(AA) – With presidential by-elections around the corner, Zambian voters want the country’s next leader to provide better health and educational services, along with a new constitution.
“Employment in Zambia is not a right but a privilege. So it is with education and health services,” Shepherd Kinga, president of the University of Zambia’s student union, told The Anadolu Agency.
He wants the next president to ensure that job opportunities are created for university graduates.
“Prioritizing job creation will automatically reduce the poverty level, which is currently high among the youth,” said Kinga, 27.
Zambians will go to the polls on January 20 to elect a new president after President Michael Chilufya Sata died in a London hospital in late October.
Over four million voters – out of Zambia’s 13-million-strong population – will be eligible to cast ballots.
Eleven candidates from different political parties will contest the race, including incumbent Justice and Defense Minister Edger Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front.
“The president we want should be able to deliver a constitution that will make employment, education and health services a right and not a privilege,” said the student leader.
Isaac Ngoma, president of the Economic Association of Zambia, said many Zambians were looking for a candidate who, when elected to office, would help people feed their families, access health services and send their children to school.
“Although our forefathers delivered this country to independence, the people are still living in abject poverty,” he told AA.
According to Ngoma, the first step toward attaining economic freedom is to have a better constitution – one that addresses the challenges Zambia has faced since attaining independence 50 years ago.
“Without a better constitution, the dream of having a better Zambia can be forgotten,” he said. “The electorate is awake to this fact and is anxiously scrutinizing each candidate.”
Veronica Mulenga, 31, hopes her fellow Zambians will be more careful regarding who they vote into office.
“It appears all presidential candidates are aware of what the people want and are making pronouncements in line with the wishes of the people,” she told AA.
“The onus is on us, therefore, the electorate, to scrutinize all candidates and see who has the capacity to deliver on what they have promised,” insisted Mulenga.
Bless-well Zulu, 40, believes the new president should introduce policies aimed at protecting agriculture.
“In the recent past, we have witnessed a situation where farmers have problems accessing farming inputs,” he told AA. “Others have yet to be paid for their products.”
“This problem is putting the country’s agriculture system at risk,” Zulu said. “That’s why we want a president who will have an interest in agriculture.”
Zulu, nevertheless, wants to elect a president who can also ensure Zambia’s stability and unity.
“Our beloved country is on the verge of slipping into regional and tribal politics,” he said.
“To ensure the continued unity we have enjoyed over the past 50 years, we will elect a president who has the capacity to unite the country,” Zulu added.