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Mwansabombwe: From constituency to district

CHOMBA MUSIKA, Mwansabombwe
LOCATED approximately 939 kilometres from Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka, is Mwansabombwe, home to the famous Umutomboko traditional ceremony of the Lunda speaking people.
Mwansabombwe, which the locals refer to as Kazembe, is derived from their chief’s title Mwata Kazembe.
Known as the largest village in central Africa, Mwansabombwe was in July 2012 separated from Kawambwa district by the late President Michael Sata who was convinced that the creation of new districts was the best way to expedite development in rural parts of the country.
Covering an estimated 1,200 square kilometres, the only constituency in the district, has a population of 45,294, according to the Central Statistics Office 2010 statistics
Since 2011, the Mwansabombwe parliamentary seat has been held by Rodgers Mwewa of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
Majority of the locals, who are predominantly Lunda speaking people, ironically express themselves in fluent Bemba, thanks to the One Zambia One Nation motto, but English remains the official language.
Mwansabombwe is situated in the valley of the Luapula River, where the Ngona River enters the swamps of the Luapula River south of Lake Mweru.
It also shares boundaries with Nchelenge constituency in the North, Mwense in the south, while in the West is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kawambwa constituency in the east.
The constituency is accessible by road, with a journey by bus taking about 13hours from Lusaka.
Kawambwa lies close to the middle point of the main artery of the Luapula Province, the tarred road informally known as the Valley Road running from Mansa to Nchelenge, and connecting southwards first to the Samfya Road (from Mansa to Serenje) and then to the Great North Road at Serenje. A tarred road also connects eastwards via Mbereshi to the northern Zambian plateau at Kawambwa.
The constituency has over 20 primary schools, three secondary schools — Kazembe, Mable Shaw and Chinyanta Day as well four other community schools.
Mwansabombwe has one major hospital namely Mbereshi Mission with about sixteen clinics spread across the area which hosts over 100 villages.
Of the 650 health posts being built by the Government countrywide, three are earmarked for Mwansabombwe.
As a constituency, Mwansabombwe is divided into eight wards namely; Mbereshi, Kakose, Chipita, Kazembe, Pembe, Lufubu, Mulele and Mununshi.
The economic mainstay of the constituency is fishing with a small population engaged in small scale farming, animal husbandry and charcoal burning.
The main tourism attraction for the constituency is the beautiful Umutomboko (The passionate dance of conquest) ceremony of the Lunda people. Performed by Mwata Kazembe every last week of July annually, the dance of the conquest is the mirror through which the history and cultural heritage of the Lunda Kingdom is reflected.
The importance of Umutomboko is linked to the days when the Lunda people crossed the Luapula River into Zambia, fighting their way through and in the process conquering weaker and smaller tribes. It has been recorded in several history books that the Lunda crossed the Luapula River into Zambia near chief Matanda’s village of Mansa.
Mwansabombwe is also home to the magnificent Ntumbachushi Falls which lies on the eastern border of Kawambwa, the district under which Mwansabombwe fell. After Mwansabombwe was detached from Kawambwa, the two areas have been claiming ownership of the water fall.
After its detachment from Kawambwa, Mwansabombwe has seen several infrastructure development projects sprawling up on an over 6000 hectares piece of virgin land which Chief Mwata Kazembe gave to the district council.
Named, the new township, the virgin land, situated about 12kilometres away from Mwansabombwe ‘village’, will house among several modern structures, some of which are nearing completion, the district administration block worth K4, 200,000, a civic centre, a post office and a police camp. The construction of the civic centre at the new township, situated after Lufubu stream, is at roof level.
“Since the area is surrounded by villages and sits on customary land, the Chief [Mwata Kazembe] gave us [Mwansabombwe District Council] 6,250 hectares of virgin land where a new township is coming up… construction of the civic centre and other structures are on-going,” says Joyce Sabanyama, the Mwansabombwe District Council chief human resource officer.
To address accommodation challenges, Government is constructing about 30 houses for civil servants, who are currently living in rented houses in Kazembe village.
“So far, 10 houses for council officers have been completed and electrified…this is a good development that will avert accommodation and office space shortage. Construction of a civic centre is at wall plate level, a positive development that will cut the cost of paying for office space,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mwansabombwe constituents will no longer have to travel over 30kilometres to neighbouring Kawambwa to access financial services because the first bank is set to be housed at the new township.
The local authority is also opening up the road network at the new township, where more land has been advertised for residents and the business community to invest in real estate.
Inadequate transport has hampered the local authority’s quest to improve service delivery in the constituency.
“We only have one refuse collection truck which was given to us by our mother district while we only have one hard body vehicle for official duties,” Ms Sabanyama said.
Owing to the lack of earthmoving equipments, the un-tarred roads in both Mwansabombwe and the upcoming new township are usually in a deplorable state, especially after a downpour.
Ms Sabanyama is hopeful that in the near future, the local authority will use part of the Constituency Development Fund to buy a grader to maintain the road network.
The constituency is also grappling with water supply with a few boreholes donated around the villages.
Mwansabombwe, home to the Luapula River and several lagoons, is endowed with vast virgin land, a long rainy season and rich soils which make the area suitable for fish farming and crop production.
District administrative officer Abraham Mukunta prodded investors to consider exploring and exploiting the numerous investment opportunities in the developing district.
“In Mbereshi ward, there are lime deposits and if explored, a cement plant can even be set up there. And in Mununshi ward, we also have minerals such as copper,” Mr Mukunta said.
He wants investors to also consider building a service station in the area so that motorists do not have to travel to Kawambwa or Mansa to buy the commodity.
“We do not have a filling station so people can invest in that area, we also call on the business community to consider building a hotel or lodges on our readily available land at the new township,” Mr Mukunta said.
He expressed happiness that from the time Mwansabombwe was declared a district, various stakeholders have shown interest to invest in various sectors of the economy.
For instance, RPA Kumilnh Energy Company plans to establish a sugar plantation from which Ethano and electricity will be produced while Heifer International Zambia, through the Luapula development programme, will this year set up an animal husbandry project to boost food production. This will demystify the socially accepted norm that the fish farmers of Luapula are not suited to be herdsmen.

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