UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says he cannot be everywhere to spearhead membership mobilisation.
There have been torrid concerns from many Zambians, UPND supporters inclusive, about Hichilema’s political inertia, especially with the COVID-19 in sight.
Hichilema also indicates that the governing PF’s recent ward by-election victories in selected provinces amount to self-deception.
He was speaking on ‘Let the people talk’ programme on Phoenix Radio yesterday.
Asked if the UPND would now change its political strategies, unlike simply relying on social media, Hichilema answered that, “we take advice.”
“Any advice must be listened to,” he said.
“But the issue here is that we are aware that the conditions have changed. In 2016 there was no social media penetration. Everybody must take advantage of technology! [But] it is also true that we must reach out to the people.”
Hichilema said it would be ideal that everybody who supported political change must get involved in heading it in their localities.
“HH can’t be everywhere! Sometimes we forget; I have been to by-elections since 2016, save the longer time I was in prison – 127 days. I went to the Kaoma council chairman by-elections – we won and that’s where our dear young Lawrence Banda was killed in cold blood. I was in Nangula ward by-election in Luena Constituency [and] we won,” he said. “We must multiply the HHs. Everybody [who is concerned] about the situation must be part of the HH change process. I went to Chilubi and I was there for one week [but] I was only allowed [to hold] one meeting, illegally so.”
Hichilema recalled that without campaigning, the UPND got almost 6,000 votes in the Chilubi parliamentary by-election, early this year.
Hichilema believes that the situation would be different in a general election.
“In a general election it will be a different situation. So, it’s important for people to contextualise,” Hichilema said.
He appealed to those getting itchy not to forget that his political activity now would entail him being detailed, tear-gassed and “attempted to be gunned down like [in] Sesheke.”
“Are we saying we want to see more of the Sesheke bloodshed? We want to see more Lawrence Bandas being shot at? Because of the brutality that is there, I ask all the citizens who are suffering to get engaged – to be the HHs in Chilubi, to be the HHs in Rufunsa,” Hichilema urged.
Asked about the opposition party’s strategies, going forward, he assured that there was a combination of tactical and strategic manoeuvres the UPND was engaging in.
Hichilema said the UPND was “evolving” and added that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the party was framing new strategies.
“[But] I’ll not disclose them in public. But we are already implementing some of them,” Hichilema said.
He further told those in the PF that they could play around with localised elections and wear a face depicting their perceived political strength.
Hichilema stressed that in a localised election, the governing party could manipulate voters, “dish money on the queues, you can abuse DMMU (Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit) and give a semblance that you are popular when not.”
“[But] it’s self-deception! COVID-19 is being abused; political parties are supposed to observe health guidelines [but] the PF are not. Some of us are not even allowed to move freely. And then an election is held…” Hichilema noted, further regretting that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had somewhat forgot its duty of facilitating free and fair elections.
“They allow all the hanky-panky going on and a ruling party like PF, which has delivered nothing, says they have won elections. They are not winning elections [but] deceiving themselves.”
He noted that he kept on hearing most people saying, “UPND, HH have lost.”
“[But] the one who is losing are the people of Zambia. I don’t consider it as a loss to a political party or to HH. It’s the people of Zambia who are losing the opportunity to have a better leadership giving them jobs, education,” Hichilema explained. “When they realise [that] it’s them losing, then they will stand up and work together, as we have done before to deliver independence, multipartism.”
About PF-instigated violence, Hichilema reiterated that self-defence, as per the constitutional requirement, would be used.
“We have since defended ourselves within the remit of the Constitution. We’ll continue doing that! I want to send a message to all the people of Zambia [that] if you are being brutalised by a small number of PF thugs at a bus stop, in a market, defend yourself. That’s what the Constitution says!” Hichilema said.
He was, however, quick to indicate that to avoid a chaotic situation, as a result of self-defence mechanisms, “we have asked the police to protect all citizens, to restore order.”
Whether or not his message of self-defence could be misunderstood by UPND supporters to go around and beat up anyone, willy-nilly, Hichilema said: “No! They shouldn’t do that.”
“Our message is to defend yourself, in accordance with the law. We’ll not encourage our members to attack ordinary citizens. There should be no confusion that they become the aggressors. No!” clarified Hichilema.
“[But] if you attack us at a radio station, you attack the journalists, we’ll defend ourselves.”