The ruling Patriotic Front and the opposition UPND have drawn battle lines ahead of the February 12, 2019, Sesheke Parliamentary by-elections, each vowing to take the seat.

UPND deputy secretary general for politics, Patrick Mucheleka, told News Diggers! that the party was ready to defend the Sesheke seat which until November 12, 2018, was held by its member Frank Kufakwandi who died in South Africa after an illness.

Mucheleka, however, wondered why the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had left out the Kafue Council Chairmanship seat which fell vacant following the resignation of the UPND Chairperson about a month ago.

“UPND is ready to defend that seat and we will not allow the PF to come anywhere near. But what is surprising is that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has left out Kafue for the Council Chairmanship by-elections. The Chairperson for Kafue Town Council resigned over a month ago and we have information that the Council Secretary immediately informed the ECZ. So we are very surprised as to why they left it out. They have also left out Lufinshe ward in Malole constituency in Kasama. But the reason is simple, this is the manipulation of ECZ by the PF, they think that these two should be handled separately from the rest because they want to go and concentrate on vote buying in Sesheke. But, we are calling on ECZ to exercise its mandate to organise and run elections independently. They must be able to include Kafue Council Chairperson elections and they must also be able to include Lufinshe ward in Malole constituency in Northern province,” demanded Mucheleka.

“It’s not cost effective for ECZ to try and handle those by-elections separately. At the end of the day, it’s the tax payer whose money is being abused. But as UPND, we are ready for the by-elections in Sesheke. We shall participate in all of the elections, including Kafue and Lufinshe ward. We have already started our preparations. Some of the seats were ours and we are going to defend them. For those which are in the PF strongholds, we are also taking steps to ensure that we are ready. In going forward, we want to appeal to ECZ to be a ‘dog’ with teeth to bite, as opposed to toothless bulldogs. They must be able to enforce the electoral process Act, as well as the electoral code of conduct. Those two pieces of legislation should be adhered to by ECZ and all political parties participating. We shall be able to exercise citizens’ arrest wherever we are going to see PF or any other agent being used, including to ensure that there is no abuse of state resources. We are also going to scrutinise everything that they are going to do so that we can have a level playing field.”

But in a statement issued by PF media director Sunday Chanda, party secretary general Davies Mwila said Western Province was ready to embrace the ruling party as evidenced by the Mangango victory and other local government by-elections held recently.

“We are certain that Western Province is open and ready for a new mutually-reinforcing relationship with the Patriotic Front founded on development and equitable distribution of resources. Mangango Constituency has confirmed that the good people of Western Province have enough ground to trust the PF and President Lungu because of its massive development agenda. Our message is development for Sesheke. The people of Sesheke deserve better. The people of Sesheke must get better. The people of Sesheke will get better by voting for the Patriotic Front,” said Mwila.

“For the first time in decades, the PF government through its Ministry of Finance has released the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to all the 156 Constituencies without exception. We mean business when we commit to taking development to all corners of the country. This is what we mean when we say that President Lungu is President for all Zambians, including those who didn’t vote for him in the last election.”

Meanwhile, National Democratic Congress (NDC) secretary general Mwenya Musenge said his party was yet to advise whether it would be taking part in the Sesheke by-elections.

“As NDC, we will be having our Central Committee meeting in the first week of January. It is in that meeting where we shall resolve whether we are going to participate in the Sesheke by-elections or not. But it’s our party’s policy that we should be participating in all by elections so that we can sell our party. We also have to be mindful that elections are quite costly and we have to make sure that wherever we are participating, there is tangible support. Although we are mindful that even in areas where we are not popular, just participating will help us to establish ourselves on the ground. So the party will give a position in the first week of January,” said Musenge in a separate interview as well.