COLONEL Panji Kaunda reveals his experiences, encounters and political dealings with UPND president Hakainde Hichilema, saying “people must know”. Reports by the Post
In an interview on Wednesday, Col Panji – who had teamed up with former diplomat George Zulu – to bring together the PF and UPND ahead of the 2008 presidential election, reveals that Hichilema had told them that several people approached and persuaded him to be Sata’s vice-president because they did not want a Tonga to be Republican president.
Col Panji said although he has never told anybody about the details of their meeting with Hichilema in the run-up to the 2008 elections, he felt it was necessary that the nation knows about what transpired instead of covering the truth and coming out as angels.
He was explaining the crumble of the PF-UPND pact and allegations that he is broke hence his endorsement of Sata’s candidacy ahead of this year’s election. He said since 2001, he had been involved in efforts aimed at promoting opposition unity in a bid to wrestle power from the MMD.
“I want to, through you, inform the nation that since I gave my support to PF and Mr Sata during this year’s election, there is so much talk and innuendoes both from the UPND hierarchy and some government officials,” Col Panji said. “I can say that since 2001, I have worked very hard with some of my colleagues to try and get opposition parties to work together each time there is an election.” He said by 2008, he had left UNIP and supported UPND. In the same year president Levy Mwanawasa died.
“I was with my colleagues in UPND and I explained to them my fears that, ‘we cannot win this election in Eastern Province. Let us go and talk to our friends in PF’. That was before they even started talking about their Pact,” Col Panji said.“We said, ‘let us see if we can work together and sell our idea to our headquarters to make a coalition government.’ My colleagues went to see the chairman of PF in Eastern Province, Mr Solomon Mbuzi and they discussed. All of us agreed that it was a good idea. But who was going to tell the presidents. I volunteered, ‘I know both Mr Hakainde and Mr Sata, let me go to Lusaka and explain what you the people here on the ground want.’ I jumped on a bus, I came here and the same evening I made an appointment to see president Hakainde and I went to meet him in the presence of Mr Richard Kapita, his vice-president. I said, ‘Mr president I am here as a messenger of the people in Eastern province. We don’t think that we can win the Province, so we think that it will be a good idea that we team up with PF and we recommend that PF takes the presidency, UPND the vicepresidency’. The first time I met him in his office; this was my message to him from the people of Chipata; ‘you become the vice president, PF takes the presidency.’ Kapita was there. So we discussed. They said, ‘we have been trying to meet our colleaguesin PF but we were unable to meet.’ I said, ‘can I offer the services of the old man, my father Dr Kaunda. Maybe he can bring the two of you together?’ They said, ‘yes, you can.’
“I enlisted the services of my friend George Zulu that ‘you go and tell ba Sata’ then I will tell the old man. I told the old man Dr Kaunda that, ‘old man we have a snake in our necks, we need an old man to pull it out before we are bitten.’ So he agreed to meet the two of them. When the day came for the appointment, I think HH came first. They went into the old man’s office, they talked and they came out. When Sata came, they went again into the old man’s office. They talked and came out. Then the old man came to us where we were in the sitting room. He said,’ young men, this is your problem. If you want this thing to work, it must come from the bottom of your hearts’.
“There was Mr Hakainde and his vice-president Kapita, Mr Sata and his vice-president Guy Scott, George Zulu and myself. This was at Dr Kaunda’s residence. I was privileged to chair that meeting. I said,‘gentlemen, you know what we have come here for’.
“Before we could discuss, I said, ‘since all of us meaning Sata and Hichilema have filed in our nominations, one must drop down.’ They said, ‘that is not a problem. Once we agree who is going to lead this group, withdrawing is not an issue.’ So I told Mr Sata that, ‘if you are president, what would you do to your colleagues in UPND?’
“In his own way, Mr Sata said, ‘I will give the young man the vice-presidency and since he knows mathematics very well I will also give him the Ministry of Finance and I will ask him to give me 20 districts of his choice which we can give him, 10 or 12 ministerial posts and other posts like in diplomatic missions abroad. That is what we can give.’
