LEADER of opposition in parliament Jack Mwiimbu says opposition members of parliament have always collaborated with the government but they will not work with the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).

And Mwiimbu says the opposition will now onwards defy the COVID-19 health regulations and embark on countrywide campaigns for 2021 because the PF are doing the same.

Reacting to President Edgar Lungu’s remarks in Mongu that the opposition MPs’ continued refusal to work with the government would cost them votes in 2021, Mwiimbu, in an interview, said they had specifically refused to work with the PF party.

“I want to state very categorically that UPND MPs have never refused to work with government. Members of the public must realize that there are three arms of government namely; the Legislature, Judiciary, and the Executive. UPND members [of parliament] are part of the government of the day and we constitute part of the legislature. So, we are working with the government and we are the ones that decide on the budgeting process in parliament. But we are not going to work with PF in whatever endeavours they are trying to do. We will work with the government but not with the political party,” Mwiimbu said.

He said the opposition would not participate in any of President Lungu’s meetings which he had been holding whilst monitoring government projects around the country.

“If they are indicating that we are refusing to participate in any of the meetings he is having throughout the country, yes, we are refusing to participate because as far as we are concerned, President Lungu is campaigning in all these tours he is doing. And we cannot be part and parcel of his campaigns throughout the country. But we have never refused to work with the government of the day on development projects and that is why we approve money,” Mwiimbu said.

Meanwhile, the Monze member of parliament said his party would embark on a countrywide campaign for 2021 because the PF was doing the same.

“The other issue which I have to indicate is that as far as we are concerned as UPND, the campaigns for 2021 elections have started. The PF are now in full gear campaigning for themselves throughout the country despite the guidance they have given on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of the Republic of Zambia has given a guidance through a Statutory Instrument, advising members of the public not to be meeting in large numbers due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but the PF Government, led by President Lungu are in the forefront of breaking the law which they have enacted,” he said.

“It therefore follows that they have no regard whatsoever pertaining to the outbreak of the pandemic in this country. We as UPND now strongly believe that they are using the COVID-19 outbreak to disadvantage the opposition in the campaigns in this country. When it comes to the opposition, the government through the police and other agencies are always frustrating our efforts to exercise our rights of association. They have already told us that we cannot meet and sell our programmes due to the pandemic but for themselves, whenever it suits them, they don’t regard that there is COVID-19 pandemic in this country…From now onwards, we are going to defy the directives they are giving pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic in this country. We shall also embark on a countrywide campaign for 2021 because as far as we are concerned now, the campaigns have commenced.”

And Mwiimbu said it is nonsense for Mufulira member of parliament Evans Chibanda to suggest that only members of the PF would be allowed to feature on radio stations on the Copperbelt Province.

He said no one would stop the opposition from featuring on radio or TV.

“That is being foolish and undemocratic. You are aware that we have consistently complained that the democratic space in this country is narrowing under the PF. The PF, using unruly thugs and cadres, are the ones in the forefront of attacking radio stations and TV stations, frustrating anyone who would want to express their opinion on radio and TV. We have to state that in this country, there are laws and regulations that govern the management and operations of TV and radio stations as well as newspaper publications. And there is no one who can stop any opposition political party from appearing on radio, to be featured on TV or being featured in newspaper publications in this country,” Mwiimbu said.

He said Zambia had even failed to attract funding from financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank because of too much lawlessness under President Lungu’s regime.

“The Constitution of this country which is the supreme law is very clear on the rights of individuals. What that particular MP is advocating for is lawlessness. And we should not allow lawlessness to reign in this country. Unfortunately, under the reign of President Lungu and the PF, lawlessness is the order of the day. Anyone who has got opposing views to the PF is considered an enemy and that enemy must be killed. We cannot allow that to happen in this country,” said Mwiimbu. “And they don’t consider that whatever actions they are taking have far reaching repercussions. And that is why as the Government of the Republic of Zambia, we are failing to attract funding from these financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. It is due to poor governance record under the Patriotic Front.”