DARLINGTON MWENDABAI Malambo
TO HELP Mambwe district attain its vision of being a poverty-free zone four candidates have offered themselves to represent the people of Malambo Constituency.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia is conducting a parliamentary by-election in the constituency on June 30, 2015.
The district was established in 1998 and is rapidly growing as it hosts a flourishing tourism industry owing to its proximity to the South Luangwa National Park (SLNP).
But will the four candidates help reduce poverty in the area?
Jacob Shuma, 63 of the Patriotic Front (PF), Jailos Mchenga, 38, of UNIP, Peter Simon Phiri, 41, of United Party for National Development (UPND) and independent candidate Florence Mwayopa, 63, are all confident of winning the election.
But MMDâ€™s Zefenia Kaleya, who was ready to file in his nomination papers, was disappointed to learn that his party national secretary Mwansa Mbulakulima had written to ECZ returning officer Oscar Musonda.
Mr Mbulakulima had notified the ECZ of the partyâ€™s intention to withdraw from all the forthcoming parliamentary and ward by-elections.
However, the successful contestants have already started sounding and resounding their political messages in the district, which has only one constituency, Malambo.
The constituency had no member of parliament for the past two years following the nullification of the election of MMD parliamentarian Maxwell Mwale by the courts.
Each candidate wants to grab the seat, but not until they have convinced voters in the 13 wards namely; Kasamanda, Msoro, Mdima, Malama, Ncheka, Mnkhanya, Kakumbi, Nsefu, Jumbe, Chipapa, Chikowa, Mphomwa and Nyakatokoli as to why should be voted in as MP.
According to the Central Statistical Officeâ€™s 2010 data, the district has a population of 68,918 with an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent.
Currently, it has the highest growth rate in Eastern Province, meaning that its population is growing at a fast rate.
The growth in population entails provision of services and increase in demand of goods and services.
But only about 28,053 registered voters are expected to cast their votes on June 30, 2015 to ensure they have a voice in Parliament.
The locals want better roads, heath facilities, improved access to education, clean water, answers to animal-human conflicts and other social and economic development matters.
All the candidates have pledged to conduct issue-based and violence-free campaigns, saying they are locals who are peace ambassadors.
Mr Shuma, who described himself as a businessman, says once voted into office, he will ensure that the water problems and animal-human conflicts are addressed.
He said he was compelled to join politics in order to meet the aspirations of the poor.
â€œI am offering the people of Malambo hope, the essence of humanity; that is providing domestic water supply and helping resolving animal-human conflicts,â€ he said.
Mr Shuma thanked God and the people of Malambo for trusting the PF government, which he says is delivering development by bringing roads and building health facilities even before he is voted in as MP.
He pledged to also address the issues of climate change, which is affecting agriculture in the valley.
He says Mambwe, and Malambo in particular, being a valley area needs crop diversification and is confident that he is heading to Parliament after June 30.
However, Mr Mchenge, who is a professional tour guide and an emerging entrepreneur, said UNIP will carry the day.
He was in PF in 2013, but has decided to join the former ruling party, UNIP, and his message is based on the philosophy of the mind.
He said his priority is mind-change because no meaningful development can take place if people do not want to have a mind change on social and economic issues.
â€œThe revenue from the wildlife will be shared among the six chiefdoms in Malambo, but you know for any development to take place, we need first to have a positive mindset,â€ he said.
Mr Mchenge said his message is simple but rich in content and that it will focus on issues. He does not care about the prospect of losing the election.
However, his UPND counterpart, Mr Phiri, who was once a senior district official, ditched UNIP a few weeks before adoption date.
Mr Phiri, who is also a local businessman, says his message is based on embracing peace while solutions to animal-human conflicts as well as challenges of climate change need to be addressed.
He pledged to address issues in the agriculture sector.
â€œI will bring development to Malambo because I am a resident unlike others, but we want peaceful elections not violence,â€ he said.
The independent candidate, Ms Mwayopa, described herself as a woman with experience in community work spanning 25 years.
She will, therefore, not find it difficult to address the plight of the vulnerable in the area.
â€œMy focus is to address poverty at family level. I am asking people not to drink but to use their God-given ability to develop our area, which has a lot of potential in all sectors,â€ she said.
Ms Mwayopa said she will ensure markets for agricultural produce and products are found for farmers and poverty reduced by allowing the local people to engage in various economic activities.
Freeing Mambwe from poverty will not remain in the hands of the four candidates vying for the Malambo seat.
The eligible electorate will have to turn up in their numbers and cast their votes on June 30, 2015 to ensure the dream comes true.
DARLINGTON MWENDABAI Malambo