Confusion rocked filing in of nominations for the Milenge Town Council Chairperson by-election in Luapula Province when the PF switched candidates at the last minute due to their first choice’s invalid documents.

On Wednesday, PF secretary general Davies Mwila announced that the ruling party would field Benny Chola for the Milenge Council by-election, but surprisingly, the party changed at the last minute and decided to field Chanda Masheke.

According to witnesses on the ground, the PF’s first choice was supposed to file in his nominations between 09:00 and 10:00 hours, but delayed due to invalidity of his nomination papers, which pushed the ruling party to settle for Masheke.

“At first what happened was that when the PF came with Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya, they came with a candidate who they announced at the secretariat, Benny Chola. Then they went in the nomination center to file in their nomination papers. Then they delayed and later on we just saw when it reached about 10 to 11:00 hours, we saw the Minister coming out and he had mini-meetings with all the PF members, and people who were singing from the PF stopped singing and had mini-meetings. It was at that time we saw the Minister, I think around 11:05 hours, who is also the campaign manager Chilufya, came running from the nomination center. Then, coincidentally, the UPND came because it was their time to file in their nominations (between) 11:00 hours to 12 hours, so they came in and the PF cadres said, ‘tiyeni tichuime chi motoka! (let us hit the car!) They never knew that the Minister was rushing to talk to the other candidate, they decided to settle for removing the one who was announced at first,” the witness narrated.

“The UPND came to the (nomination) centre to check if their friends had finished filing. When the PF members saw the UPND, they started screaming ‘what do you want? Get out!’ That is what transpired. And later on, we discovered that when the Minister was not running to smash the car for the UPND, but he was rushing to get the new candidate. And the cadres realized that ‘ah this is what is happening.’ The mini-meetings, which I was listening to was that the guy (Chola) is a form three, he doesn’t have (a grade 12 certificate) and he forged the grade 12 certificate and Electoral Commission of Zambia verified and found out that he didn’t have a grade 12 certificate, he had ‘Matero Matero’. We followed them to their camps, they even changed camps; they were camping at the DEBS’ office where their cadres were singing songs. Later on, we just saw that person coming out with powder was another person.”

And ECZ public relations manager Margaret Chimanse confirmed that the PF switched their candidate at the last minute due to “technicalities” on his nomination papers.

“Ask the PF, it will carry more weight. We just know that they came and they were delayed; they went in, but they managed. I think there was a situation, there was a problem with the nomination papers and they changed the candidate in the last minute, that’s all that happened so they changed and brought in someone (else). I just know that there was a problem with the papers, so he couldn’t be endorsed. I think you can speak to the PF,” said Chimanse in a separate interview, Thursday.

“I don’t have details; I just know that the papers were not in order so they changed the candidate. They were almost about to endorse, but when they checked through the system, they changed at the last minute. We are not privy to those details. All we know is that they had a different candidate and they managed to successfully (file in); they are at liberty to do that. We were ready even to sign, but before that can be done, they withdrew a candidate and brought another one.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya said the selection of Masheke was done with due diligence and that the party was not confined to only selecting one candidate.

“We have intra-party elections that lead to the adoption. What you are seeing here is our candidate, Chanda Masheke, the PF candidate, and he has gone through the due diligence. This is the winning candidate, Masheke, appeared among the top three candidates and what we do in the PF, we allow the sub-Central Committee structures to interview candidates and come up with three candidates. The Central Committee determines, which candidate to file in. And as campaign manager, I have to make sure that all the due processes are followed to ensure that amongst the top three candidates, we pick one who will file in as our official candidate. We came with all the three candidates and we are at liberty to file in one,” explained Dr Chilufya.

“We actually rank the candidates one, two, three and we are at liberty to pick one of them, depending on the due diligence that is done. So, the due diligence that has been done has culminated into Chanda Masheke that is who we are going to fill as the PF’s winning candidate. The SG (Davies Mwila), yes, did announce that number one, but number one is supported by number two, and number three and that the due process takes place right to the point of filing in nomination. The campaign team is at liberty to work within the top three that have been picked as the party in position. We are not condemned or incarcerated to the top number one.”