Chipata: Township named after Eastern Province capital


LIKE many of Lusaka’s townships, the growth of Chipata compound or Chipata township began with the migration of settlers from outside Lusaka in search of employment and the good life.
Forty years ago, 75-year-old Peter Kabwe moved to Chipata township from Matero. He is an aging man but alert and tells me that today the area is different from how he found it when he first moved there.
“It was a pure squatter compound,” he says. “The improvements we are all witnessing today were not there before.”
Mr Kabwe says the main tarred road, commonly referred to as ‘Chipata road’, was only a gravel road and although there was a transport system through the United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ), it was not efficient.
On the plus side, the township had street lights, which were unfortunately vandalised in the 80s and the cars in the township were not as many as there are today.
The main challenge experienced in Chipata in those days was poor water supply until the early 90s when the water situation improved with support from CARE International.
Mr Kabwe says the major changes in Chipata came with the changes in political systems, especially with Zambia’s economy becoming liberalised in 1991.
Adrian Daka is Mr Kabwe’s contemporary and has been resident in Chipata township for 36 years. He says after independence, many people left their home villages and moved to Lusaka in search of a better life.
In 1982, Mr Daka became one of those people to relocate from his home village to Chipata township. He says the steady growth of the township’s population later led the Lusaka City Council (LCC) to declare it an unplanned settlement.
As the population grew, Chipata overspill was created. The area was upgraded between 1980 and 1982 by resettling people within the overspill area to upgrade roads and drains.
Water supply to the area was further improved through support from institutions like the World Bank.
As we speak, Mr Daka remarks on the township’s many bars which are a common feature in all of Lusaka’s townships.
Some of the township’s residents have turned part of their homes into bars as a source of income, he shares.
He also tells me about Katambalala market and how it randomly came into existence along a tarmac road running through the township, after traders at the main market felt they were not getting enough business there.
Slowly, the stalls started coming up along the road to attract the attention of passing motorists.
“They named it Katambalala because it just kept growing along the road,” he says.
Chipata Ward Development Committee (WDC) chairman Lyson Gondwe moved to the township in 1980 after spending four years in the nearby area of Marapodi. He had no relatives in the area and had lost both his parents by then.
He got employed at the Tobacco Board of Zambia as a receptionist in 1978 and from there, he also worked at City Radio and various other companies.
“It was during the UNIP era when I came to the township. By that time, it was an unplanned settlement and the council was yet to arrive,” Mr Gondwe shares.
In 1981, the council finally arrived and Mr Gondwe became youth chairman under it. Today, he leads the committee responsible for handling the administrative affairs within the Chipata community.
According to a document titled ‘A profile of unplanned settlements in Lusaka’, compiled by Mulimba Yasini for the Lusaka City Council (LCC), Chipata township is located about 10 kilometres from the main post office and north-west of the city centre.
It is surrounded by Kabanana to the north, Mandevu/Marapodi to the south and Roma to the east.
Chipata township falls under the Raphael Chota Ward 22 and operates under the WDC, whose major role is to facilitate development and implement developmental projects in the area.
The WDC consists of 56 duly elected representatives from 28 zones and a ward councillor, who is an ex-officio. It is registered by the council under the Societies Act and is governed by the WDC constitution.
The township is divided into 28 zones and for each zone, 10 people (five male and five female) are democratically elected by the residents of the zone to form the ZDC.
Members of the ZDC then elect two people (male and female) among themselves as representatives to the WDC.
The CBOs are civil society organisations formed voluntarily by residents with a common interest and a specific purpose.
“Chipata is a Ngoni word for the provincial headquarters of Eastern Province. The name Chipata was adopted after a series of debates among the settlers. Some settlers, especially the Bembas, wanted the area to be named after the railway siding, Chunga, while those from Eastern Province wanted it to be given a Ngoni name,” explains Yasini.
However, after a series of deliberations, they settled for Chipata in recognition of the first settler who was from Eastern Province.
Yasini further shares that Chipata township was initially a bush where residents of the nearby settlements cultivated in small fields.
