National Restoration Party president Elias Chipimo says he is still looking for candidates to field in the forthcoming local government by-elections on the NAREP ticket, while FDD national secretary Nathan Mulonga says something has gone wrong in his party and it will not participate in the polls.
In less than three weeks, the Electoral Commission of Zambia will be conducting local government by-elections in 16 districts namely: Kalulushi, Mufulira, Nyimba, Sinda, Kawambwa, Mwense, Shibuyunji, Chinsali, Mafinga, Shiwang’andu, Kasempa, Mufumbwe, Mwinilunga, Mushindamo, Monze, and Mongu districts.
I interviewed almost all the political party players on their preparedness for the April 24 polls, and while the big players expressed confidence of scooping most seats, the majority of opposition participants told me it was a costly undertaking that had come at short notice.
“We intend to participate yes but at the moment the issue is more about funding and identifying candidates. The time is very short, I mean this is the kind of thing that very few other than those that have either plundered money or have been waiting for many years to get into power seem to be in scramble mode to take advantage of the by-election. It is unfortunate because it means that the country is spending a lot of money and political parties are forced to spend a lot of money to put in place replacement MPs and councilors. This is one of the reasons why when the constitutional amendment was made, we had been quite vocal about the whole issue of how the succession process following vacancy of a seat should take place,” Chipimo said.
He expressed expressed concern over vote-buying, adding that it was difficult to convince people to vote against those bribing them.
“We have seen a clear and consistence pattern and not just in Chilanga but in other places around the country, like on the Copperbelt where people are fade up with the PF, they are fade up with President Lungu – the lack of opportunities the lack of businesses, the lack of money in the economy and they are fade up with the poor salaries, but politics in Zambia is still at a stage where there are parties that think that they have a lot of money at their disposal and they are able to buy people talk time, pay for their transport, take care of their tummy, and of course badmouthing their opponents. We want to run a professional campaign,” said Chipimo.
FDD’s Mulonga told that his party was preoccupied with resolving internal wrangles and would not take part.
“We are not participating in these elections. We have got our own internal processes which we are dealing with right now. We will surely participate in the future elections but for now, we are not participating because we are looking at whatever has gone wrong in the party and then we can move on,” said Mulonga.
Socialist Party General Secretary Dr Cosmas Musumali also said his party was already knocked out because it was a new formation and needed to focus on mobilisation.
“We are not participating in any by-elections for the foreseeable future for a simple reason that we feel by-elections, as they are structured and the processes involved, consume quite a lot of resources and time for the organizations involved. We are a new political party, we are focused on member recruitment, building our party structures and selling our manifesto to the Zambians as broadly as possible. A by-election at this stage would mean diverting our energy that we have today to activities that we are not ready for,” said Musumali.
“There will be a time when we are ready and we will definitely participate. We are a political party that believes in electoral democracy but this is not our time yet. Our energies are not necessarily focused on 2021, they are focused on building a viable and strong party… We want to build a party that will outlive us and generations to come and the 2021 elections, in as much as we are going to participate, they are not an end in itself and they cannot be our strategic goal. Our strategic plan goes beyond 2021.”
Although the Felix Mutati-led MMD faction is eager to field a presidential candidate in the 2021 general elections, its national secretary Raphael Nakacinda explained to me why the forthcoming by-elections would pass them.
“We have elected not to participate in the forthcoming by-elections to channel our resources and time to continue the rigorous programme of mobilizing the party in the remaining provinces that we have not touched so far. We feel that we have been lagging behind in getting to our people especially with the fact that immediately after the convention, we went into the campaigns, after that we had this situation of forming government where we had our president appointed minister so all those things have brought about different dynamics that needed to be dealt with before we can get on the ground. We think that the little resources that we are generating, if split also towards those by-elections which most of them are induced, I think it is not progressive for the party,” said Nakacinda.
Well sad for those that have opted to lose without trying.
Chishimba Kambwili’s National Democratic Congress said it was game, and eager to upset the table in at least 11 of the 16 wards.
“We have filled 11 candidates out of the 16 wards. Our desire to scoop all the 11 wards is very high but then the decision to vote for us depends on the electorate in the 11 wards to vote for us. But as a party with limited resources, we have tried our level best to field our candidates. Let our people understand that we are the only party that can be trusted with the country’s resources. I can confidently say that yes we have started very slowly and we are hoping that we shall raise the momentum as we go,” said its secretary general Mwenya Musenge
“People must vote for us because our intentions are to stamp out corruption in this country and the only way we can do that is by removing the corrupt government from power. So we are telling our people to say, ‘look at how our resources have been mismanaged, how our farmers have been failed’. We are telling our people that ‘look at how an ordinary Zambia is overtaxed’. The taxes in this country are becoming huge everyday. So we are telling our people that Edgar Lungu and PF have literary destroyed our country and must go!”
Outspoken Wynter Kabimba who is leader of the Rainbow Party said all the 16 wards were behind the socialist movement and he had no doubt of 100 per cent victory.
“We are taking part in the elections and we have even filed in our nominations. We are busy campaigning and the campaigns so far are going on very well and we expect to perform very well. Obviously you don’t go into an exam without being well prepared and expecting to fail. You go in an exam to go and pass. So we are expecting to perform well, we will perform very well in fact, we must get 100 per cent. So you should know that we are not a social media political party who just make postings, we are a serious party,” said Kabimba.
Of course UPND who are the biggest opposition party are anxious to teach PF a lesson, and the national chairperson Mutale Nalumango did not miss her words – “Tizamudabwisa Lungu,” she said.
“We are very ready for the elections and we are confident that we will scoop all the seats. You know, Zambians are watching and we are not dull. We have seen how much PF has failed and it is time for Zambians to rise from the ashes they have taken us into and vote for a progressive party. And UPND is that progressive party. So we are highly expectant that we will do very well this time, even in the PF strongholds they will be surprised because they have no stronghold anymore,” said Nalumango.
“Tizabadabwisa naku Chipata kwamene, tiwina. Tibwela ba Lungu uko ku Chipata (we will surprise the PF, even in Chipata [where the Head of State comes from] we will go and win, Mr Lungu we are coming to Chipata). When I say Tibwela, I mean we will come and meet you head on and defeat you properly. People are tired of this leadership of the PF, people are tired. Abantu nabamibwelamo imwe ba PF nimwe bakaitemwe, nimwe ba mpompwe munshibila nsala. So we are geared as UPND and we are surely winning,” stressed Nalumango.
PF Secretary General Davies Mwila was addressing a press conference at the time of writing, but Media Director Sunday Chanda was available and as expected, said the PF was not only going to win, but win big in order to prove that it is not losing power to anyone.
“We are on very solid ground and in all the 16 wards where we are going to have by-elections, we have members on the ground and we are taking our message of development and practicing a civility of politics. We are also ensuring that the Zambian people are able to see the difference between the Patriotic Front and its competitors. We remain issue based and we are not promising what we cannot do. We are basically pointing to the works that we have either commenced or scheduled in these 16 wards. Across the country as you know, the Patriotic Front as a party in power is rolling out development in all the provinces of this country without exception and there is no province that anyone can go to where people would say that they’ve not seen a PF government initiated project.
“We would want to believe that the people in Southern Province have seen what the Patriotic Front is able to do and we want to think that the people in Southern Province are ready to vote for development as opposed to voting for any twisted agendas that some people have been known for. We think that the people of Southern Province would want to be part and parcel of a movement that is pushing and bringing development closer to the people. So we are not skeptical [about anything], we are going into these by-elections with an attitude to win, to win real big!”