National Democratic Congress (NDC) president Chishimba Kambwili says it is his wish to see the Opposition Alliance contesting the 2021 general elections as a united force, but says there will be need for UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema to talk to his disloyal MPs who are likely to sell out.
And Kambwili says he sometimes feels frustrated to speak out for Zambians against mistreatment by the PF government, lamenting that Zambians are too docile.
Speaking at a public discussion forum organised by the Mast Newspapers in Lusaka, Monday, Kambwili, who featured alongside his Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) counterpart Sean Tembo, said he was engaging UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema over the loyalty of his MPs to the Alliance, which was comprised of 10 major opposition political parties.
“We have committed to be in an alliance based on 10-point issues that we first agreed that we should tackle as an alliance. And as we interact, we are coming up with common areas of interest and evaluate whether, indeed, we can be a serious (force) to go into the elections. But I must say that what makes alliances fail is not being open to each other and being greedy. I have said myself that if you want to lead, you must be prepared to be led. I think by and large, the alliances that we’ve seen in the past have been alliances that I can call cosmetic because if I have to go into a serious alliance where it involved us going to the elections, we must first bring our manifestos together and agree to disagree on certain issues and how we are going to move on. But just to say we are going into an alliance without talking about amalgamating of your manifestos, you don’t agree on how you are going to govern, you are bound to fall,” Kambwili said.
“But I hope and trust that this alliance will tackle all those things in order for us not to scatter. Some of us are determined to ensure that this alliance works. But then we don’t know what others think. You may be going into an alliance genuinely to lead, but then others want to go into an alliance just to hear what you are talking about. So, as we interact, we are able to assess one another and see whether we are genuine. We saw how the UPND MPs behaved…if the UPND are our only hope, then there is absolutely nothing that we can do. And I have to be speaking to president HH because we are in an alliance and I would want to address his MPs to plead with more especially those who went to attend the NDF, to plead with their conscience and not sell the people of Zambia! Please, UPND MPs, don’t sell us (out), we are banking on you (for) the future of our country.”
And responding to a question from CiSCA vice-chairperson Judith Mulenga, who wanted to know what the opposition was doing to ensure that the country got out of the quagmire that PF had placed it in, Kambwili said Zambians needed to rise up against the PF in order to inspire the opposition to speak out for them.
“You have gone through the ‘what’, as in what has been happening in this country and as citizens, we are looking up to you to now give us the ‘how.’ How do we get out of this quagmire? All what we hear is the ‘what’…’we have this, we have this’, which we appreciate that you are reminding us that there are these issues. But we don’t want to hear helplessness from political leaders such as yourselves! We want to know how we’ll get out of this. We have a government full of schemers, in Bemba I would say they look mungulu mungulu (as if they are aimless) but they are not. They always seem to be two or three steps ahead of you, the opposition, and you wait to react, then they dictate the narrative of this country. Yes, we want to know the ‘what,’ but we also want to listen to the ‘how’, how do we get out of this?” Mulenga asked.
In response, Kambwili insisted that he could not defend Zambians alone, he needed support.
“Not until we start speaking as Zambians, we will not achieve anything against politicians. Politicians do what they call ‘test and see’…don’t give them the permit; let’s see how the people of Zambia will react. If there is no reaction then they say it’s the status quo and they will go on. Even when they are making decisions in Cabinet, the biggest question that is asked is: ‘how will the people react?’ But I can tell you something for nothing, Zambians are docile! And because we are docile, you want only my father Bishop Mambo to speak, Chishimba Kambwili, Sean Tembo…these voices can speak and they will evaporate. What we need is concerted effort where all Zambians say: ‘we cannot accept this!’ I can tell you if Zambians stood and said: ‘we are not going to allow the NDF’ and all of us went to Mulungushi and said: ‘we are closing the gate! Nobody is going in there until we have a dialogue with the Church,’ that NDF could not have gone on,” he replied.
“But because us Zambians have been quiet…if Chishimba Kambwili over-speaks, all they will do is arrest him and throw him in detention for three four days and charge him with trumped-up charges. So, what we need to do is to change our mind-sets and be involved in the governance. How do we get involved in the governance? By saying no to wrong things! Here is a minister accused of corruption, he’s taken for questioning and two minutes later, he is out on police bond! An opposition leader is accused of unlawful assembly, a misdemeanour. But he’s kept in detention over the weekend and Zambians are watching? You let even those that want to speak ukunenuka (to tire). Otherwise, sometimes it becomes frustrating, you talk and talk, they arrest you and when you come out, Zambians are quiet! How frustrating! You even say: ‘why should I waste my time.’ Please, Zambians, stop this silence! What is worrying us, as opposition leaders is that, Zambians have opted to become silent over this issue. But our silence is extremely dangerous and I know that our silence is not that we want to be silent, it is because the man at State House is a tyranny worse than Idi Amin!”
And in apparent reference to the defection of former UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) back to the PF, Kambwili said most people were re-joining the ruling party in order to serve their stomachs and businesses.
“People have now become scared of talking! If you are in the business world, they will squeeze your businesses like nobody’s business! That’s why you see that some people can, three days say that I can never join tukabwalala twamu (the thieves in) PF. But after three days, you find them defecting to the PF. It’s because of the economic squeeze! I can tell you that their leaving the opposition to go and join PF has nothing to do with supporting President Edgar Lungu, it is for survival. These people will really squeeze your business to the extent that you can’t afford to pay school fees for your children, you can’t afford even fuel for your vehicle and as a result, you just use what is commonly known as if you can’t beat them, join them. So, they’ve used all avenues to try and make sure that nobody who is against them survives! But then, some of us have chosen that no matter what happens, I will not lose my principles to go and join them for the purpose of looking after my pocket,” said Kambwili.
Meanwhile, commenting on the attacks from government officials on the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Tembo charged that thieves in government were trying to kill FIC so that they could continue looting.
“FIC is doing what it supposed to do. So, then, the biting question is: why is there so much uproar, predominantly from the ruling party, why? I think the answer is self-evident; it is because the people who are mentioned in the (Trends) Report as corrupt and stealing public funds are trying to kill this institution because it is proving to be a pain in the back! That is why the issue of the lifestyle audit for public office bearers needs to be looked at. The issue of a lifestyle audit is just as critical as a declaration of assets. When you look at most of the political figures in this country, especially those from the ruling party, you realise that when someone joins politics, they will be looking dilapidated, but when you give a few months in position of leadership, they look like they’ve just flown in from Europe! So, we have a big problem there and the issue of a lifestyle audit and declaration of assets can help address these issues of pilferage of assets,” said Tembo.