Without sounding like we are insulting the integrity of Mr Hakainde Hichilema, we wish the UPND could have fielded him as the mayoral candidate for the forthcoming Lusaka by-election.

Why do we say this? Because we are concerned that the Patriotic Front is too powerful to lose this mayoral election. We are choosing our words very carefully here; not too popular or too loved, but too powerful!

The Patriotic Front leadership itself knows that it is the most despised political party in this city. Zambians must not be fooled with the confidence that Davies Mwila, Bowman Lusambo and Antonio Mwanza are bubbling with, regarding the ruling party’s winning prospects in this election.

We have interacted with its leadership and they admit that there is a problem in Lusaka. When they are counting their 2021 fortunes, they say ‘Lusaka is dicey and can go either way’. So they calculate their winning prospects from other provinces.

The PF has a good reason for worrying about their popularity in Lusaka because they have done more damage than good to the city. This city houses the Republican President, Cabinet Ministers and two thirds of the ruling party’s Central Committee members. It is very easy for residents of Lusaka to witness the lifestyles that those in government are enjoying; the type of cars they drive and the wealth they posses.

When you drive from Woodlands to State Lodge where the ruling elites are outbuilding each other, you would wonder how cursed the residents of Bauleni compound are, or what sins they committed to live in such abject poverty next the millionaires. Three, four households are sharing a pit latrine in the shanty compound, and their member of parliament is the Minister of Finance.

When you hear the PF boast that they are going to win this mayoral election, they are not counting on the votes from State Lodge, Kabulonga, Woodlands, Rhodes Park and Olympia. The voters are in Kanyama compound, Misisi and Chibolya where cholera is an annual ceremony. Look at the way these voters are being treated by the PF after putting them in power.

What would motivate the people of Lusaka to vote for a party that is grabbing their plots? Every single day there is a landowner in Lusaka whose farm or plot is being invaded by PF cadres. There is nowhere to complain because the chief executive of the ruling party has instructed these cadres to be sharing land that doesn’t belong to them, and the Minister of Lands – we are told – is answerable to the Secretary General. Why would people want to keep voting for this party?

In the markets and bus stops, PF cadres are in control. The Lusaka City Council has no say over operations at the markets. It is the PF thugs that are collecting levy from traders and bus operators. The Ministry of Local government has allowed this lawlessness to germinate and grow because these are the breeding centers for panga-wielding gangs that win them elections.

The people of Lusaka are disgusted with this ruling party, and its leadership is fully aware that things are not well for them. Unfortunately, they will not allow the residents of Lusaka to reject them through the ballot. The PF cannot accept to be defeated by the opposition in such a cardinal election. Losing this election would be too humiliating to the PF because this is like a mini general election.

What worries us is that the PF is not looking for solutions to the problems that are affecting Lusaka. They are in this election to secure another position for milking the system. That is why they have landed on the hungriest candidate they could pick out of 30 applicants.

We were glad to hear Mr Miles Sampa admit that being jobless was too painful for him, because that has been our observation. We were happy to hear him admit that when he stopped having access to public resources, people abandoned him and he was left hungry.

“The President is my brother; what some of you don’t even know is that amongst everybody who deserted me, he was one person who remained. He is my elder brother, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. He used to look for me and we used to communicate. He would say ‘my brother, are you broke?’ and I would say ‘yes, I am broke, my brother.’ And he would send me something to buy a drink. Yes, I wasn’t working. Some people would say, ‘oh, he wants to come back in the party because he has no money;’ yes, let me be an example [because] if you don’t work, then you don’t have income. And I am encouraging everyone to look for a job,” said Mr Sampa.

We ask the people of Lusaka; what kind of leadership do you expect to see from this mayoral candidate who can proudly take his rumbling stomach to a public forum. How will this candidate manage the resources of the Lusaka City Council?

We ask all these questions because this is the candidate to watch. In our view, he has a 75 per cent chance of winning this election because he is being sponsored by a very powerful political party. He has all the money at his disposal and his campaign managers will go to every household to buy votes.

That is why we wish there was a way in which the UPND would field such a strong candidate as Mr Hichilema himself so that the PF remembers how it feels to lose an election, while Mr Hichilema tests victory for once.