DEPRESSIONS and potholes are a prominent feature on the Malambanyama-Chiyuni-Ipongo roads.
During the rainy season, motorists have no choice but to endure rough rides on these access roads in Chibombo district’s Chitanda area.
Detours created by vehicles serve as an alternative passage on deplorable sections of the road.
Agriculture is the mainstay socio-economic activity in Chitanda. People here grow maize, soya beans, cassava and a variety of vegetables. They also keep cattle, goats, pigs and chickens.
Chitanda chiefdom is under Keembe Constituency, which has a population of 120,230, according to the 2010 census of population and housing.
I recently travelled on the Malambanyama-Chiyuni-Ipongo road when Central Province deputy permanent secretary Alfred Sakwiya was on a fact-finding mission in Chitanda chiefdom, where a ‘mysterious’ space rock was reported to have landed.
At whatever cost, I was eager to visit Chitanda to cover this phenomenon of a mysterious stone, believed to be a meteorite that had reportedly dropped from outer space.
Before leaving Kabwe, indications were that our destination was Chief Chitanda Lumamba’s palace.
Aboard a Toyota Land Cruiser, as we hit Great North Road in Kabwe, our discussions were mainly centred around the mysterious stone from space.
Munambeza Muwanei from the Times of Zambia, Alfareeson Sinalungu (Muvi TV), Simon Mbewe and Joackim Chisanga from the Zambia News and Information Services were the other journalists I travelled with.
There was also Edson Nachimwenda, the Central Province chiefs affairs officer and Boniface Mbewe, from the provincial meteorological department.
Mr Sakwiya was joined by former Chibombo district commissioner Barnabas Musopelo.
Almost quarter way into our journey, I was already tired, shortly after joining the Landless Corner-Mumbwa road.
We were being tossed from here and there as our driver swerved the vehicle on either sides of the road to find better passage.
“We have arrived at the chief’s palace,” announced Mr Nachimwenda as though to assure us that we had reached our final destination.
It was around 10:30 hours when we arrived at Chief Chitanda Lumamba’s placed, having travelled for about 35 kilometres.
Unfortunately, the chief had already left for Bimbe village, about 65 kilometres away, where the mysterious stone had landed.
Alas, we had no choice but to follow the traditional leader. It was a long journey to an unknown destination.
To cope with the uncomfortable journey, we started sharing different stories, but that did not work for me. The discomfort continued on the bad road.
“So all this is Keembe Constituency?” enquired Joackim Chisanga, a cameraman.
“Yes,” responded Mr Nachimwenda. “That’s why the Lenje chiefs want a new district called Chiyuni.”
Along the way, we began to worry about the condition of our Land Cruiser, which, although in good shape, had a defective spare tyre.
Ordinarily, it should have been a short journey, but because of the rough terrain, we took three hours to get to Bimbe on a 65km stretch.
It was a hot day, so that made the journey more uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there was no water on the vehicle, neither a soft drink to quench our thirsty because we had underestimated the distance to our final destination.
After covering a long distance, we saw two vehicles that were ahead of us U-turning.
“We had missed a turn to Bimbe village,” someone communicated to us.
“I think we are lost again. Even the DC (District Commissioner) doesn’t know where we are going,” one journalist said in a tone of disappointment.
I agreed with him, equally disappointed. At that point, my body was painful and the excitement about the once in a lifetime assignment had diminished.
Cautious about making another wrong turn, we made two stops to find out if we were on the right track. After our third stop, we were at Bimbe village after about three hours on the road.
During the winding journey, I counted four trucks that had broken down on that rough road, fortunately our vehicle made it to our final destination.
On arrival, we found that Chief Chitanda Lumamba and his people were waiting for us. They had waited for a long time and were almost getting anxious when our motorcade entered the village.
Apparently, the landing of the meteorite, caused fear of the unknown in Bimbe village. Some people feared that more of such strange space rocks would continue landing in their community and cause harm to human life and the environment.
Chief Chitanda Lumamba himself was anxious about the landing of the strange object in his area and was not pleased that government officials, upon being informed, took long to visit on a fact-finding mission.
“As for Government, when we inform you about something like this, you should hurry because if this stone brought diseases, we would have died by now,” the distraught Chief Chitanda Lumamba said.
The chief then led us to the site where the strange metal object, dark like coal, fell from. He pointed at a small hole in the ground as the place where the stone had landed.
“This is where this stone landed,” he said as he removed it from an ordinary plastic bag and placed it into the hole.
Examining it closely, I realised that there was nothing special about the stone, except it looked like coal or manganese
According to eye-witnesses, the meteorite landed with a loud bang that was audible within a seven-kilometre radius.
Mr Sakwiya said the dropping of a meteorite at Bimbe village was a unique development in Zambia and deserves the attention of Government.
“The object that we have doesn’t originate from earth but from outer space,” he explained “It is a small rock, but it’s a very important thing.”
Mr Sakwiya told the traditional leader that it was normal for meteorites, also known as space rocks, to drop in different regions of the world.
The explanation by Mr Sakwiya did not seem to allay fears about the perceived dangers of the meteorite among the people of Bimbe.
However, in science the landing of meteoroids on earth is a normal phenomenon.
According to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science, meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids. NASA explains that when meteoroids enter earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burn up, the fireballs or “shooting stars” are called meteors.
“When a meteoroid survives a trip through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it’s called a meteorite,” NASA explains further.
This, therefore means that contrary to fears by Chief Chitanda Lumamba and his people, the stone poses no threat to human life and the environment.
The locals took advantage of the occasion to lament about the poor road network in the area.
“The roads are very bad. In the rainy season, these roads are virtually impassable,” lamented Lazarus Musko, a farmer.
Within 40 minutes, our fact- finding mission was over. We were back on the road.
Chitanda has immense potential in food production but it is being hampered by the bad state of the Malambanyama-Chiyuni-Ipongo road.
“Chitanda is an agriculture hub. The problem is on the state of roads,” said Ucar Kaputula, the public relations officer and technical advisor to Chief Chitanda Lumamba.
Mr Kaputula said the traditional leader was concerned about the state of roads in his chiefdom because of their negative effect on commerce.
“This road (Malambanyama-Chiyuni-Ipongo) is very important. We need the Government to work on the road,” he said.
Light trucks, motorbikes, bicycles and ox-carts are the major modes of transport for goods and people.
On a daily basis, mini buses and light trucks operating between Chitanda and Lusaka ferry people and goods.
Some years back the rural community had an AVM 60-seater bus that the locals called Chitanda Baluya, which was the main source of transport to Lusaka.
“Transport has now improved. In the past we had a bus; Chitanda Baluya, which was ferrying people and animals. When it broke down, passengers had to wait until it was repaired,” Mr Kaputula said.
After leaving Chief Chitanda’s palace around 17:05 hours, along the way we met an overloaded AVM bus which has inherited the name Chitanda Baluya.
A drive back to Kabwe revealed that Chitanda has a good number of viable small-scale farmers but bad roads in the area present a serious challenge to agri-business.