UPND vice president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba says it was wrong for party secretary general Steven Katuka to suspend Kasama District party chairman Jairos Tembo without consulting him, adding that such disorganisation is what has caused the opposition party failure to win elections in 20 years.

And GBM, who is said to be in South Africa currently, says he made the UPND popular in Northern Province but that the party top leadership was now sidelining him for other people.

Speaking when he called in on a special program featuring UPND Kasama district officials on Radio Mano, Monday, GBM said he was not like former party vice president Canisius Banda who was sidelined in decision-making.

Confusion has erupted in the UPND after Kasama District Chairman Jairos Tembo suspended party provincial chairman Nathan Illunga, with the support of GBM. The Party’s top leadership however said the suspension of Illunga was not valid as Tembo had no power to do so, a reaction which angered GBM.

The former defence minister, whose attempt to succeed Michael Sata failed before joining UPND, has maintained that Illunga remains suspended and that anyone who wants to question the decision should approach him as vice-president.

UPND Secretary General Steven Katuka argues that Illunga is still provincial chairperson and that the Kasama district chairman, Tembo, is the one who is suspended.

“As UPND Vice President, I have rejected that suspension and even that secretary general when he was writing the suspension, ‘cinshi taipushishe fwebene bamushi?’ (why didn’t he consult us the owners of the village?) Have you ever heard us go and suspend people in Southern Province when there are wrangles without asking HH and his people? Because he knows how he communicates with his people. If they were wise, they would have started by calling me and asking me ‘what about these issues happening in your area?’ Was HH known in Kasama, was he known in the area in 2015 when I joined UPND? The party is now popular in the province because of GBM and other people. Now today they are sidelining me when making decision, this has caused fear. ‘Elo iceshamo, batampa ukubomfya akepwa kandi ka Mucheleka, kadeputy Secretary General kuli Hakainde Hichilema eko kambe ukulasongelekanya’ (Sadly, they are now using my nephew Patrick Mucheleka the deputy secretary general) and the losing candidate for Lukasha to cause confusion,” GBM said.

“I am happy that you have received the UPND in the province and you like it, but ourselves are the ones who are going to destroy it. How can they be writing letters without the knowledge of myself as vice-president? What kind of a party would that be? That can only be a party of dictators. And who is the owner of that area? When they were coming to ask me to join them, were they not saying we want someone from Northern? But now they have sidelined me, they have gone to look for my nephew Mucheleka from Luwingu? ‘iyoo, bane ba UPND tiyeni tukwate amano, tiyeni tubwelele kumano. Ico mushatekela kanshi for 20 years misango yaifi, iyakapatulula, iyabula protocal’ (Colleagues in the UPND, let’s have wisdom, that’s why you have not won elections for the past 20 years, it’s because of such behaviour of segregation and lack of protocol).”

He charged that UPND was behaving as though it had already won elections and the lack of wisdom in the leadership was hindering the growth of the party.

“They think that they have already won elections and as if they are already in government. When they hear people chanting for them that we are voting for HH, they think that they have already won elections, forgetting that there is still time. People can easily change their minds. if you keep fighting amongst yourselves, how are you going to attract new members? This is why the party has not even grown…’ mulandu wakutila amano ndemona yalibulila muli bamo intungulushi’ (because some leaders have no wisdom). So I want to tell the nation that I have rejected the suspension of the district committee, I am speaking as UPND vice-president, Katuka has no power than me. When they came to ask me to join them, they took me as vice-president, not as someone they should just be telling what they are doing, like what they were doing to Canisius Banda. I am not Canisius Banda, I should have authority to speak out for people,” he said.

“How am I going to speak for people if we form government? They want me to be like Mucheleka and Mpundu, such that when they give them K2000, he fails to speak for the people of Kasama. For me I want to have authority to speak for the people wherever I go, didn’t I resign as minister because of Chitimukulu? Was that not an example? I am therefore saying that Illunga’s suspension is still valid, whoever wants to say anything, even UPND President should approach me and ask me, otherwise they will destroy the party the whole country because some of us have our influence throughout the country.”

GBM said a leader who acts against the wishes of the people deserve to be removed, like Sudanese removed Omar Al Bashir

“I heard yesterday that the party structures wrote another petition that they don’t want Illunga, which is very normal. Even in Sudan you saw what happened that the President was removed because he was not working according to the wishes of the people. So when I heard that he had been removed, I said let me wait until I go back to Zambia that’s when I will hear what has happened. But I heard that the Secretary General Mr Katuka has written a letter of suspension to district chairman Tembo. I called Mr Katuka on phone so that I could hear from him, but he did not answer and he did not call back. It was until I started receiving calls from people asking me about what was happening in Kasama and we are now even being mocked by the PF, I said I should intervene now,” GBM said.

Take a listen:

But UPND Secretary General Steven Katuka insisted that Illunga was still provincial chairperson and that Kasama district chairman Jairos Tembo remains suspended.

“When I hold a meeting and that meeting ends up in anarchy, then I should take the blame because I am the initiator of that meeting. Hence when I spoke to him, I decided to suspend him for 3 months, and I wrote a letter which I copied to him, president, vice president and the national chairperson. For me, Mr. Illunga is still the provincial chairman because the party structures did not suspend him, the one that the party suspended in the district chairman Mr. Jairos Tembo who conducted himself in a very unprofessional manner. So that is the status, but we are still looking into the matter,” Katuka said.

Katuka refused to respond to GBM’ sentiments, saying that the party will deal with the matter internally.

“I don’t want to comment now; we do not run the party through the media. We have led down procedures on who should do what; every position has its own job description. So I don’t think we should be discussing these issues in the media. You may call it disorganisation or whatever, but we shall not discuss party issues through the media, we have a place where we can meet and run the party from. Not this ‘cho chise, natukula, tuli bakalamba…filya fyali fyabwaiche ninshi tulekula’ we will deal with our issues, we will find time to sit down and deal with our issues. There is nothing that we can fail to resolve as a family,” said Katuka who later in the day dissolved the Kasama Central constituency management committee.

Meanwhile, Nathan Illunga said it was surprising that GBM supported his suspension by the district chairman on a live radio program.

“I have been assured of my position by the party’s highest structure, I have not been removed because the structure that is supposed to remove me is the one that is higher than the one I head. I have the assurance of the secretariat, I have the assurance of the party that nobody has sanctioned my removal,” said Illunga.