Opposition political parties say President Edgar Lungu’s remarks during a PF dinner are disgusting, annoying and indefensible.

But Minister of National Planning Alexander Chiteme says those who are criticising President Lungu over the remarks just hate him because the Head of State was merely asking a question.

On Saturday, the Head of State told PF and government officials that ubomba mwibala alya mwibala which is a proverb used by Bembas to justify pilferage.

But speaking when she featured on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy, Monday, FDD president Edith Nawakwi said President Lungu’s statement was indefensible.

“I have heard people defending that. It’s indefensible and I think that some statements are unfortunate. And instead of justifying them and make people look like they don’t understand what you are talking about, it’s better to just say sorry, this is not it. If you talk about ubomba mwibala alila mwibala, you check about what is happening in private sector companies, the workers are stealing, whether they are on a farm, there are so many cases of theft by servant. And therefore should a policeman be encouraged to be taking bribes from the people on the roads? Should a nurse be encouraged to continue taking cotton wool or medicine from the hospitals because that is fine? The answer is no. For me, I think that it is an unfortunate statement which should not even continue to be defended because we all, those of us who come from Northern Province, we know the meaning,” said Nawakwi.

“So to be able to be transparent, we must set parameters. And if by some misfortune you say something which is meant not to be heard and unfortunately like some of the incidences where you are on air and you think your microphone is off and you say something and it leaks out, all you can say is ‘sorry I didn’t mean to be that bad or we didn’t expect that it would be taken out in a literal sense’. We are advising them that if you are in that field and you think you can eat in that field, I am going to arrest you get to lock you up, people would be able to accept. And I think that people who are trying to defend this are just making the situation worse because its annoying people honestly.”

And ADD president Charles Milupi said in an interview that the statement was appalling.

“It is an appalling statement, coming from a Head of State in a country like Zambia where at the moment the topic of discussion where ever you go is about corruption. Emanating from State House to ministries throughout the land. You cannot escape the fact that that is the perception that is in the country today that the President and his ministers are involved in corrupt actions. For him now to come up with that statement ‘ubomba mwibala, alya mwibala’ that is a straight forward statement.  Anyone who is associated with Bemba knows what that means. It is a justification for those who steal from what they are given to be in charge of. It is not payment, it is stealing from the thing that you are in charge of,” Milupi said.

He advised the President to be thoughtful, articulate, and mindful of what he says in public.

“What his statement means is that it is okay to steal but don’t steal everything. And there’s no amount of justification from the media team of PF Sunday Chanda that will alter the meaning of this. It is a straight forward Bemba term everybody understands it is justifying those who steal. PF as a party and this country Zambia ought to be very worried. When the president makes statements, it is the media team that are supposed to clean up that statement because the president is supposed to be very thoughtful, very articulate and very mindful of what he says.”

Meanwhile, Dr Cosmas Musumali of the Socialist Party also added his voice to the debate when he featured on a Hot FM show, Tuesday.

“Honestly it is annoying, it is disgusting, it is making this whole thing look like theatre because even coming up with that statement in itself if you listen to it carefully, it is taking Zambians for granted. It’s like saying Zambian people are dumb, they can’t read through, they did not hear correctly and here is this smart politician who is telling us what the true interpretation is. Again it’s disgusting,” said Dr Musumali.

But Chiteme, who is also Nkana PF member of parliament, feels all these critics just hate President Lungu because the Head of State was merely asking a question.

“Now when you begin to see people that are bent on malice, people that cannot say anything good about President Edgar Lungu because they have got personal hatred for Edgar Lungu, people that are just going to even manipulate simple Bemba saying, to the president encouraging criminality. They would want to know that before the President said that, the President was admonishing. He was actually upset at what he said that the party had sent ten boreholes to the province and four have ended up into the hands of criminals who have put those boreholes in their homes or farms or wherever they have put them. And the President was saying ‘I have heard that some of these people are actually saying that okay I will pay back’ but we don’t want you to pay back, we want the people to investigate, the police to investigate so that those that have been caught stealing, those that will be found wanting are brought to justice and that the law takes its course. He said even if they say that ubomba mwibala, kuliila mwibala, bushe kulila kumo nembuto? It was a question,” said Chiteme when he featured on Pan African Radio yesterday.

“That is the concept that you see your enemies wanting to bring you down even when you just say something that is meant for good, they will turn it round and make it headlines all over. So you begin to propagate things that are lies. A statement that was done in good faith. The President is being accused; the name of the President has been brought in disrepute. ‘oh there is this theft, it’s President Lungu, the procurement of this, it’s President Lungu, oh there is this’…why? Does the President procure anything? And if you are going to sit with the President, you will even know that some of these things, he doesn’t even know the players that are buying some of these things.”