UPND chairman for elections Gary Nkombo has asked non-members calling on Hakainde Hichilema to go to back off because the party doesn’t need outsiders to tell them how to move their agenda.

And Nkombo says UPND has double confidence in Hichilema and will go for a general assembly at their own pace.

Speaking when he featured on UNZA Radio’s Lusaka Star programme, Tuesday, Nkombo charged that only a fool could call for the removal of Hichilema because he only lost by one per cent in the last general elections.

He wondered why outsiders were the ones calling for the removal of Hichilema instead of UPND members.

“You have heard President Lungu say, ‘ine chilankalipa sana why UPND are keeping Hakainde Hichilema’. Now, here is the man who is insecure. It’s none of his business! Let me remind the public that a guy who is down by under one per cent of votes in the last elections; an election that attracted a petition, a petition that was shut out! Only a fool can agitate for the removal of the face of that individual. To go back 10 years, to start afresh, to sell a new name, I want you to know; only a fool can agitate for that. Why are these noises not coming from the UPND themselves is the question that begs answers. Why should it be a young, misguided boy called Andrew Ntewewe (YALI president) agitating? Why should President Lungu, why is it his business to have change of leadership in UPND? He left UPND a long time ago. It’s none of his business,” Nkombo insisted.

And he said the UPND had double confidence in Hichilema and outsiders should back off, adding that the party would go for a general assembly at their own pace.

“We have double confidence in the man who is leading our party. And for avoidance of doubt, for those who think that we are nervous about going to a general assembly, we will do it at our own pace. We do not need people from outside to come over here to tell us how to move our agenda. It’s a constitutional requirement that the societies must go to the general assembly and we are alive to that fact. Therefore, we do not need people to whip up to get it done, we will do it in our own time within the confines of the law. And so, the best way to put it is to say, ‘let them back off’,” Nkombo maintained.

Meanwhile, commenting on their Kasenengwa candidate Dr Faustin Banda, who disappeared on the nomination day without giving any reason, Nkombo said betrayal could not be controlled as it began when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.

He, however, assured his party members that the incident would not repeat itself as they would always have backup.

“The issue of Kasenengwa, unfortunately, betrayal began a long time ago. A guy called Judas Iscariot betrayed [Jesus]. Don’t forget Judas was one of Jesus’ trusted man. We trusted Dr Banda. And a typical case of betrayal is something that you cannot control, it’s beyond you. So, to put things to rest, Dr Banda misbehaved and this is the reason why I personally went to the police to go and report him for obtaining materials and money using false pretence because I suspect he knew exactly what game he was playing. Unfortunately, when you are too trusting that happens,” he lamented.

“Obviously, some people will argue that we should have had a standby candidate, those are lessons that you learn. I personally as chairperson of elections, I have learnt that lesson that no matter how much you trust someone, you must have a back-up. I am brave enough to take the blame, to say, ‘we will take this blame for now,’ and to assure our members that this is not going to repeat itself ever again. We knew about Dr Banda’s schemes around 17, 18 hours (on the material day), but we also gave him the benefit of the doubt. I take the blame and assure our members and supporters that it’s not going to happen again.”

Asked why Hichilema and President Lungu could not meet without the church the way the late president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa and Michael Sata met, Nkombo, who is also UPND Mazabuka Central member of parliament, noted that the situation in Zambia now was not exactly like it was then.

“I think that the situation is not exactly the same. During the time of Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, there was no void, no absence of the diminishing quality of the rule of law. In Levy Mwanawasa’s time, the police controlled everyone; they could arrest anyone, including MMD members. Tell me that is true today, that the police can go and arrest a PF member? There’s lawlessness [now], which is being promoted unfortunately by the government. We have cadres for policemen! The Inspector General of Police is just a cadre, Mr Kanganja, that’s what he is! He not a professional man. You cannot compare Joshua Kanganja and Francis Ndhlovu in the time of Levy Mwanawasa or Ephraim Mateyo, you couldn’t,” recalled Nkombo.