By CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI
THREE weeks after grabbing local government seats from the former ruling party in Mkushi, the Patriotic Front (PF) is yet again in contention with MMD and UPND, this time for the parliamentary seat in the same locality.
And the arduous task before the people of Mkushi South in the three-person race, is to choose a member of Parliament who will ably represent their developmental needs.
Runners in the September 11 race are Davies Chisopa of the PF, MMDâ€™s Sydney Chisanga, and Agness Ngâ€™andu of the UPND.
The by-election will come 21 days after the PF grabbed four wards from the MMD in local government by-elections that were held right in Mkushi South.
The obvious question is, can the results of ward elections be used as a barometer to gauge the outcome of the forthcoming parliamentary by-election? Perhaps, could the UPND or MMD upset the political tide in Mkushi South?
The Mkushi South seat fell vacant on December 18, 2013 after the Supreme Court set aside the ruling of the Kabwe High Court that Mr Chisanga of the MMD was duly elected Mkushi South MP in 2011.
The Supreme Court nullified the election of Mr Chisanga following Mr Chisopaâ€™s petition on grounds that the former won because of electoral malpractices.
Mr Chisanga, who is trying to reclaim his lost seat, was declared winner over Mr Chisopa and Kayumba Sunwell (UPND) in the 2011 tripartite elections.
Results by the Electoral Commission of Zambia indicated that Mr Chisanga had won the elections with 3,744 votes, while Mr Chisopa had polled 13,733 votes and Mr Kayumba was trailing with 1,035 votes.
Mkushi South constituency has a total of 12,793 registered voters, but only 6,187 of them voted in 2011.
In addition to winning the disputed parliamentary election, MMD also scooped all the five local government seats in this rural and underdeveloped constituency. However, the former ruling party lost four of the local government seats to the PF recently.
The September 11 polls in Mkushi South will be the fourth parliamentary by-election in Central Province after the 2011 tripartite elections.
After the tripartite elections, MMD had nine seats in Central Province out of the 14. The PF managed three seats, while the UPND claimed two.
However, after four parliamentary by-elections, the MMD has been losing grip on the province with its parliamentary seats falling to six.
PF now has five seats after scooping the Kapiri Mposhi and Mkushi North seats and they seem determined to increase its tally of seats in Central Province.
The UPND has equally upped its number of parliamentary seats in Central Province to four after winning the Katuba seat and acquiring the Itezhi Tezhi seat following the realignment of districts which saw Itezhi Tezhi become a part of Central Province.
The September 11 parliamentary by-election will be held in a different environment in that Mkushi South constituency is now under Luano district.
For the people of Luano, the district status promises social development in the underdeveloped region.
Analyses of results of the September 20, 2011 and August 19, 2014 local government elections indicate that the PF, which previously was coming out in second or third position, is currently the most popular party in Mkushi South.
The MMD has dropped to third position and the UPND has taken the second position.
In the August 19 by-elections; in Munda ward PF polled 397 votes, UPND 278, and MMD 220.In Kamimbya ward, PF polled 394, UPND 241 and MMD 198 votes.
In Nkomashi ward, PF polled 116 votes while UPND and MMD each managed 73 votes.
The PF scooped 537 votes in Chingâ€™ombe ward, with UPND and MMD getting 109 and 80 votes respectively.
And in Chipawa the PF got 170 votes and UPND managed 150.
Without doubt, these results have changed the popularity ratings in favour of the PF.
But political pundits argue that despite the aforementioned, the battle in Mkushi South constituency is between Mr Chisanga and Mr Chisopa.
Mr Chisanga, who is MMD chairperson for Central Province and was first elected MP for Mkushi South in 2006, is confident of being re-elected. He says he has the right credentials for the task ahead, and the people of Mkushi have seen what he is able to do.
â€œI am definitely winning and I am going to continue work on the projects I started before the nullification (of his election),â€ he stated immediately after he filed his nomination at Old Mkushi Primary School.
Mr Chisanga, a businessman and a former Central Province deputy minister in the MMD government, says his services are still needed in Mkushi South.
But Mr Chisopa says Mr Chisanga is not popular in Mkushi South and his victory in 2011 was bolstered by electoral malpractice.
Mr Chisopa, who is PF Luano district treasurer, says the fact that his party won four wards last month is an indication that PF is the party of choice.
â€œWe have won all wards in the constituency…for me itâ€™s definitely a 100 percent win on 11 September,â€ Mr Chisopa says.
If elected MP, Mr Chisopa would like to attend to the problem of water supply and also promote agricultural production through timely delivery of farm inputs.
He will also campaign for the construction of more schools and health centres in the constituency.
â€œI will be spearheading development projects that our President (Mr Sata) has lined up, especially that Mkushi South is now a district,â€ he added.
Ms Ngâ€™andu, on the other hand, dismisses assertions that the race is between Mr Chisopa and Mr Chisanga, saying she stands a better chance of winning.
The UPND candidate believes she will send Mr Chisenga into political oblivion and also frustrate Mr Chisopaâ€™s second attempt to become an MP.
â€œI will win with a landslide victory. The people should be confident in me that I will deliver to their expectations,â€ Ms Ngâ€™andu said.
Ms Ngâ€™andu, a businesswoman and former councillor, claims the PF has failed to fulfil its campaign promises to the people of Mkushi South, citing lack of water in some areas.
If she is elected MP, Ms Ngâ€™andu wants to facilitate the construction of health centres, primary and secondary schools and the improvement of roads.
She is the third woman in the recent past to contest parliamentary elections in Central Province after Ingrid Mphande, who won the Mkushi North seat, and Patricia Mwashingwele, who unsuccessfully contested the Katuba seat.
Of the four by-elections held in Central Province, the Muchinga and Katuba elections were triggered by the death of serving MMD MPs George Kaunda in 2012 and Patrick Chikusu in 2013 respectively.
The Kapiri Mposhi and Mkushi North elections were occasioned by the nullification of the elections of Lawrence Zimba and Mutale Musonda of the MMD.
The MMD retained the Muchinga seat through Howard Kunda who succeeded his late father, while Jonas Shakafuswa won the Katuba seat on the UPND ticket.
The campaigns in Mkushi South have heightened as the date for the by-election draws near.
The three candidates have done their best to sell themselves to the electorate; itâ€™s now up to the people to choose the person they think will represent them well in Parliament.
By CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI