YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
FRED Chibulo Chaatila says Moomba Constituency is hit by a water crisis both for human and animal consumption and the situation needs to be addressed urgently.
Mr Chaatila wants to prioritise easy access to the natural resource stating that it is unacceptable for the constituency, with an estimated population of 40,000 people and only 200 kilometres from the capital city, Lusaka, to lack water.
Mr Chaatila, an accountant by profession, is the newly-elected member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency, which has four wards and is located east of Monze district in Southern Province.
The 43-year-old lawmaker is tormented by the fact that women have to wake up as early as 04:00 hours and walk long distances in search of water in almost dried up rivers.
He says people in Chona and Moomba wards located in the valley are the worst hit as they use metal plates to dig into the sand for water.
“This development troubles me a lot because women do not go to draw water but to fetch it. This water crisis is the same in the two other wards of Mwanza east and west, located on the plateau,” the MP laments.
Although the area recorded good rains during this year’s season, the water crisis is likely to continue as calamity struck in February, in Mwanza east and west where four key dams namely: Chimbwali, Chookole, Japhet and Hakantu were washed away.
Mr Chaatila attributes the incident to silting due to weak embankments as the dams were constructed before the country attained its independence.
“I reported the matter to the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) who sent technocrats to assess the damage to the infrastructure. I’m still awaiting their report.
“They gave us some sacks to use as sand bags but the amount of damage to the dams was too immense, it did not work,” he says.
The MP feels the constituency with two chiefdoms, Mwanza and Chona, is generally grappling with developmental challenges and he has since initiated a master plan to spearhead growth in the area.
Mr Chaatila, the seventh born in a family of 11, says he developed the ‘burning desire to serve the people from a political perceptive in 2004.
The lawmaker, who was born and raised in Moomba says his career exposed him to the challenges that people in the area and other rural constituencies face.
Mr Chaatila feels the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) should be managed and to wholly benefit people at the grassroot.
He says it is unacceptable for CDF contracts and projects to be managed by people from urban areas when the local people are capable of executing the projects.
“For me, that fund is for the constituency and so give the power to people of the constituency to dictate how it should be managed.
“I’m not happy in the manner CDF has been managed before. Monze is almost 200 km from Lusaka, but we have contractors from Lusaka and Mazabuka working in my constituency to build simple structures such as clinics. And yet in the constituency, we have good bricklayers and infact, the same contractors use them [locals] and pay them peanuts. At the end of the day, the money is taken out to other areas,” he laments.
Mr Chaatila says benefits of the CDF should accrue to people in the constituency and outside services should only be sourced when need arises.
He says the local authorities as engineers, should design and supervisor’s projects but allow the grassroots to dictate projects to be undertaken.
Mr Chaatila, however, hailed the central government for releasing the 2014 CDF for the area, which was initially mopped out in 2016.
“I’m glad my constituency has not recorded cases of misuse of the fund. As we speak, the 2014 CDF is with the council and we are just working out the committees. There are some projects that I found and would like to see them completed.
The lawmaker, who is married to Josephine and with four children, is advocating the continuity of projects in constituencies.
Mr Chaatila is uncomfortable with the fact that MPs rarely handover office to those who take over from them, affecting the continuity of projects.
He feels the strategic master plan that he has developed for the rural constituency can achieve sustainable growth if well co-ordinated.
“What is missing in politics now is handover of office. I have prepared a strategic document of priority areas to address in the constituency and I would like the person who will take over from me to continue with the programme.
“I know five years is insufficient time to achieve all the plans but if for instance I achieve 30 percent in five years, and people do not want me to continue, I would gladly hand over the plan to another MP,” he says.
Mr Chaatila, who went to Kasaka Primary and Monze Boys Secondary schools, a Natech graduate at the Copperbelt University and an MBA from Cavendish University, also plans see to it that dilapidated schools in the area are rehabilitated.
He laments that most schools and health infrastructure in the constituency are in bad shape and require urgent attention.
He says some challenges in the constituency are endemic but he would strive to ensure they are addressed in the shortest possible time.
In the road sector, his desire is to see an economic road, Monze-Chivuna, which leads to a renowned secondary school, Saint Joseph’s, rehabilitated.
The constituency, which is mainly agricultural orientated, has most of its roads and bridges in a deplorable state.
“We have two other roads, one leading to Chief Chona, and the other one going to Moomba ward, you would be surprised that there are some people in the said areas who are 50 years old and have never seen a grader,” he says.
Mr Chaatila says the bad roads have also had a negative impact on agriculture as people are unable to efficiently move their produce to the market.
He adds that the e-voucher system under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) has under-performed, hoping the loopholes could be addressed.
“Some farmers paid for their cards but were not activated, hence they did not receive the inputs while the majority of the cards were being activated in February and March and that was kind of late for farming,” he says.
Mr Chaatila is also in the process of carrying out sensitisation programmes to advice farmers against selling their produce to briefcase buyers.
He laments private buyers have a habit of invading the constituency as early as February to buy maize cheaply before it is harvested.
Although the MP understands the financial agony of most farmers, subjecting the maize price to K30/K40 is too little for a 50 kilogram bag of maize.
“If you had to go to the constituency now, we have produced a lot of maize but most of it has already been sold between K30 and K40 per 50 kg. The private buyers invade these areas even before the maize is harvested,” he says.
Mr Chaatila says most youths in the area have great potential and he wants to encourage them to form groups and develop business plans.
He says youths in the area, like other parts of the country, are subjected to vices such as alcohol abuse and the lawmaker is trying to reverse the trend by keeping them productive.
The MP will also engage headmen in the constituency to deliberate on early marriages especially in the case of girls and come up with appropriate punishment for offenders.
Mr Chaatila, who in 1993 relocated to the Copperbelt at his sister’s home and worked partime to support his education thanks his parents for teaching him to be independent at a tender age.
“When I finished my secondary school, my father told me I was old enough to fend for myself. I thank him for the motivation because it taught me to work hard in life,” Mr Chaatila recalls.
The MP worked for among other companies, Poma enterprises, Paragon Services, a multi-company and Financial Sector Deepening Zambia, a project funded by the British government that promotes financial inclusion in Zambia.
He thereafter developed an interest in politics and although he had the backing from Moomba residents, his father was against it and advised him to concentrate on his career and education.
“I wanted to be part of the development process. I slowly developed the passion to help people in the area. I sponsored various sports competitions. In 2014, I hinted to people about my intentions to represent them in 2021 but they felt that was too far, hence I contested in 2016,” he recalls.
Mr Chaatila recalls that although 10 people were vying for the seat, he had it easy as his passion to serve the people overruled other contestants.
“I identified myself with the people and it was the ‘magic’ to get me elected. People voiced out on my behalf. I now want to work with them as I consider them partners in development,” the MP says.