Why Should Luapula Province Matter For the MMD?
By Elias Munshya Wa Munshya
The recent visit of President Rupiah Banda to Mwata Kazembe of Luapula Province and to some districts in Luapula Province has highlighted just what is at stake politically for Luapula Province. First, Luapula matters to the MMD due to the presence of PF rebel MPs. Totaling ten, they enhance the chances of MMD performing better in should they defect enmasse to the MMD. The MMD may try and convince Luapulans, that by expelling these MPs from PF, PF was by the nature of its act anti-Luapula. No other province at the moment promises such opportunity for the ruling party.
Secondly, Luapula matters, due to the fact that most political players sympathetic to the MMD, have a protracted and steady political history within Luapula Province and the MMD. These include Katele, Mwila, Kasongo, Machungwa, Chitika, and Chiluba himself. The long history and political stability of these figures will help boost MMD’s chances of a few more votes from Luapula. Besides this team may give a tough time to PF should they all decide to campaign for MMD and Banda.
Thirdly, Luapula matters due to the residual influence that FJT Chiluba has. After the demise of Mwanawasa the public’s opinion of Chiluba has somehow rebounded. Rupiah’s government has managed to rewrite the script concerning Chiluba’s prosecution and they have with some success managed to convince some Zambians that Chiluba was unfairly prosecuted. This script has undoubtedly angered some diplomats, various media houses and several NGOs but it has definitely managed to boost Chiluba’s political image among some Zambians. Sata and some PF members are dismissing FJT as politically insignificant. However, in spite of his questionable morality arising from his prosecution, FJT still has political clout which Banda is trying to maximize on. As such, under this new script, Luapulans are most likely to listen to Luapulan Chiluba again.
Fourthly, Luapula matters due to the influence of Mwata Kazembe. It has been observed that Kazembe, even if he is not a paramount chief, does exert a lot of influence among Bemba speaking peoples. For example, compared to other Bemba speaking senior chieftainships, the Kazembeship has been more stable and that stability has proved effective as a conduit of political influence. And so it matters who the Mwata supports for presidency. Kazembe has placed himself in a way that he could easily influence politics among his Lunda people in particular but beyond that to all Bemba speaking peoples.
Fifthly, Governor Moise Katumbi’s presence with Rupiah Banda in Mwansabombwe shows the significance of Katanga in the next elections. While Congo DR in general and Katanga province in particular share with Zambia a very long border, Luapula Province is second only to the Copperbelt in terms of cultural exchange with Katanga. This has been compounded by Katumbi who is Bemba, and who regards himself as a subject of Mwata Kazembe. Besides when Mwanawasa was declaring Katumbi as persona non grata, Kazembe quickly defended Katumbi calling him his nephew. It is rather significant that Katumbi was latter exonerated of all charges by Mwanawasa and was called back into Zambia to restart his businesses. It still is to be observed how much political influence Katumbi will have over Zambia. As for border regions, it is a historical fact, that people in border towns are more likely to vote for the ruling party candidates more than they would for the opposition and Luapula becomes significant in this regard.
Rupiah Banda’s moves for Luapula Province may actually pay off. Once he gets the rebel MPs on his side that will at least break the momentum in the PF, raise lots of questions within the Luapulan electorate about the PF and exploit some sympathy votes from some supporters of Frederick Chiluba for the MMD. If it is Luapula he is targeting, Rupiah is headed the right direction.