UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says his party resolved to shun Independence Day and other national celebrations due to PF’s tendency to attack its members.
And Katuka says although it is gratifying to see President Edgar Lungu and NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili having a cordial chat, it was impossible for the head of state to embrace UPND president Hakainde Hichilema in the same manner.
In an interview, Katuka recalled that the last time the party attended a national event, their members were attacked by PF cadres in full view of police.
“You know that we have attended these functions before and you know what came out of these functions. You remember that we still have a girl Prsicilla Mwiinga who was stripped naked. And there was another, where we attended on Women’s Day when our women were attacked. So on two, three occasions we had been disappointed with the behavior of the PF. That is why we decided that we can’t be fooled again and again. There is no benefit in attending where you know that your security is not guaranteed,” Katuka said.
“We have been attacked before in full view of the police and nobody was there to protect our members. So why should we go there as if we are going to be paid for being there? It is something that is voluntary and those that want to go should go, those who don’t want they don’t go. We have incidents where our members have been harassed and beaten, so we just felt that it was not necessary. You can’t force yourself to be with people that don’t want you.”
He said UPND should not be vilified for shunning national events because late president Micheal Sata did the same when he was in opposition.
“I don’t know why we are making an issue out of no issue. Sata, for the period he was in the opposition, he never attended any of those functions and nobody made an issue out of it. I don’t think it is compulsory! The function is voluntary, those who feel they can attend, can attend and those who don’t want, they won’t attend,” he said
“Nobody would want to go to an event where the security is not guaranteed. Basically, that is the main reason. We have been attacked before, we have been embarrassed at such occasions and I don’t think we can continue going to please others, window dressing to please those who want to see us there; who would not do anything to protect as if anything happens.”
And Katuka said the PF could not embrace Hichilema the same way they embraced Kambwili.
“You know that (Harry) Kalaba is going round this country and nothing is happening to him. Kalaba is an opposition leader and he is going round this country and nothing is happening to him. But HH tries to go anywhere, you will see what will happen. You know that Kambwili is coming from the PF. Those have worked together before and not long ago they were together so it is different. They (President Lungu and Hichilema) have met before but the atmosphere is not the same,” Katuka said.
“Remember in Choma we made HH to go and greet Lungu, we told him to go and greet him. It’s not impossible, it is possible but you know that what they would do to HH is not what they would do to Kambwili. Even those cadres around were his because there were all PF. So basically, the reaction you expect from PF when HH is there is not the same as the reaction you expect from them when Kambwili is around.”
Katuka said President Lungu considered Hichilema a threat, making it hard for the two politicians to have a genuine meeting.
“Commitment is not there from the President Lungu to meet HH. You see, meeting people like Kambwili…like what I have told you, these other small parties there are not a threat to him. We have seen whenever he (President Lungu) goes to stand, he is always talking about HH. He has issued statements ‘no this one will never be a president of this country’. Why does he talk about him and not talk about Kambwili and others?” asked Katuka.
“So I have said the atmosphere when Kambwili is around and when HH is around are totally different. The scenarios are totally different. Even Edgar himself if he stretches his hand to greet HH, it is not coming from the bottom of his heart. It could be cosmetic, it is not coming from the bottom of his heart. It is not a genuine greeting. That is the difference!”