Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HH justifies MMD defections to UPND
By Allan Mulenga and Kombe Chimpinde
Wed 17 Apr. 2013, 14:00 CAT

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says MMD should not cry foul when its senior party members join his party because it is one way of consolidating the opposition in the country.

And MMD president Nevers Mumba says he had not been consulted over UPND's manoeuvres to poach MMD officials.

Meanwhile, MMD chairperson for health, Dr Canisius Banda, who has been offered the position of vice-president in UPND, says members' stay in a party must be based on conviction.

Speaking to journalists in Lusaka yesterday, Hichilema, whose party is MMD's alliance partner, said rather than getting concerned when MMD loses members to UPND, senior party leaders in MMD should be preoccupied with building a united opposition to offer strong checks and balances to the PF.

"It is a question of misunderstanding. Our concern is that the opposition must retain members in the opposition. That is how our numbers will grow. Both the UPND and MMD are being attacked by the PF in terms of our councillors, in terms of our members of parliament. I think it (UPND poaching from its alliance partner MMD) is for us to retain our members in the opposition so that we can maintain democracy," he said.

"The challenge is not really on the issue between UPND and MMD, or ADD. I am mentioning that with MPs and probably FDD. Because in my view, I would rather have numbers staying in the opposition for the sake of democracy, and checks and balances than the MMD crossing to the PF, which will cause a defacto one-party state. I think that should be the concern of all of us in the opposition."

Hichilema said UPND's poaching of MMD members was a 'non-issue'.
"I am not concerned about a UPND member going to ADD or FDD, absolutely not. It is a non-issue to me. I am concerned about a UPND member who goes to the PF because while they have their democratic rights, that will cause a one-party state dictatorship which we are already seeing today," he said.

Hichilema said the opposition should concentrate on defending itself because it was under attack by PF.

And Mumba said he had not been consulted over UPND manoeuvres to poach MMD members.

"I am not aware of the developments that have been taking place. I have been away and I cannot make a comment on an issue that has not been confirmed by my office. We have to sit down and consider what is going on. As you are aware, there is no pact between the two of us. So, really we have to make our own independent decision and then we will act," said Mumba in an interview yesterday.

Recently, some MMD members have been defecting to UPND.

One of Mumba's closest allies, Dr Banda, is heading to UPND, where he is supposed to be co-opted as party's vice-president.

Dr Banda said the retention of members by any organisation should not be by force.

"Members must opt to stay in an organisation based on their own freewill. In addition, the attractiveness of that entity, the value that they see in that entity, so it must be something founded on their own conviction," he said.

"Without that, whether somebody comes to look for them or not, they will leave. They will not stay, you understand. So instead of blaming other people, for people leaving an organisation, I think it's better to look inside and find out, what is it that we are not doing right, that is making us not retain members. I think it is important to look inside. Usually when we blame others for our own failing, then we weaken ourselves. We take the responsibility for change away from ourselves."

Dr Banda said he believed MMD still had a chance to re-organise itself although he was still considering taking up the attractive and extra challenging job of leading a party in a position of vice-president.
"President Hichilema himself communicated their decision to me.

And I did not respond after this. I said that I would need to consult because this is not a decision I can make by myself. It is not about me, it is about the people of the country. It is about the nation. So I have been making consultations and yesterday I officially informed my party through the national secretary Kapembwa Simbao. I had a meeting with him and I told him that this offer is official," he said.

Dr Banda said the ultimate decision he would make would be inspired by selflessness.

Asked why he had opted to give consideration to a job in UPND and not any other party if he wanted to serve in a high political office other than that of committee chairperson, Dr Banda said:

"The PF is very unattractive at the moment because they are for a one-party state. They are not for plurality of political parties or opinions. As for UPND, I have noticed that they are for the respect of citizens or individuals' freedoms and rights. They are for democracy as people dictated that we should have a return of multiparty politics in 1990 and they are for a free market economy. So, now you see that of the parties, they are of the same principles as the MMD," he said.

"I am considering firstly because you see, I am the chairman for health in the MMD at the moment and they are offering the vice-presidency in the UPND. Secondly, I have added my value to the opposition through participation in the MMD so they are asking for my value in the UPND."
Dr Banda said that he did not feel his party was uncomfortable with the consideration because people must be allowed to make their reflections open.

"It's not something that I have had in my mind. It is only now that the offer has been given and I have to reflect about it. I would have continued to diligently and loyally work with Dr Mumba," he said.
"I spoke with Mumba but at the time I spoke with him, the offer was not official."

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