The ruling Patriotic Front says it is eager to snatch away the Katuba parliamentary seat from the opposition, but the United Party for National Development (UPND) says it will not allow that to happen.

Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) public relations manager Margaret Chimanse explained in a statement, Monday, that the Katuba parliamentary by-election, slated for July 30, 2019 would be held alongside six local government by-elections in Northern, Copperbelt and Western provinces.

Confirming their participation in separate interviews with News Diggers!, PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri and her UPND counterpart Patrick Mucheleka expressed optimism that their respective parties would scoop the Katuba seat.

“As PF, we have been ready for a long time, we were just waiting for the date for elections. We will go in as we have always done, we’ll go into Katuba with no violence, with no malice and our aim is to win that by-election. We don’t even have any doubt about winning Katuba because even Chilanga, which was previously held by UPND, we won. Kafue Council Chairmanship was held by UPND; Mitete, which is their stronghold in Western Province was being held by UPND, but we still won it. In North-Western Province, we have made a lot of strides and we are getting there. So, for us, whether Katuba was a UPND seat or whichever party, we are ready. And the message we are sending is something visible. The unprecedented development we are talking about is there for people to see. It’s not a matter of propaganda, it’s something, which can be seen and which can be attested to by the people,” Phiri said.

And commenting on calls made by former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa for political parties contesting Katuba to consider female candidates, Phiri said female candidates would always be considered if they took the stand.

“I wish Madam Maureen Mwanawasa did that when she had a privilege of being a President’s wife. We should preach things which we are able to do. But, of course, we will encourage women to come forth, we don’t have to follow them in their yards; let them offer themselves for that service. Definitely, if we have a credible woman who will stand up the way honourable Mwashingwele stood up, the way Mumbi Phiri stood up and offered her service as a politician; If we have woman who will stand up the way Jean Kapata has stood, we don’t have to be following just because they are women. Let them come out and offer their services. Otherwise, I have reservations over Madam Maureen Mwanawasa sentiments because she was in that position and if she had that heart, we could have had 50-50 even during the MMD (era) because she was influential when the husband was the President,” recalled Phiri.

Meanwhile, Mucheleka appealed to voters in Katuba not to be fooled by the PF’s “corruption-inspired” campaigns.

“We have to retain that seat. And the most important people for us are the people of Katuba so we will not be so much worried about the manoeuvres of the PF, including as usual, institutionalised corruption. They are suddenly commissioning projects in Katuba now that there is a by-election. Pure contradictions! On one hand, you see the Minister of Finance saying government is cutting down on expenditure because of austerity measures, but on the other hand, you see the Minister of Health going everywhere doing ground-breaking ceremonies, especially in areas where there are by-elections. We have seen them in Katuba trying to hand over some projects, just hoodwinking the people of Katuba!” he said.

“Whilst we want people to have access to social amenities, such as health facilities, it is our considered view as UPND that, let’s not fool people. If we are serious with development, we must be able to take development in every part of Zambia, including Katuba. You don’t have to wait for a sitting member of parliament to die then you start doing ground-breaking ceremonies for projects. People will certainly know that you don’t mean well and you are actually taking people for granted.”

He expressed confidence that Katuba voters would make the right choice of voting for a UPND candidate on July 30.

“We are very confident that the people of Katuba are able to see through the manoeuvres of the Patriotic Front, and that, when it comes to voting, the people are looking for a party that will take them to greater heights without necessarily waiting for by-elections. So, for us as UPND, we are ready to defend our seat and at an appropriate time, we will be able to unveil our candidates for Katuba. In the meantime, the process of selection and interviews will go ahead. And we just want to appeal to the traditional leadership in Katuba to be behind the people of Katuba to help us carry on the legacy of our fallen leader who has gone to be with the Lord,” said Mucheleka.