BENEDICT TEMBO, Petauke
PETAUKE District Council chairperson James Lunguâ€™s desire is to transform the rural district into a municipality by the time his five-year term ends in 2021.
He is in fact happy with the development taking place in Petauke and is confident that its municipality will be attained if Government fulfils its commitments and investments continue to flow.
Among infrastructure development projects changing the face of Petauke is that of tarring the 19.5-kilometre township roads in the district.
â€œWe had no tarred roads, Government has given us 19.5 kilometres of township roads,â€ Mr Lungu said of the project which began in 2014.
After evaluation by civic authorities, a stretch of six kilometres has been added to the road being constructed by Sable, bringing the total to 25.5 kilometres which will be tarred.
About 40 percent of the work has been done but residents like Arthur Sakala who lives off the Boma Road cannot wait for the contractor to complete the main stretch which links the central business district to the Great East Road.
Due to the poor status of the Boma Road, luxury buses operating between Lusaka and Chipata are dropping off passengers at the junction between Great East Road and Boma Road.
Mr Lungu said apart from passengers incurring more costs signageby having to find transport to ferry them to the central business district, the local authority is also losing out on loading fees.
The completion of Boma Road tarring will also reduce vehicle maintenance costs for Petauke motorists who are frequently taking their vehicles to garages for repairs.
This will be a direct benefit to the road users, which may also lead to the reduction in bus fares.
Government and civic leaders are happy that the projects have been proceeding well and massive progress has been recorded.
Meantime, Sable has parked its road construction equipment as the company awaits funding from Government to continue with the works.
Other roads expected to be tarred include the four-kilometre stretch to Minga Mission Hospital and the 17-kilometre road from the central business district to Kalindawalo which are designed to reduce congestion.
Mr Lungu said most feeder roads leading to farming areas have been rehabilitated to enable farmers access markets.
These include the Nalukumba stretch which now has access to the Great East Road, Merwe and the 14-kilometre Kasusu Road.
The Zambia National Service is also expected to start rehabilitating the Kaumbweâ€“Msanzala road where a lot of bridges have been washed away by the rains.
With the construction of a general hospital due to start at Kalindawalo as well as the 6.5-kilometre road from the Great East Road to Kalindawalo expected to be constructed this year, the local authority expects the two projects to stimulate investments along the route.
Currently, the district just has a level one hospital and patients are being referred to either Chipata General Hospital, St. Francis Mission Hospital in Katete or the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
Petauke will also benefit from the construction of a rail line from Chipata to Serenje as it will be one of the major stops.
The Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) is putting up a milling plant with a production capacity of 200 metric tonnes of mealie meal per day.
ZCS commissioner-general Percy Chato said the milling plant, which will also house a vast storage facility, will be constructed under a public private partnership arrangement.
The construction of the milling plant will not only contribute to industrialisation but will also help to create the much-needed jobs and take the district towards self-sustenance in mealie meal production.
The milling plant, which lies off Boma Road, will be built close to an area where several maize storage facilities are being constructed.
The district is grappling with street vendors who have congested the central business district.
Mr Lungu said there are three markets within Petauke â€“ New market, Chileya and Showgrounds â€“ where the local authority intends to relocate the vendors.
Currently, Chileya, which is behind the main bus station, is being paved to create an enabling trading environment.
Petauke currently has two operational private colleges â€“ Fountain Peace College of Health Sciences which is offering nursing courses and St. Salome College of Education, as well as the yet to open Promised Land Caanan University.
Petauke also boasts of two trades schools â€“ one in town where Government is building hostels and Ukwimi, which was formerly a refugee camp.
District commissioner Venelesi Banda is happy that Government has constructed mothersâ€™ shelters at Chikoba, Mabanda, Ukwimi and Mumbi clinics and a mortuary at Minga Mission Hospital.
She said a childrenâ€™s ward is being renovated using the Constituency Development Fund.
A lot of lodges are also coming up as the business community responds to the demand for bed space.
Council secretary Boyd Mbinji said the local authority will on its part refurbish Nyika Motel from the equalisation fund and procure a loan.
However, the district lacks the required number of schools while the absence of sewer lines means that it has no proper effluent disposal.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Petauke