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Mwandi local authority can’t wait to move to Lutaba

AFTER the latest visit to Lutaba, about 50 kilometres north of Mwandi Royal Village, Mwandi council secretary Benny Chiyesu is satisfied with the pace at which the newly created district’s headquarters are being constructed.
Dr Chiyesu, the former director of engineering at the Livingstone Municipal Council for 10 years, is overseeing the construction of the district’s first civic centre and administration.
“My qualifications are about formulation and management of projects. To develop a new district like Mwandi requires clear strategy formulation and unwavering leadership.
“We have new offices being built by Mwanza Construction Enterprise at K5,137,986,” Dr Chiyesu said recently in Mwandi Royal Village where the civic centre is currently based.
Dr Chiyesu said a civic centre, two high cost houses and 20 medium cost houses are being constructed at Lutaba, so are the boma and post office, which are being built at a cost of K3.6 million while the district administration is being erected at K5.7 million while construction of 20 low cost houses will cost K10.1 million.
“Construction of the civic centre is 25 percent complete, others would have said it is 90 percent complete because it is at lintho level,” Dr Chiyesu said as he perused papers in his office.
But as an engineer, he said even if a building is at roof level, it is far from being considered complete since it has no electrical and plumbing fittings and has not been plastered.
“The construction of the district administration is at 30 percent complete, the post office is 45 percent complete and the two high cost houses are at five percent. The contractors are busy at the site,” Dr Chiyesu said.
For him, touring the site, which he often does with district commissioner Precious Muyenga, is more than just a civic duty but helps apply his engineering experience.
Dr Chiyesu said all the eight councillors in the district recently visited the construction site to familiarise themselves with what is on the ground.
“I am confident that this experience coupled with administration experience will help me efficiently manage the projects going on in Mwandi,” Dr Chiyesu, who has been council secretary for four months, said.
He said council staff and councillors cannot wait to shift to Lutaba to begin life in a new area, which if well serviced with proper network, will be the hub for Western Province.
Lutaba, situated off the M10, the Livingstone–Sesheke road, hopes to benefit from the rehabilitation of the road which is currently in bad shape.
The local authority hopes that the rehabilitation of the M10 will benefit the gravel road to Lutaba which connects Kaoma, Mwandi, Mulobezi and Luampa.
“It is a very important road [to Lutaba] but currently, it is in a gravel form,” Dr Chiyesu said.
Dr Chiyesu said all the stakeholders are happy with the progress so far and cannot wait to occupy their offices.
“We are in a village set up, if we bring in bye-laws, we will end up conflicting [with traditional authorities],” he said.
Dr Chiyesu said heading a new council is a huge challenge that requires a clear vision.
“I am enjoying my new challenge. Someone has to develop these backward towns,” he said of Mwandi district, which is starting from scratch.
From the surveyed land at Lutaba, the local authority has been given 236 plots which comprise low, medium, high and commercial plots which are ready for sale to the public.
Dr Chiyesu said the local authority, despite squatting from Mwandi Royal Village, has taken advantage of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to embark on a number of projects to deliver services to the people.
Among the projects undertaken is the construction of a 1×3 classroom block at Magumwi Primary School as well as 1×2 classroom blocks at Mushukila and Loanja primary schools.
In the health sector, CDF has been used to upgrade Lutaba Rural Health Centre from a rural health clinic and the construction of Simungoma Public Health Clinic.
The council has also rehabilitated the Kuta (Traditional court) whose floor was cracked.
Dr Chiyesu said from the 2014 CDF, the local authority has advertised for submission of projects by the local communities.
“We are still receiving project proposals from the community. After appraisal, we will fund the projects,” he said.
Being a new local authority which recently shifted to Mwandi after having operated from Sesheke District Council, it is designing strategies for revenue collection within its mandate in Mwandi Royal Village.
So far, the council has been allowed to start collecting levies from fish, buses and taxes.
With the dwindling fish stocks, Dr Chiyesu said the revenue is very minimal.
Decentralisation is working well in Mwandi where officers at the local authority are co-ordinating district affairs with their counterparts from agriculture, education, health and social welfare.
“These joined the council by January 1, 2015, whatever decision the council makes is being owned by everybody. There is decision-making from the grassroots,” Dr Chiyesu said.
“There is a lot of excitement [among the people],” Dr Chiyesu said, citing social welfare and agriculture as areas where local communities have derived maximum benefits.
Clement Mulanda, a councillor for Mwandi ward, said decentralisation has benefitted the local people.
“We do not wait for people from Lusaka [central government] to decide for us,” Mr Mulanda said.
He appealed for an increase in CDF so that the council can widen its scope of providing service to the local communities.
Despite being a district, Mwandi still has no bank. The nearest financial institution is Finance Bank in Sesheke, about 65 kilometres away.
However, Finance Bank is about to set up base in Mwandi and is looking for a building to rent to take financial services closer to the people.
Motorists in Mwandi are still drawing their fuel from Kazungula and Sesheke districts because there is no filling station in the area.
Mwandi, a former constituency under Sesheke district, is one of the nine districts late President Michael Sata created in Western Province with a view of taking services closer to the people so that they participate in development planning as well as improve service delivery in all sectors.