HAKAINDE Hichilema on Saturday snubbed African diplomats accredited to Zambia and only invited diplomats from Western countries to attend luncheon at his residence, an action that has triggered consternation in the diplomatic community.
Mr Hichilema hosted Western diplomats to the exclusion of African ambassadors and high commissioners except for the South African envoy.
The diplomats talked to said that they were not invited to the luncheon and were not aware of the criteria for being invited.
Malawi High Commissioner to Zambia David Chisala Bandawe who is also the Dean of diplomats accredited to Zambia said in an interview that his mission did not receive any invitation from Mr Hakainde.
Mr Bandawe said he was not invited to the luncheon and was not aware if any other African envoy was invited.
Mr Bandawe said without an invitation, it was difficult to attend.
And Rwandan Charge d affairs Abel Buhungun also said his mission did not receive an invitation to attend Mr Hakainde’s luncheon.
Zimbabwean deputy High Commissioner to Zambia Marshall Mututu said the embassy was not aware about the luncheon and that the opposition leader must have had a reason why the Zimbabwean mission in Lusaka was not invited to the luncheon.
And Mr Hichilema said he did not invite diplomats for lunch at his Lusaka residence to ask them to fund his campaign because he was already enjoying support of the suffering Zambians, reports Millennium Radio.
Mr Hichilema said the diplomats he invited only discussed key issues pertaining to free and fair elections.
He said the meeting also discussed the need to end political violence and have free access to the media.
“The UPND is funded by the people of Zambia who are suffering, who have no jobs, who have no food and those who are paying high amounts of kwacha per dollar,”Mr Hichilema said.
He said this in an interview with Millennium Radio yesterday in Lusaka.
Mr Hichilema said he did not discuss funding when he met diplomats but key issues regarding governance.
He said what was discussed with diplomats was there in the newspapers and had nothing to do with funding the UPND campaigns.
And UPND spokesperson said diplomatic community in Zambia did not endorsed Mr Hichilema but only wished him good luck in the August general elections.
Mr Kakoma, who is UPND spokesperson, has dismissed assertions that the diplomats who were invited for lunch by Mr Hichilema at his residence, had endorsed the opposition leader but that their visit was meant to share with them the parameters of the political situation in the country.
Mr Kakoma said it would be against diplomatic etiquetti for the international community to endorse any particular presidential candidate including President Edgar Lungu.
He said diplomats did not endorse candidates but only spoke about candidates silently and it was therefore not correct to assert that their visit to Mr Hichilema’s residence was an endorsement.
Mr Kakoma however said the UPND was encouraged by the visit and that it was an indication that the UPND was not alone in the strugle for the change in how best Zambia was to be governed.
He said it was a blessing that the diplomats had accepted the invitation by Mr Hichilema who he said shared with them his worries about the political violence in the country.
“For all we know, diplomats do not endorse presidential candidates but they speak silently. The diplomats have not said they have endorsed Mr Hichilema but only wished him good luck. If that is being interpreted as an endorsement, it is good for us and we feel encouraged because we realise we are not alone in this struggle.
‘‘As the UPND we have interpreted their visit in an African context where if you visit a chief and he gives you blessings, you must be thankful,” Mr Kakoma said.
He said it was the desire of the international community to see Zambia continue being a shining example of democracy and a country that respected the rule of law by holding peaceful, free and fair elections.