programme hosted by Kwangu Liwewe on Hot FM.
“They have been campaigning since Covid started. As the opposition, we will go out there to mobilize our voters but we will protect our own lives and lives of our supporters. We won’t be reckless about it,” Mr Hichilema explained.
He added, “Covid should not be politicized to disadvantage competitors in an election. Covid arrived February 2020, did PF have rallies through out 2020 and yet they didn’t allow us to hold our meetings,” Mr Hichilema said.
On President Lungu’s eligibility to stand in the August polls, Mr Hichilema refused to comment saying the law should be interpreted by the Courts.
I am not the one to interpret the law. Ntewewe wanted to petition HH’s candidature and no one in the UPND threatened him, we are very civil. We believe in the rule of law. John Sangwa is just the courageous man who should be protected,” he said.
He added, “Who qualifies running for the presidency is an interpretation of the law. We encourage John not to be intimidated and not because his petition will advantage us, no, because it is the rule of law. The law will interpret that, I don’t want to be cited for contempt of court. Let the law interpret who qualifies and who doesn’t and no Judge should be threatened.”
And Mr Hichilema has rubbished assertions from those who have left the UPND to join the PF that the party lacks leadership.
He says the UPND has recorded great progress and that it is mischievous for those leaving the party today to claim that he has failed to provide leadership.
“The UPND has moved from 27% of the national vote when it was formed to where we are now, arguably around 50% of the national vote even after stealing our votes in last election. How does one claim that the party is losing direction when infact it is growing?”
He added, “Those are called migrants, we have nothing against them. We wish them well. We expect that, in our planning we expect there will be people like that. They carry a different approach to public leadership, this party will form government.”
On the ECZ’s ability to conduct a free and fair election, Mr Hichilema said the people of Zambia deserve a free and fair election.
“No one should play with the elections of 2021. The ECZ has a duty to carry out a free and fair election. Our colleagues at ECZ understand what is at stake and we encourage them to do that which is right, we know they are under pressure but we will give them the support.”
Mr Hichilema also stated that he is not bothered by the manner in which the Socialist Party has been camapigning against the UPND on some of its outdoor billboards.
“I saw the billboard and my decision was that ignore it, when you see an opposition attacking a fellow then you know that party doesn’t understand Zambian politics or that they are a surrogate of the ruling party,” he said.
“Our job is to offer checks and balances, why would you want to go and attack a fellow opposition? We fought Bill 10, where were the Socialist Party? They pretend to be opposition but they are part and parcel of the ruling party.”
Mr Hichilema charged that the Socialist Party’s approach to politics could steam from hatr d for him and the UPND.
“This could be coming from colossal hatred and jealousy, it’s an old problem, this is coming from personalities that have never liked the UPND from the time UPND was created in 1998. It’s the same individual who was demonizing Mazoka, I just inherited that hatred. That is a feeling of an infantile political party full of hatred.