PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda yesterday said he would have to fight hard to
avoid prison if Patriotic
Front (PF) president Michael Sata became president of Zambia. And President
Banda revealed that he could have died in prison when former president Frederick
Chiluba jailed him over the zero option but he has no grudge against the former
During his discussion with over thirty members of the Pastors
Fellowship of Northern Province, President Banda said he knew Sata very well and
that they were together in UNIP.
"But as I have said always, he is a
leader of his political party. I used to deal with him, also in UNIP we were
together, I know him very well, he knows me very well. He speaks like that from
a distance, one day you should force us to sit and have a debate, mukamvwe
mutulabilila [you will hear how we will talk]. We are all Zambians," said
President Banda in a jovial tonne.
President Banda, while pointing at a
young female pastor, said some people did not even know that Chiluba imprisoned
him over the zero option allegations but later released him because he was
Zero option was a covert organisation, which was linked to UNIP
members suspected to have wanted to topple Chiluba from power in the
"Some of you may not know, you the younger ones, you amai muliapa,
he [Chiluba] even put me in jail. Myself, I was in prison for zero option for 53
days but he didn't do it because he hated Rupiah Banda as such, he was president
and presidents unfortunately have to act on the basis of what is put in front of
them. So, for me, when I came out of prison, we met and I told him, 'forget it
Mr president, I have got nothing against you personally. I have nothing against
you. You are doing your work, thank you for taking me out of prison.' Sembe
nifwila mujele nemuntu [I could have died in jail]," President Banda recalled.
"So I have no quarrel with anybody least of all Mr Sata. He has never put me in
jail not that he wouldn't put me, he had no power to put me in
President Banda said his respect for Chiluba and Dr Kenneth Kaunda
did not mean that they manipulated him.
"Recently we have had this issue
of Mr Chiluba where I was being castigated that I am supporting Mr Chiluba and I
asked that person a church leader 'why do you think so'? He said, 'because you
invite him to state functions'. I didn't make the list for state functions, I
found it. Even president Mwanawasa, may his soul rest in peace, he always
extended an invitation to all the former presidents. In diplomacy you have to do
that. But it was up to them whether they wanted to come or not. When he
[Chiluba] saw me in my position and the position that I have taken publicly on
issues of development and so forth, he decided it was okay for him to come. So
you can't accuse me that because I respect him, I respect Dr Kaunda, therefore I
am manipulated by them. It's not possible," President Banda said. "And in any
case when somebody goes to court, even if you hate him, you expect that justice
must be done to that person. Whether you like him or not, if the court says he
is innocent unfortunately for you, you have to swallow your pride and accept
He said he did not vote for Chiluba in 1991.
"I told the lady
of Mano. Ya Mano niyamuno [Is Radio Mano here]? The one of Mansa? [Radio]
Yangeni. Yes! The young interviewer there asked me, 'you Mr Banda, we always see
you at functions with [Chiluba]?' So I said, 'you are the one who voted for him,
me I was against him. Everybody knows. I was in UNIP myself and I travelled
around this country campaigning for UNIP to win the election against the MMD for
which I am the president now," he narrated. "'Now you who campaigned for him
here in Luapula [Province] are telling me that I shouldn't recognise the fact
that he was president in this country. He was president'."
He said the
government and the National
Constitutional Conference (NCC) leaders would soon meet to see how quickly
the NCC could conclude its deliberations.
"The NCC, I am pleased to
inform you that we were discussing this very matter the day before I came to
Northern Province with my colleagues from the government and we agreed that we
need a meeting with the leaders of NCC. We agreed that he [Vice-President George
Kunda] will arrange a meeting so that when I come back from Libya, I am going to
Libya from here, we will have the meeting with the leaders of the NCC to see if
we can speed up this process. It is an expensive process and people are anxious
so that we can know where are we going on issues such as the Christian nation,"
President Banda said. "I feel very comfortable in this Christian nation and I
hope that the majority of my colleagues feel the same way as I do and the good
thing about Zambian Christianity is that it is not discriminatory to other
He praised Chiluba for declaring Zambia a Christian nation
and reintroducing democracy.
