The United Party for National Development (UPND) has accused former Sinazongwe member of parliament Richwell Siamunene of using the current hunger crisis in some parts of the country to campaign for the 2021 general election.

But Siamunene, who is also a former Minister of Defense in President Edgar Lungu’s government, has dispelled the allegations, saying the thought of contesting elections in 2021 at any level has not crossed his mind yet.

In an interview, Sinazongwe UPND information and publicity secretary George Bbabbi accused the former parliamentarian of exploiting the hunger crisis to position himself ahead of the 2021 general election.

“The people of Sinazongwe, especially those from Munyati village of Sinenge ward, are not happy about what Richwell Siamunene said when he, together with the Provincial Minister Mr Edify Hamukale and Agriculture Minister Mr Micheal Katambo visited the area to distribute mealie meal to the hunger-stricken villagers. He told the people that gathered to receive the commodity that people in Sinazongwe have no representation that is why took it upon himself to approach President Lungu about the hunger situation. But Siamunene can’t be compared to honourable Sialubalo. Our current member of parliament has done a lot of good things in the whole constituency. But we know that Siamunene is just trying to solicit for adoption and votes from the people of Sinazongwe. We are aware that he wants to contest again in 2021 under the PF ticket. He can just go ahead if he wants, but for us, as UPND, we will field in honourable Sialubalo again and they will meet on the ballot papers again. But when Siamunene loses in 2021, we don’t want him to run to the courts like he did in 2016,” said Bbabbi.

But when contacted for a reaction to Bbabbi’s allegations, Siamunene said he had no time for politicking and that whatever he had decided to do for Sinazongwe constituents was because he “had a heart” for them.

“All what I can say is that I am from Sinazongwe, I grew up in that area and I started helping people around the year 2000 and I have continued up to this day. When you see somebody helping others, you should conclude that one wants to stand as MP? I have already achieved that, I have been the Defense Minister, which is the third highest position in the land. I have achieved something, that is all and I still have the heart for the people of Sinazongwe and if I can help them in any way, I would be able to help them. But right now, that [idea of standing for elections in 2021] hasn’t crossed my mind. I am merely helping the people, I believe that as long as I live, I have a responsibility to help, not only in Sinazongwe, I have done that elsewhere. Right now, I want to donate a school in Katuba. Basically, that is my nature, I like helping where I see the need to help,” Siamunene said in a separate interview.

“So, anyone who hears that ‘Siamunene has done this to help the people’ should not think that I am doing that to gain something, I am not at their level where they think that they should only help when they are assured of getting a salary. I am not seeking employment, I have a lot of establishments; I have lodges in Sinazongwe; I have lodges in Choma; I have lodges in Livingstone. So, basically, we are also spreading and we’ll be able to help from the profits that we get from this and be able to give back to the community. There are certain things where you don’t need to involve politics; sometimes, people should come together and just assist the community without really involving politics. It is only mean people who would be advancing politics on issues that help the community.”

Siamunene stressed that he was not in competition with anyone in whatever he was doing to help the local community.

“I am not a competitor, I would be reducing myself if I started competing with anyone. I don’t want to compete with anyone, I just need to do what I am supposed to do at any given time. Competitions are for small people, but people who have big minds don’t look at competition, they just do what they want to do as to exercise their own divinity. We are divine beings and we are here on earth to express God’s will and whenever you help, you are doing God’s will. So, let’s stop this issue of competition, it will take us nowhere, let’s just do what we ought to do. Let’s do it for God and humanity,” said Siamunene.