BENEDICT TEMBO, Nkeyema
TWICE, Raphael Phiri travelled to Mongu in Western Province for Local Government Association of Zambia executive committee meetings without any hint that he would one day lead the building of a breakaway town of Kaoma.
In 2004 as council secretary for Mkushi District Council in Central Province, and nine years later as head of the Mbala local authority in Northern Province, Mr Phiri transited via Kaoma on his way to Mongu and back to his bases.
However, last December, the Local Government Commission transferred Mr Phiri, with 23 years of experience in local authority management, to Nkeyema to oversee the development of one of Zambiaâ€™s newly-created districts.
Nkeyema, previously part of Kaoma, was declared a district in 2013 by late President Michael Sata to take social services to the people as close to their door steps as possible.
Since his arrival in Nkeyema, the first district after Kafue Bridge from Lusaka, Mr Phiri has been working hard to make the local authority visible to the people in the eastern part of Kaoma.
He is leading local economic development in the new district as well as creating jobs and raising the standard of living, apart from spearheading infrastructure development and cross tribal integration.
The holding civic centre at Munkuye, 40 kilometres from Kaoma, is housed in an old former Credit Union and Savings Association building.
The council has since built a new annex building where Mr Phiri and council chairperson Peter Maliti, vice-council chairperson Kabanda Nsamba and some principal officers.
The building also has a boardroom.
The permanent civic centre is being constructed at Kabondwa, about six kilometres from Munkuye.
Mr Phiri said the construction of the civic centre, the district administration offices and a post office are progressing. They are all at roof level.
While construction of 20 low cost houses is almost complete, the 10 medium cost houses are still at slab level and the two high cost houses are ring beam level.
A police station and 10 staff houses for police officers, with two being for senior officers, are at roof level.
When Nkeyema separated from Kaoma District Council, there was sharing of assets to help the new local authority get started.
Mr Phiri said Nkeyema got a Eugene truck which the local authority has since rehabilitated.
On its own, the local authority has acquired a tractor which is being used for refuse collection to keep Nkeyema clean.
The council has also bought a harrow, ripper and planter which it intends to be hiring out to farmers in this agricultural hub.
Mr Phiri said the local authority is happy with its income generation ventures as it makes a lot of money from levies on agricultural products, with tobacco being its cash cow.
Japan Tobacco International and Tombwe Processing Company are the major players in the tobacco sector.
He said the council also mints from grain levy because Nkeyema is the bread basket of Western Province.
Mr Phiri boasted that the tractor, harrow, ripper and planter were acquired from the proceeds of levies.
Nkeyema has offloaded 3,400 plots for residential development for the establishment of a township.
Mr Phiri said the plots have been surveyed by the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the local authority is in the process of interviewing the applicants.
Pegasus Energy (Z) Limited has expressed interest in opening the first filling station in the district while the Road Transport and Safety Agency has also applied for a plot to build an office.
The district may see an upsurge of tourism activities as it borders the Kafue National Park.
There are about five lodges around the national park.
Mr Phiri is concerned about the bad state of the Lusaka – Mongu road which has gravel patches and has remained like that for over three years now.
He said the most critical part is the stretch from Tetayoyo barrier up to Katunda after Kaoma which branches to Lukulu, which is in a bad state.
He is confident that the Katunda-Watopa road will be tarred following the recent assurance by President Lungu.
The pontoon at Watopa facilitates traffic to Mumbezhi district in North-Western Province from where the Mutanda-Chavuma road joins.
The water-stressed district has received a boost from Norwegian Church AID, which has sunk 10 boreholes in the area.
Mr Phiri agrees with Nkeyema member of Parliament Astley Mbangweta that the infrastructure in the district needs to be urgently attended to especially feeder roads, bridges, water and sanitation.
The poor state of feeder roads is constraining development in the area as people cannot access the services that they may require or easily move their produce to the markets.
The situation tends to be very serious in the rainy season when areas are separated from each other and it becomes difficult to use vehicles, motorbikes or bicycles.
Mr Phiri said there is urgent need is to build Mabuela bridge in Namilangi ward.
Nkeyema district development takes shape
BENEDICT TEMBO, Nkeyema