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Chipata: Newest city on the hills

DARLINGTON MWENDABAI
YOU should know why the easterners are in a blissful mood, Chipata is now a city.
Doubt not, the town, which is perched on a mountainous terrain, has now become the fifth city after Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone.
Chipata, which is a Ngoni word “Chimpata”, meaning “large space,” becomes a city after relentless lobbying by Paramount Chief Mpezeni and the municipality itself.
As expected, Paramount Chief Mpezeni is the happiest person following the decision by President Lungu to declare Chipata, the seat of his chiefdom, a city.
As far as Chief Mpezeni is concerned, February 24 will never be the same because it is the day when President Lungu fulfilled the promise he made at last year’s Nc’wala ceremony that he would consider declaring Chipata a city.
You should understand why the Ngonis called it ‘Chimpata’, the town is situated in between hills.
This is why the whites simply called it ‘Fort Jameson’ while the name of the central neighbourhood of Kapata, the original centre of the town, comes from another Ngoni word meaning “small space”.
For the scribes who only come for a day or depend on Google, this is the time to re-write the history because Chipata is not land of bicycles but has large space for social, cultural and economic development.
The city now has more than 11 banks plus many micro-finance institutions dotted across the central business district (CBD).
It has a central hospital, district hospital, clinics, health posts, airport, post office, railway line, mini milling plants, hotels and over 33 lodges.
It has three traffic lights along Umodzi Highway, one shopping mall and three more are under construction.
The city also has a power station, a research institute, colleges and private universities.
Like Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni-speaking people in Eastern Province would say, “What else will one ask for?
Indeed, there is nothing to ask for but only to thank President Lungu for taking a step to ensure that Chipata is now a city.
The journey of the municipality to a city status started a decade ago. In 2015, prior to President Lungu’s officiating the Nc’wala ceremony, I asked him one question at Luangwa House.
My question was: “Your excellency, when are you going to declare Chipata a city?”
And his answer was: “Before I leave office.”
This is why Paramount Chief Mpezeni and all easterners are thrilled that President Lungu has kept his word.
On Tuesday as I passed by the local authority, I was delighted to find the Zambia Army rehearsing for yesterday’s ceremony when President Lungu declared Chipata a city.
And indeed it came to pass that Chipata was declared a city just at the same time the chiefdom was celebrating the Nc’wala ceremony.
Chief Mpezeni commended President Lungu for keeping the promise he made during last year’s Nc’wala ceremony that Chipata would be a city.
But others are still not sure what life will be like after the declaration of Chipata as a city.
Perhaps companies that have not set base in Chipata will start thinking twice while we the residents have to make some adjustments.
People travelling from Lusaka to Chipata will enjoy the ride on the rehabilitated Great East road, although work is not yet finished in some sections of the road.
There are more than 10 luxury buses making their journeys to and from Chipata every day and the city now has a fleet of taxis and mini-buses forone’s local routes.
Bicycle taxis loved by many people are still here because they are part of the city’s tourists’ attraction. We call them ‘delivery’.
Worry not, Chipata is still developing just like Lusaka, which was declared a capital city a long time ago, is still developing.
Chipata is a border town. Our brothers and sisters from neighbouring Malawi are happy, too, about the development. Starting next week, they will be coming to the city.
This year’s Nc’wala ceremony will be hosted in the city as the first big event.
Like Paramount Chief Mpezeni put it, ‘What else can one ask for?’
The author is Zambia Daily Mail senior reporter

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