Features In focus

Chipata fast growing town

SABLE Construction Company servicing technician, Eugene Ripepi explains to Chipata Central member of Parliament Reuben Mtolo Phiri (left) during an inspection of township roads in Chipata recently. PICTURE: STEPHEN MUKOBEKO/ZANIS

CHIPATA Central Constituency is an electoral area found in Chipata, formerly known as Fort Jameson.
It is situated in Eastern Province about 600 kilometres to the east of the capital, Lusaka, and shares the border with Malawi, 110 kilometres from its capital city Lilongwe.
Chipata boasts of Mwami border post, Zambia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean ports of Nacala in Mozambique and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The constituency has been providing this trade route since the colonial era.
Because of its position as a constituency in a provincial capital, Chipata central is a cosmopolitan place, although the district itself is mostly inhabited by Ngoni-speaking people.
One of the residents of Chipata, John Nyati hopes to see more development in Chipata Central constituency as the municipality aspires to become a city.
For many years, Mr Nyati has been conducting his stationary business under trees near the town’s traffic lights.
He is used to seeing bicycle taxis compete with motorists for space on the roads as they ferry their clients to and from town.
Asked about his views on the area member of Parliament Reuben Mtolo Phiri, Mr Nyati describes Mr Phiri as an absentee landlord who is not in touch with his electorates.
“I have never seen our MP since we voted for him. Maybe he only sees councillors who fail to tell him the truth about our sufferings,” he says.
He says with load shedding and erratic water supply, life is difficult.
Another Chipata resident John Phiri, 28, says he completed his grade 12 recently but has failed to go to university instead he is selling mobile phones at the traffic lights.
Mr Phiri says plans by Government to establish a public university in each province is a welcome move, which should be supported by all.
However, Mr Phiri says despite the area MP not visiting the constituency, Chipata has seen many developments on clinics, hospitals and urban roads.
“We just want our MP to help us ensure that Sable contractor who is working on urban roads finishes the projects on time. Other contractors finish on schedule while Sable with good equipment is failing to do quality works,” he says.
The constituency has also seen other residents benefited from the Chipata Scheme which aims at improving the livelihoods of poor households.
As at June 2013, the Chipata Social Cash transfer scheme gave out K660,000 to 2,477 beneficiaries (1,365 females and 1,112 males).
Bitterlina Banda says the scheme has helped her to build two room pan brick house.
“I am happy that from as little as K70 per month, the scheme has transformed my life,” Banda says.
But Tilolela Mbewe laments that it is not possible for people to build houses as others are claiming because she has failed. She wants Government to increase the K70 monthly allocation to K140.
Robson Lungu says he was put in the programme in 2006 and today his life has improved and urges others to invest the little resources wisely.
Another resident, Rachael Ndjovu says it is possible to transform one’s social and economic life under the social cash transfer.
To this effect, a Chipata District Poor People’s Parliament and Tribunal (CDPPPT) was recently held in Chipata council chambers with the help of The Platform for Social Protection (PSP) Zambia who are implementing the social cash transfer (SCT).
However, he area member of Parliament Mr Phiri says he is always in the constituency and voices out in the plight of many electorates in his constituency.
He says he is working with the provincial permanent secretary’s office and that the district commissioner to bring development to the area.
“I am working well also with the district commissioner, the town clerk, the business community and the electorates in ensuring that we have a better Chipata,” he says.
He says the projects that are under the provincial administration and the municipality are being done in consultation with his constituency office.
For example, all the roads leading to and out of Chipata are being upgraded namely the Great East Road from Luangwa Bridge to Mwami boarder, Chipata-Vubwi, Chipata-Chadiza, Katete-Chipata while Chipata-Mfuwe and Chipata-Lundazi have been completed.
The Chipata-Mchinji railway line has is now operational and goods are being transported from Zambia to Malawi as well as Mozambique.
Under the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) projects, Mr Phiri says 50 projects have been done since 2011-2014 but only 35 out of the 50 have been completed.
The completed projects include construction of the markets, schools, health posts, school laboratory, drilling of boreholes and electrification of selected schools, among others.
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) 2010 population summary report, the population of Chipata district is 455,783.
Out of the total figure, 224,934 are male and 230,849 are female. Chipata central constituency is the most densely populated with 159,325 people. It has four wards namely Kapata, Msanga, Dilika and Kanjala.
The 2011 Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) voters’ register indicates that the constituency has 49,744 registered voters comprising 25,757 male and 23,987 female.
The constituency is also home to the Ngoni cultural ceremony known as Ncwala, which woos thousands of local and foreign tourists annually.
It has hotels like Protea and Crossroads and lodges and guest houses dotted around the constituency.
The constituency has seen construction of district hospital, health posts, schools, bridges, drilling of boreholes in selected schools, setting up of shopping malls, establishment of banks and service stations among others.
This has prompted the town clerk and district commission offices to jointly develop a 2014-2016 investment plan whose aim is to help Chipata district to start developing its localised gross domestic product (GDP).
Mwami border, which operates 24 hours, has normal goods clearing operations and is currently being expanded by the Zambia Revenue Authority.
The district’s economy is mainly driven by the agricultural sector where maize, soya beans, cotton, sunflower, groundnuts and tobacco are grown by the local people.
Local and foreign investors can invest in grinding mills to process maize, cotton ginneries and textile plants can be established while cooking oil refinery companies process sunflower, groundnuts, soya beans and tobacco into finished goods.
Currently, the constituency has 11 banking institutions and over five financial lending institutions with one private television station, three private radio stations.
As Chipata district is earmarked to be a city status, both public and private colleges and universities are increasing every day.
There are two public colleges and five registered private colleges and universities.
With the economic boom turning Chipata around, bars and night clubs are dotted around the town resulting in the increased number of prostitutes on the streets.
Chisomo community programme manager Annie Chiseni says there are more than 300 prostitutes in Chipata among them school girls.
Mrs Chiseni says a reproductive sexual mapping conducted in April 2013 reveals that some school girls are also involved in prostitution.
She says the girls, mainly Grade eights and nines, go to school in the day and at night turn into prostitutes.
However, the constituency has a number of churches were people can turn to for spiritual help. These and many others need the attention of the MP.
Since the 1970s, the constituency has had only three political parties, one female MP and Mr Phiri has been Member of Parliament twice.
Reuben Mtolo Phiri Jr born: November 11 1964, Married.
He is an economist who was first elected to Parliament in 2011 under MMD ticket.
The constituency has 49,744 registered voters comprising 25,757 male and 23,987 female.
Since the 1970s, the constituency has had 11 MPs and Mr Phiri is the eleventh.

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