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Pull in same direction with President, Mulenga urges ministers, UPND officials

THE Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) has urged UPND members and government officials to pull in the same direction as the President in reversing evils and lawlessness perpetuated by the previous administration.

CiSCA chairperson Judith Mulenga has commended President Hakainde Hichilema for condemning the UPND’s proposed setting up of party branches in markets and bus stations, as announced by the party’s Lusaka Province chairperson, Obvious Mwaliteta and supported by the ministers of home affairs and local government and rural development, Jack Mwiimbu and Gary Nkombo respectively.

“On 27 September, 2021, UPND Lusaka Province chairperson Mr Obvious Mwaliteta was quoted at a press conference as saying that UPND will set up branches everywhere, including markets, because there is nothing wrong in doing so, adding that it is only fair for people who worked hard to see the UPND party form government benefitting from available empowerment initiatives. Mr Mwaliteta, however, was quick to assure the nation that his party’s cadres who will run the branches will not take the responsibility of collecting revenue in markets but will maintain order,” Mulenga noted.

She said CiSCA was convinced that the proposed creation of political party branches in markets, bus stations and bus stops would have undermined the mandate and work of the law enforcement agencies and local authorities.

“We wonder what would have been the purpose of those offices in markets, bus stations and bus stops? Was it limited spaces to set them up outside those council infrastructures and the party could not find alternative spaces apart from the markets?” she wondered.

Mulenga said while commending President Hichilema for pronouncing himself clearly on the issue, CiSCA was worried about the apparent lack of cohesion among senior leaders of the UPND government.

She said that was a risky situation that may negatively affect most of the goodwill the party has received so far.

“We urge UPND members, party and government officials to pull in the same direction as the President in reversing evils and lawlessness perpetuated by the previous administration. They may not be able to reverse the consequences of some of these reckless actions and pronouncements,” Mulenga said. “Besides the markets and bus stations Act of 2007 places all markets and bus stations under the control of local government. We were greatly disappointed to learn that the Minister of Home Affairs Honorable Jack Mwiimbu supported the stance taken by UPND Lusaka Province chairperson. To make matters worse, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Mr Gary Nkombo also supported Mr Mwaliteta’s call, saying any grouping is allowed to establish branches in public places as long as they do not interfere in the operations of local authorities, claiming that would be exercising the fundamental right of freedom of association,” she said.

Mulenga said CiSCA agrees with Nkombo that any grouping had the fundamental right of association.

“However, no one should infringe upon the rights of other people in the enjoyment of their own rights, overtly or covertly. Our take is that by setting up these branches in the markets and bus stations, other people’s rights may be infringed. For example, other political groupings’ freedoms would be inhibited just by the sheer presence of the ruling party’s structures in these public places. We therefore condemn this in the strongest terms. We are convinced that the move may eventually take the nation back to the Patriotic Front days when cadres controlled, terrorised and extorted money from the public,” Mulenga said. “Right now the UPND senior officials may be sincere about non-interference with the running of the markets and bus stations but the past trajectory of political parties after getting into power has taught us that there becomes a correlation between waning popularity and repression tendencies against the public. We would therefore be foolish not to guard against such eventualities and Mr Mwaliteta’s pronouncement smacks of such a set up.”

She said President Hichilema was on record of having given a directive to remove cadres from markets and bus stations as soon as he won the presidential election of August 12, 2021.

Mulenga said this was supported by all peace loving Zambians who had longed for the return to normalcy for a long time.

“Barely one month later we have his party members and his ministers going against that directive. Our question therefore is, what is the motive behind the two ministers’ defence of such an illegal move of UPND branches into the markets and bus stations? Is it to undermine their President? We hope not and we hope we will see ministers pulling more in the same direction as their President henceforth,” said Mulenga.

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