UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says it is unfair for people to call him a capitalist thief when they waste money on expensive Jameson whisky, which they urinate 30 minutes later, while he invests his cash in food production.
And Hichilema says he sees Chishimba Kambwili’s National Democratic Congress as a complementary partner rather than a rival party which he should be afraid of.
In his maiden interview with News Diggers!, Hichilema spent about three hours explaining his wealth, prison experience, disorganisation at the UPND secretariat and why his deputy GBM is no longer vocal.
Below is the summary of the interview:
Question: The UPND secretariat seems disorganised, there are usually so many statements purported to have been written by the SG, Alliance Partners and so on, but when you call them, they seem not to be aware. Why is that?
Answer: I think you will see going forward, concerted efforts to be consistent, to be clear in terms of the messages that we deliver. These are issues we will be addressing going forward.
Q: We have noticed that when certain people join the UPND, they become less effective and they cannot talk because of fear that they may be accused of trying to overshadow you.
A: Not quite, first of all, it is not true that people will be restricted in that manner. There is nobody being gagged. But I expect a senior member of the UPND, when they go to a media platform, they should be able to understand what the UPND policies on agriculture is. That is not to say they are restricted, that is to say they must familiarise themselves with the UPND policies. The issue of people overshadowing HH, I don’t see how that can arise unless we contextualise or give examples. Another point I want you to know is that a lot of people are afraid. I am sure you saw what happened at 5fm. When guns are blazing like that, some citizens start fearing. Some people may refrain from speaking out because they are afraid that they might be arrested. I can see it in people who used to speak before but once I got detained and many others got detained, they have kind of recoiled and that’s why we are trying to open them up. And if the party was closed and was restricting as the perception may be by those detractors, how can GBM be the vice-president?
Q: But GBM is quiet lately. Do you feel he is still having the same level of political influence compared to before he joined the UPND?
A: I think you can deal with that with him. But I am sure you know that he has been detained several times since he joined UPND. Which, detentions he never experienced when he was in PF, not even when he was in MMD, to my knowledge. But when he came to the UPND, he was detained, beaten, attacked. So the best is to talk to him. Once you join UPND, the risks are higher in terms of brutality or chances of being arrested. If you are a UPND member, you are discriminated in public service.
Q: Have you ever been afraid that when you go to a convention you might lose the presidency to someone else?
A: That could never be an issue. We are competing, we are here to serve. How would I be afraid? I am sure you know the background now, what we have done, we are very strong competitors. We do not have a complex. HH has no complex at all to fear competition. I competed to be the chairperson of Coopers and Lybrand Zambia and Grand Thornton, which position I had for 13 years. Every three years there is competition among the partners to check who should be chief executive and I was elected by my fellow shareholders. I took over Coopers and Lybrand Zambia as a young guy. How can a person of that background of strong competition fear? We are just being delayed but what God wants cannot be stopped. I am supposed to be dead; I am not supposed to be having this interview. I should have died on the 10th of April here and then when I was in Lilyai, Chimbokaila and in Mukobeko but God said no. I am glad prisoners will vote. I will win the prisons as I won in the military barracks where someone calls himself Commander-in-Chief.
[Explaining his wealth]
I have been working for myself from the age of 26. To come here and call me a thief is not fair. We have just worked hard. That is the culture we want to bring to the nation. Some people just want to be drinking the most expensive Jameson. And I never touched alcohol myself because I think it is not correct to take your hard earned money, buy expensive alcohol, then 30 minutes later you go and urinate the money. I would rather take the little money, buy some cement and blocks and build because I will be seeing the money sitting in the wall. That is why you should vote for HH. To call me a capitalist, a heartless person, if I was a heartless person, why do I sponsor not less than 25 children who are not mine? I have three biological children, I should have had five, two died, why am I sponsoring those children? For 24 years now I sponsor an average of 25 children every year from kindergarten to university to ZCAS; I still have some at ZCAS right now, some are managers. I will not mention institutions because they can be fired. Recently, I took on board Clance Zulu and Chibulo Mapenzi’s sons. Don’t demonise a guy like me that didn’t consume Jameson but produced food for people. You go in these supermarkets and buy beef, some of the beef that we produce. And these people will consume it, but tomorrow they have the energy to insult HH.
