UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka says Easterners are politically slow starters, but will eventually shift to his party once Edgar Lungu hands over the PF presidency.
On Thursday, the Patriotic Front scooped the Kaumbwe Parliamentary seat with 6,633 votes, beating its closest rival UPND which polled 3,117 votes.
And during the presidential elections in August this year, PF’s Edgar Lungu polled 10,728 votes in Kaumbwe against President Hakainde Hichilema’s 3,773 votes.
Commenting on this in an interview, Mucheleka said people of Eastern Province always took time to come to terms with change in the political environment.
“Let me tell you, if you understand the political environment on the way Eastern province behaves, it’s not anything new. They take a little bit of time to come to terms. The fact is that things have changed and changed for the better. For them, they are slow starters and they will be changing slowly. If you remember, even in 1991 when everyone was going MMD, they remained UNIP. In 2011 when the majority of the country had gone PF, they remained MMD. They are late comers, they are always late comers,” he said.
“In 2011, there was a by-election that was held in Mkaika constituency (Eastern province). There was an election battle between MMD and PF. PF had just defeated MMD in the 2011 general elections and Rupiah Banda then was still MMD president when that by-election was held in Mkaika. Do you know what happened? David Phiri who in 2011 had won on MMD, following his resignation from MMD, [he] switched to PF and stood on PF. MMD then fielded Peter Phiri and he is still there under PF.”
Mucheleka said the voting pattern in Eastern Province was not something new, adding that Easterners would eventually shift to UPND once Lungu handed over the PF presidency.
“It is not anything new. If anything, in Kaumbwe when you look at the margins, if you compare, UPND has done very well if you are relative to the situation that was there before. Mind you, Edgar Lungu is still PF president. Just wait for Edgar Lungu to hand over the PF presidency to whoever, then you will see the true colors of Easterners. There will be a complete shift to UPND. I have just given you a historical perspective of how my cousins in the East evolve with politics, they are slow starters and they will join a bit later. We are not worried and we know they will soon join,” he said.
“So of course we would have liked to win those seats; Kaumbwe for the MP as well as Lusangazi for the council chairperson. We didn’t win, instead, PF carried the day and we congratulate them. The people of Kaumbwe and Lusangazi have made their choice and we must respect it, that is democracy except that we are yet to get the details with regards to what exactly happened. That is an area as usual PF was trying to use tribalism to champion their course.”
Meanwhile, Mucheleka claimed the by-elections were violence-free.
“You have seen how these elections have been conducted, completely different from what we saw from the recent past. One would think we are in America, violence free. We have not seen UPND abusing state resources, abusing DMMU [by] distributing mealie meal, beating up people everywhere. Overall it has been very good and that is what we want in this country going forward,” said Mucheleka.
“Yes there could have been pockets of misunderstandings here and there and those issues were dealt with. No violence, that’s how it ought to be and it’s so nice to be in a country where elections are held. People were campaigning freely, no violence, no abuse of state resources, you didn’t see anyone being abused and no violence across the country.”