(By Chambwa Moonga in Lukulu)
CHIEF Imenda of Lukulu district in Western Province says people in the district are calling for change of government because of under-development.
And Imenda has advised the State not to “torture” opposition leaders because Zambia is a constitutional multiparty State.
The traditional leader was speaking when opposition Democratic Party (DP) senior officials, led by the party’s 2021 presidential candidate Harry Kalaba, paid a courtesy call on him on Sunday afternoon.
Imenda said while Lukulu was a peaceful district, its people knew “revolution.”
“Here they beat even police officers! At one time a politician was attacked. The people of Lukulu do not tolerate rubbish! I welcome you and I would like to hear what you have brought us. For your own information, you are the first senior politician to visit this palace. I’m really humbled because most people shun us, forgetting that we are the king-makers,” Imenda said
Imenda ‘clarified’ that traditional leaders receive everyone who enters their chiefdoms.
“We accept and receive every leader of any party. [But] as traditional leaders, we are not politicians. We have received you, we accept you and we bless you,” he said.
“Go round and…. You know, Zambians are in a hurry for change. But as traditional leaders, we have got no power to blame the ruling [party;] we just watch and complain silently. Where the government is doing good, you praise [but] where the government is not doing good you complain.”
Imenda lamented that respective presidents have opted for showboat commentary on the rundown Katunda-Mumbezhi road.
“Each president who came into office made it a target to get votes over Katunda-Lukulu road. I remember when the late president [Frederick] Chiluba came; he cried at a rally there at the Boma (district administration centre). How many years from 1991 to today? We still talk about the same road!” he said.
“I don’t know, God willing, if the Lord blesses Honourable Kalaba to become president of Zambia, I don’t know if he will do what others have done over the same road.”
Kalaba chipped in and pledged that: “Your royal highness, I will do that road [and] that’s why I have come before the elections; I want to appreciate the problems.”
The chief later asked Kalaba why he went to Lukulu by road, instead of flying.
In response, Kalaba said: “No! I’m going round, your royal highness, for Zambia to know me and for me to know Zambia.
“I have always believed that you cannot propose to a lady unless you know her. I have known that the biggest challenge here is that road and your royal highness, I speak before God, it will be done,” Kalaba said.
And Imenda reminded the DP delegation at his palace that all chiefs in Western Province were under the Litunga who “teaches us to be loyal to the government of the day.”
“Though we are loyal to the government of the day, we should not deny you an opportunity to come and visit our areas. In short, I’m saying we have accepted your coming here and since Zambia is a democratic country, you are free to go around the country and sell your manifesto to the people,” Imenda said, adding that if the Lord chose somebody to be a leader, there would be “no road block.”
“When the Lord says ‘yes’, it’s yes and when He says ‘no’, it’s no. So I should not be labelled to say I’m supporting the opposition. No! What I’m saying is that we as parents have to receive everyone who comes.”
Asked to elaborate on his remarks that people of Lukulu were ready for change and on whether this was being driven by only their frustration at the poor state of the road, the chief responded that: “Well, I should not be quoted as a person opposing the government. What I said is what the people say and not what I say. People are saying ‘we need change, especially in Western Province, Lukulu in particular’. The people of Lukulu are crying for the road,” he said.
“Every president who came into power talked of Katunda-Lukulu-Watopa-Mumbezhi road but nothing has happened and people are complaining. As they complain, they come to us. I don’t [regularly] move but people who visit me do complain that we want to change. It’s the people who say they want change – not me! I should not be misquoted. But people are saying we want change because we don’t see development.”
Imenda, however, praised the PF government for connecting Lukulu to the national hydro electricity grid and also constructing Lukulu District Hospital.
“But many people say the road was supposed to be first before connecting the district to hydro power. People are saying we have seen power in Lukulu but how many houses are connected to that electricity? It’s only in the Boma!” Imenda explained.
He further said chiefs spoke for their subjects.
“As a leader, if you go against the wishes of your people, they will turn against you. So, we will respect the people who gave us the power. As I speak right now, I respect the government of the day but I’m saying what the people here are saying,” Imenda said.
“If I hide what the people we lead say then I’m useless. The government should know people’s complaints [and] if we hide, we are not helping the State.”
On the treatment of opposition leaders by those in power, Imenda reiterated that Zambia was a democratic country and that as such, the opposition needed to be allowed to exist.
He added that if one talked to an opposition leader, they should not be deemed as an enemy of the State.
“If it’s that anyone who speaks to an opposition leader is an enemy of the State then let us change the Constitution to go back to one party state,” said Imenda.
“Every leader who came into power was once in the opposition. Nobody came from heaven to become president without starting from the opposition. So opposition leaders should not be tortured. The people who are ruling today were [once] in the opposition.”
Meanwhile, Kalaba said the developmental potential of Western Province was huge.
“Just here in Lukulu, if we just put our timber industry together, we can begin producing desks…. I see that there are a lot of mangoes here and we can process them into mango juice. Western Province has a lot of sand and our windscreen, our glass is coming from sand,” observed Kalaba.
“[But] how come there is no industry for glass in Western Province? It is sad because Western Province is a shell of itself! This province has lagged behind so much, simply because the political leadership that we have is not interested in seeing real development.”/