DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata
IN A few days’ time, five out of 16 council chairperson candidates in Eastern Province will occupy office in five new districts.
The race for council chairpersonship has been peaceful so far in Chasefu, Chipangali, Kasenengwa, Lumezi and Lusangazi districts.
However, like any other election, expectations by the electorate are high. Voters in the rural districts simply want better roads, safe water, better schools and health facilities.
On the other hand, the candidates want to scoop their chairperson position and be called, “executives”. However, what many may not realise is that the position is not an executive one.
Some have already started calling themselves ‘Honourable’, a title that is not provided for in the Constitution for those aspiring for the position of a mayor or chairperson.
Minister of Local Government Vincent Mwale already guided on this matter when he made his ministerial statement in Parliament on “Terms of reference for elected mayors and council chairpersons in councils in the nation” on November 1, 2018.
Mr Mwale said in the amended Constitution of Zambia, mayors and council chairpersons are now elected directly by the electorate in every district.
He explained that as a consequence of this development, there have been different perceptions on whether such an elected mayor or council chairperson should hold executive office or not. These perceptions have also extended to how the elected officials should be remunerated.
“You may wish to note that the amended Constitution does not provide for an executive mayor or council chairperson but for a mayor or council chairperson who is directly elected by the electorate in the district rather than by fellow councillors as the case was previously,” he said.
He said the office of mayor and council chairperson is established under article 154 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia, which stipulates that “there shall be a mayor and deputy mayor or council chairperson and deputy council chairperson for every council as prescribed”.
The mayor and council chairperson is the political head of the council whose functions include superintending over policy-making, ensure the preparation of the annual budget and implementation of the strategic plan as well as ensuring community and district development plans are done among others.
Therefore, the first districts are expecting nothing less but development from the 16 candidates who have pledged to be the servants of the people. Only five, however, will be elected as council chairpersons on July 26, 2018 in the respective districts
In Chasefu, four candidates, with each claiming to be the best, filed their nomination papers. These are: Chimwemwe Banda of Patriotic Front (PF), an independent candidate Thokoza Ndhlovu, Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD)’s Davies Nyirongo and United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Benard Zulu.
Other candidates feeling they are best placed to work in Lumezi district are UPND’s candidate Marjorie Mumphanshya, PF’s Clement Mwale and independent candidate Jimmy Phiri.
In Lusangazi district, the electorate will have to choose the best candidate from among William Banda of PF, Robert Mwale of UPND, and Patrick Banda and Blackson Tembo, who are both independent candidates.
Interestingly, only the PF and UPND candidates managed to file their nomination papers for the position of council chairperson in Kasenengwa district while four candidates failed.
The four political parties that failed to do this are National Democratic Congress (NDC), Rainbow Party, MMD and UNIP.
The PF’s candidate is Saul Zulu while the UPND candidate is Peter Mwenda, who was handpicked at the last minute after Rodgers Hara was rejected by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) for failing to produce the original grade 12 school certificate.
Mr Hara only managed to produce a school testimonial and an affidavit from the police, indicating that he lost his grade 12 certificate. However, ECZ rejected his documents.
And PF candidate Saul Zulu said he will first prioritise construction of roads and provide safe drinking water to the people, while his UPND counterpart promised to focus on empowering youths and developing the area once voted into office.
PF Kasenengwa and Chipangali districts campaign manager Vincent Mwale urged PF supporters to conduct peaceful campaigns while UPND campaign manager Anderson Mwale said the opposition party is popular and will win the seat.
Meanwhile, three candidates in the newly-created Chipangali district successfully filed their nominations for the position of council chairperson while one candidate failed.
The successful candidates are Million Tembo (PF), William Banda (UPND) and Davy Kapwata of United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ).
NDC candidate Samuel Lugomo Phiri failed to file his papers after he failed to produce an Examinations Council of Zambia certified copy of his certificate.
Mr Lugomo said he forget his 12 school certificate at his party secretariat in Lusaka and urged successful candidates to hold peacefull elections while the electorate should vote wisely.
And all the three candidates promised to work on poor road network, lack of safe clean drinking water and shortage of schools and health facilities once voted into office.
These have been the messages the 16 candidates have been taking to the people. However, the electorate in the five districts will decide who will lead.
It is expected that eligible voters in these districts will turn up in numbers and exercise their democratic right by voting peacefully.
DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata