UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says the party has faced a number of hardships such as arrests and political intimidation since President Edgar Lungu became Head of State.
Commenting on the arrest of five UPND members for unlawful assembly in Chama District of Muchinga Province in an interview, Katuka said UPND members were not free to carry out party activities since President Lungu ascended into power.
Katuka said it was disappointing that UPND members could be arrested for merely carrying out sensitization programmes on the voter registration exercise in Chama.
“We have not been free over the past years of Dr Lungu’s rule because our people wherever they meet even an in door meeting that is supposed to be allowed, which you are not supposed to get a permit or notify the police, we have been asked to get police permits. You saw our president went to bury our member in Ndola, there was an issue that he never got a permit and they wanted to pounce on him. The President went to attend a church service in Ndola. They said ‘he can’t go to church, they did not notify the police’,” Katuka said.
“So we have been struggling to exist in this country over the past five years. People are going to sensitize people on the voter’s registration which is a national exercise which everyone needs to get involved in. Under normal circumstances we should encourage them to go and register but they were arrested for unlawful assembly.”
Katuka said the party was under threat from the police and the PF.
“In Zambia now there is a law for the PF and there is law for the other parties. Davies Mwila was addressing in Southern Province with Kebby Mbewe or whatever his name is, they were addressing at Kalundu Hotel and nobody gave them a permit, nobody was notified and it’s okay. When we try to meet anywhere people have been arrested in our party office which is where people work from and where they are expected to be on a daily basis as long as it is working time,” he said.
“We are under threat from the PF and its police. So when we say freedom I don’t know what freedom we can talk about, there has not been freedom. We have continued to suffer at the hands of the police and the PF. That is the situation we have been under and we continue and we should even brace for harder times as we go towards elections. So, basically that is what we have been going through and we don’t know how we will get out of these.”
Katuka said it was disheartening that some civil servants who were related to some opposition members were living in fear of losing their jobs.
“Peace is not the absence of war, so there is no peace in Zambia, if we can’t move freely, we cannot associate freely. Some people who are related to us stopped talking to us because their government has gone to the extent of chasing a worker. Our relatives who are in government, they cannot talk to us, they cannot come to our homes because they will be seen to associate with the opposition. There is no freedom of association, there are no freedoms at all. That is a sort of banana country we are in. It has been rough under President Lungu, you have to be strong to survive. For example Hakainde within this five year period of Edgar Lungu he has been arrested 15 times,” said Katuka.