MONICA KAYOMBO, Ndola
MY TOUR of duty to Luwingu in the north of the country last month was with the main purpose of checking on the progress on the construction of
the first ever filling station in the area and possibly other developmental projects being undertaken in the district.
Luwingu, which is full of mythical stories about lions, got its name from the colonialists although some of the locals still call it ‘Ulubingu Lwansase’.
But perhaps the mythical stories are for another day.
The distance between my home base Ndola and Luwingu is about 700 kilometres and about 840 from the capital city Lusaka. My journey started at 05:00 hours using the Mufulira – Mokambo border through the Pedicle Road in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Chembe.
The Pedicle, which was constructed and is maintained by Zambia to connect the Copperbelt and Luapula provinces, is a major developmental issue in the north of the country while passing through it has its own legendary experiences.
When the DRC was Zaire, there was a lot of corruption at the border and Zambians travelling through the Pedicle often had to bribe Zairean border officials. Someone said you would actually be fined by Zairean border officials for merely wearing a hat.
When we reached Mokambo Border Post, I was with my driver Timothy Mwampaule; the revenue authorities demanded that we produce the blue book. Despite explaining that it was a company vehicle and therefore, the blue book was in the custody of the company, we were made to pay K20.
Well, no hard feelings, it was not much.
The drive through the Pedicle Road went smoothly; most of the 70 kilometre stretch on the road has been worked on and works are still ongoing except for the remaining 30 kilometres which took us almost two hours to cover.
When we reached Chembe Border, on the Zambian side, the issue of the blue book rose again. Again, we had to part away with a K20 before proceeding.
However, it is at the Chembe Border that I discovered that the green National Registration Cards (NRC’s) that have special stripes on the portrait are not recognised anymore on the DRC side. So, those whose NRC’s had special marks on the portrait, were made to pay K10. Those without the K10 were detained. I had to bail out one Zambian who failed to produce the K10.
But of course, no receipt was issued; you can guess how much the immigration officials make at the end of the day for the unreceipted K10 fines.
We reached Mansa district at 12:00 hours where we made a brief stopover before proceeding to Luwingu. We arrived there around 15:00 hours and straight away went into the business of securing accommodation which we found at the Council Guest House.
Serious work was to start the following day, and through the good offices of the district commissioner Patrick Chanda, I was able to secure appointments with various heads of government departments in the district.
There are a number of activities taking place in Luwingu but I reckon the story of the day was the acquisition of an expeller machine by the Luwingu District Women Association with the assistance of the Irish Self Help Africa at a cost of K16,000. The machine, which is used for oil extraction, is aimed at empowering women, according to Winfridah Katongo, the Ministry of Community Development community development assistant.
I also visited the district council secretary Raphael Zulu who explained the rise in interest for both residential and commercial plots in the area following the tarring of the Mansa-Luwingu and Kasama-Luwingu roads.
Indeed, there are a lot of developmental projects taking place in Luwingu.
Chief Chabula, who I visited at Luwingu Nsombo must be a happy man. In his chiefdom, I checked on the 30 solar energy-powered taps that have been provided at Lumbwe village by the World Vision. While in his chiefdom, I also saw the 2.5 kilometre Lubwa embankment which connects Lumbwe and Chisa villages.
I also visited the Lupososhi Secondary School, which was constructed in 2015 by the government at what should be a huge cost. I enjoyed the tour with the head teacher Michael Chinika being courteous enough to provide us with lunch, the staple meal complimented by village chicken, the real village chicken, I must emphasise.
Towards the end of my stay in Luwingu, I made a trip to Ipusukilo Mission which is over 10 kilometres away from the district administration. There, I met with the Ipusukilo Catholic Mission Parish chairperson Tanaeli Mulenga who praised Government for having taken electricity to the area some three years ago.
Later, I met Ipusukilo Secondary School head teacher Alfred Goma who said the academic performance of the school at both grade nine and 12 has improved from below 50 percent to 68 percent in 2016 following the connection of electricity to the area.
However, he appealed to the government to help them construct a modern science laboratory as the school has none at the moment.
My last visit there was to the home of the Sisters of Child Jesus at Ipusukilo Mission where I met Sister Ignatius Kabwe and Sister Norena Nsemukila. This visit had a nostalgic feel to it; it reminded me of my old days as a novice with the Sisters of the Child Jesus at St Theresa in Chilubula, Kasama district.
But in Luwingu, I was particularly interested in finding out the progress regarding the construction of the gas station. I had visited the site where the filling station is being constructed and found the Astor Investment Construction Company site engineer Cai Chang Xing. He told me that that the filling station will be ready for commissioning this August as over half of the work that needs to be done has already been completed.
Satisfied with my work, it was time to refuel in Kasama and head back to my base, another 700km of road to cover.