UPND deputy secretary general Gertrude Imenda says Mangango PF member of parliament Goodwill Putu attempted to beat her up after she saved a presiding officer whom they were harassing in the just-ended Nangula Ward by-election.

But Putu has denied Imenda’s allegations, insisting that he would never even imagine attempting to assault her.

Meanwhile, Imenda has lamented that the UPND did not battle against the PF in the just-ended Nangula Ward by-election in Western Province, but against the unprecedented bags of mealie-meal and money which the ruling party dished out to voters.

In an interview, Imenda, who was one of the UPND’s field election monitors in the April 2 polls, narrated that Putu, in the company of scores of ruling party cadres, attempted to assault her.

She also described the polls as being characterized by mealie meal handouts, among other material goods which the PF distributed to voters.

“There is an incident that happened at Maange polling station because I was there. The presiding officer was pulled out of the polling station by PF cadres who came to about 50. They invaded Maange polling station and chased the presiding officer! He was made to stay outside for a good 40 to 45 minutes. So, when I went to Maange polling station because I had accreditation for field monitoring, I was told about the situation of the presiding officer, and when I went inside to start presenting my credentials, I found he was not there. So, I checked outside and I found him surrounded by PF cadres. And as he was trying to move, the PF cadres, led by MP for Mangango, [Goodwill] Putu, blocked him! There was so much chaos and Putu and another gentleman called Liwoyo even threatened to beat me up just because I assisted the presiding officer to escape from them. They warned me [to say] ‘you need to be beaten. Why are you coming to intervene in this?’ But I told them: ‘you try to lay your hands on me and you will rot in jail!’ So, there was all that going on and some police officers came in, we tried to explain. But these PF people, as always, cannot even give you a chance to explain, they were just talking on top of their voices, and the police could not even hear what the story was,” Imenda complained.

And she complained that the UPND did not battle against the PF in the Nangula Ward polls, but against the unprecedented bags of mealie-meal and money that the ruling party dished out to voters.

“I would not say we lost the by-election in Nangula because the contest was not really between our candidate, Yamboto, and the PF candidate, Thabo. Rather, the contest was between Yamboto and the mealie meal. And because people are hungry, they voted for the mealie meal! The PF were using DMMU mealie meal, which was supposed to have been distributed to the people who are hungry in the country. That mealie meal was not being distributed for free, it was being used to persuade voters. So, the PF was lining up people and gave them those 12.5Kg bags of mealie meal in exchange for voters’ cards and NRCs. After distributing the mealie meal, the PF held on to people’s IDs, then on the voting eve, that was when they gave them the IDs and those that they didn’t trust would vote for them, they would find someone to escort that person to the voting area and made sure they voted for them,” Imenda, a former Luena ADD member of parliament, disclosed.

“For example, if it is me, they would tell me that, ‘when I reach the polling station, I should say I don’t know how to vote, then that person they allocated to help me with voting would take me to the voting booth and would ensure that I vote for PF, while he or she is looking. So, that’s what happened. Money was being given, they were lining up people to give them K10, K20, K30…so there were so many people who needed ‘assistance’ to vote and they were threatened to say, ‘should you go and vote for UPND when you have eaten our mealie meal, we have got people all over here…you will just come and find your house is burnt!’ So, some people were scared to vote otherwise.”

Imenda, who is also a former Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson, said she planned to go and lodge a formal complaint against the PF for bribing voters immediately she returned to Lusaka.

“I have lodged a complaint with the ECZ CEO, Patrick Nshindano. That win by PF was not a win, and I even told Nshindano that if this is what is going to happen in 2021, then they forget about democratic elections. But we are still going to lodge a formal complaint to the ECZ about the issue of mealie meal distribution during campaigns. That should not be allowed because we are not supposed to be distributing anything during campaigns or pretending that you are doing projects. All the projects should be suspended until after the elections. But in Nangula, the PF continued doing all these things and that mealie meal they were distributing is government mealie meal to which all of us contribute. It was written DMMU mealie meal, which they were giving out there. I have one of those same bags of mealie meal and I am going to present it to ECZ, it’s written DMMU on those bags, so they don’t belong to PF,” said Imenda.

But Putu denied Imenda’s allegations, insisting that he would never even imagine attempting to assault her.

In a separate interview, Putu denied her accusations, arguing that he would never harm Imenda because he considered her “his mother.”

“I threaten beating the UPND deputy secretary general, how? No, I didn’t, in fact, I wouldn’t. That is just like my mum, and I am not just that type of person who engages in violence. Yes, I did go to Nangula and I did see Madam Imenda, but I was only there (Nangula) to drum up support for our party candidate. So, it was duty to be present, even on voting day. Mind you, I am the only PF member of parliament in Western Province so I just had to go there. But I wasn’t there to fight with anyone or to threaten madam Imenda, no!” said Putu.

“I am not a cadre for your own information, I am honourable and she [Imenda] is honourable. So, if there are some cadres who threatened her, I am not aware of that. I just saw her from a distance at Maanga [polling station], I saw her from a distance in a Land Rover. I saw a maroon Land Rover driven by a lady, later on discovered it was Madam Imenda driving it. But I did not even get a chance to speak to her, I don’t know her at personal level, I just know she’s the deputy secretary general for UPND. So, how could I beat her and just why would I even beat her? I have no reason to do that. So, I don’t know why Madam Imenda would call you and tell you that I threatened her, I don’t know why she did that.”