“Then I came to HH. I said, ‘you heard what Mr. Sata has said. What do you say?’ Then HH told us, ‘suppose it was the other way round.’ On hearing that, Mr Sata got up and said, ‘Guy Scott, let us go! Kaunda, you stay with your meeting.’
HH said: ‘you see Colonel, how can I work with a person like this? Even when we form government he might behave the same way.’
There were journalists that took photographs of Mr Sata leaving Dr Kaunda’s residence and when people saw the story in The Post the following day, colleagues of us who had read the story called us, me and George Zulu, saying ‘what you are doing is a good thing, continue to bring them together’. “So I called George Zulu that this is what people are saying, ‘what do we do? Let us go and see him again.’ So we enlisted the help of Honourable Levy Ngoma, the MP for Sinda. But then we said, ‘if we go the three of us, all us Easterners, it will seem as if we are trying to gang up against the Southerners. Let us find somebody from within UPND preferably from the Southern Province’. We called two MPs. I can’t mention their names because I don’t have their permission to mention them. They came and we told them that ‘this is the problem we have, can you come with us to see the president?’ They said, ‘if both of us were to go, they won’t like that because we are not in good books with the president HH.’ Then we said, ‘give us somebody within the party who is the confidante of the president so that we can go with him for this mission’.
“They gave us the name. We called that gentleman, and lucky enough he came. We explained to him what our mission was and he agreed to come with us. We all jumped into the vehicles and we went to the residence of president Hakainde. We found him there, he was having a meeting with other members of the UPND leadership and when they left, he remained with a few others and we went to the table on his verandah. George Zulu said, ‘Look Sir, we have come here because we love you. We think you have got a role to play in this nation and hear us. We have come here, I think you should reconsider the offer that was made by the people of Zambia that you become vice-president so that you can become the vice-president.’
“Then Mr Hakainde said, ‘when you were coming here, did you think of me to be president of Zambia?’ George said, ‘no Sir, we didn’t. The whole way was for you to be vice-president.’ Then Mr Hakainde said, ‘Yes, I know, because I am Tonga, you guys don’t want me to be president.Everybody who is calling in is saying that I must be vice- president.Do you think us Tongas cannot be presidents? Even Ng’andu Magande, that was why he was not made MMD president because he is Tonga. Late Mazoka’s victory was stolen from him because he was Tonga’.
“Then I said, ‘No Mr president, Andy Mazoka was Tonga, the people of Zambia voted for him in large numbers. You, when you were UDA president you were Tonga, we voted for you. It’s not about being Tonga. We are saying that if you go in as individual parties, you will lose.’ Then Mr Hakainde said: ‘Do you guys support Sata? Do you think he is normal?’
“I am revealing this because I want people to know what went on in those meetings; I don’t want to cover things as if we are angels, it’s not right. People must know. Mr Hakainde said: ‘Do you think he is normal? You can’t trust him.’
Then I told him that, ‘Sir, if you are unable to work with Sata as an individual, can you give us Mr Kapita your vice-president to stand in for you while you stay in the background?’
Then Mr Hakainde said, ‘Yes, I will give you Kapita but then I will resign and when I resign UPND is gone. I am UPND; UPND is me. Even if you come with AK 47s, I will be the last Tonga standing here. I know I am going to stand; I know I am going to lose. But I will make sure Sata does not win.’ “That is how the meeting ended. So we left.
Immediately after I told George Zulu that ‘George, thank God our president is not the president of this country. With this attitude he is a wrong person to be in State House. This is the last time I am going to be here.’And I haven’t seen Mr Hakainde from that time until today. That was just a few weeks before the 2008 presidential by-elections.
“I have never told this story to anybody but it must be told. Time past on; I was invited by the UPND to stand to be the vice-president for the party, they were looking for somebody from the east to be vice-president for UPND, but I told my colleagues in Eastern Province that, ‘No, I am in the party. There are many people who have been in the party longer than me. I support the party but I don’t think I can take up that position.’
