The opposition has alleged that the PF in Chilubi has hired the only ferry at Samfya Habour for 20 days, as well as all other reliable water transport and has further booked all lodges on the island ahead of the nominations.
But Northern Province Minister Bwalya Chungu says the allegations are not true as the pontoon could have just broken down, while stressing that Chilubi Island has few lodges and “it’s difficult to accommodate every Jim and Jack” going there.
In a letter addressed to ECZ Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano, NDC vice-president Josephs Akafumba urged the commission to suspend the election if the ferry is not released to the public, as this would sabotage the opposition nomination process and subsequent campaigns.
“We are currently among the political parties that are going to participate in the forthcoming Chilubi Island by elections, whose nominations will be taking place tomorrow (today). Sadly, our officials travelling to Chilubi Island and currently at Samfya harbor, have been told that government has hired the ferry for the next 20 days and that all private vehicles cannot be allowed to pass. Our officials and vehicles have been stuck at the harbor for two days now, as they cannot pass over due to this. As the name suggests, the Patriotic Front, PF, government knows that Chilubi is an island and there is no other way we can access the place but through this same harbor. So if our vehicles are not allowed to be ferried then it means that we do not have access to Chilubi Island and no access to the elections,” stated Akafumba.
“This is election time and for government to do this at a time when other vehicles for other parties are supposed to be passing is a serious electoral malpractice and abuse of power of the highest kind. We would therefore like to urge the commission to intervene in this matter as the harbor is the only way to Chilubi Island. Failure to comply by the PF should then make the commission to suspend these elections as we will not be able to take part as we are constitutionally entitled to do so. Your positive consideration in the matter will be highly appreciated and we are available for any further discussions regarding this matter.”
And in an interview, Northern Province UPND chairperson Nathan Ilunga charged that all lodges and reliable modes of transport had been booked by the ruling party, leaving only canoes for the opposition.
“All the lodges, all reliable modes of transport have been booked leaving only a canoes for the opposition, that is the situation. Nominations of course will take place because our candidate is already on the island and we have mobilized enough support for him to support him so nominations will definitely take place but during the run up to the elections, because you know, after lodging the nomination, automatically the campaign starts. So I know we shall be handicapped because we still need some people to cross to the island from the mainland [but] now transportation will be another challenge for us because all the boats, all the lodges on the island and in the mainland have been booked even if they are not being used,” said Ilunga.
“A few days ago, we had a group of our members crossing to the island, now they wanted to spend a night at a lodge which is on the mainland, the lodges were virtually empty but the owners of the lodges said they are already booked so we cannot allow you to use them. And we have also heard the IG where he issued a statement that police will mount road blocks in order to search all those that are intending to go to Chilubi but we know very well that PF members have already camped in Chilubi, they went there way before they conducted the interviews for their 17 candidates. They have already camped there and we don’t know whether they will have the spine to search their camps because they have already established their camps there. We know that the road blocks are just intended for the opposition but you see, the beauty about us as opposition is that we are law abiding, we don’t even move with weapons, sometimes we only defend ourselves because it’s not like the olden days where the Bible says if somebody slaps you on the right cheek then you must also be able to offer the left cheek, no.”
But when reached for a comment, Chungu refuted the allegations, saying the ferry was working normally, adding that the PF had purchased their own boat.
He said the only other possibility was that the ferry might have developed a fault as it usually did.
“I am not aware about that. I don’t know how possible that can be, I am not aware my dear and as far as I am concerned, the ferry is open, everyone is moving as normal. At times it breaks down, that’s Zamtel failure and when it breaks down, its repaired, it gets on, so otherwise, as far as we are concerned, that has not happened and as far as I am concerned as minister for Northern Province, that is not true. About lodges, I need to find out from Chilubi, it has got mainland and island depending on how many, maybe there are only two lodges that are there, it’s difficult to accommodate every Jim and Jack. So I am not aware of the lodges being fully booked. I mean if they are fully booked, it’s good business for me and I want to make sure that our people can get business, yes, so if they are fully booked, well and good but to associate it to one political party, no, that is not true, and I am not aware, I am speaking as a minister for Northern Province and as one who wants people to have business,” said Chungu.
“So for me in terms of the ferry, no, I am not aware because I know that there is even a new boat, a brand new boat that the PF has bought and it has about a 100 plus capacity. So it’s moving, it’s running. So if the old one which has been limping, if it breaks down, I will not be surprised because I know that we repair it from time to time. So to allege that this is what is obtaining, they are not being fair and if they are late, it’s not PF’s problem.”