Confusion has rocked the opposition UPND over the adoption of Charmaine Musonda as its candidate for the forthcoming Chilanga parliamentary by-election.
But Musonda who was acquitted after being jointly charged for murder with outgoing member of parliament Keith Mukata says she has since broken up with her boyfriend and told News Diggers! in an exclusive interview that she is a very good person who made a mistake like any other person.
According to UPND sources who witnessed the adoption process, the top leadership is split over the decision to adopt Musonda, leaving Obvious Mwaliteta who had also applied.
“In the last 24 hours we have lost membership over this adoption. People are just saying, ‘forget we are out’, we don’t even want to stay in the party’. There is a terrible backlash over this adoption. As things are, we don’t know if GBM will even agree to go and campaign in Chilanga because from what we hear, the president (Hakainde Hichilema) did not consult him, the chairperson elections did not consult him,” the sources narrated.
“So he was just surprised when he heard about the candidate we picked. Apparently, we are told that his preferred candidate was [Obvious] Mwaliteta and he passed on that recommendation through the deputy secretary general. But somehow, that was ignored. And what is worse is that Sylvia [Masebo] who is chairperson for mobilisation was sick at home so she didn’t even take part [in the selection process], so there was no one with a strong voice to reason.”
The sources said Musonda was picked because she proved to have a lot of money for campaigns.
“The argument is that Charmaine is also popular on the ground but mostly because she has her own money. Maybe that is true because when we were doing the selection process, she showed us a lot of money. One account had over US$50,000 and then she also had some kwacha accounts with a lot of money. She actually said money is not a problem. But there are a lot of suspicions now about her links to the ruling party. It is very clear that we have been infiltrated now, there are questions being asked about her association with the PF and [Stephen] Kampyongo in particular,” the sources said.
Asked to explain who pushed for Musonda’s adoption, the sources said only Garry Nkombo who is the chairman for elections could explain.
“Ask the chairman of the committee. He chaired the selection committee of the lower organ himself and then Charmaine was put number one. Then the announcement was done at the lower organ when her selection from the lower organ should have waited until it was referred to the province, then from the Province it comes to him then from him it goes to the full NMC. So if you can ask him, maybe he can explain, but us we can’t accuse him of anything,” said the sources.
“Mwaliteta applied but he sent his application to the national committee because by virtue of being provincial chairman, he is also a member of the NMC, and he cannot go and be interviewed by the lower organ, no. So he applied straight to the final authority, but because this process was already tilted towards her (Musonda) from the beginning, that’s how we have ended up with her. They said Mwaliteta’s application came late that’s why he wasn’t even among those top 10 officials who were being considered in the final process.”
Nkombo, who is also Mazabuka central member of parliament, did not pick calls by press time yesterday but on Sunday, he told News Diggers! that the process was being handled by the party secretary general while he was on his way from Mongu.
But Musonda expressed disappointment with people questioning her morality, saying “everyone has skeletons in their closet”.
In this Question and Answer interview, she also denied having any links with Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo.
Q. How do you feel that UPND decided to adopt a very young woman for Chilanga?
A. First of all, I am very humbled that the UPND, regardless of all the talk on social media went ahead and adopted me. It is not the first time I have stood, I stood in 2016 as council chair, I came out first in the primaries but at that time, they adopted someone else and I soldiered on and continued on the campaign trail to make sure that we deliver the seat of Chilanga. Regarding my age and what has happened, all I can say is that I am very humbled. The people of Chilanga have been crying for a woman this time round and I have been tasked with a very big job. With the help of the people of Chilanga, we will definitely retain the seat and I am that breath of fresh air the people of Zambia are looking for.
Q. Some people have questioned your morality and they accuse you of grabbing someone’s husband. What’s your reaction to that?
A. I don’t see what my relationship has to do with the political office I have vied for. Everybody has got their own hidden skeletons, the only difference is that mine came out in the public. I found myself in a situation and at the time, I must state, I did not know that the former member of parliament for Chilanga Constituency was married. We had an affair, a short affair, we ended up in the situation we were in but that doesn’t take away from the person I am, I am a good person, I am a good woman. If I wasn’t a good person, I don’t think the grassroot would have voted for me the way they did. And two, I spent 10 months in prison because I am a principled person, I am a loyal person. Had I not been loyal or principled, I would have wanted to find a quick solution into getting out of the problem. I put my trust in my lord, my God comes first in everything I do and he delivered me.
Look, I am a woman, people will love me, I am lovable, men will come with different manifestos, it takes time before you know somebody and I found myself in a situation which I have learnt from and I believe people will always talk. If it had nothing to do with the relationship, they would have spoken about something else. Let people look at the person and not what they are perceiving me to be as you would call it that I grabbed someone’s husband, no, I didn’t. Let them focus on what I am hoping I will deliver for my people in Chilanga. The people of Chilanga have spoken. Most of this propaganda about my relationship is coming from outside Chilanga and not within the people from Chilanga. Remember, we were 10 [aspiring] candidates, I was not everybody’s preferred candidate, everybody had their own choice but the grassroots and the votes speak volume and I would like to Thank my president for giving me this opportunity and I will deliver.
