Any violence associated with the UPND should be regarded as retaliation to PF’s brutality because it is done in self-defence, United Party for National Development (UPND) secretary general Stephen Katuka has insisted.

Reacting to claims by the PF suggesting that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema had failed to justify his vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba’s (GBM) ‘Panga for Panga’ statement due the violence that the party was involved in, Katuka said his party had always been on the receiving end of violence.

He insisted that the UPND would always retaliate attacks from PF supporters in the Chilanga by-elections going forward, arguing that: “we cannot continue being beaten like babies forever and ever”.

“What will be your immediate reaction if you were slapped? It’s just natural instinct, the spirit in which Mr Mwamba said that statement (Panga for Panga) was not that people should go and attack. He said, ‘if there is a panga or if a panga is raised to you, you should also raise’. So, if there is no panga, then there should be no panga. We have been on the receiving end for a very long time. We have people that have been killed in cold blood, we have people that have been permanently injured and disabled now because of this same violence from the PF. We are not the aggressors, but I am [now] saying we have received enough. The party’s position is not that people should go and beat each other, but if you are pushed to the corner what do you do? I told you about natural instincts. We can’t continue just being beaten like babies forever and ever, no! We have reached a point where we can’t just entertain it anymore,” Katuka said.

He said the incompetence by police officers to protect citizens had forced the opposition to provide its own protection wherever necessary.

“We have had situations where our members have been followed right into the police station and beaten right there and the police did not protect them. I can give you an example in Sinda district in the last by-elections where our members ran away from these violent thugs and rushed to the police and were beaten right in the police station and the Commissioner of Police in Eastern Province said, ‘we didn’t have enough manpower’. So, if we can’t be protected by the relevant arms of government, what do you expect us to do? Just to sit back? Even women in homes, if you beat her today, tomorrow, she will pick up a pot and beat you [with it]. We have condemned violence in the strongest terms, and we don’t support it because we are the ones who are on the receiving end. But defending yourself from violence is not the same as supporting,” Katuka insisted.

He appealed to police officers to desist from selecting who to protect, saying it was the duty of police officers to protect whoever needed protection.

“We have our youths who are moving around with bullets on their bodies. So, the relevant arms of government should be professional, we have the courts, we have the police and they must be professional. They should know why they are paid salaries at the end of the month; I don’t think they receive a salary for doing nothing. Police officers are paid to protect Zambians, so they must do their job professionally. They are not police for PF or Edgar Lungu; 16 million Zambians expect to get protection from the police. Why has the situation changed now? We have had these arms of government all these years and they have done quite good work, so why now? So our appeal to the police is to be professional and call a spade a spade. The selective application of the law must be stopped by the police, they should treat all of us as citizens and protect whoever needs protection,” appealed Katuka.

But in a separate interview, PF media director Sunday Chanda accused UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema of failing to provide correct leadership by coming out to publicly condemn the “panga for panga” statement issued by GBM at a rally in Chilanga.

And Chanda challenged the opposition to learn to accept their own mistakes without blaming others, if they were to mature in their politics.

“The UPND must mature and get to a point where they face the consequences of some of the things that they do. For instance, the UPND vice-president (Geoffrey Mwamba) categorically called for violent elections in Chilanga, and we are on record as having opposed that. President Edgar Lungu, the campaign manager, have all been very categorical that these campaigns must be void of any form of violence. But on the other hand, our colleagues found it appropriate to speak to their membership base, and called for ‘Panga for Panga’. So for us, the UPND must be last ones to cry victim. As a matter of fact, they are the perpetrators of that violence and we are calling on Zambians to reject the UPND’s politics of violence because those kind of politics must be confined to the past,” said Chanda.

“The people of Chilanga are asking for development, they are asking for better roads, better services for the farmers and economic opportunities for the youths, and that is the kind of dialogue we are going to engage in and those are the kind of politics that we asking for from our colleagues. But, unfortunately, even when the UPND vice-president made those remarks, his boss, the UPND leader to this day has remained mute. HH has failed to distance his party from those calls for ‘Panga for Panga’ in Chilanga. He has failed to call for violent-free elections for the simple reason that violence is part of UPND DNA. If you remember the Mapatizya and the Mapatizya formula, that is the formula that UPND wants to use in Chilanga because they know that they are losing that seat.”