By NDANGWA MWITTAH
WITH the campaigns having entered week three and the poll date for the Katuba parliamentary by-election fast approaching, the seven candidates vying for the seat have been making various pronouncements.
All this is in an effort to win the race to Manda Hill to represent the people of Katuba.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Patrick Chikusu on December 2 last year.
Dr Chikusu was MMD Member of Parliament (MP), who at the time of his death was serving in the Patriotic Front (PF) government as Deputy Minister of Health.
The seven candidates in the race are Moses Chilando aka ‘Big Moze’ of the PF, Jonas Shakafuswa, otherwise known as ‘Shakas’, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), Alliance for Better Zambia (ABZ)’s Patricia Mwashingwele and Joseph Mushalika, who is contesting the seat under the auspices of the National Restoration Party (NAREP).
The rest are Shakespeare Mwakamui of the National Revolution Party (NRP), UNIP’s Allan Malawo and Cecil Holmes, who is being sponsored by the MMD.
All the candidates, in separate interviews, expressed confidence that they will win the seat for their respective parties.
On top of that, the candidates have also spelt out their plans and promised to uplift the living standards of people in the constituency that is geographically close to Lusaka and lies on the Great-North Road.
But what really do the people of this constituency want? What qualities should the next parliamentarian possess? What issues do they want their next representative in Parliament address? Do any of the seven candidates meet their standard?
This reporter toured the constituency and spoke to a few of the 38,500 registered voters who all voiced out on a number of issues that they felt should be addressed.
While many of them emphasised on the need for speedy infrastructure development, a number of them also pointed out the need for a proper sanitation system as well as other issues such as prompt distribution of farming inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
Derrick Simba, 45, a resident of Katuba commended the efforts made by the late Dr Chikusu saying, “He really tried his best.”
Mr Simba who owns a shop at Ten Miles Market hopes the next MP would address issues such as security in the area.
“Whoever is going to win, they should make sure that there is a bigger and proper police post here. There is a lot of crime that goes on around this area. It is just my wish that more police posts be constructed especially in areas such as Muchenje where cases of cattle rustling are rife,” he said.
Another resident, Angela Chikwela, 34, is urging all the seven political parties contesting the seat to conduct themselves in a violence-free manner.
“We have been a peaceful constituency all these years and we don’t want people to bring confusion here. We want violence-free elections. We don’t want to hear of cases of violence like has been the case in other areas during elections.
“But so far, so good. There hasn’t been any report of violence. Let the cadres of all the parties involved just campaign peacefully. The candidates should just tell us what they are going to do for us instead of calling themselves names and enticing youths to engage into violence,” she said.
Edgar Mumba wants the next Katuba parliamentarian to lobby for more nurses at Mungule Rural Health post.
“The health post has only three or four nurses. We need more nurses and houses built for them. We also need more clinics because the constituency is vast and the distance between health facilities is just too much. Mungule Clinic has a catchment area of over 12 Kilometres, the distance is just too much. This is the reason why people resort to using herbal medicine,” he said.
Another resident, Abel Chilikwela wants more schools built in the area.
“At least we have a high school at Moomba but that alone is not enough. We still need more schools to be built in the area so that all our children could have access to quality education. It would be nice if we had a minimum of two schools per ward. That would really be nice,” he said.
A woman, who only identified herself as Gertrude, a teacher at Namununga Primary School situated about 10 Kilometres from Chieftainess Mungule’s palace, bemoaned the dilapidation of her school.
“Look at that classroom block there (pointing at a dilapidated 1 x 3 classroom block built in the 1960’s). It is completely dilapidated. But would you believe it when I tell you that we teach from there? In fact, had it not been for Child Fund who built us this new classroom block and a few houses, I don’t know where we would have been by now.
Gertrude said these were some of the issues that the next MP should consider when voted into office.
“A classroom block cannot cost a fortune. Just a little from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) can actually go a long way. Anyway, we are happy with what we have at the moment,” she said.
Other people such as Melody Shilengwa and Benson Mulando all voiced out on the need to sink boreholes and install hand-pumps in the remotest areas of the constituency where access to safe drinking water is a challenge.
“When you go further down in the villages, you will find that people share water with animals, while others get their drinking water from wells. It is not safe. We need more boreholes,” said Mr Mulando who wished all the seven candidates well as they campaign.
Other residents called for the construction of bridges and culverts on streams that get flooded during the rainy season.
“A lot of roads become impassable in the rainy season. Even this road that leads to the palace needs attention” said one resident, Abraham Mulembo.
The die is cast, all is set, campaigns have reached peak stage, and the day is February 25.
Candidates are making numerous promises and residents of Katuba have also spoken out on the things they want addressed.
Many are the times when MPs have neglected their electorate after assuming office.
The people of Katuba constituency do not want to find themselves in such a predicament after February 25.
By NDANGWA MWITTAH