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 2009-08-23 04:02 am Back to NEWS
Rupiah fears going to jail if Sata takes over

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 president.

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 innocent.

Zero option was a covert organisation, which was linked to UNIP members suspected to have wanted to topple Chiluba from power in the 1990s.

"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 jail."

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 it."

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 religions."

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."

And President Banda expressed displeasure at the language some church leaders used.

"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 different."

President Banda said he was shocked by former Radio Icengelo station manager Fr Frank Bwalya's slogan of Change or die Zambia.

"I 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.

However, he urged church leaders to speak out when things were going wrong in the country.

"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."

He explained that the government had embarked on several developmental projects in Northern Province.

"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," he said.

President Banda told the pastors that next year's budget would be presented this year so that implementation could start on January 1 next year.

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 welfare.

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 attention.

"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 Republican Constitution.

Rev Mponela also complained about the reduction in the number of fertiliser packs from eight to four that were being given to farmers.

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