Analysis: LAWRENCE NYAMBE
SHANGOMBO was declared a district on October 23, 1997 by the then President Frederick Chiluba.
Before that, this area, which included Sioma district as we know it today, was all part of Senanga and many people referred to it as Senanga West.
Since it attained district status, Shangombo has not seen any meaningful development. It was left unattended to as though it was not a part of Zambia.
However, the area has since 2011 started receiving attention in terms of development.
A district hospital was opened and several health centres were built across the district. Primary schools were built and others rehabilitated.
The Shangombo – Angola (Rivungu) canal was dug at a huge cost to facilitate trade with Angola.
Communication towers were planted in many places to provide network for mobile communication. More are to be planted.
Indeed, Shangombo has changed for the better under the leadership of President Edgar Lungu.
However, it is only the construction of an all-weather road (Matebele – Shangombo) that will put the icing on the cake in as far as development is concerned. When that is done, the people of Shangombo will award the first prize of the development trophy to President Lungu.
I know the trophy is his because it is just a matter of time before we get there.
For me, once the road is done, I will travel to Shangombo from where ever I will be to throw a social party and dance and celebrate with the people. I would invite two prominent persons among others to come and celebrate and make merry with us. These are our hardworking provincial permanent secretary Liomba Mwangala and the ever active Ngambela of Western Province Nyambe Mwenda from the Barotse Royal Establishment.
The occasion would also be used to thank President Lungu for the ‘miracle’ of the road.
Early in his presidency, Chiluba in 1992 ordered the construction of a gravel road from Matebele to Shangombo.
Prior to that, Shangombo was an unknown area because there was no road to talk about.
Only cattle tracks existed and the only vehicles that could reach Shangombo were tractors and 4×4 vehicles.
I experienced travelling to Shangombo three years after attaining our Independence as a country.
In 1967, I was doing my Form three at Kambule Secondary School in Mongu and in December of that year during the school holidays, the Ministry of Health employed students of Senanga and Kambule secondary schools to go to Shangombo and mould building blocks for the first ever clinic to be built there. I was fortunate to have been among the group from Kambule.
I cannot remember the date or day we boarded that 4×4 vehicle in Mongu heading for Shangombo.
We spent a night at Kalongola to allow ourselves an early start the following morning.
We started off for the unknown before sunrise and there was so much excitement on that lorry.
There was no marked road and our lorry had to find its way by weaving round the trees. We arrived in Shangombo around 20:00 hours.
It took us 14 hours to cover the approximately 155 kilometres from Kalongola to Shangombo and much of the time was spent on pushing the truck as it got stuck in the sand several times. The 32 days we spent moulding the building blocks from the area between the present day canal (it was not there then) and the immigration offices of today were exciting days never to be forgotten in my lifetime. Little did I know that 50 years later I would return to Shangombo as district commissioner. Only God knew.
In 1992 and quite early in his reign, late President Chiluba ordered the construction of a gravel road from Matebele to Shangornbo covering a distance of 135 kilometres in total. The construction of the road that opened up the area to the rest of the country and beyond was completed in 1996 after four years of sweating and toiling by a determined group of men and the rumbling of machinery in an otherwise quiet surroundings. Dr. Chiluba is a hero in the eyes and hearts of the people of Shangombo for giving them this road, which is the lifeline of the district. That is the legacy the former leader has left behind here in Shangombo. The story of the road to Shangornbo cannot be complete without revealing important happenings such as the declaration by President Sata of Sioma and Shangornbo as two separate districts with equally separate constituencies. That key declaration was made on November 26, 2012.
The seal that legalised the status of Siorna and Shangombo as districts and parliamentary constituencies was the Government gazette in October, 2013.
What is the physical condition of the Matebele – Shangombo road now?
In the last half of 2015 the Zambia National Service set up camp at Matebele and started grading the road. However, they only graded about half of the total distance of the entire road up to Ngandwe before they demobilised.
But even the portion that was graded is already in a very bad state. The other half, which was not touched by the ZNS team is such that to describe it as terrible will be for lack of a stronger and more suitable word. Indeed this road has become a hell-run.
The importance of this road to the people of Shangombo cannot be over emphasised.
The Matebele – Shangombo road has great economic value that may not be known or appreciated by many people.
I am aware that this road was also included on the Link Zambia 8000 – that revolutionary and progressive programme.
Fortunately, President Lungu is also for planting infrastructure all over the country and has taken to infrastructure building like the way a duck takes to water. But my appeal to our visionary and hardworking Government is to bring forward the commencement of construction of this road so that as a country we can begin to reap the benefits that I am about to explain.
Angola, is a very huge market for our businessmen and women to provide goods and services.
For Shangombo in particular, the entire Angolan Province of Kuando Kubango, including a town like Mavinga is easier supplied with goods and services by Zambia through Shangombo because we are much nearer to them than their capital, Luanda.
Businessmen and women from Shangombo and the whole Western Province and even beyond can earn millions of dollars from this kind of trade. We need the foreign exchange to boost our economic drive. You may also wish to know that once this road is tar – marked there is a deliberate plan for ships bringing Zambian goods and goods for other landlocked countries in the region like Rwanda from Europe and America not to go past Angola to ports in South Africa but rather dock at the port of Namibe in Angola where the goods would be loaded onto trucks that would take the goods to their destinations in Zambia and elsewhere via the Angola – Shangombo Canal.
The volume of traffic on the Matebele – Shangombo road would be very high. What more with a state-of-the-art customs and immigration offices here in Shangombo, whose construction is about to begin.
It is quite clear that Shangombo during the PF rule is destined for good things and the road, once tarred, will act as a catalyst for development. But more important also is the fact that this road will bring revenue to the national treasury, thus raising funds for funding of many developmental projects in the land.
I have no doubt now that you will all agree with me that the Matebele – Shangombo road needs to be worked on without any further delay.
I would therefore like to give an open invitation to our capable and hardworking Ministers of Finance and National Development Planning to visit Shangombo and deliberately allow their helicopter to land at some selected points along the road to see for themselves its condition.
Presidents Chiluba and Sata will forever remain heroes in the hearts of the people of Shangombo for building the first ever gravel road to Shangombo and for splitting Shangombo into two Districts of Sioma and Shangombo respectively.
President Lungu will also be a hero in the eyes and hearts of not only the people of Shangombo but the entire province and country for tar – marking the Matebele – Shangombo road.
Shangombo has rich soils to be able to grow a variety of crops and it has pastural land to support a thriving cattle industry.
It is rich in timber and has some of the finest species of red-rose (the muzauli) trees.
This is the story of the forgotten road.
The author is District Commissioner, Shangombo.