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Chirundu: Border town on the move

IN primitive disdain, Chirundu district starts without any preamble. When approached from the north-east it is only introduced by a turn-off to Siavonga about 10 kilometres away from its border town nestled on the northern bank of the Zambezi River.
From the hilly place popularly known as Kapili Ngozi for being prone to accidents and where the highway meanders through to the border town from Siavonga turn-off, there is no sign saying, ‘You have now crossed into Chirundu’.
The fact that Chirundu was declared a district after being detached from Siavonga by President Sata, it is difficult for a first-time visitor to know where the district starts from.
Only when one reaches the town on the border with Zimbabwe does he/she know what the geography, as well as the demography, of the district looks like.
Chirundu sits incongruously on the rugged landscape. With the Zimbabwean hills a hazy blue in the distance across the Zambezi River, its topography rests on a plateau and a valley.
Its geographical coordinates are 16° 3’ 0” South and 28° 50’ 0” East. The name Chirundu means “people following one another in a line or queue”.
As places go, there is something that makes Chirundu unique. It is not big and brash like the capital, Lusaka, but its richness is anchored on its boisterous cross-border trade.
During the day Chirundu is filled with people from all walks of life. If you want to see the demography of the district, come to the border town and you will find people from other countries.
Business activities in Chirundu are characterised by large volumes of trucks routinely churning up dust as they snake through the district to and from Zimbabwe.
Chirundu is the most preferred entry point for commercial traffic into Zambia from South Africa and other countries in central and eastern Africa.
On a typical day, Chirundu handles an average of 270 trucks. The fact that it has combined the Zambian and Zimbabwean border agencies, the town has become the busiest port in Zambia and one of the most utilised inland border points in the eastern and southern Africa region, according to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) report in conjunction with the Zambian government.
Chirundu is about 139 kilometres from Lusaka City. In 2012 the district was re-aligned from the Southern Province to the Central Province in order to improve administration and service delivery.
Its administrative centre was located in Siavonga before it was declared a district.
Smarting from a presidential declaration for it to become a district, Chirundu is poised for development as attested by the projects taking place there.
District commissioner Alfred Hamunjo says the people of Chirundu are happy that they have a district.
“Before being declared a district we were under Siavonga. All the departments were in Siavonga, but President Sata thought that he should hear the cries of the people of Chirundu by declaring it a district,” Mr Hamunjo says.
He says all the departments, except the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship, are now in Chirundu.
Mr Hamunjo says by taking most of the departments to the new district, Chirundu is finding it easy to deal with its own problems.
“People used to find it difficult to travel to Siavonga each time they wanted issues concerning education, agriculture and health addressed. Farmers from here no longer have to travel to Siavonga each time they want problems sorted out,” Mr Hamunjo says.
He says when Chirundu was declared a district Government put up six projects. The administrative centre has an office block, a police station with 10 houses, post office, civic centre, 20 low cost houses and 10 medium cost houses.
Chirundu border has a number of townships and residential areas namely Appolo, Border, Garbon, Chibaketi, Mission compound, Zesco compound, Mazyongololo, High cost and government complex.
Despite its size, Chirundu also has a share of Banks like Zanaco, Barclays Bank and Finance Bank, which Mr Hamunjo says has helped government workers like teachers access their salaries.
The district also boasts of Chirundu Forest Reserve, which is an area of petrified trees. The reserve is a listed National monument of Zambia.
Chirundu border post has a mission hospital called Mtendere, which is serving a population of about 47,000.
Mr Hamunjo says the hospital, which is run by the Catholics, is frequented by patients from as far as Zimbabwe and Kafue town in Zambia.
“We also have rural health centres run by the government at Lusitu, Chipepo, Jamba, Chikanzaya and Ibbwe Munyama,” Mr Hamunjo says.
The district is also working on an 11-kilometre radius township road network, and feeder roads to improve transportation in the area.
However, the district commissioner says there is need for more health posts in the area due to the increasing population.
“There is congestion at the mission hospital. Government is in the process of putting up another health centre in Chirundu to help decongest the mission hospital,” Mr Hamunjo says.
In the area of education, Chirundu has Kapululila Secondary School, Lusitu Secondary School, Ng’ombe Ilede Secondary School and Hachipilika Secondary School.
The district also boasts of a new bridge, which was built at a cost of K53.8 million.
The 160-metre bridge connects Chieftainess Chiawa’s area to the rest of the district and has helped many villagers who previously were used to crossing the Kafue River using a pontoon.
Chirundu is well known for harsh climatic conditions and this affects agricultural activities.
With temperatures hitting 47 degrees Celsius at certain times during the rainy season, the precipitation is compromised, resulting in poor yields.
Last year, the region recorded 600mm of rainfall, which is below the required 800mm for the maize crop to mature.
Crops grown here are cotton, maize, Sorghum, finer millet and tobacco.
However, forget about the heat, a trip to Chirundu can give you a handle on many things, including how truckers manage their lives during their stopover there.

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