CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka
THE proximity of Mkaika constituency in Katete district to the newly-crowned city of Chipata has had little bearing on the social and economic fortunes of the area.
Mkaika, much like most rural constituencies, suffers from the same problems of high poverty levels, illiteracy, poor road networks, and inadequate health and education facilities.
With a population of 95, 000, farming is the backbone of the constituency.
Mkaika member of Parliament (MP) Peter Phiri is committed to ensuring that the constituency is developed.
He first became MP in 2013 through a by-election when David Phiri, resigned from the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) to join the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
The MMD settled for Mr Phiri in that by-election and again retained him in the 2016 general elections.
“I never dreamt of being a legislator till 2013 when Mkaika residents in Katete forced me to contest being a businessman in the area,” he says.
“The residents insisted that they be represented by someone born and bred in Katete who understands the challenges of the district well.
“I decided to recontest the Mkaika seat in 2016 on the MMD ticket because I did not finish delivering on my campaign promises of 2013. I want to turn around the face of Katete and see the constituency develop.
“The constituency is full of challenges, water has been a challenge, illiterate levels are high despite having schools in the area, and lack of a government district hospital.”
Since being elected, Mr Phiri has put issues of water, health and education as priority areas for development.
He believes that in order to fight illiteracy levels, there is need to build more secondary schools in the constituency. There are only three secondary schools, which he says are not enough to cater for the growing population of school-going children.
“A constituency with few educated people will always lag, no one can even see the need to take the children to school,” Mr Phiri says.
In terms of health, he said the constituency was allocated four health posts by Government out of the 650, which it is building countrywide.
“So far, three health posts have been constructed and are operational with the fourth one under construction,” he says.
In an area called Matunga in Magobo ward, a health post has been built with the help of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Talking about CDF, the MP says he has pledged together with the councillors from the nine wards of Mkaika that they will have an all-inclusive approach on how to distribute the CDF which in the past has allegedly been mismanaged.
Mr Phiri says he has realised that there has been a gap in the flow of information between the authorities and the members of the community on how CDF is distributed.
“I want to ensure that CDF is depoliticised and caters for projects in the constituency with the input from the communities who are the beneficiaries,” he says.
“We have received K700,000 CDF and we are hoping to build more health posts. We’re not starting new projects, we want to finish the projects that we started such as the construction of the one-by-three classroom block at Vulamukoko and sinking of boreholes.
“We also want to rehabilitate the dams that were washed away during the rainy season. Farmers rely on dams for their cattle to drink water but at the moment, they are relying on boreholes.”
Mr Phiri says the approach in the distribution of CDF has changed with the projects to be undertaken now being determined from what is discussed in the Ward Development Committees because he believes people’s input is cardinal if they have to have a sense of ownership of the projects.
But Mr Phiri has prioritized the building of a shopping mall in Mkaika as the area has no modern trading facilities right now.
The council has since reserved some land and some people have expressed interest to develop a modern shopping mall.
“We also need another commercial bank; the district has only one bank – Finance Bank. Most civil servants and farmers travel to Chipata city which is about 90 kilometres to have access to a bank,” he says.
“We’ve have had accidents involving civil servants rushing to Chipata to do banking. I’m in talks with the banks to persuade them to open branches in the area.”
But it is not just civil servants who need banking facilities.
Mr Phiri cites farmers who are using the e-voucher system. The farmers were using Zanaco which is in Chipata and Mr Phiri says this led to farmers not receiving inputs and seed on time as they took a lot of time to plan their journey in the farming season.
A graduate in Public Administration, Mr Phiri completed his secondary education at Katete Secondary School. He has a number of shops in Katete and is also in the transportation business.
A member of the Reformed Christian Church, he is married to Olipa and have four children together.
Former Mkaika MPs are John Chigaga Banda (UNIP) – 1976-1991; Josphat Mulewa (UNIP) – 1991 – 1996; Bernard Phiri (UNIP) – six months; Chikakula Banda (MMD) – 1996 – 2001; Zawe Mwanza (FDD) 2011 – 2006; and David Bernard Phiri (MMD) – 2006 to 2013.