SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Kalomo
“ELECTRICITY is dangerous, you’ll need to handle it with care. You will need qualified electricians to do the wiring of your houses,” Minister of Energy Mathew Nkhuwa said.This was an earnest appeal made at a gathering of rural dwellers who were apparently on cloud nine.
The reason for this happy gathering was because the people of Dundumwezi will for the first time since independence have electricity supply in their community.
The occasion that was graced by Mr Nkhuwa signified the launch of the construction of the over K9 million-worth Dundumwezi Grid Extension by the Rural Electrification Authority (REA). The project will enable electricity supply to Dundumwezi and surrounding areas.
In 10 months’ time or rather by mid-2019, Dundumwezi will be lit with electricity if everything goes according to plan.
The contract for the job was recently handed over to Yengatech Enterprise Limited and construction work has been set in motion.
Residents of Dundumwezi are full of praises for Government for the imminent electricity supply to their community because of the immense socio-economic benefits.
One such resident is Wellington Mubi who has never lived in an electrically-powered house in his 53 years of existence.
Mr Mubi had come to accept the misfortune of the rural way of life whereby electricity supply is seen as a preserve of urbanites. He could only catch a glimpse of electrified structures when he went to Choma and Kalomo’s central business district to sell his farm produce.
It was a far-fetched dream coming true for Mr Mubi to learn that REA was bringing electricity supply to his village.
He is happy that his village will soon begin to see the fruits of development and, apart from growing maize, residents of some rural communities in Kalomo would be able to venture into new businesses they had never done before without electricity.
“I’m very happy that our area will now be developed and our children will grow up using electricity,” Mr Mubi said.
And Monek Chikanta said electricity to his rural community will enable community members to establish businesses such as welding workshops, milling plants and barbershops, among many others.
For Macmillan Milimo, having electricity supply means that the people of Dundumwezi will be able to use electrical appliances such as stoves and refrigerators.
To sum it up, Chief Chikanta, who presides over the affairs of Dundumwezi and other beneficiary communities, is happy that Government is beginning to address developmental challenges of his chiefdom.
Lack of electricity was among the challenges that the chiefdom presented to President Edgar Lungu when he visited the area in July last year.
“We have so many challenges but we only gave the President three challenges, namely electricity, mobile phone network towers and road infrastructure,” Chief Chikanta said.
The traditional ruler urged the beneficiaries of the power project to show appreciation to what Government is doing in the area.
Dundumwezi member of Parliament Edgar Singo’mbe said he was happy that the people in his constituency were now getting the attention they needed.
In past years, Dundumwezi and the surrounding areas have produced large amounts of maize in the country, but changing weather patterns, resulting in droughts, has somewhat changed this pattern.
However, Dundumwezi still produces more maize than the entire Kalomo district. Connecting the community to the national electricity grid is expected to boost its level of food production.
Despite their hard work, the residents of Dundumwezi face many challenges associated with underdevelopment.
If you ask anybody in Dundumwezi about the problems in the constituency, they will mention lack of electricity supply, lack of mobile telecommunication services, poor roads and water supply as being the major ones.
The minister of Energy said Government wants to give electricity supply to the people of Dundumwezi to improve their standards of living.
Mr Nkhuwa said there were many rural areas in the country without electricity but the people of Dundumwezi were among the privileged few that were considered for the project.
“This is the third government in Zambia, there was the UNIP government for 27 years, there was the MMD for 20 years, and now the Patriotic Front government which has been in power for seven years only. You can see the commitment that we have. We are not only talking, but we are here to work,” the minister said.
Mr Nkhuwa said Government wants to share the national cake evenly.
Communities that will benefit from the Dundumwezi Grid Extension project are Chikanta, Mweebo, Nemfwe, Chilala, Sichimbwali, and Habulile Primary School.
Others are Chief Chikanta’s palace and trading places; Chief Macha’s area such as trading centres; Chikanta market; Chilala and Habulile rural health centres.
Mr Nkhuwa said once the project is completed, the local people will be able to set up various businesses such as welding workshops, barbershops and salons, whereas schools will have suitable classrooms for different learning needs.
The minister also hopes that electricity supply in the area will help to reduce the levels of deforestation as people will have an alternative source of energy.
He urged the local people to use qualified electricians to do proper wiring of their houses.
Mr Nkhuwa said the Dundumwezi electricity project will benefit about 20,000 people.
And Mr Sing’ombe urged the people in his constituency to improve infrastructure before electricity is connected to their houses and shops.
The MP said there is need to sensitise the people on the handling of electricity and its dangers to avoid accidents.
He also appealed to Yengatech Enterprise Limited to execute the work using local people so that they could fully benefit from the project.
And REA chief executive officer Geoffrey Musonda told the people that the Dundumwezi Grid Extension was being implemented under the Rural Electrification Masterplan, a government programme.
Pastor Musonda said Dundumwezi is fortunate to have benefitted from the project, whose execution process will create jobs for the local people.
“Some of you will in the next 10 months have a steady income as you will get jobs from the contractor.
“Before you get electricity, there are still benefits and there will be income already injected in the economy,” he said.
Dundumwezi area is located south-west of Kalomo district in Southern Province and has a population of about 80,000.
The name Dundumwezi has become a catchword or just something to laugh about in political circles because of an incredible margin in the 2016 presidential election results that favoured the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) over the ruling PF.
Here, President Edgar Lungu got the least votes of all constituencies across the country – 252 ballots against UPND president Hakainde Hichilema’s 30,810 votes.
It was not the first time that the constituency was producing such shocking results for the PF.
In the 2015 presidential election that ushered Mr Lungu into power, he polled 83 votes, while Mr Hichilema got 14,181.
However, the President reacted to this voting pattern in Dundumwezi with warm sentiments and has promised to take development to the area and other communities that did not vote for him.
Dundumwezi was a little-known community, but thanks to the 2016 general elections that brought it in the limelight, and now it has come close to getting electricity supply under REA.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Kalomo