CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI , Serenje
THE political landscape in Serenje Central constituency in Central Province is charged as political parties conduct their final campaigns ahead of next weekâ€™s general elections.
Patriotic Front (PF)â€™s Philip Kosamu, MMDâ€™s Maxwell Kabanda and United Party for National Development (UPND)â€™s Clarissa Chikamba are busy canvassing for votes from the electorate they hope to represent in Parliament.
In 2011, Mr Kosamu defeated Mr Kabanda (MMD) and UPNDâ€™s Dickson Chibuye to be elected Serenje Central member of Parliament (MP) under the PF.
He took over from Ackimson Banda, who was MMD MP for 10 years, and the PF has adopted him to re-contest the seat for the second time.
After being defeated in 2011, Mr Kabanda defected to the PF but he staged a last-minute defection back to the MMD when he was not adopted by the ruling party.
As for Ms Chikamba, she is contesting for the first time and she is confident of becoming the first female MP for Serenje Central.
The race for office of Serenje District Council chairperson has attracted Chester Kasonde (PF) and Josephine Hamir (UPND), while Chunga Musonda is standing as an independent candidate.
Serenje Central constituency, which has seven wards, is the heart of Serenje district as it hosts district administration offices, government departments, a post office, police station as well as the new and old district hospitals. However, the constituency is still undeveloped.
People in the constituency feel that an MP, council chairperson and ward councillors, other than the central government, should provide solutions to the challenges they face.
Notably, Government is making strides to boost agriculture, improve delivery of health and education services and ensuring that people access clean drinking water.
To improve township roads, in 2013 Government engaged Hua Jiang Investment to tar a stretch of 32.1 kilometres at a cost of K134, 363, 836.32, and so far seven kilometres have been tarred.
However, the road network especially in rural parts of the constituency is in a deplorable state and this affects delivery of services, agriculture and movement of people.
Like Muchinga constituency, which is also in Serenje district, Serenje Central is an agrarian region where most people earn a living as peasant farmers.
Maize is the main crop grown in the constituency while beans, soya beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, millet, cassava and groundnuts are the other crops the local people grow.
As an agricultural region, the constituency is one of the areas in Zambia which can effectively contribute to the growth of the countryâ€™s economy.
Mr Kosamu, Mr Kabanda and Ms Chikamba believe they have the antidote for Serenje Central. However, only one of them will emerge victorious come August 11.
Mr Kosamu, who served as Minister for Central and Lusaka provinces, believes he deserves to be re-elected MP because he needs to continue overseeing the projects that the PF government has set in motion since it assumed power in 2011.
The 41-year-old businessman says the PF government, under late President Michael Sata and President Lungu, has made significant efforts to develop the constituency.
â€œFor me, I still have a lot of work to do for the people of Serenje. I have started projects that I have to finish so that the people can see and appreciate.
â€œThere is a project of constructing 31.2 kilometres of township roads and only seven kilometres have been done so far. We have also started constructing a police station and a police camp, and the works are at 70 percent,â€ he says.
On education, Mr Kosamu says the government is constructing secondary schools in Kabamba and Mulilima while Nabowa and Nakasala primary schools have seen additional infrastructure built.
â€œIn terms of health, so far we have completed constructing rural health centres in TAZARA, Ndabala, Kashitu, Lupampa and we are yet to complete Nabowa and Muswanga,â€ Mr Kosamu says.
He says the PF government is currently undertaking a project to connect water to turn-off area while in other places, boreholes are being sunk to improve water supply and sanitation services.
He says next weekâ€™s general elections have offered him an opportunity to be elected MP despite having lost the contest before.
A businessman and lawyer, Mr Kabanda has served in government for 33 years and is upbeat that on his second attempt, Serenje residents will vote for him.
â€œI have the passion for this district having been born here, I started my work from here, so I feel that I owe the people of Serenje a lot. I have made myself available to pay back to the people,â€ Mr Kabanda says.
He says he has constructed eight classrooms and a health centre in Makabi area, and that because he has a passion for women entrepreneurs, he has injected K10,000 into establishing a community bank at the main market.
Mr Kabanda also says he has helped women form clubs and cooperatives and has attended to the needs of youths and retirees in the constituency.
If elected, he wants to empower more women and youths, improve the road network, construct health and education facilities and facilitate provision of clean drinking water.
He also pledges to ensure prudent and transparent utilisation of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) so that people can appreciate the importance of CDF.
â€œI am capable of providing good leadership because of the experience I have acquired over the years,â€ Mr Kabanda says.
A business administrator, Ms Chikamba says she will be the first female MP for Serenje Central and pledges to provide people-centered leadership which she feels has been missing under male parliamentarians.
â€œWe want to change the living standards of people. As UPND, we have a 10-point plan to develop the country and our party will see to it that we uplift the agriculture sector in Serenje,â€ she says.
Ms Chikamba, 41, a former Copperbelt Province UPND chairperson for the women wing, says her father Richard Chikamba, who served as an MMD ward councillor in Serenje for 20 years, inspired her to join politics.
Should she win the poll, Ms Chikamba intends to ensure transparent utilisation of the CDF, improve access to health and education services, improve the road network and facilitate construction of bridges in the constituency.
â€œI am winning, men have failed us and a woman in Serenje will for the first time become an MP. I want to be the first female MP,â€ Ms Chikamba says.
As the three candidates intensify their campaigns in Serenje Central constituency, the local people are eagerly waiting for August 11 to choose a person to represent them in Parliament until 2020.
CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI , Serenje