Political party youth cadres are some of the most powerful, but least scrutinised in the criminal justice system, thanks in part to the skewed justice system and the veil of secrecy surrounding complaints against them.

Sometimes more blatantly referred to as “hire a thug”, youth cadres are giving government officials and citizens sleepless nights.

Water Development and Sanitation Minister, Mike Mposha is the latest high-profile official to test party cadres’ power and influence after they heavily criticised his selection of board members of the water utility company in Eastern Province.

The rejection of the board by ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) party cadres in Eastern Province is an example of cadres’ increased power and influence in national affairs.

Cadre is a very general term, and refers to supporters of political parties. In addition to campaigners, cadres are also responsible for the logistical aspects of the party, and now they are increasingly policing government work. 

'Cancel all appointments'

In Eastern Province, UPND cadres wants Mr Mposha to reverse appointments he made to the Eastern Water and sanitation Company(EWSC) board.

UPND provincial chairman, Johabbie Mtonga said all appointments to the new water company board should be cancelled and allow the party to propose names of who should be appointed.

He has accused the Minister of appointing people who are sympathetic to the former ruling Patriotic Front (PF)and have no loyalty to President Hakainde Hichilema.

“To me, it did not look well, because in the province here, there are people who fought together with us and we feel that we were supposed to be consulted,” he said.

“And if there are names that we feel can sit in that board, we could have given out those names and there are people here who are capable of running that board than just getting people from nowhere.”

Mr Mthonga said appointing people who are not members of UPND “is damaging our party, and is not good, especially for people who fought so hard”.

Youths in the province have backed the stance taken by their chairman.

Provincial youth chairman, Lyson Nyirenda told MakanDay that 50 to 75 percent of the people sitting on the board are members of the opposition PF. Although he did not provide evidence, he said some of the people on the board were leaders in the Good Governance Zambia (GGOZA), an organisation which campaigned for re-election of President Edgar Lungu.

“All we expected was to appoint people who would carry the vision of President Hakainde Hichilema, because they understand the manifesto of UPND unlike him appointing people who have never been in the party for so many years”, said Mr Nyirenda.

But Mr Mposha has defended his decision. He said all appointments to the various boards of water utility companies in the country were widely consultative.

Mike Mposha

He said there is no law that compels him to consult the provincial party leadership when making appointments.

In January this year, party youths led by provincial youth treasurer, Issah Daka staged a protest in Chipata demanding that the minister revokes the appointment of all board members.

The youths accused the Water Development and Sanitation Minister of appointing PF sympathizers in the board which is led by Mr Chrispin Kamuna who served as EWSC Board vice chairman in the last five years.

Civil Society Organisation voice out

Caritas Chipata said protests against government appointments and demands being made by party cadres are not backed by any law.

Programmes Coordinator, John Mthaziko Zulu urged the UPND leadership in the province to leave affairs of government in the hands those who have of people which the president appointed.

“Who told the cadres that the party should be consulted when making appointments for any board? Mr Zulu asked. “The party was already consulted when government was formed.”

On 6 February this year, the Minister appointed an eight-member board led by chairperson, Chrispine Kamuna. Other members are Mwela Zuze Tembo, Kasenge Samuel Chilombo, Alex Bwalya and Abraham Banda as well as Zikhalo Mtine, Jenge Noreen Chilando and Petronella Ngosa Mapulanga.

Mr Kamuna served as technical committee chairperson in the previous board.  

Abridged profiles of board members

1.  Mr Chrispin Kamuna: Prominent Chipata businessman. He is also Eastern Province FAZ Committee chairman. He was technical committee chairman in the previous board.

2. Mr Mwela Zuze Tembo – Businessman. His father, Mwela Tembo Snr is also a businessman and immediate past chairperson of the board.

3. Mr Kasenge Samuel Chilombo: Nyimba town council secretary.

4. Mr Alex Bwalya: Provincial local government officer in-charge of all Councils in the province.

5. Mr Abraham Banda: Provincial water development officer.

6. Mr Zikhalo Mtine: Chipata businessman and engineer by profession.

7. Ms Jenge Noreen Chilando and

8. Ms Petronella Ngosa Mapulanga: Chipata City Council workers - Finance and human resource directors respectively.

A dangerous national pattern is emerging

There have also been clashes between cadres and government officials in Luapula and Western Provinces.

For example, on 09 February this year, a group of cadres in Mongu – Western Province accused the headteacher of a local school of frustrating free education policy by asking pupils to provide the school with rims of paper.

Timeline of some of the events involving party cadres

21 January 2022

UPND cadres storm the office of Kasama District Administration Officer, Beauty Namukoko. They beat and brutalized her after accusing her of failing to give UPND youths empowerment funds.

06 February 2022

Cadres accompanied by some police officers invade a mine run by the Chinese in Kasisi area in Lusaka. They accused them of mining illegally.

07 February 2022

Police in Mazabuka in Southern Province prevent 'suspected' UPND cadres from taking over running of Mazabuka main bus terminus.

Six cadres were arrested by the police and charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of peace.

07 February 2022

UPND deputy national youth chairperson, Steven Chikota leads a group cadre to Bayan mining in Chembe district after accusing the foreign owned mining company of carrying out illegal mining.

Video Source: Spring TV