UNITED Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema has denied ever blasting Chieftainess Choongo of the Tonga people for welcoming and interacting in Bemba with Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general Davis Chama who recently toured Southern Province.
Mr Hichilema is alleged to have been furious with the successful tour of Southern Province by Mr Chama a few weeks ago and is alleged to have blasted Chieftainess Choongo who had a conversation with the PF secretary general in Bemba.
“We have not encouraged any chief from Southern Province or anywhere in the country not to be visited by people from other ethnic groupings, including Mr Chama despite having insulted people of other ethnic groupings because we believe Zambia is one,” Mr Hichilema said.
Mr Hichilema is alleged to have said that it was shameful for Chieftainess Choongo to have had a Bemba conversation with Mr Chama when the PF secretary general paid a courtesy call at her palace in Monze.
And UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma has described the reports as a fabrication as Mr Hichilema had not spoken to Chief Hamusonde in more than three months – the man to whom Mr Hakainde is reported to have uttered the words.
Mr Kakoma said it was not true that Mr Hichilema was furious that Mr Chama’s tour of Southern Province was successful.
Mr Kakoma said the alleged telephone interview between Mr Hichilema and Chief Hamusonde was nothing but an invention by Mr Chama and that the UPND leader was contemplating suing the PF secretary general over the matter.
When contacted, Chief Hamusonde said he was not ready to comment on the matter and accused the media of being sarcastic and promoting fights among politicians while Chieftainess Choongo said she was not aware and promised to call back but did not.
“It is a fabrication by Mr Chama that Mr Hichilema called Chief Hamusonde to furiously complain about Chieftainess Choongo having a conversation with Mr Chama in Bemba.
‘‘Mr Hichilema sees nothing wrong for anyone to speak Bemba in Southern Province as he himself has been speaking Bemba in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces.
‘‘Mr Hichilema has taken great exception to this allegation and has given the Times of Zambia and other newspapers that caused the publication of the story 24 hours to retract or face legal action alongside Mr Chama,” Mr Kakoma said.
Mr Hichilema was alleged to have called Chief Hamusonde and complained about Mr Chama’s tour of Southern Province in a region he said was the stronghold for the UPND and some of the people Mr Hichilema was with at the time he called the chief allegedly recorded the conversation.
Mr Hichilema is alleged to have told Chief Hamusonde that it was shameful for Mr Chama to have had a conversation with Chieftainess Choongo in Bemba when the traditional leader was a chief for the Tonga-speaking people.
Mr Chama, when contacted, confirmed that he was told while on his tour of Southern Province that Mr Hichilema was enraged that the traditional leadership in the region had warmly welcomed him to the area.
According to the alleged recorded telephone conversation, Mr Hichilema said Mr Chama should never have been allowed to visit Southern Province and interact with the traditional leadership in the region.
Mr Hichilema is alleged to have told Chief Hamusonde that while North-Western Province was warming up to him, Southern Province was drifting towards the ruling party.
And Mr Chama said he was informed that Mr Hichilema furiously lambasted Chieftainess Choongo through Chief Hamusonde for having a conversation in Bemba with him when Mr Chama paid a courtesy call on her at her place.
Mr Chama told the Daily Nation that it was genocidal for Mr Hichilema to sound tribal, charging that the UPND should work hard and get rid of its tribal tag if it were to reflect a national character.
Mr Chama said it was Chieftainess Choongo who had started the conversation in Bemba having lived on the Copperbelt for a long time and that it was unacceptable for Mr Hichilema to sound tribal.