Zambia: Im ready to be challenged – RB

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda has said MMD members are free to challenge him for the position of party president and that he has never requested to be declared the sole MMD candidate.

Mr Banda said he had not barred anybody from vying for the partys presidential candidature for the 2011 polls and had already indicated that people were free to challenge him for it.

I have agreed on that and let me answer this question which seems to be worrying people. I have said it so many times and at Livingstone Airport and other places and I want to repeat it using you and hope you will put it clearly so that the nation understands.

I never stopped anybody from standing. I have never asked that I should be the only candidate. I think that is very clear, so whatever happens you go and ask those that are talking about it, he said.

Mr Banda was speaking at Livingstone International Airport yesterday morning before departure for Lusaka.

When asked to comment on the resignation of Defence minister, George Mpombo, who was also the MMDs chairperson for energy and water development, Mr Banda said he had only heard about the resignation and could not react to it before he saw the resignation letter.

Asked further for a comment on the wrangling between Local Government and Housing Minister, Benny Tetamashimba and his predecessor, Sylvia Masebo, over the purchase of 100 hearses from China, Mr Banda said the issue was over and he would not expect any more dirty linen to be washed in public.

My answer is that it is finished now. Lets not wash any more dirty linen in public, the president said.

The president was pleased to see Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people, saying it was good for him to have travelled to come and honour Chief Mukuni of the Toka Leya people in Kazungula by attending the Lwiindi Lo Kuzyola Mukuni Ngombe traditional ceremony, which ended on Tuesday.

Southern Province Minister, Daniel Munkombwe said he was the one who had been talking about the presidential candidacy of Mr Banda as the sole candidate for the party.

I said we do not know the others, they are still hiding. The only person who is featuring to us is His Excellency the President, he is the one who is featuring. We cannot talk about the unknown. There is no shadow boxing in leadership, you have got to be there boldly.

The others are still in the shells. Until they emerge, thats when we will analyse them individually.

But for now, it is this man (President Banda) here and we will stick to that, Mr Munkombwe said as President Banda acknowledged in approval.

Mr Munkombwe, Southern Province Permanent Secretary, Darius Hakayobe and several Government and party officials, saw off the president, who was accompanied by First Lady Thandiwe, Cabinet ministers and other Government officials.

He was in Livingstone where he hosted presidents of Tanzania and Zimbabwe, Jakaya Kikwete and Robert Mugabe, who were guests of honour at traditional ceremonies, the Lwiindi Gonde of the Tonga people in Monze and the Lwiindi for the Mukuni Ngombe of the Toka Leya in Kazungula, respectively.

While in Livingstone, President Banda and his Tanzanian counterpart, Mr Kikwete held bilateral talks on the shores of the Zambezi River where they discussed the operations of the jointly owned Tanzania, Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and called on its creditors to cancel the debt.

And ZANIS reports that MMD spokesperson, Ben Tetamashimba, says the resignation of Mr George Mpombo from Cabinet and MMD as chairman for energy will not threaten the ruling party.

Mr Tetamashimba said in an interview with journalists in Livingstone yesterday that Mr Mpombo allegedly failed to organise the party on the Copperbelt.

Mr Tetamashimba also expressed doubt that Mr Mpombo would recontest the Kafulafuta parliamentary seat in the 2011 elections because in 2006, he was imposed on the people.

Wherever he goes, I dont think he would have any impact. He failed to organise the party on the Copperbelt and I dont think he is going to stand in 2011. In 2006, he was forced on the people, he said.

And Mr Tetamashimba has reiterated that President Banda is the only credible candidate to stand on the party ticket in 2011.

He said all those people in the ruling party who were saying the race for the MMD presidential candidate must be opened were not credible.

Mr Tetamashimba said even when the ruling party went to the convention, no one was going to stand for the party presidency apart from President Banda.

He said Patriotic Front, PF, leader Michael Sata had stood for the presidency three times as the sole candidate and wondered why no one had questioned his position.

Mr Sata has stood as president for three times in this country, why havent you asked him why he is the only On Wednesday, Mr Mpombo announced his resignation from Government and the MMD national executive committee, citing personal reasons.

Times of Zambia

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