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Kabwe leads local government system

CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
DECADES ago, Peter Matoka, then Minister of Local Government and Housing, described the municipality of Kabwe as one of the biggest urban regions in Zambia which had formed the backbone of the country’s local government system.
“I wish to state that Kabwe Municipal Council (KMC) has a proud history of civic government since 1 January 1954 when it attained municipal status,” Dr Matoka said in a publication ‘Kabwe for Investment in Zambia’.
Within a short space of time, Dr Matoka highlighted the infrastructure development and services such as tarmac roads, piped water supply schemes, sewerage and sanitation, housing, street lights.
“It was a result of concerted efforts of the municipal fathers that Kabwe was able to attract some major industry development such as Kabwe Industrial Fabric Factory, the new Zambia Railways workshop,” Dr Matoka said.
That is not all. He also cited Chindwin and Kohima barracks, Kwame Nkrumah Teacher’s Training College, Mukobeko Trades Training Institute, National Fire Services Training School and the establishment of National Agriculture Marketing Board silos as major developments that set Kabwe apart after Zambia gained her independence.
Government at the time wanted to see the municipality have infrastructure to give it the capacity to attract and support industrial and commercial growth to attract investors and contribute to economic growth of Zambia.
Mayor of Kabwe from July 1966 to July 1974 E. L. Limanda shared the same views with Dr Matoka.
Mr Limanda described the municipality of Kabwe as “a cosmopolitan community where people, irrespective of race, tribe or creed, live together”.
Mr Limanda acknowledged that foreign investors were also key stakeholders towards the fulfilment of the municipality’s motto: ‘The Eagle carries us on High’.
The city fathers could have coined this motto envisaging that Kabwe would perhaps graduate from a municipality status to city.
Mr Limanda somewhat implied “Kabwe had the ability to rise above difficulties and proceed with advancement”.
The earlier motto was “From the Earth we derive our being” but was later replaced with a visionary one ‘The Eagle carries us on High’.
This motto, which exists to date, laid a strong foundation which future civic leaders and other stakeholders were to build on.
What is Kabwe today has evolved from being a dull, lonely and development settlement of 1902 when lead was discovered, to a thriving commercial and industrial municipality.
But attaining city status has been elusive.
Kabwe, where mining for lead and zinc started around 1904, is the only municipality in Central Province.
It has remained a municipality for the last 52 years.
Looking at the aspirations of the city fathers in past years, it was expected that by now Kabwe would have been a city. But this is not the case!
Instead, Kabwe’s economic outlook is hazy. The mine was the main lifeline of the economy on which its social wellbeing was buoyed and its closure in 1994 interfered with the vision the city fathers decades ago had.
Among the stakeholders who feel Kabwe deserves a city status is the Central Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
“Why are we not getting investments? Why are we not a city yet, when we meet some of the benchmarks?”
“These are the questions we need to tackle openly,” CCCI president Sydney Tembo said last year during a stakeholders’ (among them KMC) meeting.
The meeting was held under the theme: ‘The Kabwe we want to see tomorrow’ and the transformation of Kabwe into a city was discussed at length.
The questions Mr Tembo’s raised needs to be dissected as calls to declare Kabwe into a city are mounting.
“As Kabwe, we are not sleeping, we have realised that we need to work tirelessly to achieve city status,” Prince Chileshe, the mayor of Kabwe says.
Unlike other provincial centres, Kabwe, Mr Chileshe, says has a well-developed central business district and a large population.
Others benchmarks Mr Chileshe mentions are Government infrastructure and departments representing different ministries, nine banks, Chindwin and Kohima barracks, two hospitals – Kabwe General Hospital and Kabwe Mine Hospital- and several health centres.
Two shopping malls are under construction, and KMC indicates that some investors have shown interest to construct two more shopping malls.
Other comparative advantages about Kabwe are Mulungushi University town campus, Kwame Nkrumah University, Paglory University, Chainama College of Health Sciences, National Fire Training School and other public and private higher learning institutions offering different programmes in different fields.
Mr Chileshe also says the fact that Kabwe attained city status in 1954 and has made strides in different areas despite its economic misfortune deserves city status.
Kabwe is a historic town, being the discovery area of Broken Hill man and a hive of political activity during and after independence.
“We have resolved as Kabwe that we petition His Excellency [President Lungu] that Kabwe is considered for city status,” Mr Chileshe, who also congratulated residents of Chipata and Chongwe for attaining city and municipality status, respectively.
Mr Chileshe’s case for Kabwe is supported by Kabwe town clerk Ronald Daka, who feels Kabwe, as the oldest mining region, meets the basic criteria for city status.
Mr Daka says Kabwe’s population stands at 208,000, according to the 2011 Census of Population.
“Our CBD is already well developed. In terms of infrastructure, Kabwe has well-developed infrastructure,” Mr Daka says.
Kabwe also hosts Zambia’s biggest prison, and Mr Daka says the region has four police stations and several police posts, learning institutions and health facilities.
Apart from promoting industrialisation, KMC wants attention to be on rehabilitating old tarred roads and upgrading of gravel roads to improve the road network.
Mr Daka also says efforts should be made to establish inter and intra city business station, work on street lights, drainage system and walkways.
KMC should, therefore, up its performance in managing affairs of the municipality, improve delivery of services, inspire confidence, create an enabling investment and business climate as part of the drive towards attainment of city status.

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