UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba says the planned public rally scheduled for Sunday in Kanyama will go ahead despite a warning from the Ministry of Health over the cholera outbreak.

But Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya says police have been informed that it would be illegal for the opposition party to hold a rally against the Public Health Act.

In an interview, GBM said UPND president Hakainde Hichilema was eager to address citizens after being released from prison.

He was reacting to a statement released earlier in which Lusaka province chairman Bob Sakahilu announced that the rally had been postponed due to a cholera outbreak in Kanyama.

“There is only cholera when the UPND wants to hold a rally, but when PF wants to hold a rally there is no cholera? What are they scared of?” GBM asked. “They should just let us go and tell the people what they want to hear. We are ready and geared and our supporters are ready to see our president, especially after being released from that illegal incarceration.”

He said people should ignore the statement from Sakahilu because he did not consult the party leadership.

“What is Bob Sakahilu saying? How can he announce that the rally has been postponed without asking the top leadership? Right now as I talk to you, I am with the president and he is not aware of that statement. That is news to us. So forget about that statement, tell the people that the rally is going ahead,” said GBM.

“We are urging all our supporters to come in numbers. Let them come and see their president who was illegally incarcerated. He will speak out on a lot of national issues. So ignore Sakahilu’s statement. I am with the chairperson of the party here, she is not aware, the SG is not aware, the President is not aware. We are ready and geared for the rally.”

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But Chilufya told journalists at a press briefing today that it would be illegal for the UPND to go ahead with the rally.

“The Ministry of Health has noted with great concern that their is a scheduled rally on Sunday 22nd October for the UPND in Kanyama. We have engaged the United Party for national development through the secretary general, we have written correspondence to them advising that Lusaka has a confirmed cholera outbreak in selected parts; including Kanyama,” he said.

“Kanyama is the epicentre of the cholera outbreak and it has recorded 90 cases out of the accumulative 125 cases. Now, the ministry of health in alignment with the Public Health Act, and the International Health regulations, has placed a moratorium on mass gatherings, such as crusades, rallies and funerals in affected places, to forestall the spread of the highly contagious disease.”

He said the police had been informed about the decision by the Ministry.

“This is the reason why we have sought the indulgence of our colleagues in the UPND to postponed the meeting, until such a time when we will declare that the outbreak has been contained and the place is safe for mass gathering. This is for public health reasons. Rallies attracts attendees from all parts of the country, they will come from Kafue, from Kabwe from all over Lusaka and other parts of the country which are disease free. These would be the careers of the disease to the places where they would come from,” Chilufya said.

“So we have invoked the Public Health Act to stop any public gathering in Kanyama for public health reasons and the Ministry of Home Affairs has been advised accordingly. Cholera is a none partisan issue, this is not a time to look at who belongs to which party. That is why we have not told the UPND that ‘you are banned’, …but we are saying it is none negotiable. There shall be no mass gathering in Kanyama”

When asked if he would advise Independence Day celebrations not to go ahead at the Lusaka Freedom Statue considering that some members of the public would be coming from Kanyama, Chilufya said there was no cholera at the Freedom Statue.

“Let me emphasise that mass gatherings have been banned in places that are infected with cholera and Kanyama is the epicentre, so the Freedom Statue is not part of Kanyama… we have not seen it as an immediate need to close schools. If we see any disposing factors, we are going to act accordingly. And we must distinguish a mass public rally that brings people from outside Kanyama. We must distinguish congregate meetings within Kanyama and in what quantum and we must distinguish a mass crowed that we would be expecting at a rally of that stature. We cannot put the whole country at risk,” said Chilufya.