DON’T bring President Edgar Lungu to us in 2021, it’s now when we want him to visit us, demands chief Cooma.
He said if the Southern Province administration fears that the President will starve “here like we are starving since there is hunger, then let him come with a lunchbox so that he can at least stay even for 30 minutes.”
In an interview, Cooma said he had noted with dismay the manner the provincial administration had continued taking the Head of State to Livingstone instead of Choma, the provincial capital.
He said people of Choma also want to interact with President Lungu.
The traditional leader accused the provincial administration of avoiding visiting him at his palace despite the headquarters being in his chiefdom.
“You see I don’t understand why the people the Head of State gave us behave in this manner. The other time I went to the provincial offices and I wanted to see the permanent secretary but his secretary turned me away saying that she was instructed not to allow anyone without an appointment to see the PS,” he said. “And I was with my fellow chief. I didn’t know that things have changed because I was used with past administrations who could allow us to see them any time, even without an appointment. As a chief, where these people are working from, I just wanted to greet them so that they can feel welcome and create a good working relationship. Since that day, I stopped going to the provincial office.”
Cooma said those in government offices must strive to create a good working environment with the people on the ground.
“If me a chief can be turned away from seeing our provincial administrators, then what about a common man? If these people are not working with us the traditional leadership then who are they working with? That boy minister [Edify] Hamukale, from the time he was appointed Minister of Southern Province, he has never paid a courtesy call on me to introduce himself but I’m the one heading the chiefdom in which the provincial headquarters is,” he said. “The only time he came was during the coronation of Michael Kaingu as senior headman but that can’t be said to be paying a courtesy call because he came to officiate at that programme. We had other people in those positions before [and] we worked well and they recognised us but what is the problem with you young men now? Your behaviour is denting the image of the President and we don’t want that because we love Mr Lungu for his humbleness. He is a good man, so don’t force people to hate him because of your attitudes towards us.”
Cooma said he had decided to use the media to express his displeasure because those in offices had built themselves walls, preventing them from meeting people they were supposed to be serving.
He wondered how Choma would develop if those entrusted with the responsibility to represent government were not available to the people.
“Now we understand that President Lungu is just being blamed for nothing. It’s these same people he appointed to be in charge of the province who are not telling him that there is need for him to come to Choma too. Even their decision to deny people of Choma, which is a headquarters of the province an opportunity to host the Expo in September is a deliberate move so that the President does not come to Choma,” he said. “If these people don’t want to work with us then let them not prevent our President from coming to Choma. We don’t want to see the President during the campaign period in 2021 only.”
He said there were a number of issues that residents of Choma would have loved the President himself to hear and address.
“We have hunger and relief food is nowhere to be seen but we are told that it is there. The bureaucracy involved in maize purchasing from FRA (Food Reserve Agency) is unbearable yet people that represent government here are there but can’t see that this is decampaigning the government because they have built themselves walls preventing them from mixing with us the people,” Cooma said. “Let these people not blame us for exposing their failure to work because it’s their own fault. And if they were accessible to the grassroots they would have known our problems.”
He said he was not against anyone but did not just like the administrator’s style of isolating themselves from those they were supposed to be serving.
Cooma said he wanted to see development in his chiefdom.
“All we want here are people that are going to give us development and work in harmony with the people so that the name of the President is not dented. We love President Lungu for his commitment towards the development of this country but the people he gave us are a disappointment,” he said. “They are organising an Expo now and we told them that bring it to Choma so that you balance up the allocation of programmes since Choma is the headquarters and is centrally located, meaning it will be easy for other surrounding districts to participate than Livingstone. We don’t even know what Expo is because it’s English! We were not even consulted and explained to as how we are going to benefit or where it is going to take place from. They don’t know that 2021 is coming and it’s President Lungu who is going to bear the consequences of their decisions.”
When contacted, provincial permanent secretary Mwangala Liomba said he would not engage the chief in the media but would instead make an effort to visit him at his palace next week.
“The chief is our father and I will go to his palace next week to hear his complaint and regarding the Expo, I won’t comment on why it will be hosted in Livingstone but I will explain to him in person next week when I go to visit him,” explained Liomba.
Hamukale’s mobile phones were off.