UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says “the manipulated outcome” of by-elections has gone to President Edgar Lungu’s head and he has been fooled into thinking that Zambians are happy with his leadership and 2021 will be a walk in the park.

Speaking to Ndola residents at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, Tuesday, President Lungu said the UPND proposed a 50 per cent plus one winning threshold in 2016, but still lost to the PF in the first round, adding that if the opposition wanted, they could increase the threshold to 60 per cent plus one and he would still win.

“They were saying that ‘no the threshold is too low, we want 50 per cent plus’ [and] we gave them 50 per cent plus one in 2016, we got 50 per cent plus and we are in State House. If they want 60 per cent plus one in 2021 they should bring it, we will still go through. But we will not allow them to use violence to intimidate us into bringing them into a government of national unity through the back door. The will of the people will be respected through the ballot, that is what democracy means,” said President Lungu.

In reaction, Hichilema told News Diggers in an interview, Thursday, that the Head of State was being fooled by the outcome of some by-election which the PF had won.

“To begin with, you must ask yourself, ‘why is it that all the economic indicators are pointing downwards, businesses are closing down and poverty is skyrocketing in people’s homes; but PF is still able to win some by-elections?’ the answer is simple. The majority of voters are scared to come out of their homes to go out and exercise their civic right because of the violence by Kampyongo and his thugs. So the PF brings out pangas in the campaigns to intimidate voters and the police have been threatened with dismissals if they intervene. Have you seen what is happening to the police now? They are completely helpless, they can’t act against violence or any electoral malpractice by the PF,” Hichilema observed.

“Secondly, he has no message to offer to Zambians any more. So he is using your money, public money to bribe voters. You saw the video of how he was celebrating when they said ‘Lungu ndiye ali na kasaka ka ndalama (Lungu is the one who has a sack of money)’, he was jumping around like a little boy. That kasaka ka ndalama they are dishing out is your money, it’s salaries for lecturers, for Kabwe council workers and others. That is the money they are using to steal UPND votes, so don’t be fooled.”

He wondered why Lungu blocked the presidential petition if he won the 2016 elections without rigging.

“And you must understand that some voters don’t feel fully compelled to take part in by-elections because they don’t see any leadership change by changing a councilor or a council chairperson, when the President is the same man who has no vision. That is the other reason for the voter apathy that you see. So Lungu is fooling himself by thinking that his popularity is growing. When he tells you that he won 2016 in the first round, ask him why he was so terrified to allow the petition to be heard. He knows in his heart that he is a lair and he is fooling himself.”

Hichilema said even those who voted for PF in 2016 were eager to go back to the polling booths so that they could correct their mistake.

“Between PF and UPND, which party has remained intact since 2016? Which member of Parliament has resigned from the UPND? But look at what is happening to the PF, those who put Lungu in State House are regretting. They can’t wait to correct their mistakes on the ballots. They have realised that there is madness going on in State House. There is no leadership at all. They did not only vote for thieves, but they voted for selfish thieves who have betrayed them,” he said.

And Hichilema added that what he was offering the people of Zambia was a national recovery plan, and it was up to citizens to decide whether to stay in the PF misery or save themselves.

“Lungu’s governance motto is ‘steal but don’t get caught’. That is why you see him come to the defence of his close allies who get arrested for theft. A President should have shame. I can assure you that the whole world is laughing at us, ‘how did you put this guy in State House?’ It doesn’t make sense at all, this guy has no leadership clue whatsoever and it is just a matter of time before you remember my words. I warned you people. Look at what is happening in the public service now, the education sector, agriculture, every thing is messed up,” he said.

“It’s up to the people to decide if they want to stay in this misery. What we are telling them is that Hakainde doesn’t want to go to State House to supervise the theft of public resources, because that’s what Lungu is doing. His job is to make sure that no one is stealing more than him. But Hichilema is saying if you are feeling the pain of having no leadership; give us an opportunity to rescue the country. It is not about me, but the people of Zambia, including you the media because they are coming for you also. They don’t only want to regulate you, but they want to shut all of you down before 2021 so that there is no one left to tell the people how much they have stolen.”

Meanwhile, Hichilema congratulated his members of parliament who braved the night to oppose the National Dialogue Bill which was presented for Second Reading in Parliament on Tuesday.

“Every action by the PF is linked to the grand scheme, which is to perpetuate their stay in power against the will of the people. This National Dialogue Bill which comprises the Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties, is a dangerous piece of legislation. We really wish that more Zambians can read what they are proposing to do through this Constitution Amendment Forum. We congratulate our MP who stayed vigilante the who night to challenge the scheme by the PF,” said Hichilema.