Focus on Members of Parliament:
CHRISTINE CHISHA, Lusaka
IN 2015, Jack Zimba, the Sunday Mail roving visited Milenge district and when he wrote a story for the then “Know Your District” in the sister paper, Zambia Daily Mail, he described it as a backwater place.
“Night had fallen when we finally reached the Boma in Milenge district after a horrendous journey that lasted almost three hours. There were no lights to welcome us, only darkness due to lack of electricity,” he wrote.
“From then on, there would be no asking what problems the district was facing as even a short-time visitor experiences them at firsthand. This is one place in Luapula Province seriously lacking in infrastructure.
“The Boma itself is comprised of old pre-independence buildings reeking of bat urine. The buildings were once offices for forestry officers.
“And what passes as a shopping centre for Milenge is a small dusty road no longer than 100 metres that is lined with 17 nondescript grocery stores, a hardware shop and a shelter for salaula traders.”
Milenge was established as a sub-boma in 1958. It became a district in 1997.
But the district also has a constituency named after it. The constituency is represented in the National Assembly by Mwansa Mbulakulima.
Indeed, to a first time visitor, Milenge constituency has little to offer, but a closer look reveals that the area has numerous opportunities, which can change its appearance of poverty and underdevelopment.
The main economic activity in the constituency is subsistence crop production and livestock rearing.
But Mr Mbulakulima says once the area is developed, it is going to be the Switzerland of Zambia.
“Like Switzerland which contains an exceptional amount of natural beauty and cultural diversity – with four official languages and all the variety they represent, Milenge once developed will be able to display its hidden beautiful natural serenity,” he says.
“Milenge has the best wetland, spectacular mountain scenery, flower-lined nature paths, lakefront beauty and picturesque historic centres.”
However, poor road networks, lack of communication towers, not being connected to the national grid and fewer health posts has contributed to the under -development in the area.
The MP says the constituency is vast with 13 wards with four significant components.
One of the four components is Lungo Lukuta, which is very underdeveloped. The high poverty levels in Lungo Lukuta forced Mufulira-based comedian Chintelelwe to do a play depicting the high poverty levels in the area.
The other three areas are the BOMA, Kamfwaka near the Tuta Bridge while the other is near Chembe.
“If you put a health post in any of the areas, the other people will not be able to access it because of the long distances apart,” Mr Mbulakulima says.
The underdevelopment is historical, but one area in which the constituency is not struggling is that of education.
Mr Mbulakulima says no childs in his constituency walks more than 10 kilometres to find a school.
The constituency has four secondary schools as well a number of primary schools.
However, the MP is disappointed with the lack of progress on the nine health posts that Government has allocated to the area from the 650 it is constructing countrywide.
Mr Mbulakulima says residents are anxiously looking forward to the commencement of works on the promised health posts so that they could have access to quality health care services.
He says people in Milenge had high hopes when the pronouncement was made but their confidence has now been diminished due to lack of progress.
“Nine health posts have been allocated in my area but from the time the announcement was made, nothing has been done,” he says. ‘It is disappointing.”
Mr Mbulakulima says residents in the area are still walking long distances to access quality health care services but he is hopeful that the Patriotic Front (PF) government’s vision of taking health care services to people’s doorsteps will be fulfilled.
The MP has also bemoaned the bad state of the road that runs from Mansa into senior Chief Milambo’s chiefdom.
He is also concerned about the bad state of another road that runs from Milenge district to the turn-off of Tuta- Serenje Road, which he says has not been worked on for over five years now.
Mr Mbulakulima says that the worry of the people of Milenge is that travelling becomes challenging for them especially during the rainy season.
This has prompted the constituency leadership to allocate the entire K700, 000 Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to rehabilitating and improving feeder and main roads in the constituency.
The construction of feeder roads will help farmers access the market easily.
In the area of communication, the towers in the constituency only cover 50 percent of the area. However, Government through the Ministry of Communication and Transport, will by next month put up four more towers.
“Once the four towers are put up, the constituency will be at 90 percent connectivity and people in the area will be able to communicate without a lot of cut -off,” he says.
In terms of being connected to the national grid, the MP is optimistic that by January 2018, the constituency will be connected to the national grid.
“The is political will is there to ensure that the constituency is connected to the national grid, the Rural Electrification Authority, Zesco including the republican President and Minister of Energy have been checking on the on-going project of connectivity to the national grid,” he says.
Once the constituency is connected to the national grid, learners will be able to do Information Communication Technology (ICT) practicals with no difficulties.
While the MP is happy with the on-going projects, he is also saddened that an area that saw many girls managing to complete grade twelve is seeing a number of early marriages.
He partly attributed the problem of early marriages to lack of leadership at traditional level.
“Two chiefdoms in my constituency are still in wallowing in succession disputes; senior Chief Milambo for over two years has been facing disputes and Chief Sokontwe for the past five years, which has made it difficult to help resolve some of the issues in the area because of lack of leadership,” he says.
But Mr Mbulakulima says Milenge is well positioned to witness development in the next four years.
“It is the best place with good rainfall,” he says. “A place with the best people who determined to utilise the good land to do farming, what only hindered us was lack of power. Zambians should watch out for the development of the hidden beauty of Milenge with Swiss features.”