SOUTHERN Province UPND MPs have refused to meet President Edgar Lungu during his visit to that Province citing COVID-19 and the “unfair use of the Public Order Act”.

At a briefing, Friday, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu said the MPs had refused to meet President Lungu because his visitations usually turned into public rallies, which was a source of concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of us were informed through the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Southern Province that President Lungu will be visiting our various constituencies. Immediately after being informed about this particular, visit we had to sit down over the intended visit by the President. We have been witnessing the various visitations by President Lungu in various areas of the country and we noted with concern, that where he goes to visit or commission whatever projects that have been undertaken by the government of Zambia public rallies have taken place without taking into account the law that has been issued by the Ministry of Health in relation the COVID-19 pandemic. As law abiding citizens of Zambia, we have reflected over the invitation and the repercussions over the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mwiimbu said.

“You are all aware that the numbers of people who have been affected by the COVID are not going down, they are rising, the number of deaths arising from the coronavirus are rising. Would you think that it is prudent on our part to start abrogating the regulations that were made in a view to prevent the spread of the virus in this country? The answer is no! We, as members of Parliament of Livingstone, Monze and Mazabuka have decided not to attend the meetings of President Lungu tomorrow as we should not be part and parcel of the spreading of the Coronavirus. We are aware that as a country, we do not have the resources to control this spread of the disease. What we have to do as responsible Parliamentarians is to assist in prevention of the disease. We will not be part of the people who want to be spreading the disease. The people who are going to visit Monze are coming from the epicentres of the disease, we will not want to expose our people to this virus. If they want to abrogate the laws which they have passed pertaining to the prevention of Coronavirus, we would not want to be part of this.”

He said the police decision to remove UPND regalia from the all public places in Monze in readiness of President Lungu’s visitation indicated lack of political coexistence among political parties.

“Secondly, a very unfortunate and sad incident occurred in Monze today. Zambia police in collusion with the PF have gone on rampage in Monze, removing the UPND regalia from all public places, streets, private homes in Monze. They have confiscated them, they have taken them out. We are not aware of any law that prohibits any political party to display party regalia in places of their choice,” he said.

“In Lusaka here if you drive anywhere outside of this party headquarters, you will see PF flags everywhere in public places, in markets, in bus stations, they have never been taken out but they have done that in Monze. We consider that action from the police and the PF as very confrontational, an act that does not entail peaceful coexistence between political parties. With the afflictions they have done on us in Monze and Mazabuka, it will not be prudent for us as leaders to be seen and associate ourselves with President Lungu. We will not do that.”

Meanwhile, Mwiimbu said the party was still willing to dialogue with PF on issues of national importance.

“Ourselves as UPND, we have always been willing to meet and dialogue with our colleagues on issues of national importance. You do recall that through the church, the Commonwealth, there have been calls for us as political parties to meet and dialogue over issues of national importance. Our colleagues in the usual style have always been evading these calls by the church and by other stakeholders. We can confirm here that if they want us to meet and dialogue over issues of national dialogue, we are always willing and we are ready,” said Mwiimbu.

And Mazabuka Central UPND member of Parliament Garry Nkombo said the continued misapplication of the Public Order Act by the PF was another reason why the UPND MPs had refused to meet with the Head of State.

“In order for us not to be misunderstood, we have been lamenting in this country about discrimination and selective application of law by the Patriotic Front. We in UPND extremely feel discriminated by the PF under the leadership of President Lungu. Whereas Article 62 of the Constitution of Zambia mandates us to conduct intra Party elections, we have had our members locked and harassed for merely succumbing to provisions of the constitution to have intra party elections. No one has been brought on to the courts of law to be charged for the offence of assembly for following a constitution provision. We have seen the Patriotic Front having meetings anytime they want and there has been no concern from the Zambia Police. There is a collusion between the PF and to be specific the Minister of Home Affairs Mr Stephen Kampyongo who I personally [respect] as he’s senior in Parliament, [we] have engaged both in writing and physically to try and explain that we are following the provision of the constitution,” said Nkombo.

“Just to be clear about the provisions of the statutory instruments surrounding COVID-19, it dictates that we must be a minimum of 50. Our organs countrywide at every level only has 34 people. So anywhere where 34 people assembled for the purpose of having elections, we have been battered, we have been brutalised and we have been punished and we have been arrested. And President Lungu is fully aware about that. Therefore, we find it extremely difficult under these circumstances, welcome as he is, we must sit shoulder to shoulder and pretend to the country that all is okay with us. I personally feel very frustrated being chairman of elections that they have frustrated my efforts to meet the constitution requirements. President Lungu may claim that he is unaware about his Minister’s conduct Stephen Kampyongo who will have engaged then this is the platform for him to understand that we have decided that we are not going to associate with him on that.”