UPND spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says the defection of Mbabala UPND member of parliament Ephraim Belemu to the ruling Patriotic Front is a minor setback to the party.
And Mweetwa has revealed that some aspiring candidates have moved into constituencies to grab some seats from sitting MPs and there has not been enough effort from the party leadership to intervene.
He said this has frustrated some MPs who feel they have worked hard for the party.
Meanwhile, sources have told News Diggers! that Belemu was worried that he would not be adopted to recontest the seat following the decision by former Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) executive director Ndambo Ndambo to stand on the UPND ticket in Mbabala.
The sources explained that Belemu had lost popularity in his constituency because of Ndambo’s activities and feared that he would be left out during adoption.
Commenting on Belemu’s defection to the ruling party, Mweetwa said the parliamentarian’s departure should not be associated with cracks developing in UPND.
He said he was of the view that Belemu’s departure could have been as a result of tactics implored by some aspiring candidates for Mbabala constituency which were too much for Belemu to tolerate.
“I am the right person to describe Honourable Belemu because we started the journey of going to Parliament together. His departure is definitely a minor setback to the party. He was a colleague, we have been through thick and thin, we have been through difficult by-elections. On that score, we shall miss him. The departure of Honourable Belemu should not be associated with cracks developing in UPND, no. It is just that when some candidates moved into Mbabala, I think the tactics they implored were too much for Honourable Belemu to tolerate hence his departure. This is about Mbabala and the fights that some candidates have taken into Mbabala against Honourable Belemu and not UPND as a party,” Mweetwa said.
“Politically, it is to thank him for his dedication to duty and service of the party and the nation. It is our view that he served the people of Zambia diligently as a member of parliament and I think his performance on the floor of the House was in keeping with the quality that UPND continues to set to that House. We wish him well with his newly wedded compatriots. We hope he will be able to fit in given what we know [on] what he believes in. He believes that Zambia can be better, he has believed in the rule of law. He has believed in the fight against corruption.”
He agreed that something needed to be done in the party to protect some current members of parliament from aspiring candidates who wanted to wrestle seats from them.
Mweetwa noted that there should have been room in the party to save candidates like Belemu from aggressive invasion by aspiring candidates.
“Yes, I can accept that there is something maybe we needed to have done in the party. The thing is that some MPs who feel have worked for this party, feel that they should have been protected from people who want to wrestle seats from them. This is the main problem which was with my elder brother Honourable Belemu. People have moved into Choma, into Mbabala to wrestle that seat viciously from Honourable Belemu. I think the space that he was complaining about, realistically speaking is more to do with political space on the ground being diminished by some candidates who have moved in big in that constituency to an extent that maybe certain things required intervention to save the situation. But the challenge which is there is that what Honourable Belemu went through in Mbabala, has to do with people jostling for his seat as MP, it is not to do with a structural problem. This is what is happening in every constituency. But maybe there should have been room to save some candidates from aggressive invasion for which those candidates like Honourable Belemu had no capacity to defend themselves,” he said.
Mweetwa said he had suspicions that one or two members would join PF after losing primary elections.
“My suspicion is that there could be one or two people who would join PF after losing primary elections. It is normal we have seen this before. We are now in a political festive period. It is like Christmas where people exchange gifts. Political parties are now exchanging gifts. Those gifts are members of political parties going to and from one political party to another,” said Mweetwa.
Meanwhile, Mweetwa dispelled rumors circulating on social media that he would join PF.
Belemu’s defection comes a week after former UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma defected to the PF.