Even the Paradise Papers, I did not take any money from here to take it there. I took a business idea. In the same way I was able to rent out an unfinished house, I don’t think you can call me a thief. I took an idea out there with colleagues, you don’t make money from money, you make money from an idea. We were able to raise money and from friends, equity money which is called risk capital. As opposed to Lungu and his friends who are borrowing kaloba at a huge rate of 13 per cent and increasing our debt mountain. I did not increase any tax payers debt. And then I argued with my friends that now that we have listed on the stock exchange, and again in the stock exchange, there are no loans there and I told Grevazio, ‘which school did you go to?’ let me help you so that those who ask you to ask me these questions which are ignorant can learn something. You don’t go to a stock exchange to borrow money and pay interest, you go there to sell an entrepreneurial idea and then risk takers come and put equity. If you really believe I took money from this country, trace it, use you intelligence and I can even assist you to go to the office in Bermuda, to who registered the business, how much was paid, how the prospectus was done, how we went to the London Stock Exchange. If you find that I moved money, maybe $200. What is $200?
And you have a rare opportunity, since you don’t like Hakainde, arrest me for this and I will assist you with evidence.
When we raised that little money, I convinced friends, some of them who are in America, they are in Europe, we met in school in my post graduate days, not many journalists have listened to this story. I was sitting on the global Coopers and Lybrand board as only 33 years old, I was the only black and our meetings were largely in London at a very young age. It is just the exposure and the opportunity I got. And after starting the idea, we said ‘guys, where are we going to place the money?’ and we said so much in Africa, so much elsewhere and for the Africa one, I made sure 30 per cent came to Zambia. We invested, we created jobs and people are still working. And I told Grevazio, in other countries, I would be given a medal but here I am demonised because of jealousy and pettiness. Other than that, it is ignorance.
Q: President Lungu says the UPND is a very undemocratic party where there has never been a convention. What has been happening since the last convention?
A: It is actually factually wrong to argue that there is no intra party democracy in the UPND. A political party like this party will generally have a convention in five years isn’t it? I have been in charge of UPND for 10 years plus, in that time, we have had two conventions, which we call general assemblies in UPND. How did I get elected? I won at a general election and I won by over 80 per cent. The malice needs to stop. Maybe you were right earlier when you said we need party members to speak when an allegation is made.
As for the PF, those making noise, they went to a convention on the 10th year and there was no ballot that was cast there. It was just ‘Mr [Michael] Sata is the sol’ that’s all. Even their own member Miles Sampa confessed that there is no intra party democracy in the PF, he said ‘I have learnt that there is an unwritten rule in PF that you cannot challenge the incumbent”’ When Sata died, was there any election in Kabwe when Lungu took over the PF? It was an election through pangas and thuggery.
Q: On the 10-point plan, people have been wanting to see a comprehensive manifesto. Are you considering one?
A: The 10-point plan is our manifesto. What is a manifesto? It is your policies. Have you seen it? And I expect UPND members to be talking about this. That’s why maybe sometimes they fear to go on radio because they don’t understand. The first among the 10-point plan is that we will create jobs and business opportunities, commercial investment and business activities. It is interwoven; you have to understand exactly how it works.
Q: There is a new force on the political scene which is arising. Don’t you have some shivers that this new baby called NDC may spoil your game plan and eat into your gains by 2021?
A: Citizens have the constitutional right to freedom of association and there should be no shivers. Nobody should restrict that party from mobilising just like nobody should constrain UPND mobilisation efforts. Zambians should be given an opportunity to sample parties based on what they offer. We have over 60 registered parties. Why should we shiver when number 61 comes? There is always this wave when a new party comes, Miles Sampa registered a party and said he was Sata’s nephew but you saw what happened. What was he saying yesterday? It is difficult to run a genuine party and I wish my colleagues in that party the best. It is tough! It is expensive, it is time consuming, it is risky and you must be strong. I wish my colleagues strength. They will be brutalised as you are now seeing. We have no shivers. My mind works differently. I see complementarity rather than competition.
Q: Any chances of working together?
A: There is one dictator! There is a group of dictators in the PF who when my friends [Chishimba] Kambwili and Eric Chanda were in PF, they were not seeing what we were saying. Now we are glad they see it. And naturally, we must find common ground against the brutality, against dictatorship and the breakdown of the rule of law. We ought to partner, to work together because we have a common problem.
I don’t think I have had such an interview with any other media. I really am grateful to you for coming.