A GROUP of people chanting Patriotic Front (PF) slogans and waving the party symbol yesterday interrupted the Newsmakers’ Forum after almost beating up former Defence minister, George Mpombo.
According to the Times of Zambia, Mr Mpombo, who was the guest at the forum organised by the Press Freedom Committee of the Post Newspapers at Lusaka Playhouse, bolted to safety after the unruly group besieged him calling for his blood.
The members of the group, who rose from the audience chanting PF slogans, had earlier on paid for their entry into the auditorium, quietly settled and allowed Mr Mpombo to start his presentation.
Mr Mpombo started by saying that democracy was cardinal in attracting foreign direct investment and as such, it was important for Zambia to adhere to democratic principles.
He said that it was important that Zambian political parties including the MMD practised true democracy and at that point, the cadres stood up from the audience shouting ‘Pabwato, Pabwato’ and attempted to beat up moderator, Sheikh Chifuwe and Mr Mpombo.
The former Defence minister, who is Kafulafuta Member of Parliament, panicked and was only shielded by Mr Chifuwe until he found space to sneak out through the back door of the auditorium as all the people on the high table scampered for safety.
The cadres later broke the public address system and got away with recorders for journalists while members of the audience scampered in various directions.
Plain-clothed police officers apprehended one of the cadres.
After the cadres had left in three buses, some members of the audience went into the auditorium where Mr Mpombo and Mr Chifuwe resurfaced and resolved that the meeting should continue.
Seemingly shaken, Mr Mpombo later addressed the audience but in an interview insisted that despite chanting PF slogans, the cadres were in fact members of the MMD.
“Those are hired thugs from the MMD and I regret what happened but I know they have been paid to do that,” he said.
Acting MMD spokesperson, Mike Mulongoti said he could not comment on whether the cadres that disrupted the meeting were MMD members or not.
He said he was not aware of the disruption of the gathering as he was only coming out of a luncheon at State House.
In his address to the audience, Mr Mpombo said the MMD should go to the convention and elect new office holders, which would be promoting democratic principles on which it was founded.
Constitutionally, he said that the MMD allowed members to participate in a convention every five years and he would continue advocating for it.
“Our constitution says every five years we should go to a convention and what we are seeing is a bad development where people are saying we should not go to a convention.
“What we have now is an acting president who should be endorsed and if people manipulate the constitution it will mean the end of the party,” Mr Mpombo said.
He said he had no intention of leaving the MMD and in an event that he was expelled, he would take the matter to its logical conclusion and also seek the courts’ intervention.
But Mr Mulongoti maintained that he did not understand why Mr Mpombo could agitate for a convention when he failed to do so when he was in the national executive committee as well as a Cabinet minister.
He said that with the suspension, Mr Mpombo had little room and time left for him in the party.