UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma says the fact that no one challenged Hakainde Hichilema for party president implies that the party is unanimous in its belief that only he can defeat President Edgar Lungu this August.
But PF media director Sunday Chanda says the UPND general conference is a sham of a process.
The UPND closed its nominations for the forth-coming general assembly on Saturday with Hichilema going unopposed for the presidency.Commenting on the development in an interview, Monday, Kakoma said the party had demonstrated that it was united in placing confidence in Hichilema.
“We opened up the positions to all eligible UPND members to vie for any position including that of UPND president. People were free to stand for president of the UPND and we put in a period where people could apply. And that period expired on Saturday 12:00 hours. And by the expiration time on Saturday, there was only one application from Hakainde Hichilema. There was no other application. And because of that, the rules are that if you are the only one who has applied for that position, you go unopposed. So, we cannot force people to apply to be president, if they don’t want to apply, then the only one who has applied becomes president. That’s why no one is complaining because we will challenge them, did you apply? What challenges did you face? No one will give an adequate answer. I’m sure those who didn’t apply knew that they were not the right ones. I’m sure they measured themselves and concluded that they did not stand a chance of beating HH. I’m sure they didn’t have the confidence and courage to apply because they knew they would not make it. And that applies to all other positions, if you think you cannot beat your competitor, you throw in the towel,” Kakoma said.
“In the last election, we had two contestants for the UPND presidency. There was Hakainde and Mr Chete. Mr Chete applied to stand and flew in from London via Johannesburg and arrived on the same day of nominations and filed in, nobody stopped him. But this time around, there is no one who has come forth. In terms of democracy, people who go through unchallenged are also democratically elected. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to challenge someone to be elected. This is good for democracy also and good for unity in our party because it has avoided issues of disharmony because when you have so many candidates for the presidency, people begin to campaign for their preferred candidate and that brings disunity in the party. But luckily for us, we have only one candidate. That solves a lot of problems for us. It means we are unanimous. It means that our preferred candidate is HH. And it is HH that the PF are scared of. If we fielded another candidate such as Kakoma, it would take me many years again to be in a position to challenge Mr Lungu because you cannot easily challenge Lungu. But now we have Hakainde who is already known, known all over the country and he is the preferred candidate, the favourite to beat Edgar Lungu or whoever PF picks and win the elections.”
But Chanda said UPND could not claim to be democratic when it had no vice-president months before an election.
“Well clearly for us, the UPND is a dictatorship in the opposition. The whole exercise is nothing but a sham. It doesn’t come closer to what democratic tenets describe. As a matter of fact, it’s a slap in the face of values that the constitution of the republic of Zambia pronounces and demands of parties. We also wonder why the UPND leader would wish for Zambians to fall into that sort of deception that they want to trade in the public space when this is a political party that is so comfortable existing without having a vice president. I mean who does that and why does that happen? For us, this whole thing is a deception and the question that we would pose to the UPND is why they think that Zambians would get hoodwinked to think that they are democratic when in essence they are not. Mr Hakainde Hichilema has been at the helm of leadership since 2006 to date, there has never been anyone to challenge him. We know that anyone who would have challenged Mr Hichilema would have signed his or her own death,” said Chanda .
“So, people are intimidated and there are no democratic credentials to talk about. And you know that the UPND constitution has been amended to make Mr Hichilema party president for life. And we call on the people in the UPND to reclaim democracy because we look at this and we laugh. How can you have a party with no vice president? What happens, God forbid if Mr Hichilema dies and there is no vice president? These are real issues that occur. When President Michael Sata died, there was Guy Scott to take care of issues. But who is deputising in the UPND, is it Ms Mutale Nalumango of Mr Katuka. Why are they scared to tell the nation? So, for us this is a scam.”