By CHIMWEMWE MWALE
IT IS a place that has â€˜birthedâ€™ a household name synonymous with a key and inevitable building material-cement. Mention it and the concrete cement walls in Zambia will â€˜reverberateâ€™ it. Chilanga is the name!
The newly-created Chilanga district is located about 20 kilometres south of Lusaka central business district. It rests on the side of a large hill, which is a major decline in altitude between the plateau of Lusaka Province and the Kafue River Valley.
And yes, it is indisputably popular because it is home to a multi-million dollars cement quarrying mine and production plant, Lafarge (formerly Chilanga Cement).
Chilanga cement dominates the skyline of the area. Although cement production is predominant and synonymous with Chilanga, the district is also home to Baobab College, Mount Makulu Research Station (MMRS) and headquarters of the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI).
ZARI is the premier agricultural research entity in the country and has 10 stations with MMRS being its headquarters.
Baobab College is a world class co-education primary day and boarding school.
Chilanga is also home to Eureka Camping Park, the famous Munda Wanga Trust (zoo and botanical garden), Department of Fisheries and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) headquarters.
Munda Wanga stocks a variety of indigenous and exotic creatures and attracts people from all over the country.
The sounds of the animals could be heard kilometres away such as the early morning cries of the flamboyant peacocks and the late afternoon roaring of the lions.
Chilanga, which has a population of 107,051 as of the 2010 national census, was until 2012 a township under Kafue district.
Like most towns across Zambia, Chilanga, which is in Chieftainess Nkomeshyaâ€™s area, was a colonial settlement for the white settlers and expatriates.
A flashback and scan through the district establishes that Chilanga Estates, which is located east of the post office, was for employees of Chilanga Cement (now Lafarge).
Musamba was situated within and nearer to the factory and was for employees of the African factory.
The game and fisheries yards off Kafue Road were for workers of the National Parks and Wildlife Services (now ZAWA).
To the south of Kafue Road was a compound called Game for African employees. In the outskirts were several farms and villages.
It was only after independence that most white settlers left and Africans began to occupy the estates, yards and farm lands.
And did you know that almost the whole Chilanga was re-settled by African Zambians (indigenous Zambians) at the beginning of the 1980s?
Parklands Primary School was for white settlers while Chilanga Primary School was for Africans.
Parklands became a basic school in the late 1980s and later became the first secondary school in the late 1990s.
Other schools in the area included Mapepe and Musamba primary schools.
Where health services are concerned, Chilanga has a clinic situated off Kafue Road near Game Compound while another health centre is found at the Lafarge Cement plant.
In water and sewerage services, there used to be a private company that managed the mini sewer ponds that eventually fell into the largest pond called Long Ridge. Structures, mainly housing, have since been built in the dried up ponds.
However, Long Ridge pond still exists and has houses built around it complimented by a social resort called Long Ridge Junction. It is a place of scenic beauty and tranquillity providing respite to body and soul.
District commissioner Edith Muwana says Chilanga, the â€˜motherâ€™ of Zambiaâ€™s cement has grown in size and population, arguably or metaphorically in wisdom and stature.
Mrs Muwana attributed the growth of the new district to cropping businesses, commercial farming, small farm holding settlements and residential plots.
â€œHowever, water supply is still a challenge for most settlers as the land is hilly and rocky, and there is not a large enough municipal supply system to cater for the increased demand. Boreholes are common.
â€œThe formerly Government-owned houses are now privately-owned as they and other Government houses around Zambia were sold in the mid-1990s. Since then, there has been a lot of building. The area had so much open space that people have taken advantage of to build on,â€ she observed in an interview.
Mrs Muwana said construction of a district hospital and offices for Government administration staff, Road Transport and Safety Agency and Zambia News and Information Services will soon commence.
â€œConstruction of this infrastructure has been budgeted for and has been advertised by the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications. So construction will begin as soon as the due process is completed,â€ she said.
GREAT SOUTH ROAD
The Great South Road (actually known as Kafue Road), passes through the centre of Chilanga district. Aptly put, Chilanga is the gateway to Africaâ€™s economic giant, South Africa, via Zimbabwe or Botswana and Namibia.
Once a quiet and rarely used two-lane road, it has now been expanded to a four-lane road and has become one of the busiest roads in the country.
A large volume of truck-and-trailer traffic moves through the town on a daily basis, including very large shipments (abnormal loads) for delivery largely to the mines on the Copperbelt Province and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) operates a railroad yard within Chilanga, which serves as a transportation hub for Lafarge Cement plant.
ZRL, which also connects to Southern Province and up to the timber producing Mulobezi town in Western Province, operates both passenger and cargo trains.
Owing to its transitional status between Lusaka and Southern provinces, both Tonga and Nyanja Bantu languages are spoken in Chilanga. However, as with most of Zambia, many other languages are also used.
Travelling away from the town centre, most land in Chilanga is used for sustenance agriculture.
The areas away from the Great North Road are similar to most Zambian villages, including those along Kafue Road, with basic shelter for homes and large maize fields surrounding them.
On the political scenery, Mrs Muwana said the district has one constituency, which forms the entire district.
The constituency is divided into six wards; Chilanga, Chilongolo, Nyemba, Nakachenje, Namalombwe and Chinyanja.
Chilanga constituency was delimitated in 2001 and has so far been served by three members of Parliament (MP).
With sponsorship from UPND, Cosmos Moono was first to serve as MP from 2001 to 2006, when Ngâ€™andu Magande took over the seat under the former ruling party MMD.
Captain Moono bounced back in 2010 and served up to the time of the 2011 tripartite elections, when MMDâ€™s Keith Mukata scooped the seat for a five-year mandate that will expire in 2016.
Undeniably, Chilanga district has a special place in Zambiaâ€™s past and present.
It perhaps can comfortably claim to have â€˜builtâ€™ Zambiaâ€™s landmark structures such as roads, the Kariba Dam (largest man-made lake in Africa), University of Zambia and the countryâ€™s main referral health institution – the University Teaching Hospital, among others.
By CHIMWEMWE MWALE