(By Oliver Chisenga and Chambwa Moonga)
LEAVE HH alone, he has nothing to do with the Kitwe riots, just sort out the mess in the country, says Chishimba Kambwili. And UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has wondered why he is being blamed for nearly everything in the country, including delayed rains. Meanwhile, the government insists that there is a real and sustained scheme by Hichilema meant to evoke xenophobic feelings in the minds of Zambians so that “they attack the Chinese population and rise against the government.”
Commenting on assertions that Hichilema incited the recent riots that happened in Kitwe over the alleged sale of Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO) to the Chinese by government, Kambwili said the PF have themselves to blame.
Kambwili, the Roan PF member of parliament, said: “leave HH alone and don’t intimidate the opposition. That’s intimidation but they will not intimidate us. HH has nothing to do with the things and happenings at ZAFFICO. Information just filtered among the sawmillers, don’t waste taxpayers’ money on rubbish because even if you take HH to court over that allegation, he is not going to be convicted because there is no basis and evidence whatsoever,” Kambwili said.
Kambwili said the PF government should sort out the hunger situation in the country than embark on witch hunting and using police to intimidate the opposition.
“Just now they wanted to arrest HH over the UNZA riots, today they go to ZAFFICO, let them just clean up the mess in the country…tomorrow they will blame him for the delayed rains. Let them fight unemployment, let them fight poverty, let them increase salaries for civil servants and miners, that’s what the people want because they [PF] have introduced so many taxes. Let them explain how that [Michael Sata] tollgate can cost $4.3 million and tell [infrastructure minister Ronald] Chitotela that Zambians are not dull, they know him and know his lifestyle. They know who he is. Some of these people must not go to the public and defend corruption, some of these people must not open their mouths about it…he is telling people that there is a software, really? What nonsense, they think we are so dull!
$4.3 million you think it’s small money! That’s just a shelter that was built there, so let them not start witch hunting,” Kambwili said. “HH has nothing to do with that, not even any opposition political party has anything to do with it. Let them deal with the issues of poverty. When people are poverty stricken, any small thing ignites riots and protests…ninsalafye abantu balechitila [it’s hunger causing people to] riot, if you sort out the hunger, people will not go on the streets but when people are hungry, kwisa bebafye ati [let’s tell them] let’s protest and they will join.”
He further warned Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja not to behave like a cadre who only reacts when instructed by the PF.
“When they said they were going to list ZAFFICO on the [Lusaka] Stock Exchange, people had the impression that the people with money are Chinese and are the ones who are going to buy the shares…they should have themselves to blame. I am so shocked that Kanganja said we are going to arrest those who incited. We know that they are targeting HH but it’s unfair, let them not go that route, let them deal with the real issues. Why is it that they do their job quickly when they get instructions from PF?” asked Kambwili.
And asked about how he felt about the accusations, Hichilema said he was the victim. He said he could not stop the PF scheming against him all the time.
“Students, it’s HH; everything is HH, how can I defend myself? …the rains are late, now they will say it’s HH,” Hichilema said.
“How can a person outside government be responsible for these things? I don’t control the police. Let’s give an example of the student [Vespers Shimunzhila] they killed at UNZA, how can they attribute that to me? You as a citizen, do you think it’s fair to accuse another citizen of things they have no capability on?”
He said the perception was that “if you lock up Hakainde” there would be magic and the economy would get better.
Hichilema wondered how he could influence people who know what was happening.
“Look at exam leakage, how would I be responsible? That exam thing, some pupil was circulating exam questions on the social media before the examination day and someone simply exposed that and said ‘look, how come the pupils are circulating exam questions long before the exam?’ It means there is a leakage, then they blame the journalist who wrote,” said Hichilema.
But briefing journalists at her office yesterday, chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya said the government had observed with great concern a new trend by: “Opposition political party leaders and in particular the UPND leader Mr Hakainde Hichilema to package innuendoes, to package untruths – simply lies – as a way to gain popularity.”
“….And also an agenda to incite the citizens of this country to rise against a duly elected government. That is very much against the Penal Code of Zambia where in Article 57 and 60 it also extends to others such as the media that you are not supposed to publish information that will bring a duly elected government into contempt – unless you believe that information to be true,” Siliya said.
“The warning from government is that following the riots in the Copperbelt over ZAFFICO, relevant government wings are going to carry out a thorough investigation on those who were inciting and even those who have the opportunity to re-broadcast this inciting. I want to be clear [that] government is not against the opposition; in a democracy the majority will get their way but the minority must also be heard.”
Asked on what “thorough investigations” the police would be carrying out when Hichilema had already been named as the culprit, Siliya responded: “Clearly, there are procedures within government, particularly Ministry of Home Affairs. We will leave it that they are experts and they know what they are doing.”
Siliya said she was prepared to resign if Hichilema had proof that ZAFFICO and ZNBC had been sold.
“In the same manner, I’m giving him a week, on behalf of government, that if he does not bring this evidence, he too should be prepared to resign as the opposition leader of the UPND. If we give a statement that it has not been sold, it is because we are doing so on behalf of the people of Zambia and it is irresponsible for somebody who even knows the law that ZNBC cannot be sold without the approval of Parliament to continue a smear campaign,” she said.
“We, in government, are very clear on our position and we are saying that ZAFFICO and ZNBC have not been sold. If Mr Hichilema cannot produce evidence to the contrary within one week, I suggest that the UPND should be looking for leadership elsewhere because leadership cannot be about lies. The agenda by the opposition, particularly the UPND, to paint black our partners in development such as the Chinese government and its people is uncalled-for.”
She cautioned those scheming for mutiny that “your time is up.”
And Siliya cautioned journalists “who are in the habit of purveying fake news” that they would not be spared once “the crunch begins.”
“If you are real reporters from journalism schools and you have learnt basic tenets of good journalism, please stop this gutter journalism because you will not be spared just because you are a journalist,” cautioned Siliya.