Friday, October 08, 2010

Hichilema escapes lynching in Chilanga

Hichilema escapes lynching in Chilanga
By Patson Chilemba, Mwala Kalaluka and Kombe Chimpinde
Fri 08 Oct. 2010, 04:00 CAT

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was yesterday forced to escape into a classroom full of pupils at Chilanga Basic School when a group of marauding MMD cadres broke a police cordon in an attempt to beat him up. Police had to fire a gunshot and several teargas canisters to disperse the unruly cadres.

Pupils at the school had to be prematurely released from classes following the confusion and the fact that the whole area was covered in teargas. This was during the filing of nomination papers ahead of the October 30, 2010 Chilanga by-election, which took place at the school.

The confusion erupted around 15.00 hours after the MMD candidate in the by-election, Lusaka lawyer Keith Mukata, had just finished filing his nomination papers before the returning officer Alfred Chipoma.

Hichilema arrived with his delegation, comprising members of parliament and party officials a few minutes later and proceeded to a section of the school to await the announcement of the successful candidates.

However, one UPND official had a problem over parking space with some MMD cadres that had converged on Kafue Road and when Hichilema and his officials went to inquire as to what was going on, the MMD cadres started to advance towards them. But police officers quickly moved in between the two groups.

UPND was outnumbered by those from the MMD. The MMD cadres asked Hichilema what he was doing there when it was just a nomination for a parliamentary by-election.

Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo attempted to reason with the MMD cadres. This appeared to incense Lusaka District MMD information and publicity secretary Marriot Ngoma who advanced towards Nkombo with a view of punching him.

Nkombo also went for Ngoma but was restrained by some UPND officials. Ngoma, on the other hand, attempted to pass through a group of police officers in a bid to manhandle an already charged Nkombo.

In the confusion, Hichilema was heard saying that the behaviour of the police was foolish.

“That is foolishness, you are looking at people fighting and you are doing nothing,” Hichilema said angrily.

Nkombo also asked the police officers if the MMD cadres were too powerful to be dealt with.

On the other hand, the MMD intensified their chanting and shouts whilst trying to get to Hichilema. As they were doing this, some were hurling insults at Hichilema and company.

Hichilema went through the hedge towards the school grounds and the MMD cadres angrily uprooted part of the hedge and started throwing the shrubbery at the police officers.

Within a few minutes, the MMD cadres had broken the police cordon and followed Hichilema who was by now walking along the corridor of the classroom block opposite the one where the nomination was taking place.

The cadres again went for Hichilema and pushed him against the wall but his security personnel surrounded him. In the midst of the confusion, police officers forced Hichilema into a classroom full of pupils.

The MMD cadres added up their numbers and attempted to push the police officers away from the door of the classroom but the police officers stayed put. Some MMD cadres started throwing stones on the roof of the classroom and one of the stones broke the asbestos roof.

Police fired the first teargas canister at exactly 15.31 hours, sending the MMD cadres, media personnel and pupils scampering all over the place.
“Come on let’s chase them,” one plain-clothed police officer was heard telling his colleagues as they pursued the MMD cadres.

The teargas canister was followed by a gunshot in the air and the electoral officers inside the nomination centre could be seen holding their noses and rubbing their eyes due to the teargas.

Some teachers were heard asking each other if the Provincial Education Officer (PEO) should be called to intervene on what should be done with the pupils who were still inside the classroom in light of the confusion.

The MMD cadres retreated to Kafue Road where police later fired more teargas canisters to disperse them.

When he came out from the classroom, Hichilema blamed the violence on Lusaka Province MMD acting chairman William Banda, who is the deputy campaign manager in the by-election.

“But what do you expect when you put William Banda as campaign manager?” asked Hichilema, who had to leave the nomination centre before the announcement of the successful candidates.

But William Banda said it was shameful for Hichilema to attend a nomination for a parliamentary by-election when he was a person eyeing State House.

At the close of the nomination, Chipoma announced that Valerie Mukeleni of the National Restoration Party (NAREP), Capt Cosmas Moono of the UPND, MMD’s Keith Mukata and UNIP’s Henry Silumesii had successfully filed their nomination papers.
Chipoma asked the police officers to be the last to leave the nomination centre.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Patriotic Front (PF) supporters and sympathisers yesterday brandished red cards against President Rupiah Banda and the MMD when they escorted their candidate, Freedom Sikazwe, for nominations at Mpulungu Civic Centre.

And MMD candidate Given Mung’omba said he stands at a disadvantage because he is a Seventh Day Adventist since the parliamentary by-election will be held on Saturday, October 30, 2010.

The PF procession started from Muzabwela grounds, about a kilometre from the Civic Centre, with the cadres brandishing red cards as they walked alongside a huge PF convoy, which was under the leadership of vice-president Dr Guy Scott and several other party leaders.

One of the women in the procession said that the residents had resorted to red cards because they were tired of the suffering brought about on account of MMD’s failed promises in the area.

The cadres wanted to escort Sikazwe up to the Civic Centre but police ordered them to remain about 400 metres from the nomination centre.
The cadres found police insistence irritating and managed to break through some police barriers until their leaders prevailed over them to follow orders from the police.

PF candidate Sikazwe was the first to file his nomination before 10:00 hours and declared thereafter that PF should concentrate most of their campaigns in the rural parts of Mpulungu.

When the time came for the MMD to file their nomination around 12:30 hours, the popularity battles between MMD and PF emerged around the town centre area.
MMD cadres who were on their way accompanying their candidate to file in his nomination sang solidarity songs.

PF cadres responded by raising their party symbol and their president Michael Sata’s campaign posters.

And Mung’omba has appealed to the Electoral Commission of Zambia to change the election date because having elections on Saturday would disadvantage him. He said Mpulungu had a large number of Seventh Day Adventists.

“In fact, I’m also a Seventh Day Adventist. At the individual level as a candidate I’m already disadvantaged. So, perhaps this is a very strong appeal that we are making to the authorities that they may consider.

Yes I’ll be disadvantaged,” Mung’omba said. “When you say disadvantaged, it is to say that people may not be 100 per cent turnout and these are the issues of belief; there are no shortcuts. Some people may go against the Ten Commandments, maybe those may be few. Those who may say, ‘we will die with Jesus’ are the ones who may disadvantage me.”

Asked if he would vote, Mung’omba responded: “It is my belief, I won’t comment now, but I will be disadvantaged.”

However, Mung’omba expressed confidence that MMD would win the election in Mpulungu.
By press time, those who had managed to file in their nominations included Sikazwe, Mung’omba and NAREP’s Muchinzi Mwazya.

Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) candidate Chilowela Sinyangwe was sent away to re-organise himself because some of his supporters did not appear in the 2005 voters register which will be used in the by-election. UNIP had not yet filed in their nomination.

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