Columnists

New face on historical Livingstone

MATHEW Jere welcomes United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Shcultz (right) at the Livingstone constituency office in the tourist capital early this year. PICTURES: SHIKANDA KAWANGA

Focus on Members of Parliament:
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
ONCE the capital city of what was then known as Northern Rhodesia, Livingstone now exists to purely service the tourism industry, thanks to the spectacular Victoria Falls, which the locals call Mosi-Oa-Tunya.

Although the name Livingstone is borrowed from Scottish explorer David Livingstone, the first white man to have sighted the waterfalls, and named it Victoria after the British queen, there is a lot more interesting to Livingstone town.
CNN anchor Errol Barnett visited Livingstone in 2012 on his first assignment for “Inside Africa”, and he wrote the following afterwards.
“My goal is to discover unexpected stories, meet the most interesting people and reveal something special about where I am. In Livingstone, Zambia – heat aside – this was easy.
This town is nestled a few kilometres away from the magnificent natural wonder of Victoria Falls, split down the middle by the Zimbabwe-Zambian border.
“For decades, the Zimbabwean side received much more attention, more tourists and as a result more income. More recently, Zimbabwe’s political instability has meant Zambia has a real chance of being the destination of choice, but there’s a great deal of catching up to do.
Livingstone is lacking in infrastructure; most roads are unpaved and riddled with potholes. In fact, the first traffic light was installed in 2011 – locals call it “the robot.”
“Amid the heat, we witness a smooth, glistening, silky-black strip being paved, asphalt bubbling as cooling water escapes from oily road ingredients. Managing the operation and driving the machines are Chinese men under conical hats.
“They’re working with local men, helping to facilitate a smooth straight road meter by meter. This exposes one of many Chinese-funded infrastructure projects taking place all over the African continent. The Zambian government sees an eager investor, China sees a partner in the “emerging” world.
“We move on to a Christian church in the centre of town that at first glance seems typical. But at the centre of the facade over the main entrance sits the faint imprint of the Star of David, the symbol of Judaism.
‘We’ve been brought here by John Zulu, a young man working with the Zambian Heritage and Conservation Commission. He eagerly tells us that during the 1930s and 1940s, European Jews fled persecution and found not only safe haven in Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) but prosperity. This was their synagogue.
He also showed us the local cemetery with dozens of headstones further exposing the rich Jewish history of Livingstone.”
That is part of the constituency Matthews Jere is representing as Livingstone Central member of Parliament on the United Party for National Development (UPND) ticket.
Barnet visited Livingstone in January 2012 and Mr Jere was elected in August 2016.
“The residents insisted that they wanted someone who grew up in Livingstone and understands the challenges of the district well,” he says.
“I never dreamt of being an MP till 2016 when the people of Livingstone requested me to contest considering my exceptional performance as a councillor and deputy mayor.”
Mr Jere’s political career dates as far back as 2006 when he was a councillor for Mwalibonena ward under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). He held unto the award until 2016.
“I chaired a lot of committees at the council and the councillors voted for me as deputy mayor, a position I held from 2011-2013,” he says.
“I then decided to contest the parliamentary seat so that I could represent Livingstone residents in Parliament.”
He says during his campaign, he promised the residents that he will lobby government to degazette Dambwa Forest so that they could be given residential plots.
“Considering the rising demand for accommodation, I fought for the people to acquire plots from the 1000 hectares of land that government de-gazetted,” he says.
Livingstone City Council has since gone onto to demarcate the 1000 hectares of land and a good number of people have been given the plots. The exercise is actually ongoing.
“The people who had applied for land in 2012 were some of the beneficiaries and I thank them for their patience,” he says.
But Mr Jere knows that the issue of land is not the only thing that the residents of Livingstone want addressed.
“The issue of the roads will also be addressed. We submitted the distance of roads that needs to be worked on to the central government for townships like Dambwa, Libuyu, Airport area and Highlands where the roads are sandy and they really get bad during the rainy season,” he says.
The MP says the Livingstone council also intends to procure earth moving equipment which include water bowser and front end loader among others heavy duty equipment.
Mr Jere said the tender for the procurement of the equipment is on course.
“Procuring this equipment will ease the road works because some of the roads will even be tarred,” he says. “We’re hoping that it will be done at the quickest possible time so that he works can start.”
Mr Jere says one other challenge that he plans to address during his tenure of office is repairing of the damaged Libuyu and Sakubita bridges.
He says the issue of bridges was started by his predecessor Evans Lawrence but he is committed to seeing the results.
The Zambia Army worked on the Mulala bridge and Mr Jere is hoping the same could be done to all other damaged bridges.
“I want to make a follow-up and see the possibility of using the Zambia Army so that they can provide the labour and then we can fund it using CDF [Constituency Development Fund],” he said.
“It is sad that people are using the deplorable bridges which are a danger to their lives.
“The Sakubita Bridge is in a very deplorable state and I’m urging people to stop using it as it is a danger to their lives. Though the alternative route is longer, it’s better because the longer route is safer. We don’t want to lose lives.”
Mr Jere says he is also committed to ensuring that more jobs are created in the tourist capital and to that effect, he is following up with the proposed construction of a Convention Centre by government as he believes it will help create jobs.
Otherwise, he says the constituency is begging for more infrastructures such as the construction of a modern stadium as that will entice sports lovers to sample tourism packages in the areas.
Mr Jere also wants Livingstone to maintain its clean status.
“It’s good that Livingstone is the cleanest town and people must continue maintaining that as it is good for tourism business,” he says.
To ensure that the cleanliness of the city is maintained, he wants to propose that there should be a fine for anyone found littering.
Mr Jere is a businessman with more than 40 employees but he also studied law at Zambia Open University although he is yet to be admitted to the bar.
He did part of his primary education in Chipata before moving to Livingstone where he has spent most of his life.
“I started grade one in Chipata at Chilobwe Primary School, then moved to Walela Primary School from grade three to four, then later moved to Livingstone where I continued with my primary education at Nasanzu Basic School,” he says. “Later, I moved to Saint Raphael’s Secondary School where I completed my Grade 12 in 1997.”
A member of the Catholic Church, Mr Jere is married to Anita and together they have six children.
Well, the residents of Livingstone, and he has 142,034, according to the Central Statistical Office 2010 census report.

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