Q. How is your relationship at the moment with Mr Mukata? Do you think he might be feeling betrayed that you now want to take over his seat?
A. I don’t want to think he would think I have betrayed him, because there is nothing I have betrayed him on. The seat was declared vacant, whether it was UPND, NDC, all these other political parties, the seat has been declared vacant and people were going to vie for the office. I am praying that he does not take it as a betrayal because I have not betrayed him. A betrayal I think would have been more to do with the situation we both found ourselves in, I stood fast, I kept my peace, my Lord guided me, fortunately, by the Lord’s grace I was acquitted and what has happened to him is not something anyone would wish on their worst enemy. And I know God will see him through and things eventually will be okay. There is nothing I have betrayed him on.
I don’t think Chilanga constituency was personal to holder for anybody, these are politics, things happen. And I met honourable Mukata on the political arena, he found me in the UPND at the time. At that time, I actually wanted to stand as MP but because he was coming from a different party, defecting to the UPND, he was given the platform and he was adopted as MP. I stood as council chair and I wasn’t adopted. I was part of his campaign team, in fact, I was his deputy campaign manager. Things happen, that is life, you never plan certain things but they happen.
Q. Do you think your relationship with him might work against you?
A. We are not in a relationship anymore, our relationship ended during the time we were just at the beginning of our arrest and it isn’t a take over. If people felt we were treating Chilanga constituency like a chiefdom where it is a take over from one person to the other, the people of Chilanga wouldn’t have voted at the primaries the way they did. The people of Chilanga know me, I am a child of Chilanga, born and bred there, I have a lot of strong roots in Chilanga, I am a focal point in Chilanga, even outside politics, I am a person who has always helped the community. This does not even start with me, it starts as far back as my grandfather. My grandfather was the first person to bring a catholic church in Chilanga and it was named in his honour, it is called St Michaels. So I am not new in Chilanga.
Q. There have been talks that because of your close relationship with Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, he influenced your adoption so that you could deliver an easy win for the PF. What is your reaction to those accusations?
A. It makes me wonder what sort of thinking we have in our society. Why would my close friend or boyfriend, or whichever way they want to put it, honourable Kampyongo’s attachment to me, no disrespect to him, if he was my boyfriend, I am a woman, why would I have stayed in Prison for 10 months? I don’t think as a boyfriend, or someone who loves me or whatever feelings he would have had for me would have allowed for me to stay that long in prison especially knowing that he is Minister of Home Affairs, I think let’s change the way politics are being done in our country, let’s stick to issues and what we can deliver to the people and not character assassination. I don’t think today, if you asked honourable Kampyongo if he knows me he would say ‘yes I know her’, not possible, he would know me maybe from what happened but not from a personal basis. That is very unfair, it is very unfair. I am hoping that the women can rise up and rally behind me because we keep crying and saying we need women in these positions but we the women are always first to pull each other down, it is very disheartening.
Q. What’s your campaign message to the people of Chilanga?
A. My campaign message to the people of Chilanga is simple, tobe ilibwe meaning, you with no sin, cast the first stone. You live in a broken house, you want to throw stones, that doesn’t work. This perception of thinking politics is about going on the podium to insult the opposition or to insult the ruling government, no! Let us deliver on the promises we make to the people. Let us refrain from insulting each other.
The term is very short to 2021, so all these people who are calling me names and want to assassinate me before I can get far, I ask that they give me this opportunity, they give me a chance and let them judge me after two and a half years. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We all make mistakes and I have learnt from my mistakes.
Q. Your message to people within UPND who feel it was a mistake to adopt you?
A. I love them all, I respect everybody’s view and opinion and I can just ask them for forgiveness where they feel I may have hurt them or that I may not have morals, I feel that is very unfair coming from them and we in the UPND are always very united, we should not allow the enemy to take advantage of what they may perceive is wrong but instead soldier on, hold each other’s hands and wait till 2021 if they are still disgruntled by then. I want to work with everyone. I ask that they turn their anger and bitterness towards me into something constructive to guide me into helping deliver the seat. It is not about me but about the party and the love for our president HH that we do everything possible to deliver the seat of Chilanga without violence, disrespect or character assassination.
Q. Lastly, how was your experience in prison? How did it change you?
A. My experience in prison made me a much stronger woman than I have always been. It showed me a different side of life, most importantly, not to ever take anything for granted in life. This is a situation where even going to the kitchen and to the toilet becomes very important and those sometimes are the little things that we take for granted. It was a strengthening time for me and to revive my relationship with God. Without God being in the forefront of my life, I wouldn’t be here today. I am very grateful to my mother that she has raised us to be strong and independent children. She was widowed at a very young age and we get our strength and independence from watching our mother always work and break her back for us.