THE die is cast as residents of Lubansenshi and Solwezi-West constituencies today troop to polling stations to choose members of Parliament in what is likely to be tightly contested elections.
Apparently the front-runners are the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND). The PF who, have won six parliamentary by-elections this year, obviously want to consolidate their lead, while for the UPND, it’s a decisive moment when they want to overturn the undesired record in the latest by-elections.
Therefore, both political parties have done their best to either scoop both seats or at least grab one, if things don’t go according to their plans.
The Lubansenshi seat fell vacant after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Independent member of Parliament, Patrick Mucheleka, who is now re-contesting the seat on the UPND ticket.
Other candidates in the race are George Mwamba (PF), Daniel Mubanga, (Rainbow Party), Gabriel Mulenga (MMD) and Charles Chimumbwa, an independent candidate.
On the other hand, the Solwezi-West by-election was occasioned by the death of the incumbent MP, Humphrey Mwanza of the MMD.
In Solwezi-West, the electorate have to make a choice from three candidates – Martin Mbaya (PF), a local and prominent businessman, Teddy Kasonso (UPND), and John Njombi (UNIP), a farmer.
All the five candidates in Lubansenshi have declared confidence to win the seat. The constituency has 40601 registered voters as at 2011.
Born on November 22, 1955, Mr Mwamba, the PF candidate, has been in the teaching service up to 2007 when he was transferred to the public service.
He once served as district education board secretary and district commissioner for Luwingu.
If elected MP, Mr Mwamba wants to steer the infrastructure development programme that Government is implementing.
Rainbow Party candidate Mr Mubanga was born on May 16, 1964. He is a lecturer at Edem Institute in Lusaka.
The father of nine says he has a heart to develop Lubansenshi and he rates his chances of winning the seat as 100 percent.
Mr Mulenga, a telecommunications engineer, was born on April 3, 1983 and is married with one son.
Inspired by his father, Andrew Mulenga, who served as Minister of Education and former Lubansenshi MP, Mr Mulenga says there has not been development in Lubansenshi after his father’s tenure.
And Mr Mucheleka, who has spent most of his life as a civil rights activist, was born on June 25, 1965.
Mr Chimumbwa says he is confident of scooping the seat because he is “close” to the local people unlike his competitors. The independent candidate, who despite not having the party machinery that other candidates have, is seen as one the frontrunners.
The by-election has turned this otherwise, quiet and peaceful place into a hive of political activity.
Isolated incidences of violence were recorded in the past few days in Lubansenshi, including a shooting at the house of the district chairperson for the UPND.
According to Northern Province acting police commissioner, Luckson Sakala, the incident happened around 05:00 hours on Monday in Lupili compound when some men arrived at the house of the party official in a white unregistered Toyota Land Cruiser and were trying to remove speakers mounted on a vehicle parked at the house.
This prompted the UPND official to fire two shots in the air, scaring away the men.
Police are still investigating the incident.
Police also recorded one assault case on Monday, although it could not be directly linked to political violence.
On Tuesday, police held a meeting with officials from the PF and UPND to address the issue of violence, and the district was generally calm and quiet yesterday, as most of the campaigns had shifted to the outskirts, while other parties, such as the UPND had employed a door-to-door strategy.
The police chief described the campaigns as “very peaceful”.
Police have deployed 120 officers, including a mobile unit from Kitwe comprising 50 men, to ensure peace and security during the electoral process in Lubansenshi.
Meanwhile, Mr Mbaya, has promised to deliver development based on his party’s plegde of providing necessary infrastructure, in all regions including rural areas.
Before joining the PF in 2011, Mr Mbaya served as provincial secretary for MMD under late President Mwanawasa and fourth President Rupiah Banda.
The opposition UPND, who are fielding a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Water and Development, refused to grant the Daily Mail audience.
Mr Njombi, the UNIP candidate, said he would work with Government and chiefs to foster development.
Solwezi-West has a total number of 33,320 registered voters, according to the old voters’ register.
Canvassing for votes by the parties taking part in the elections ended at 18:00 hours yesterday as per Electoral Commission of Zambia electoral code of conduct.