LUAPULA Province Minister Nickson Chilangwa says Luapula United is a hoax and President Edgar Lungu will not be coerced into picking a running mate from that region.

And Chilangwa says the pedicle road connecting Luapula and Copperbelt Province is a scandal and that RDA engineers must be made to pay for certifying a road which is falling off.

When asked to explain the Luapula United movement, an initiative interpreted to be a scheme in which MPs in that province were using to front a running-mate leadership campaign during ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Chilangwa said such a thing was non existent.

“Luapula United is a hoax! It was created by some individuals to make those of us from Luapula to put us in a bad light to say, ‘we are too ambitious,’ that we want to do that. But that is not possible. If Luapula United really existed, I am the provincial chairman; I am the provincial Minister, why is it that I have not been invited to a single meeting for Luapula United? I don’t think so. Are MPs divided? No. We may argue amongst ourselves and we may debate amongst ourselves,” he said.

And he insisted that President Lungu should not be coerced into deciding who he should pick as running mate for next year’s presidential election.

“Even [the issue of MPs wanting to be running mates] was part of the game plan by those who created Luapula United and they said, ‘the reason why Luapula United has been created is for the simple reason that they want to be a running mate from Luapula Province.’ And that is what it was so that we are seen in bad light. No sir, no single person has expressed…And how do you become a running mate when the President decides the candidate? Running mate is a preserve of the President. The presidential candidate must not be coerced into deciding who must be his running mate. The candidate must not be coerced into thinking that he must pick ‘ABCD from this region.’ He must make an informed decision depending on the parameters on the ground,” Chilangwa said.

And Chilangwa complained that the pedicle road connecting Luapula and Copperbelt Province was a scandal and that Road Development Agency (RDA) engineers should be held accountable for certifying a substandard road.

“The pedicle road [connecting Luapula to the Copperbelt Province] has been a scandal! But I must also say that our engineers in this country need to be serious. You cannot certify works on a road that is falling into pieces! You cannot do that. This is your country. You are doing a road that is falling into pieces and somebody must certify that? And you are getting paid? That is totally unacceptable! So, for me, the Engineering Institute of Zambia (ECZ) must up their game. They must come round the table and say, ‘yes, our member here errored.’ Those roads are certified by engineers; they are supervised by engineers to say, ‘this road has been built according to the expected specifications…’ And the roads are falling into pieces. Meanwhile, people are running with invoices to say, ‘we want to be paid.’ What kind of thinking is that?” Chilangwa wondered.

“So, for me, that is totally unacceptable and I think heads must roll. People must pay for their sins because it is written. For me, pedicle road, in its current state, is a scandal and I am not mincing my words. It’s totally unacceptable! And you want to blame President Lungu for it? No. We have to blame ourselves, we have to blame our engineers, we have to blame RDA.”

Meanwhile, Chilangwa lamented that Luapula was ranked as one of the poorest provinces in Zambia and continued to remain underdeveloped due to lack of economic activities in the area.

“Luapula Province, yes, is known for other reasons and one of the reasons Luapula Province is known for is that it’s one of the poorest provinces in the country and that’s where the Luapula Expo started from. The province is underdeveloped owing to one major reason, which is the lack of major economic activities. Luapula has not attained its potential due to low economic activities. And one of the reasons why Luapula has not attained its full potential is due to poor energy. Luapula hasn’t got industrial energy up-to-date of 55 years after independence,” said Chilangwa.

“The other reason is that Luapula has gone through a transformation period. In the early 70s, Luapula was well known for its fish industry. The Bangweulu-Luapula-Lake Mweru fishery area was the biggest provider of fish for the province and on the Copperbelt Province. But over the years, the resources started diminishing. There was no real drive to deal with this particular problem.”