"I don't see anything with being a Christian
nation," President Banda said. "The democracy we are talking about, when we were
in power, in UNIP, mungailembe newspaper [can you publish the newspaper]? You
can't write. You just write says good things about me. Now, mutukwana notukwana
lomba [You even insult nowadays] but we say this is democracy. What can we do?
There is freedom of speech, freedom to choose our leaders."
Banda expressed displeasure at the language some church leaders
"Unfortunately there are some members of the church and I can't
blame any church, I think it is in all our churches like our homes. As you see
me here, I have seven children. Some of them are cantankerous and some of them
are good. That's how a family is. Zambia is a bigger family," President Banda
said. "So some of your members want doubling between the church and politics and
they want to use their privileged positions of being respected in society. They
want to use it to gain political mileage. Why don't they just come out? They are
Zambians and they have the right to join politics.
"But to pretend that
you are doing it because of your religious beliefs, you are forgetting that in
your church the people you are sitting in front of belong to different political
parties. We have Catholics, Anglicans, born-again churches and all churches. So
when you are talking about issues, you have to respect that people are
President Banda said he was shocked by former Radio Icengelo
station manager Fr Frank Bwalya's slogan of Change or die Zambia.
heard and that really shocked me that we must change or die. Lomba muntu wa
mulungu ofuna kuti afwe [now the clergyman wants to die]? I wondered kuti
nichibanda chanji chamulobelela uyu for him to preach hate and hatred [I
wondered what kind of spirit had gone into this clergyman for him to preach
hatred]?" President Banda wondered. "Even me as a politician if I stand up, I am
coming here to campaign and I am telling my colleagues, 'attack PF people!' All
of you will not vote for me. And coming from the church that really shocked me.
That is why I asked my people that go and see the head of the church in that
area and ask them, 'what is this that we are going into?'"
He said the
Constitution mandated him to ensure peace in Zambia.
"I don't care who
wants to destroy this peace, I will arrest them and put them in jail. So I went
to warn that this man must come out and say whether he is another one of that
[Lenshina] church which we had a long time ago which took us to war. Yes! We had
a war; people killed each other as if they were not related to one another. We
don't expect that from church leaders," President Banda said.
urged church leaders to speak out when things were going wrong in the
"I had a long meeting with Bishop [Paul] Duffy and he convinced
me that some of the things that he said have a basis and I agreed with him,"
President Banda said.
He also urged the pastors to vote for the MMD in
the forthcoming Kasama Central parliamentary by-elections.
"As you said
you pray for us, may I go further and say instead of just praying for us, can
you vote for us also?" asked President Banda as the pastors burst into laughter
and clapping. "I know it is embarrassing for you but please vote for us in the
forthcoming by-election. It's an important by-election for us. I believe your
humanity will tell you to support us. If they [PF] are taking it for granted
then they are mistaken because we are going to fight to take Kasama."
explained that the government had embarked on several developmental projects in
"If you look at the budget you will find that it is a
fair budget, everybody has been given a small piece like you do at the wedding,"
President Banda told the pastors that next year's budget would
be presented this year so that implementation could start on January 1 next
And speaking on behalf of the pastors, Reverend Elias Mponela said
the government should not look at the church as an enemy or opposition political
party but a stakeholder in national development and improving people's
Rev Mponela said the pastors were concerned about the delay in
completing the Kasama-Luwingu road.
He also expressed concern at the bad
state of the Mbala-Nakonde road among several road projects that needed urgent
"We don't know what Sable [Contractors] is doing," Rev Mponela
wondered. "It is taking long to complete the road."
Rev Mponela also
complained that the NCC had delayed to complete its deliberations to come up
with a new constitution.
Rev Mponela urged the NCC through President
Banda to retain the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation in the
Rev Mponela also complained about the reduction
in the number of fertiliser packs from eight to four that were being given to