By Mirriam Chabala
PARAMOUNT Chief Chitimukulu says he is not bothered by those calling him tribal following his call to people in Northern Province to vote for “one of their own just like Tongas do,” arguing that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

But UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka, who hails from the Bemba Royal Establishment, says it is disappointing to see royalty being dragged into partisan politics, charging that Chief Chitimukulu is being used by the same people who abandoned him when late president Michael Sata was still persecuting him.

In an interview, Chief Chitimukulu said he still maintained his remarks on the need for Bembas to emulate Southerners when voting, adding that he did not mind what the public thought about him.

“I said what I said on radio and I still stand by what I said, so let there be confusion! Why should I care? I said it, so if there is confusion, who is causing the confusion? Is it me? Let people think what they want, those are politics! Whatever anyone thinks doesn’t matter, I don’t even want to hear about it. And if people want to confuse what I said with what (Christopher) Yaluma said, or what (Joe) Mwale said, it’s not my concern! I gave my opinion and it’s up to the public to respond in any way they want. There is freedom of stupidity, so they can say anything they want!” said Chief Chitimukulu in an interview.

But commenting on the traditional leader’s position, Mucheleka said it was unfortunate that his Royal Highness had not learnt any lessons from the past.

“You are aware of what happened between the current Chitimukulu and late president [Michael] Sata: all these people that are clapping for him today because he’s now able to make statements against the opposition and particularly UPND, when it mattered most, they were never there. They abandoned him, they were never there for him. President Edgar Lungu, who was Home Affairs Minister then, is the man who had deployed over 500 police officers for over six months at a very huge cost to the tax payer to stop his Royal Highness from being installed as Chitimukulu, this current Chitimukulu. It was me and the MPs in opposition, especially the UPND MPs and some from MMD, who stood in solidarity with His Royal Highness when he was being persecuted by late president Sata. So, I think we should be learning lessons from the past,” Mucheleka said.

“This is personally, I plead that it is not in our interest as Bemba people to have our Royal Highness being drawn into partisan politics. The lessons have been bitter, and these people that are clapping for him, they were never there. In Bemba we say, umuntu uwakutemwa tumwishibila lilya uli pamacushi (you shall know those who love and care for you when in troubled times). But these people that are encouraging Chief Chitimukulu to be making those tribal remarks, when it matters most, they will never be there because they were never there.”

Mucheleka, who argued that ‘real’ Bembas never practiced tribalism, also challenged Commerce Minister Christopher Yaluma to explain his Bemba heritage.

“Yaluma, who claims that he comes from Mungwi [in Kasama]: where is his village? Who is his mother? Who is his father? Where did his people come from? For us, we determine who you are from your mother’s side because it is the woman who really knows the father of her child. That is why for us, as Bembas, anyone born from the man is not really counted and we are very strict. But today, all these fellows making noise in Kasama, some of them we don’t even know their backgrounds. This is why it is so important to maintain harmony, especially now when we have modernized to an extent where there are all these inter-tribal marriages,” he said.

“We expected President Lungu to have taken action against Nkandu Luo, he did not. We had expected him to take action against Yaluma, he did not! And yet he’s the same person who had gone to Parliament where he went to talk about values. He went to give a directive to his Ministers and party officials that they must not be campaigning on tribal lines. But there is Nkandu Luo, there is Yaluma, doing the exact same thing the President said they should not do and he has kept quiet. So, it is very clear that this is a PF policy, they believe that they can only go to Northern Province, Luapula, Muchinga to try and scare people on the basis of tribe.”

Meanwhile, Mucheleka said Zambians were not looking for a tribal leader who could not deliver development.

“Zambians are looking for a President, who is going to ensure that in this country, there is economic growth with equity, to an extent where unemployment will be brought down, quality jobs will be created, levels of poverty will come down, people will have a stake in the economy and corruption will be nipped in the bud. So, these people in PF are panicking because they have not done anything in that area. These are people who have been in office for nine years; PF, what have you done in Northern Province? They promised to build Kasama General Hospital, has that happened? Zero! They promised to build an ultra-modern stadium, has that been done? Zero! They promised to build a university there, has that been done? Zero! They promised to do Nseluka-Kayambi road, has that been done? Zero! They even failed to just complete a very small bus shelter in Kasama. If they have succeeded in doing anything, they have perhaps succeeded in amassing wealth for themselves and their children, using our people,” lamented Mucheleka. – ND


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