UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says it is not easy to be an opposition leader in Zambia.
And Hichilema, better known as HH, who featured on Hot FM’s Red Hot Breakfast Show yesterday, says those wishing to take over from him as party president are welcome but should be ready to run the party genuinely and not in a surrogate manner.
Asked if had plans of going to the party’s national assembly, Hichilema said it was a non-issue.
“We have been to the convention twice, this is a misnomer, twice in twelve years. We will be going to the convention probably ahead of another party, long before the election,” Hichilema said.
Asked whether he was going to pass on the party presidency to other member of the party, Hichilema said: “It’s a non-issue because the UPND has a constitution of the party which is our governing principle and you go to the general assembly, we don’t call it a convention, where everybody is free to become the president of UPND like I did in 2006. I put my name on the table having been persuaded by people. I won the election by over 70 per cent. We went to the convention later on in 2009 and again I was re-elected as president, people try and ignore those issues. No one should worry about that because there is an opportunity to take over UPND and they are welcome to take over UPND, to run UPND in a genuine and not in a surrogate manner, very important, otherwise if you have no strong opposition like we provide, you are doomed, you are gone, all these borrowings, all this collapse in the economy, no one will be talking for the people of Zambia, many of whom have no opportunity to talk. So we are going to the general assembly probably his year, it’s a question of preparatory work. We have already decided. We are going ahead of some party, way ahead of the election, there is nothing to worry about.”
Hichilema added that being an opposition party leader was not for the fainthearted.
“Running an opposition party is not a joke, it’s not Mickey Mouse, it’s not for the fainthearted, it’s a tough call. You have to be prepared to go to jail for a crime you did not commit like I have been 15 times since 2011. PF has put me into cells 15 times and I have not been convicted on any because I never committed a crime, it’s oppression, it’s suppression, it is basically torture for the principles and values that you stand for and you must be prepared to do that, you must be prepared to work so hard,” he said.
Hichilema added that he had grown the party from the time he took over as president.
“The facts are there, figures don’t lie. Around the time I took over we were below 20 per cent of the national vote, 2015 repeated in 2016, we believe we won the election. I don’t want to provoke a debate here, that is past, we are after manipulation. We are sitting on, basically in our view, after manipulation, 48 per cent of the national vote. Can you work out the percentage of growth from there? It’s huge,” Hichilema said.
And he asked for fair treatment after he was again questioned whether he was thinking of giving a chance to another party member to run for presidency in 2021.
“The late Sata was in politics for how long? Since the 1950s. When did he become president? After 40 plus years of being in politics. What is the issue here? Is HH a different citizen from the rest of them? Discrimination. We should not tolerate discrimination in our country. It is unacceptable and that is what is going on in our country. We should not go that way,” he said.
Hichilema concluded by assuring Zambians of hope.
“Leadership quality is what is needed, Zambians are short of a good economic manager. We are one. People of Zambia, do not lose hope, help is on the way,” said Hichilema.