PRESIDENT Michael Sata says former Republican President Rupiah Banda, MMD leader Nevers Mumba and his UPND counterpart Hakainde Hichilema travelled to South Africa to seek asylum but were snubbed by that government.
Mr Sata has since challenged Mr Banda and the two opposition leaders to be brave enough and answer charges they are facing instead of going to South Africa to seek what he termed as "criminal asylum."
The President was speaking at State House in Lusaka yesterday during the swearing-in ceremony of UPND Itezhi-Tezhi Member of Parliament (MP) Greyford Monde as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock.
"When people are hiding, you my friends from the Press don't know what they went to South Africa for because Mr Banda is looking for asylum but he doesn't know that we can go to South Africa and extradite him and remove his immunity.
"The President of South Africa (Jacob Zuma) is not even ready to grant asylum to Mr Banda, or Mr Hichilema or Dr Mumba. So the only person who is clean out of those who went to South Africa is Sakwiba Sikota," Mr Sata said.
He was commenting on recent revelations that the opposition leaders held a media briefing on Monday in South Africa arranged by Mr Banda and called for suspension of Zambia from the Commonwealth.
"Rupiah Banda, HH and Mumba should just come back and sing to the song here," Mr Sata said.
During the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Sata urged Mr Monde to put the interests of the people of his constituency first as he serves in his new capacity as deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock.
The President said Mr Monde could have found some difficulties to develop Itezhi-Tezhi if the opposition parliamentarian had forged ahead with his party UPND.
"And you, Mr Monde, you are welcome. I know Itezhi-Tezhi very well but belonging to a small organisation like UPND which is a one-man centred party, there is nothing you can do, you can't even develop the road from Itezhi-Tezhi to Kalomo, from Itezhi-Tezhi to Mazabuka and from Itezhi-Tezhi to Monze.
"You have come to a larger family and the people must come first and you second, because if you think someone says don't join the Government, at least me, I am going to provide you with an office, a vehicle, driver, fuel which the party you belong to did not give you," he said.
Meanwhile, MMD leader Dr Mumba at a media briefing at his Kabulonga home in Lusaka yesterday said he and his colleagues did not go to South Africa to seek asylum but to ensure the documents that highlighted PF abuses towards opposition political parties were safely delivered to the Commonwealth, reports Catherine Nyirenda.
He said he and the others would handle all the matters within Zambia as it was their duty to offer checks and balances to the ruling party and Government.
"The trip was not as it was reported back home in Zambia. We accept as opposition that it is our responsibility to hold the PF Government accountable. It is the job of the opposition, the civil society and the citizens at large to offer checks and balances to Government," Dr Mumba said.
He displayed the 40-page document which was handed over to the Commonwealth Secretary General through lawyer Robert Armsterdam.
The leaders requested the Commonwealth to send an envoy to prove their claims of human rights abuses and that the same document would also be presented to the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Dr Mumba said the Government should address the issues the opposition was bringing out instead of being confrontational.