UNITED Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema says he will not surrender the presidency of the pact to Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata.
Mr Hichilema said the UPND is an equal partner in the pact and has an equal opportunity of being adopted as president of the pact ahead of the 2011 general elections.
He said in an interview with journalists in Lusaka yesterday in response to statements by some sections of the public that the UPND is a ‘junior’ party in the pact which should surrender the presidency to the PF.
But Mr Hichilema said there is no way the UPND can surrender the presidency of the pact to the PF when the issue is yet to be tabled before the membership of the pact.
Mr Hichilema said no party is mightier or younger than the other in the pact.
“If you want to buy a shirt for K50,000 and you go to a shop with K30,000, would you be able to buy that shirt? No. Then you go to a friend who assists you with a K20,000 and after buying the shirt, you tell your friend that you are more important than the person who gave you the K20,000.
“Then it means there is something wrong with you because the person who gave you the K20,000 is equally important as you are. It’s simple and easy to understand. You do not need a rocket-scientist to understand that theory,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said what the UPND and PF need to agree now on how they are going to run the country if the alliance is voted into power next year.
“What is there is to agree on how or what size of Government we are going to have to reduce expenditure on consumption and re-direct expenditure on economic affairs of investment, that is what is there.
“The rest of the issue as to who becomes president, who becomes minister of finance must be based on the totality of issues, not someone surrendering. There is nobody to surrender anything to someone,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said nobody owns the presidency of the pact but Zambians.
He said any member of the two parties apart from himself and Mr Sata can be chosen as leader of the pact.
“So that is why you don’t see me bothered when people debate this matter, this way, that way, it doesn’t even bother me. I am focusing on something else because I find this issue to be a minor one. It is an issue being driven in order to be divisive, to create confusion,” Mr Hichilema said.
He said the presidency is not a joke but rather needs a serious minded person to be able to drive the economy to greater heights.
“So when we formed the pact, we knew it could be either of us to be president of the pact and it is only mature if the decision is made properly and consultatively. So for me I have no problem.
“If anybody thought they could go into this pact and dictate anything they want, then they should go to a shop and come back with a shirt,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said the presidency is a tool for development.
He said it is irrational for the two parties in the pact to fight over the presidency when they have not defined the development they will put in place when voted into power.
“There is no surrendering anything. The issue here is that we agreed that by coming together, either of us can be a president, that is the issue. I am hoping the voters can begin to make that distinction,” Mr Hichilema said.
He said the disorderliness being exhibited in the pact is as a result of some leaders who have resorted to speaking carelessly.
Mr Hichilema said leaders of the pact need to show leadership by having mutual respect for one another.
He acknowledged that the pact has been disorderly of late because of disorderliness of leaders.
Mr Hichilema said it is important for leaders to conduct themselves in a manner which will not cause confusion.
“I suspect that once we leaders become orderly, our followers will become orderly, that is what I suspect. We need to show leadership and I think we will show leadership.
“Sometimes you must let people talk especially when they are angry and then later you can sit them down when they are calm. We will be sitting our teams down but it must be based on the principle of mutual respect in the pact. The need for each other, the need to agree on economic and social development programmes for the country to help alleviate poverty,” Mr Hichilema said.
He said members of the pact must respect the established structures in the pact to resolve differences.
“Somebody was saying that I was hiding from the confusion, hiding from what? There is no real pressure for me here, I do not see any pressure. I was just campaigning in Namwala, as you know we are preparing for a by-election there and we were enjoying ourselves.
“When you see me quite it doesn’t mean I don’t have views, I have plenty of views but we must exhibit maturity, clarity and sense of purpose rather than noise making in the media,” Mr Hichilema said.
He said the pact must continue for the people of Zambia, as it was not created to service interest of a few selfish individuals.
Mr Hichilema said no normal human being can desire to break the pact, as it is the only platform for change.
“I would expect that they (PF) would stand for the same desire, I think they do stand for the same thing but you know there are difficult individuals but our job is to manage them properly.
“But the best thing is to ask them (PF) but for me I have said that the important thing is to understand the fact that we need each other for the benefit of the general membership and not for ourselves and secondly to have mutual respect for each other and by conducting ourselves maturely, and need for proper dialogue and not through the media,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said it is wrong for Mr Sata to allege that he has hired young members of his party to attack him (Sata).
He said UPND members have a right to express themselves when they feel aggrieved by negative statements coming from the PF.
“I keep quite not because I do not have ideas. I have a lot of views, strong views but I also know when to keep quite and when to make noise.
“If your colleagues are making noise and you join in the noise, how will you solve the problem? Just like in the domestic situation, the husband is shouting at the wife and the wife is shouting at the husband, how do you solve the problem? If your husband or your wife is angry, I think you must calm down, so that you can bring the temperature down because if you all heat up, the next think you will all be pulling off buttons from your clothing and that is not good. So the silence you see from Hakainde does not mean I do not have views, I have views but its my character because I do want to walk in a trap because when I realise you are setting a trap for me, I will not walk in it” he said.