“After some time, when we heard that the UPND and PF had come together as a Pact, I asked George Zulu, ‘What has changed from that day when we were told those words and today? This thing is not going to work because it’s not genuine. Something is not right.’ Now we have been proved right. I told my president from the word go that ‘You must be vice-president’. When our party, the UPND, left the Pact, I still believe that Mr Sata and PF need to be supported.
Those saying I have changed my mind over night are wrong. From the first day I approached Mr Hakainde that we must join with PF as partners, I told him there and then that, ‘you be the vice-president’ and we gave various reasons why he should be vice-president. The nation should not be surprised that I am joining PF. I am not joining with ulterior motives. I can sit back and do nothing but that is not the answer.
“So coming to the Pact Forum, I would like to respond. Long before we heard that the UPND had left the thing, you could tell from the press that they were going to be falling apart. So I asked my colleagues.
First we approached UNIP, we talked to the provincial chairman Mr Jonas Sakala that as a province let us play a role in saving the Pact.Supposing we say as a province we will support Mr Sata. I didn’t hide my preferences. As the province, we support PF in this general election for the presidency. At our level in the province, at ward level, parliamentary level we sit down in each constituency, each ward we choose the best person regardless of the party, who we are going to support against the MMD. We agreed.
I went to the UPND chairperson. I was with George Zulu at the time. He didn’t commit himself there and then; he said he wanted to consult his colleagues. So we left. We met the PF man, Lucas Phiri. He couldn’t refuse because we were supporting his party. I made a statement to the press that ‘this is what we are doing’.
In my belief, the pact is not between PF and UPND; if it were so, Hakainde and Mr Sata would have come together over a cup of tea,saying, ‘Let us form unity thing’.
We called it Eastern Province Pact Forum and our idea was that from every district we get three officials from each political party; the provincial chairman, women chairperson and youth chairperson. So from three parties, we were going to get nine delegates from each district to come to Chipata for the convention to discuss how we were going to progress.
“As time went by, our colleagues in Copperbelt must have read this article and they thought it was a good idea. They went faster than us and mobilised themselves into the Copperbelt Pact Forum with the same ideas of the people to own the pact. It’s not a PF/UPND pact, it’s the people who own the pact.
“So they formed this forum in the Copperbelt. Last week on Sunday, I got a call; I didn’t know these young men from Adam and Eve, they said, ‘You are Colonel Kaunda?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘We read your article on the Pact. We are launching ours here. Can you come and be our guest?’ I said, ‘Yes, that is what we want.’
“So when we went on Friday last week, it was the first time I was meeting these young men and women in my life. But I must it is very encouraging. If that is the future of this country, we have the hope.
“These young men have come together to try and save this country. We had a meeting at Jubilee Hall last Saturday. First, we went to Radio Icengelo. We were well received by the callers.When we went for the meeting, people from Solwezi, Luanshya, Chingola, Kafulafuta, Ndola and everywhere were all there. We didn’t write them letters but they all came. We had over 1,024 people who registered in the attendance book but there were many more who didn’t register. We told them that ‘this is not our meeting, it’s your meeting, you will tell us the way forward for this pact. We will write the notes down and at the end we will write all the resolutions which you will have told us and we will find space in the print and electronic media to tell the Zambian people and their leaders that we the people of Copperbelt this is what we want’.
“People came from UPND, PF, UNIP and MMD. It’s not me doing it. It’s the people who want to work together. People want unity. Since Mr Hakainde and UPND have left, we have been left with the PF in the house so let us support Mr Sata because people want unity. They want change. The only way change can come is if the MMD is removed out from power. The MMD cannot change what we are saying now. The people said, ‘let us change the Constitution.’ We agreed that 50 per cent plus one must be put in place. We also discussed that in Parliament, the party that is going to win must have majority, 50 per cent plus one in Parliament. This will give even smaller parties a chance to be in Parliament because it will be difficult for one party to have 50 per cent plus one. So that party that wins the presidency with the majority will need to have majority in Parliament so they will have to seek help from other parties. In my view this is where I see the role of UPND coming into play because no matter how much they work harder,it will be almost impossible for the UPND to form government on their own.
