PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has asked traditional leaders to support Bill 10 because it will give the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) powers to demarcate boundaries and create more constituencies.

And President Lungu says traditional leaders should sensitise their subjects to desist from involving in mealie meal and maize smuggling because doing so is depriving the country of economic resources.

Speaking when he met with senior chief Puta and senior chief Mununga in Chiengi District of Luapula Province, Thursday, President Lungu argued that his hands were tied when it came to the creation of more constituencies because the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 had not been passed, hence the need for chiefs to endorse it.

“Another important issue is one that borders around chieftaincy. We do not have authority or power to intervene in the installation of traditional leadership or to start saying ‘this one should be paramount chief this or that.’ Article 165 of the Constitution states that: ‘no one has the authority to change or dictate traditional leadership because such powers lay in the traditional leaders themselves.’ Otherwise, at this moment, we don’t coordinate well with the traditional leadership. So, if, for example, we want to upgrade the traditional leadership, at this moment we do not have any powers to do that. But if Bill 10 had passed, maybe you could have proposed some amendments yourselves on who should have powers to upgrade the traditional leaders,” President Lungu said.

“The other thing is the delimitation of constituencies. At the moment, we know that Zambia has 156 constituencies. If we change the law through Bill 10 and give powers to the ECZ to demarcate boundaries. The ECZ knows what they want, they know, which areas need more constituencies. But because the current Constitution says, ‘there shall be 156, our hands are tied up!’ That is why we want to pass this Bill 10 so that we look at those challenges.”

President Lungu added that he wanted to have something to point at ahead of next year’s general election, but that he would only be able to do so if he delivered on the promise to upgrade the road network.

“We sat down with Cabinet Ministers and agreed that we must start working on all the roads that we had planned to work on by starting with putting gravel so that when resources are available, we tar all those roads that we had promised. We want, as we go into 2021, we should be pointing at what we have done so that we don’t get embarrassed, because if we don’t do that, I will be the one that will be embarrassed,” he said.

And the Head of State urged traditional leaders to encourage their subjects to desist from smuggling maize to uphold food security.

“Agriculture activities are going on well in the country, but I am requesting that you encourage people that when inputs come, they should not export to Congo, and when they harvest, they should not import. But if we have a surplus here, then in the right way we can be given an opportunity to export to Congo. But let us not do smuggling because smuggling is depriving us of economic resources. So, we appeal to you, our traditional leaders that when Congolese come to buy, please do not allow them to smuggle maize or mealie meal. They need to get permits because that is trade,” said President Lungu.

And speaking at the same meeting, Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Vincent Mwale announced that government had released K25 million to upgrade the Chiengi-Nchelenge road.

“What the President has said is true. Government has committed that it will work on the roads. The Chiengi-Nchelenge road contract was signed by Sino Hydro. Initially, it was supposed to be for K474 million, but after what the President said, as PF, we committed to transform the whole country. So, we agreed to downscale projects and put gravel roads everywhere and when we find money, we start selecting which ones to upgrade. So, this Nchelenge-Chiengi road, we also re-scoped it and the contract came to K229 million. As I am talking now, we sent K25 million to the contractor last week and that is why you have seen him on the ground. Why we had to rescope is that we want to equate the money that we have and the work that is needed to be done. The President has also asked the Ministry of Finance to find money so that we finish the road from Nchelenge,” said Mwale.