THE absence of UPND national chairperson Mutale Nalumango at a press briefing to welcome defectors yesterday caused panic among some senior opposition party members who suspect the insults she endured from a top party official recently could have been the cause.
Mrs Nalumango was last weekend ‘‘dressed down’’ in the party’s management meeting when she questioned why a named top official was dissolving grassroots committees and putting in place new ones without her knowledge as a chairwoman.
A UPND official who attended the press briefing but sought anonymity said Mrs Nalumango’s absence at the press briefing yesterday gave an idea of the tension between her and her fellow senior party member.
The official said Mrs Nalumango as party chairman was rarely absent during such important events of receiving new members.
“Was Mutale there? What does that tell you? Because you know Mrs Nalumango is always present at such events,’’ the official said.
He said the apparent ‘‘animosity’’ between the two senior members had become a source of concern to UPND president Mr Hakainde Hichilema as he did not know how to deal with the situation.
“The situation is simmering but it is still under the surface, you cannot see it. It is now bottled up. Everybody is cagy and people are just watching each other now. It is very worrying especially for Mr Hichilema as president,’’ the source said.
The official said it was worrying that the party had not taken any measures to reconcile the two parties.
But Mrs Nalumango, when asked why she missed the press briefing which was attended by Mr Hichilema, his deputy Geoffrey Mwamba and former Commerce minister Bob Sichinga as well as other senior party officials, said it was normal for her not to attend every press conference the party held.
She said she could not make it for yesterday’s briefing but would be present at the next briefing.
Mrs Nalumango said what mattered was that she was a senior member of the UPND and had her duties to perform and that speculation about her being ‘‘dressed down’’ by one of her colleagues were unfounded.
“It is normal for me not to attend every party event or press conference. If one was called tomorrow, you will definitely see me. So it is not correct to impute that there are problems in the UPND and your speculations are certainly unfounded.
‘‘Whatever you are insinuating are your own imaginations. For me what is important is that I am UPND and I will remain so,” Mrs Nalumango said.
The Daily Nation recently revealed that Mrs Nalumango was verbally abused by a senior leader of the UPND and even threatened with physical harassment at a national management committee meeting, the story she said was not true.