By Roy Habaalu, Moses Kuwema and Kombe Chimpinde
PRESIDENT Michael Sata says Rupiah Banda went to South Africa to seek criminal asylum.
On Tuesday, UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, MMD president Nevers Mumba, their lawyer Sakwiba Sikota and some NGOs held a press conference in South Africa to attract international sympathy for former president Banda, who is facing corruption-related allegations and accused the government of, among other things, harassing and intimidating, as well as attacking members of the opposition.
The opposition leaders accused President Sata of trying to enforce a one-party state on Zambians.
But President Sata said even if Banda went to hide outside the country, he would be extradited home to face charges and have his immunity removed.
Speaking when he swore in UPND member of parliament Greyford Monde as deputy minister of agriculture, President Sata said South African President Jacob Zuma would not give Banda asylum.
He said the only person who was clean among those that went to South Africa was Sikota.
"When people are hiding, you don't know what they are doing because a person is seeking asylum but he doesn't know that we can go to South Africa and extradite him and come and remove his immunity here (Zambia). So the only person who was clean out of those who went there was Saki. Nevers Mumba, HH (Hakainde Hichilema) they were all looking for criminal asylum and the President of South Africa is not going to give Rupiah Banda, HH and Mumba asylum. They should come and sing the song here in Zambia," President Sata said.
President Sata told Monde that serving people in his constituency should take precedence over loyalty to an individual.
He congratulated him for joining the government in serving the people and developing the country.
"Welcome, I know Itezhi-tezhi very well but belonging to a small organisation like UPND which is one-man centred, there is nothing you can do in Itezhi-tezhi. You can't work on a road from Itezhi-tezhi to Kalomo, on a road from Itezhi-tezhi to Mazabuka, and Itezhi-tezhi to Monze now you have come to a larger family. The people must come first, people first you second because if you think someone says don't join the government at least me I will provide you with an office, vehicle, driver, fuel which the party you were belonging to didn't give you," President Sata said.
Meanwhile, President said the government would file an injunction against UPND if it expelled Monde from the party.
"Mr Mulenga help this man (Monde) when they expel him. We will go to court," President Sata told health deputy minister Christopher Mulenga.
And UPND yesterday U-turned on the expulsion on Monde.
UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said his party has no immediate intentions of expelling Monde following his appointment as deputy minister.
In an interview, Mweetwa said the UPND had not yet decided to expel Monde.
He said it was premature for President Sata to urge Monde to go to court.
Mweetwa, however, said the UPND's National Management Committee would soon sit to look at the discipline of its members who go against the party position.
He said it was only after this meeting that the party position on Monde would be arrived at.
"The party is going to convene an NMC meeting within a space of days not even weeks because this is the matter of utmost importance because
it is bordering on undermining our greatest asset in the party, which is party discipline and unity," he said.
Mweetwa observed that Monde's appointment into government was an act to plant a seed of disunity in a very united and disciplined party.
"There are no special qualities that one can claim Monde is endowed with. He is being used as a broom to sweep dirt for the PF to try and promote disunity in the party as a member of the UPND who is pulling in the opposite direction other than what the party is doing," he said.
"He can go ahead but he should know that his days are numbered. There were people who had personal political stamina, strength and a relative thick skin like Major Robbie Chizyuka, but people did not follow him. Monde is still in political kindergarten," said Mweetwa.
Meanwhile, MMD President Nevers Mumba says lifting Banda's immunity was a useless exercise.
Mumba said at a briefing shortly after his arrival from South Africa, where he and other opposition and civil society leaders held a press conference to denounce what he described as government's continued violation of human rights, that his members of parliament would not be subjected to a chorus of what was not making sense.
"Our members of parliament are not going to join a chorus that doesn't make sense. We think it's a useless exercise," Mumba said. "The issue of the immunity of Banda does not arise for us. We know what we have gone through as a country. President Levy Mwanawasa went to Parliament and read out a list of charges against the former president (Fredrick) Chiluba and that he had offended the Zambians and he had stolen so much money. By the time the case came to court, none of those allegations that were levelled against him in Parliament were ever brought to him in court. It also ended that only the taxpayers' money was wasted."
Mumba said Banda's actions were justified, as they were representing Zambians.
"(Lifting of the immunity)It is an exercise in futility because let me tell you something; the reasons presidents are given immunity is because they are going to make decisions that are critical and sometimes illegal decisions in order to serve a country," he said.
"They are going to make a decision maybe to go to war or they are going to make a decision to support a group somewhere in order to preserve the interests of the country," he said.
Mumba said that if Banda's immunity was lifted, he would be susceptible to prosecution even from the international community on decisions that he made while in office.
And Mumba dismissed President Sata's allegation that he, Banda and Hakainde Hichilema had gone to South Africa to seek criminal asylum as a lie.
"I understand that the President has today insinuated that HH, myself had gone to seek asylum in South Africa. For him to wish that we would go to seek asylum shows that he dreams of this country being a one party state and I would love to tell the President that he has lied to the Zambians once again. Lies cannot sustain governance. There is no need for us to seek asylum," he said.
Mumba claimed he had been cleared of alleged misuse of public resources by the office of the Auditor General.
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