MARGARET SAMULELA, Siavonga
WHOEVER wins the Siavonga parliamentary seat in next monthâ€™s general elections will have to come up with a workable tourism business plan because many people who visit the area in excitement return disappointed when high expenses negatively affect their holidays.
â€œFirst there is the high rate of accommodation, the poor road network to reach tourist sites and the lack of easy access to the lake shoreline, especially for the local tourist,â€ says Kelvin Kazila, a bus driver who operates between Siavonga and Lusaka.
Mr Kazila is right, Siavonga townâ€™s close proximity to the capital city, Lusaka, makes it easily accessible but the expensive lodging rates and high food costs leave many visitors, especially local tourists, disappointed.
The seat is being contested by the Patriotic Front (PF) which has adopted Brave Mweetwa while the United Party for National Development (UPND) has sponsored Darius Mulunda as its candidate.
The two people hoping to lead Siavonga as parliamentarians have noted the key challenges that threaten the townâ€™s status as the countryâ€™s riviera, a term usually applied to any coastline, especially one that is sunny, topographically diverse and popular with tourists.
Brave Mweetwa – PF
Mr Mweetwa, who has served as Siavonga district commissioner, says his plan involves strategies to transform the town through massive infrastructure and aquaculture development.
Mr Mweetwa says the PF government has already begun the work of remodelling Siavonga district by improving the road network connecting various tourist resorts dotted on the shores of Lake Kariba.
â€œIf you take a close look at the town, it is safe to say it has been neglected by past leaders who had the mandate to serve as parliamentarians,â€ he said.
However, Mr Mweetwa says the PF government, even when it had no parliamentarian from the district in the last five years, has demonstrated political will to develop every part of the country.
â€œOur President, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, recently commissioned Yalelo Fisheries because our government is aware that aquaculture will play an important role in bringing development to the constituency,â€ he says.
Mr Mweetwa also says a clear channel of communication is required so that Government can incorporate views of the people in development interventions that are being made.
â€œI intend to bridge the gap between the electorate and administrators through open communication in development planning,â€ he says.
Mr Mwee twa says his experience as district commissioner for over three years has given him the drive to contest the parliamentary seat where he hopes to ensure that the national cake â€“ in terms of resource allocation â€“ is equally shared.
â€œI will participate effectively to ensure that national resources are apportioned effectively and Siavonga gets a fair share,â€ he says.
If properly developed, he says, the constituency can contribute significantly to attracting investors in other areas other than tourism, which is unexploited.
â€œTourism is not just about the lake, we have the wonderful scenery, all sporting activities and hot springs that need to be opened up for easy access, through improving the road network,â€ he says.
If elected, Mr Mweetwa says he will push the agenda to open up part of the shore to the public as all of it has been shared among investors and the local people have no easy access.
â€œThe whole water frontage has been taken up by investors, but this is not fair for the locals, and so I will advocate for that change,â€ he says.
Mr Mweetwa also intends to work tirelessly to ensure that water connections are improved so that as many residents as possible can have access to piped water.
â€œWe cannot have people standing on water but having no access to piped water,â€ he points out.
He also pledges to improve water transport to ease the movement and communication between people living on the islands and those on the mainland.
According to him, bringing in the water vessels will create employment while also boosting tourism.
Mr Mweetwa, who is a qualified development officer and public administrator, says he has a better understanding of governance and policy formulation issues.
He sums up his dream for Siavonga: â€œI will work very hard to bring it [Siavonga] up to standard. It will have a good road network, it will be a proper resort town, ever green and with easy access by everyone. Siavonga will be the centre of the Southern Tourism as the airstrip will be developed.â€
The airstrip is one thing both candidates are keen to work on. The only difference is in the method each one plans to use.
Darius Mulunda – UPND
Mr Mulunda says if elected, he will work with local investors to develop the airstrip so that investors and tourists can easily land in the resort town.
â€œWe have a lot of investors who are very interested in seeing to it that tourism and other industries flourish in this constituency. All we need to do is engage them in the development process,â€ he says.
Mr Mulundu, who is former Kariba ward counsellor, says he has had a lot of interactions with people at the grass-roots level and as such understands what they need.
â€œI have had the privilege to work with people at the grass-roots level all over the constituency and I can assure you they have wonderful and ambitious ideas of how we can develop this town. It is therefore imperative that we engage both the grass-roots and investors to make progress,â€ he says.
Mr Mulundu says he has a heart for helping people and this has made him to be easily approachable.
â€œI am very practical in my approach to leadership, I have been able to affect the lives of people in all the wards,â€ he says.
Mr Mulundu says he has been instrumental in helping out with projects which should have been done by the government in the past, because the people would seek his help after failed efforts with the government.
â€œIn one area, children were learning under a tree. I was moved by that and had discussions with the chief, the people moulded blocks and I provided roofing materials,â€ he says.
Mr Mulundu says in Kabuyu, he helped plaster the walls of a community school that was dilapidated.
â€œThe greatest challenge of this constituency is the poor road network, the schools and health facilities are in a bad shape, and there is a problem with provision of safe drinking water to every resident. I will work with investors and approach non-governmental organisations to develop this town,â€ he says.
He says an important aspect of developing Siavonga will be to identify key industries, apart from tourism, that can help create employment opportunities for the local people.
Mr Mulundu, a businessman with years of experience in clearing and forwarding, has pledged to create linkages between people, civic and traditional leaders as these are the ones who have the best ideas for the constituency.
If elected, he will be a kind parliamentarian that people will be free to approach whenever they want to address any issues.
MARGARET SAMULELA, Siavonga