UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says former UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma remains a good friend, adding that being in the opposition today is like being a leper.

And Choma Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa has asked party youths to stop disrespecting Kakoma, saying he has a constitutional right to associate with any party of his choice.

Meanwhile, Mweetwa says due to public pressure, he has rescinded his decision not to contest his seat.

Yesterday, Kakoma defected to the ruling party, vowing that he will now do everything in his power to ensure that President Edgar Lungu wins the August 12 general election.

Kakoma bitterly complained that he ditched UPND because they thought that he was a political liability.

“I must say that perhaps I am a lucky person, a privileged person in Zambia because two of the party presidents in Zambia, powerful party presidents, appear to be my friends. President Hakainde Hichilema is my childhood friend and I think we are still friends even up to now. President Edgar Lungu is also my childhood friend. In the past, I opted to support HH even from the first convention he stood as party president, I was his chief campaign manager, he won. In 2015, when we ran for office, Republican presidential race, I campaigned for him. And, of course, according to him, he won. In 2016, I campaigned for him and according to him, he won. So, I have been his faithful campaign manager. But this time around, I think I have campaigned for him enough and of the two friends, I have decided to campaign for the other friend, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and I think that he is going to win. We all recall that in 2016 it was a tight race between the two; it could also be a tight race in 2021, but I think that on the balance of probabilities, President Lungu will carry the day. And I will do everything in my power to bring the numbers that he needs,” Kakoma said during a press briefing.

He said that his followers were disappointed that he was demoted following the UPND’s inaugural Virtual Convention.

He also lashed out at the opposition party for snubbing all “Luvale-speaking UPND members” by denying them the privilege of serving in the NMC.

“Of course, one of the issues I campaigned for and which members of the UPND also campaigned for were that there must be fair and equitable representation in the NMC of the UPND. You may wish to know I am a Luvale-speaking person. Out of the 70 that were elected, just two of us managed to win. My followers did not take it kindly that out of the 70 that were elected, the 30 that were appointed by the party president, none of them was a Luvale-speaking person. In Zambezi, as we speak now, a lot of people that were in the constituency and wards have already left to join the PF! I think someone has said that we need to unite this country and it is important that we unite this country. It is important that we bring ‘One Zambia, One nation’ to the table and the ruling party should lead by that example, but perhaps President Edgar Lungu may have had difficulties in finding people to work with in some of the regions like North-Western Province; we are now saying, ‘North-Western Province is ready to work with PF’,” said Kakoma.

“The UPND think I am a political liability to them, an electoral liability; the PF think that I am an asset! My decision is that I have resigned from UPND, from today onwards I have joined PF.”

Kakoma was received by senior government and PF party officials, including, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji, PF national chairman Samuel Mukupa, Lusaka PF provincial chairman Kennedy Kamba and PF national mobilisation vice chairman Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, among others.

Reacting to this in a statement shared on his Facebook page, Hichilema thanked Kakoma for contributing to the growth of the UPND.

“We have been notified of the departure of our former party spokesperson Hon. Charles Kakoma who has today exercised his democratic right to join the PF. For me, Hon Kakoma was not only a senior UPND party official, but remains a good friend of mine dating back to our days as classmates at the University of Zambia. I hold him in high esteem as a professional colleague and later as a politician whom I would like to sincerely thank for his immense contribution towards the growth of our party. I particularly urge our party members and citizens in general to fully respect his decision to join the PF. His decision arises from his democratic right to choose who he should associate with at any given time,” stated Hichilema.

“We have repeatedly said opposition politics in Zambia now is like being a leper and a criminal. One has to pay the heavy price of being ostracized and shunned upon by those that do not want to encroach on the hospitality of the powers that be. Being in opposition now means enduring brutality, suppression and basically an outcast in our own country. We are reminded of the tribulations and torment that the children of Israel went through during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is not everyone who managed to cross over. We consider the current situation to that of the biblical times for the children of Israel. We are on a turbulent journey with the suffering Zambian masses. We can see the promised land and request all our citizens to remain strong. It’s darkest before dawn. ‘Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.’ Ephesians 6:11.”

And at a media briefing, Mweetwa asked UPND youths to respect Kakoma’s decision.

“We wish our brother honourable Kakoma well in PF. And I have already heard comments from youths here that ‘look, maybe that is the reason when he was party spokesperson here, he wasn’t talking, that is the reason, maybe he was bought. He was just there to receive information, hide it so that the party doesn’t grow, maybe that is the reason the president did not give him that position again, there was information that he was a sell out.’ Let us not use that language,” Mweetwa said.

“It is a constitutional right to belong to a political party of your choice that you may serve your interest. So we don’t know the interest that honourable Charles Kakoma may wish to serve. Honourable Kakoma has a right to serve PF the same way a lot of people who voted for PF in 2016 have since moved on, they are now with UPND because it is forming government. There could be other people who might still join PF don’t worry we have seen this before it doesn’t change the decision of the people.”

Meanwhile, Mweetwa said he had rescinded his decision not to contest the Choma seat due to pressure from members of the public.

“The nation will recall that two days ago I made a statement that I was not going to recontest the Choma Central seat for which I have been a member of Parliament for the last ten years. That statement has sparked very huge political media firestorm. People have received that announcement differently, [some] people have accepted my decision, others have rejected my decision. I have since have had no peace whatsoever. My phone rings every time and people have taken that statement to describe me some have said that I was not contesting because I have lost ground in Choma, far from it. Others have said I have been brought by PF. How can I be brought by PF when we rejected to be bought over Bill 10?” asked Mweetwa.

“Others have said I am not contesting because I have no grade 12 certificate so many things. I am tired. I thought I needed to come back and clarify my position to the people. And wish to report that I have since received petitions from chiefs not just of Choma in this country, I have received petitions from UPND members across the country. You saw yesterday people thought I was at my home they went there headmen, members of the party, youths, even giving me an ultimatum to rescind my decision. I received calls from the diaspora, the women movement spoke to me, civil servants. I have since received wise counsel from senior citizens, statesmen who summoned me like Vernon Mwaanga, people like Norman Chibamba the former MP for Shiwangandu they sat me down to explain what necessitated the decision. And the reason I stated very clearly I wanted to be at the centre campaigning for HH. I therefore have come to state that I have today Tuesday here at the party secretariat due to public pressure rescinded my decision not to contest. And my campaign machinery will roll into Choma very soon. People have maintained this is not time to change MPs anyhow.”