“I am likening them to the Liberal Party in the UK. The Liberal Party has always been a number three party. In this country, unless something happens, it will always be MMD, PF and UPND. When there is a hang Parliament, the UPND can play a role. By bringing them together with PF, we are paving the way for them to go into government. If they don’t do this and change the constitution to allow this to happen, then other parties will not have chance to be in government. The minority party in Parliament will form government. In view of this 50 per cent plus one, the Cabinet ministers must come from outside Parliament.
“Although others are saying we are doing this because we are broke, we want jobs, I am proud of my brokenness. I am very proud. I walk the streets with my head up because I am not a thief like them. My father did not steal money and give it to his children. The little we have, the little we eat is from our sweat. No matter what they say about us, it will not work. Where I have come from are humble beginnings. We didn’t have earthly things. We walked, I am walking today. We wore tubudula shorts, we wear tubudula today. I cannot be bought like them. They have paid all these cadres to say all sorts of things about us. I was reading Lusaka Times online last night, I laughed about what they say.
No amount of money will buy us, not even positions in the government.
“If I wanted money, Hakainde has more money than PF, I could have said… In fact, long back he gave me a bull, which I did accept but I didn’t collect because I was going to compromise myself to him. My stance is not for sale. If I owe money, it’s between me and my banker and not Vice-President George Kunda and his henchmen. For amai madam Dora Siliya, each time she sees my name in the press she gets itchy. I can assure her, she will be itchy for the rest of this campaign.
“The people of Zambia gave us the judgment to go ahead with this programme to ensure that this government is out of power.
In this country the rich will live while the poor will die. If you have a bit of money, you go to fee-paying ward in UTH or Kitwe General Hospital, you have to pay K250,000 for the bed alone. Then you pay for the medicines. How many of us can afford that? No wonder we are broke. The people are dying in this country. Our leaders and their children are living a very lavish life. It’s not fair and the Zambian people must rise up no matter what the cost is. We shall do it. I am happy it’s the young people pushing this movement and not us the old.
“Last night I passed in Matero township in Lusaka, see the poverty that is there.This campaign, whether they like it or not, we shall continue with it.We will go to North Western, Southern, Western and all provinces. People are calling us to go to their provinces. People are listening, they want change. There is poverty among the riches. Someone was telling me that ‘You know Colonel the government is refusing to collect taxes from mines because the biggest suppliers are government officials. The biggest contracts are given to government officials, so they can’t ruffle the mine owners’. So they can call us names but the struggle continues until victory is given to the Zambian people.
“I am a member of UPND, I joined freely. Are they going to come with a gun and say, ‘Colonel we want you out of UPND.’ No! They will make their statements but my heart is still with UPND because I know that UPND, in few years from now will have a role to play in this country.
If I was a NEC member, they could say ‘we have removed you’ but as an ordinary member they cannot do that. They have got no power to do that. Are they UPND going to remove all the people, who are members of UPND, that come to our meetings because I am not alone. In some of these provinces, organisers are UPND members.
“In any case, those people UPND leaders don’t own us; they don’t own our freedom to choose. We put them in those positions to guide us but if their guidance is being misguided, we have the right to say, ‘No, this is not right! They can do what they want but they can’t take me to court. I belong to UPND until I die. I will support Sata but I am still a member of UPND, there is nothing they can do about it. Nothing!
The trend we are seeing, especially in towns here, UPND members are in support of working together with the PF. I see on the ground; whether it’s the same countrywide, I cannot tell because I have only been to the Copperbelt. In Eastern Province and here in Lusaka, they are saying, ‘Let us work together’. We have to change the government. We have to work hard to liberate our country. Those who would like to join hands and work with us or support our efforts can contact me on my mobile: 0977648485 or email: email@example.com.”