Zambia: Race for Mpongwe On

COME February 28, the people of Mpongwe are again going to the polls, two years after they last voted during the 2011 tripartite elections that ushered in the Patriotic Front (PF) administration into Government.

The campaigns have kicked off and, for sure there is something going on in the air.

And yes, the battle lines have been drawn and five candidates from PF, MMD, UPND, UNIP and the National Restoration Party (NAREP) successfully filed their nominations last week in wonderful fashion.

The seat fell vacant following the resignation of MMD parliamentarian Gabriel Namulambe, who has since joined the ruling PF, on whose platform he has been adopted to recontest the seat.

All the candidates are confident of victory but the people of this vast rural Copperbelt district, would decide who will represent them in Parliament for the next three years.

As democracy would have it, there can only be one winner, on whose shoulders, will lie the burdens of the vast district.

There would also be three local government by-elections in Kanyenda, Musofu and Luswishi wards in the same district, which has 13 wards in total.

The candidates who successfully filed in their nominations are Mr Namulambe of the PF, MMD's Miniver Mutesa, UPND's Rabson Chilufya, Reagan Ndhlovu of NAREP and UNIP's Kenny Kuveya.

So far so good, apart from the drama that happened during the nominations when the Catherine Namugala-led MMD faction candidate Goodson Chilufya was turned away from the civic centre by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

Now, like any other rural district, Mpongwe located at the base of the Copperbert Province has a myriad of needs.

Well, it is not much of a town, as it has one paved road lined with small shops, bars, and restaurants.

However, Mpongwe is not pretending to be a town, it is actually a large rural district in the province.

The obvious immediate needs of the area include tarring of roads, improve health delivery, education, and agriculture.

Most of the roads in the area are in a deplorable state and need urgent attention.

There are lots of small-scale farmers whose interests are often farming inputs, whose access to the market is a nightmare.

For example, when a road like the Mpongwe-Machiya Road is tarred, it would ease the transportation of farm produce.

Mpongwe, is a huge food basket contributing greatly to Zambia's food security.

There is huge commercial farming going on, in the area with state-of-the-art equipment.

At the same time, there are small-scale farmers whose needs are just as urgent.

They are the majority and comprise the bulk of voters. Their language is often seed and fertiliser year in and out.

PATRIOTIC FRONT

Mr Namulambe is no stranger to the people of Mpongwe. Having been their Member of Parliament since 2006, until when he resigned from the MMD to join the PF few weeks ago. The only difference is that he is contesting on the PF ticket and confident of scooping the seat.

But he is not living anything to chance, he would be campaigning vigorously. Born in 1967, the former Copperbelt and Works and Supply minister in the MMD regime, Mr Namulambe is going into polls with confidence, having represented the people of Mpongwe for years.

MMD

The former ruling party settled for former Mpongwe and Lufwanyama District Commissioner (DC) Miniver Mutesa as the party's candidate in the by-election.

Ms Mutesa, the only female candidate in the race, believes she will win the by-election because she is well acquainted with the area.

She is riding on her profile as former DC to woo support.

The former teacher remains optimistic of winning the election, claiming that she is popular in the area.

UPND

The UPND have put their hope in Rabson Chilufya, a former senior private secretary to late President Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda. Mr Chilufya, 60, an accountant, is confident of winning the seat because he has huge plans to develop Mpongwe.

If elected, his main focus would be to work on roads, education and agriculture.

UNIP

Zambia's first ruling party UNIP has opted for Kenny Kuveya, a social worker and resident of Chinwa area of Chieftainess Lesa of the Lamba people in Mpongwe.

Being a local resident, Mr Kuveya argues that he is the best candidate because he knows the problems of Mpongwe and has promised to address them.

His areas of interest include small-scale farmers, education and health. His particular concern is distribution of inputs, saying there is need to increase the number of bags small-scale farmers receive each farming season.

If elected, he says he would lobby for the construction of a hospital in a district with only one hospital.

NAREP

Being a relatively young party, NAREP is testing the waters, call it a litmus test for a party that is seen to be more ambitious, idealistic or theoretical in nature. However, these assumptions can only be held lightly until after February 28, 2013.

It has put its cards on local businessexecutive Reagan Ndhlovu. Mr Ndhlovu, 40, has put his sights on February 28 and is confident of victory.

His interest is employment creation for a district hugely dependent on agriculture.

As a businessexecutive, he believes he can steer the vast district to growth. He says people should look at his track record, of bringing companies like Crop Save, specialised in agro chemicals.

He is asking the people of Mpongwe to give him an opportunity to represent them effectively in Parliament.

Ultimately, Mpongwe is a vast rural district. Whoever is elected after February 28 will have a lot of work to do from day one.

It now, remains for political parties to campaign in a peaceful manner and avoid violence by any means necessary.

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