UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says party president Hakainde Hichilema will choose his running mate at a time when he is ready.

In an interview, Katuka said claims the UPND were frantically searching for Bemba-speaking vice-president were erroneous, dismissing such speculation as mere propaganda to decampaign the party.

He said the party had not yet held discussions on choosing the running mate because that remained the preserve of party president to pick ahead of the party’s convention.

“The choosing of a running mate is a prerogative of a president, he has the powers to pick a running mate from among his members. It could be anyone so it’s up to the president to choose. If you remember in 2016, the president announced his running mate when he was going to file (his nomination papers), we were all kept in suspense until the last day when we were going to file. That’s when we knew who the running mate was,” Katuka said.

“He didn’t announce because it is his prerogative, he decided to keep it a secret and there is no discussion because the running mate is not picked by the National Management Committee or any other person other than the president himself. So, when the right time comes, he is going to tell us who the running mate is.”

He added that no one within the UPND was guaranteed to be selected.

“He is free to choose anybody from among his members, maybe even outside the (party) structure if he so wishes. So, that is reserved for the president to decide and for now that is just a story, there is nothing of substance because I don’t remember at any point where we met to discuss a Bemba running mate. Why should it be Bemba? I don’t see at what stage we can discuss that issue,” he said.

He, however, said a party vice-president would be elected at the convention.

“We are going to a conference…We had deliberately not filled the position of vice-president because we wanted to give it credibility. We have been appointing vice-presidents and eventually they disappointed us. We realised that it had no credibility because these people were just appointed. Now, to give it credibility, we want a vice-president to be elected by the people at the general assembly,” said Katuka.