Columnists Features In focus

Gwembe ‘cries’ for bank, police station

Know Your District: BENEDICT TEMBO, Gwembe
“THE major challenge is the road network. If this road (Gwembe-Chipepo road) can be improved, even the lives of people can improve,” says Mubiana Situmbeko, a businessman in Munyumbwe area of Gwembe district.
Mr Situmbeko says poor road network and inadequate communication infrastructure are the only reason Gwembe has remained unattractive to investment.
Mr Situmbeko says everything that the people of Gwembe need ranging from financial services to medication, fuel and groceries comes from Monze, which is 45 kilometres away.
Of the 45km, 33km up to Munyumbwe, where the civic centre, is located is hilly and gravel, making travel very tricky and risky.
There is another 33km to get to Chipepo, the commercial capital of Gwembe.
As if that is not enough, Munyumbwe just has one mobile provider – Zamtel – whose tower is powered by Zesco. So several parts of Gwembe are completely incommunicado.
MTN are constructing a tower which is at slab level while Airtel is nowhere near Mufumbwe.
There are pockets of Econet, a Zimbabwean network in Chipepo.
Mr Situmbeko says because of the bad road network, most of the things in Munyumbwe are expensive because transporters overcharge for delivery of goods.
“Gettting mealie meal from Choma [Milling] as an individual [businessman], you price it at K80 or K85 [50kg bag of breakfast) to get a good profit. I am sure if this road (Gwembe-Chipepo) was done, National Milling and other milling companies would open a depot here and sell mealie meal at a good price,” Mr Situmbeko said.
A good road network attracts investors.
“Since this place (Chipepo) is at the waterfront (Lake Kariba), it can be a very good tourist destination,’’ he said.
Council director of works Peter Madubeko said there is hope because three banks Investrust, Finance and Zanaco have expressed to set up base there because the district has all the fundamentals.
Mr Situmbeko says the lack of a police post is another factor discouraging investments.
“If this place (Munyumbwe) had a police station, it would attract banks. We are forced to take our money to Monze. For somebody to acquire an NRC, they have to travel to Gwembe (plateau). WThat is why we are demanding that the boma shifts here, for now (boma) is servicing the Monze community. If boma comes here, Munyumbwe will develop, Munyumbwe has a lot of civil servants,” Mr Situmbeko says.
Elias Thole, a teacher, bemoaned the lack of development in Munyumbwe but said lack of macro and micro financial institutions has contributed to the status quo.
“All the money made here is spent in Monze, meaning we are boosting the Monze economy. We get paid there (Monze), and buy almost everything there that include fuel.” Mr Thole, the head teacher at Malobe Primary School, said.
Geographical location
Gwembe lies in the valley of the Zambezi escarpment, sharing boundaries with Siavonga, Monze, Choma, Sinazongwe and Zimbabwe on Lake Kariba.
Gwembe is located at 160 38 degrees south latitude and 270 46 degrees East Longitude and is approximately 260 kilometres from Lusaka.
It has a total area of 12,611 km square. The sub-boma where the district commissioner’s office is based is 18km from Chisekesi on the Livingstone-Lusaka highway.
Established in the 1950’s, Gwembe is one of the oldest districts in Zambia. It fathered Siavonga and Sinazongwe districts where people displaced during the construction of the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River where re-settled.
Economic activities
Fishing and agriculture – crops and livestock – are the mainstay of Gwembe.
Fishing, which takes place throughout the year is done at two levels – small-scale fishing and commercial.
The Zambezi valley, of which Gwembe forms a part, suffers a continuous drought phenomenon.
For this reason, even in the years of good rainfall, belated and scanty amounts are experienced in Gwembe.  Staple foods like maize are long maturing crops, which are almost annually overtaken by the return of the dry season.  The harvest is annually meagre and cannot take the family into the next harvest.
The terrain is mountainous with steep slopes, characterised by fast flowing, fast drying ravines undulating/ cascading rocky terrain which result in the land being highly erosive, leaving behind gullies.
The effect on service delivery is the toll it takes on the life expectancy of vehicles engaged in outreach activities and frequency of spare parts.
Most of the land is stony with small areas of farmland. The rainfall pattern is fragmented and normally with prolonged dry spells and an average rainfall of about 700mm annually.
Temperatures are ever high with hot wind blowing in the dry season.
The mean annual temperature in the district is 22 degrees celicius but however, the maximum temperatures during the hottest period of the season in October rise to over  40 degrees celcius
The district has a dual administration set-up, with the district commissioner’s offices are located on the plateau in Gwembe sub-boma while the local authority’s headquarters are in the valley in Munyumbwe, 33 kilometres away.
The district has only one constituency (Gwembe) and 12 wards: Masanga, Sinafala, Jumbo/Kkoma, Chibuwe, Siampande, Kotakota, Luumbo, Bbondo, Chisale, Fumbo, Jongola and Lukonde.
The main political parties present in the district are the United Party for National Development which has 11 counillors, MMD (2), PF (nil) and an independent.
Traditional leadership
Gwembe is mainly divided into two chiefdoms – Chief Chipepo and Chief Munyumbwe. However, some areas around Gwembe sub-boma are under Chief Ufwenuka of Monze.
Chief Munyumbwe’s palace is at Ganikongo in Gwembe while Chief Chipepo’s palace is in Siavonga.
Chief Chipepo’s chiefdom covers part of Siavonga, Gwembe and Sinazongwe districts. He administers his chiefdom in Gwembe through his representative based at Chipepo village.
Generally, the population distribution follows the patterns described below:
The escarpment area is sparsely populated Scattered populations are found along seasonal rivers
Dense populations are found in Gwembe, Lukonde, Munyumbwe, and Chipepo along the main road from Gwembe to Chipepo and in Sinafala.
In Gwembe, there are no commercial farmers; however, there are emergent and small-scale farmers.
The major food crops grown in the district are:maize, sorghum and millet.  Groundnuts, cowpeas and vegetables such as cucumbers, pumpkins, rape, tomatoes and watermelon are also grown.Cotton is the major cash crop.
All crops with the exception of vegetables are grown under rain-fed agricultural practices.  The lakeshore offers great opportunity for crop production under irrigation.  This is not tapped yet.
Most of the district has no annual streams making it impossible for crop production in the dry season.
The district is sub divided in three agricultural blocks and these are further subdivided into 13 agricultural camps for administration purpose of the agricultural extension.
Socio-Cultural Profile
Primarily, the Tonga people populate Gwembe.  The prominent socio-cultural practice is polygamy.

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