Settlements started around 1966 by retirees and ex-farm workers from squatter settlements in Lusaka.
According to Yasini’s profile, among the first people to settle in the area were Yulobati Daka from Mandevu in 1970, Julius Phiri from Chawama in 1971 and Siyileko Phiri, who came from the village in Chipata in 1972.
Others were a Mr Y Phiri from Chipata and Francis Banda, who arrived in 1975.
“Most of these people came to Chipata from other settlements because they could not afford to pay house rentals in other areas, while others came to visit friends and relatives,” notes Yasini.
Unlike most of the squatter settlements in Lusaka, the settlers in Chipata were able to construct decent houses from the start.
The walls were constructed using well mound mud bricks or concrete blocks, while the roofs were made using iron roofing sheets.
However, the settlement did not have water. Residents got their water from areas such as Marapodi settlement, nearby farms and the Ngwerere stream.
The settlement had neither a clinic nor a school and residents had to walk long distances to get to the nearest clinic or school.
Around 1980 a primary school named Chipata Primary School was opened in the area. In 1982, Chipata Clinic was opened and then a police post in 1983.
Politically, the settlement was under UNIP and was organised under a branch called the ‘Chikubabe’ branch.
Later another branch called Manda was formed in response to the growing population. The branches were subdivided into different sections and, like the branches, each section was headed by a chairman.
The work of the chairmen, among others, was to articulate government/party policies to the people and to scrutinise all the people wishing to settle in the area.
The chairmen were also responsible for allocating plots to people. UNIP had a youth wing which helped to provide security in the settlement.
Whenever there was a community function, the youths would be there to maintain law and order.
As such, the settlement was well organised and very peaceful, Yasini shares.
The inner-township roads are gravel and in poor condition; they are narrow and have no drainage system. During the rainy season they become impassable due to potholes and mud.
Water in Chipata township is today provided by the Chipata Water Trust.
Chipata township has only one government school and one police post in Raphael Chota ward.
The school is inadequate to cater for the entire population, hence many children have been denied access to basic education.
The police post is also inadequate to cater for the ever-increasing population. Consequently, Chipata experiences sporadic incidences of burglary and theft.
The Chipata First Level Hospital, which was formerly a clinic, caters for the entire population of Chipata township and surrounding areas.
Services offered include maternal child health care, out-patient, VCT, mortuary and maternity.
The settlement has no recreational facilities for the youth of the area apart from a football pitch. It has, however, several taverns and bars.
Yasini says: “Like in most townships, unemployment in Chipata is high and the majority of its residents are not in formal employment. They survive through trading in products such as charcoal, groceries, clothes and vegetables.”
Some women work as maids in residential areas like Kalundu and Roma, while the men work as bus drivers, security guards or houseboys.
There are also a number of carpenters plying their trade in Chipata and nearby Mandevu township who attract a clientele from around Lusaka.
“Chipata has a number of residents who own some properties in form of houses, bars, taverns, nightclubs, shops and vehicles. These residents are regarded highly by the fellow residents and whenever there is a community project/programme, they are usually given the major responsibilities,” Yasini further explains.
The toilet facilities used in the township are mainly ordinary pit latrines with a few VIP toilets.
Few houses with indoor house connections have flush toilets connected to individual septic tanks and are in a fairly good condition.
Most of the pit latrines are poorly built; some are made of poorly done blocks and/or mud bricks, while others are made of plastics and empty bags of cement/mealie meal.
Residents without proper toilet facilities use their neighbours’, which poses a further risk to the health and the environment through pollution of air and groundwater.
Despite having a formal waste management system, the residents of Chipata have continued to dump garbage in undesignated places.
This situation is worrisome because it has made the work of the Community Based Enterprises (CBEs) difficult and unsustainable.
The council notes that most housing structures in Chipata township present a danger to the lives of the people due to overcrowding in terms of high room occupancy rates, coupled with poor ventilation.
Furthermore, some housing structures do not use electricity but depend on charcoal and firewood for cooking.
The township also experiences noise pollution due to loud music from bars and taverns, resulting in lack of sleep by residents, especially those living near the bars.

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