Liuwa UPND member of parliament Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane says the Patriotic Front’s victory in the just ended parliamentary and local government by-elections is not an indication that his party has lost popularity.
And Dr Mosokotwane has promised to demand for the release of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) for the development of constituencies held by opposition members of parliament as the National Assembly resumes sitting on June 12, 2018.
In the April 24, ward by-elections, PF emerged victorious and retained all its nine seats in PF strongholds while grabbing four out of seven wards belonging to UPND namely; Kalilele, Mushindano and Kanongo in North Western province, Nampundwe and Shibuyunji wards in Central province and also the Lealui ward in Mongu district.
And PF candidate Maria Langa last week grabbed the Chilanga Parliamentary seat from the UPND in a violently contested by-election, while claiming that the ruling party’s victory in Chilanga demonstrated the people’s choice beyond tribal lines.
But in an interview with News Diggers! Dr Musokotwane, who is a former finance minister, argued that the ruling party thrived on bribery, violence and intimidation of its opponents in order to win the Chilanga seat.
“You should just look at the history of by-elections in Zambia. In 2012/2013, we had by-elections in Kalabo for two wards and the PF won those elections. But when we came to the general elections, the PF lost very badly in the same wards. So this is no indicator at all [that we have lost popularity]. Yes it matters to us that they won [in our strongholds] but look at the bloodshed that was demonstrated in the Chilanga by-elections, look at the bribery that was involved, look at the intimidation that is there,” he said.
“I am sure you saw for yourself and the report from the British High Commissioner who said some people failed to vote because they were scared of being beaten. So that’s the reality of what happened. But I think violence needs to be stopped because it is very dangerous for the country. Democracy means people being free to choose who their leaders should be, it’s not about being coerced to choose, that’s not what is supposed to be done.”
And Dr Musokotwane promised that he would demand that constituencies belonging to opposition members of parliament got a fair share of the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) as the National Assembly resumes sitting on June 12, 2018.
“Firstly when parliament reopens, we want the Access to Information bill passed. We also want these issues of violence to be addressed. Because the taxpayers pay the police salaries to protect them but it’s like after the police are paid, they are not protecting the people and they are just allowing this violence to go on. So this is something that we have to address as Parliament opens,” Dr Musokotwane said.
“We also want to see more resources released for development in our constituencies, and that is mainly through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Because from the Central government, there is very little financial support that comes. Last year, we only got half of what was budgeted for in terms of the CDF and this year again we were promised K1.45 million per constituency but this is already June, it’s half of the year and not a single ngwee has come out. So we are going to push very had for the government to release this money.”
Meanwhile, Musokotwane complained that the ongoing developmental projects under the PF government were only targeting Lusaka Province and other towns but were not being extended to rural constituencies.
“For now, the development that PF talks about is just the roads they are doing in Lusaka, for some of us in Liuwa we don’t benefit from these roads. What we want to see are schools being attended to, our clinics attended to. We want to see water, we want to see wells dug in our constituencies so that we can say we also benefiting something from the government. We have heard about huge amounts of money having being borrowed from outside the country. Now we are told it’s about $13 billion [the debt], but if you go to Liuwa today and say ‘what is the share of Liuwa out of this $13 billion that has been borrowed?’ the answer is zero or nothing,” said Musokotwane.