UPND president Hakainde Hichilema has lamented that the ruling party is making it difficult for the opposition to exist because apart from killing opponents, even their businesses are not spared.

Speaking on Breeze FM radio programme, Tuesday, Hichilema said the opposition had continued to work under tough conditions and that is why some opposition members were defecting to PF.

“The UPND is extremely stable! It is a party that is strong because being in the opposition, it is difficult. Many at times the party in government makes it difficult for the opposition. They are busy arresting opposition members, they are killing opposition members like our child; they killed in Kaoma Laurence Banda, Joseph Kaunda was killed. A lot of people have been killed. Unfortunately, the ruling party believes that there should be no opposition and the strongest largest opposition UPND is suffering a lot. Sometimes also their businesses are affected, you have heard some of them are crying that my business [is not growing] , it is not supposed to be like that. Unfortunately, that is how it is and along the way, some get tired, some begin to fear, some want to ensure that their business should not be destroyed. So a lot of people are intimidated, a lot of people are harassed. There, in Eastern Province, our provincial chairlady and a number of our colleagues were arrested and detained during the intra party elections,” Hichilema said.

“At times we were having intra party elections in the bush just to run away from the ruling party and the police that they should not arrest us. A lot of our people are still in court because of the intra party elections. That is not the way it is supposed to be. We are going to end it ourselves, we are going to bring the rule of law, respect for human rights and freedoms. The media must be free, we should not close any single media. Breeze FM will operate the way it wants. No violence under the UPND, very important. But in the process, some people get tired, people get afraid, some people simply feel that, look it is difficult to be in opposition, I agree it is difficult to be in opposition but when you are fighting for an agenda to liberate people, it is a tough call! But this is a liberation struggle. Some will fall, by the way, just as it was during the independence struggle, others continued. So, even now it is the same process, some people will fall away, we have no negative feelings about them, it is a democratic choice which they have, we wish them well.”

Asked if the party was still stable after former spokesperson Charles Kakoma’s defection to PF, Hichilema said the party remained strong and was destined to form government this year.

“We wish Charles Kakoma very well where he is going in the PF. But for us we remain strong, we will not fear, we remain resolute because we are working for the children of Zambia, those who are going to school, we want to make sure that they go to school. But [when] Kakoma goes, 10 more come in. Today the very day Kakoma leaves, we have [Stephen] Masumba joining us from North Western Province. So that is the way it works. It is darkest before dawn but dawn comes. This year is the year for change, time for change, people have suffered,” he said.

“When we took over this party in 2006, this party was 27 per cent of the national vote. Today, UPND has grown to well over 50 per cent of the vote. You know, after the contested election in 2016, we ended with 48 percent, now just 48 percent from where we came from 27 percent. Can a party which is not stable grow? No! This party is stable and is growing. Can a party which has no proper vision grow? No, this party has vision. Can a party without good leadership grow? No, this party has good leadership and good management, that is why it is growing and that is why it is forming government. Come 12th August 2021, the people of Eastern Province, this is a party to support, don’t be left behind, this is your party.”

Asked whether the party was open to receiving recycled politicians, Hichilema said everyone was invited to join the party as long as they inclined themselves to its policies of no corruption and violence, among others.

“We are clear, our vision has been consistent, our policies are very consistent. That is how you distinguish a good party and a bad party. Leading an opposition party is not easy, very difficult, given the brutal environment; violence. We as the UPND are in an alliance with some political parties, we want that to continue. More importantly, we are in an alliance with the people of Zambia. So this is a broader alliance and everybody is welcome including those who went to PF to support the late Mr Sata, who are now disappointed with the way the current regime is running,” said Hichilema.

“One of our missions is to reunite the country. In doing that, everyone is welcome because that is how a country should operate. The way Kakoma has gone, many more, 20 times are coming to UPND. They are welcome but the important thing, we need well meaning Zambians, genuine leaders, those who share the UPND vision. Anyone coming to UPND you are welcome, but when you come to the UPND, don’t bring your corrupt ways here, don’t bring your extravagant ways here. Do not bring your violent ways here, because violence is not acceptable in the UPND.”