They fear me because they know that once elected, I will end corruption, starting with selling President Edgar Lungu’s luxury jet and allotting the resources to key sectors, says UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.
And Hichilema says the opposition alliance that has been formed is not about UPND but about fighting the threat of tyranny under the PF, adding that should the alliance partners decide to back one candidate ahead of 2021; it will not automatically be him, but could be any other leader.
In an interview, Hichilema noted that unprecedented levels of corruption had characterised 2018.
“We can’t have a government that is so reckless and I want to say, through this interview, that amongst the priorities that we will take swinging action is to sell that presidential Jet and put that money in education, in health and in agriculture, we will not withdraw [students’] allowances as they have done. These people are shameless, you withdraw the allowances and then you buy yourself a jet, why? You want to stretch your legs when you are on the plane when students are out of school?” Hichilema asked.
And Hichilema said the opposition alliance that has been formed is not about UPND or any other political party but about fighting the threat of tyranny which Zambia is presented with under the PF.
“This particular relationship is anchored on what we call areas of common interests, areas of national interest, not focusing on the interest of a particular individual [or] interests of a particular political party. That is what has brought [us] together and these issues of national interest include the need to restore the rule of law. I think we all agree that there is a breakdown in the rule of law. We all agree that there is abuse of human rights, liberties and freedoms and we need to restore human rights, liberties and freedoms. In the human rights sits freedoms of assembly, association, movement, conscious to demonstrate peacefully…We need a credible electoral commission; elections have become a source of teargas. Journalists are going in, this has never happened in our country,” he said.
“So because of our focus is on things that unite us and not focusing on our differences and those small issues, that will bind us together, we believe. We also have been very clear, we are not dissolving our parties. Our parties [will] remain [the same].”
Hichilema said people should stop speculating about whether or not the alliance would still be standing in 2021 or if they would put forward a single candidate because power was not a motivating factor in its formation.
“And I don’t know why people bring in the issue of a single candidate, it is not mentioned anywhere in our constituting framework. You are jumping the bridge. Maybe we will cross the bridge when we get there. People are just looking for holes and trouble spots [but] we were never looking for trouble holes and I think if that issue arises, it will take its own process and of course it is in PF’s interest to pour cold water on anything that is likely to bring this country together. Why shouldn’t the country unite around human rights? Honestly this country has history of coming together when the whole nation is challenged. Now we have a threat on our democracy, we have a threat on the rule of law. We have a threat of tyranny,” he said.
“I have noticed someone saying ‘we will not be interested in the alliances that are focusing on removing the ruling party’. UPND is just an integral part and we want more people, more organisations to come on board. Not just political parties, we would like the civil societies to come on board, we would like the churches to come on board. When that situation [of a single candidate] arises, there will be a new life, there will be a new conversation to take the decision along the lines you are talking about. That situation has not risen now [but] when it arises, it will be dealt with and whatever decision that will be taken, it’s a non-issue to us. If they decide that Funga becomes our leader and we have decided, who is to blame us? Who is to point fingers at us? If they say no it’s Chipimo [or] its Milupi or it’s Sean Tembo, it’s a no brainer for us but that has not arisen.”
Hichilema said those trying to disband the alliance by asserting that it was all about the UPND were just scared of him because they knew he would end corruption once in office.
“So this perception that this thing is contrived for UPND is just mischief. U-turn that feeling around, what is it that they fear about UPND and HH? What is it? I think they fear the way we will deal with some of the issues. I think that’s the source of fear because this hunky-punky you see will not be there. You cannot run a country the way these guys are running a country today, never! So it is this fear that UPND and HH will stop corruption,” he said.
“You have watched the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, you have watched how senior members of the executive, the permanent secretaries are failing to answer questions. What is happening? Where are the systems? Were there controls before PF came into power? Yes. Where have they gone? They have been broken…Citizens are over taxed yet they were promised lower taxes. Everything they promised, they have done the opposite. We will abolish borehole tax, withholding tax and so many other taxes so that we can lessen the burden of citizens and not over tax them.”
He said a UPND government would make sure those cited for abusing public funds were punished unlike the current situation where most offenders were merely transferred to different departments.
“First of all, who would fire them [today]? Nobody. Because they are all colluding. If there was no collusion, the firing would take place. If there was no demonstration of theft ‘do what you do I do what I do, if I stop you from doing what you are doing, someone will also say what I’m doing is wrong.’ Secondly, there is fear that if we remove this guy, they may spill the beans because they know what those are doing. They are actually used by those on top. So we need to stop this rot. That is why they are not removed, that is why they are just transferred and not removed because there is a relationship and sharing the loot. And these guys have reached a point where they are not afraid of the citizens, he said.
Hichilema highlighted ways in which he would ensure that head of key institutions like the Judiciary operated independently.
“Our principle is that we want independence of these institutions. Who do they work for? Currently they work for the one who appointed them isn’t it? We will make it operate differently. We will get them to work for the people and to work for the people of Zambia, they need to have a direct link to Parliament which means Parliament via the constitution will appoint them. we will not have a situation where the president is the employer. The employer must be the people through the constitutional provisions and them Parliament deciding who becomes DPP,” said Hichilema.