Rev Sikwela must rise to challenge

LIVINGSTONE Member of Parliament (MP) Howard Sikwela has resigned from the United Party for National Development (UPND). Reverend Sikwela has cited hostility in the UPND as the major reason for his resignation. He said at a media briefing in Livingstone yesterday that he had been receiving threats from UPND members since he declared that he wanted to work with the Government of the day to promote development in his constituency. Rev Sikwela, who is a former principal at David Livingstone College of Education, becomes the first UPND MP to resign. He was elected as Livingstone MP on July 5, last year in a by-election which arose after MMD’s Lukulo Katombora’s election results were nullified in the High Court. When asked if he would join the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), Rev Sikwela said he would remain an ‘open cheque’. Other MPs who have resigned recently are Steven Masumba and Gabriel Namulambe, who were MMD parliamentarians in Mufumbwe and Mpongwe constituencies, respectively. Mr Masumba stood in the same constituency under the PF ticket and retained the seat. He has since been appointed North-Western Province Minister. After Rev Sikwela emerged winner in the Livingstone parliamentary by-election last year, the PF challenged the election results in court and the case is coming up next week. “One asks a question, where would an MP get resources to develop his constituency? Of course it is from the Government of the day. An MP must think development, talk development and dream development. “It is with a heavy heart that today I have to announce my resignation as area MP and as a member of UPND,” Rev Sikwela said. He said he had already written to the Speaker of the National Assembly over his resignation. He accused UPND members of preparing for victory celebrations in Livingstone as they expected that he would lose his seat after a court ruling expected next week. “What is the logic of these celebrations when the results are still being challenged in the courts of law?” he asked. Rev Sikwela said UPND required rebranding in order for the opposition party to have a national character. PF Livingstone district chairperson Fred Chibuye said Rev Sikwela’s resignation had come as good news to the ruling party and the people of Livingstone. When contacted for a comment, UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma described Rev Sikwela as a disappointment to Zambians and the people of Livingstone who elected him after a by-election. Mr Kakoma said UPND would work hard to recapture the Livingstone seat.

ON THURSDAY President Sata swore in former UPND Livingstone Central member of Parliament Howard Sikwela as the new permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.
Reverend Sikwela replaces Chileshe Mulenga, whom President Sata has sent to Eastern Province in the same capacity.
We join the rest of the country in congratulating him on his appointment.
As permanent secretary Rev Sikwela is now the chief executive officer of the ministry to preside over the implementation of all government policies and programmes in the sector.
He is the right-hand man of and chief advisor to the minister on policy implementation.
His is, therefore, not a small task.
President Sata did not hide the fact that he has special interest in this ministry, in which he served as a governor and minister years back.
At the swearing-in ceremony at State House the President directed the new PS to get down to work immediately.
He went further to give Rev Sikwela tips on the need to have good interpersonal skills if he is to carry out his mission to the satisfaction of his appointing authority and the nation at large.
“Reverend Sikwela, I have been in this ministry and I know it inside-out. You are going to be with people, not animals. And if you have your skills in dealing with people, you will solve a lot of problems in this ministry. Anyway, I wish you good luck,” President Sata said.
It is good that Rev Sikwela assured the President and the nation that he is going to heed the Head of State’s advice to start working immediately.
This is an opportunity for the clergyman and educationist to serve the people of Zambia to the best of his ability.
After being hounded out of the UPND by that party’s intolerance Rev Sikwela had complained that his premature departure had deprived him of a chance to implement programmes aimed at uplifting the living standards of the people of Livingstone.
The President has now given him an opportunity to help lift the living standards of the whole nation.
The Ministry of Local Government and Housing is strategic because it is the government’s flagship in service delivery at community level.
Councils are the government’s first point of contact with the people, and the quality of services they deliver shapes the citizens’ perceptions and attitudes towards those who govern them.
Not long ago President Sata launched the revised Decentralisation Policy, which is aimed at devolving power from the central government to the people on the ground through the local authorities.
One of Rev Sikwela’s challenges is therefore to ensure the policy is implemented to accelerate development.
The President has created numerous districts, most of which have already started operating.
But there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the new districts have the right infrastructure and staff.
Another vexing issue the reverend will have to direct his energy to is the poor conditions of service for council workers.
He is expected to ensure the protracted negotiations between his ministry and the Zambia United Local Authority Workers Union are concluded.
The other priority area that will need his attention is housing and infrastructure development.
Rev Sikwela’s ministry has a critical role to play in addressing the country’s housing deficit.
Then there is the issue of illegal land allocations and grabbing, which have been thorns in the flesh of the government.
Welcome reverend!