Focus on Members of Parliament:
NDANGWA MWITTAH, Dundumwezi
DUNDUMWEZI was a little-heard-of place until the 2016 general elections. After that, it made headlines and became almost a household name.
The reason: it produced one of the most shocking electoral results for the incumbent President Lungu.
The opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema got 30,810 votes while President Lungu got a paltry 252.
Mr Lungu did not sound bitter about the few votes he was given by the people here, saying: “If I didn’t get those 252 votes in Dundumwezi, I wouldn’t have gotten the 50 percent plus one.”
But that did not stop the negative publicity about Dundumwezi.
President Lungu, however, emphasised the fact that Dundumwezi should not be isolated or left behind in development.
Dundumwezi lies 107 kilometres from Choma, 109km if one is going there from Kalomo. It is highly productive in agriculture.
The constituency, whose name the locals say is an adulteration of “Dundumwenze”, which can loosely be translated as a male mountain, is situated in Chief Siachitema’s area, south-west of Kalomo.
It is a hard-to-reach, underdeveloped constituency with a poor road network. In the rainy season, the road to Dundumwezi usually becomes impassable.
And yet, that is not the only communication challenge facing the people of Dundumwezi. It is hard to find a phone network signal in the constituency, and some residents have devised ingenious ways to get a signal on their phones, such as climbing a tree standing on an anthill to gain more altitude.
“Sometimes, we feel neglected as the people of Dundumwezi. We lack basic infrastructure and necessities such as hospitals, schools, and proper roads,” said a teacher at a local school.
But there is hope on the horizon for the people of Dundumwezi.
In an effort to improve telecommunication in Dundumwezi, network towers are being erected at four sites in the constituency.
“I am grateful for the four towers, but they will only answer for like 60 to 70 percent of the challenges of our communications troubles,” says Dundumwezi member of Parliament Edgar Sing’ombe.
He adds: “Ideally, I would have loved to have six communication towers in the constituency because we have a lot of people [and] as a result, we fail to communicate between rural health centres and hospitals,” he says.
Since 2006, when he became MP, Mr Sing’ombe has been pushing for mobile phone connectivity. One of the biggest challenges he faces is the disbursement of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
“As an MP, I don’t have any other funding apart from CDF. But if that money is taking forever to come, and when it does, it is not coming in full, we will be having problems,” he says.
Mr Sing’ombe says a number of projects in the area have stalled and others have not even taken off because of the unavailability of the funds.
He also decries the fact that he is not directly involved in approving projects to be funded through CDF.
But he still counts a number of successes.
Mr Sing’ombe has sunk a number of boreholes to improve people’s access to clean and safe drinking water.
He has also undertaken a number of projects such as classroom blocks in Kasukwe ward, Sichimbwali in Kamuka and another one by three classroom block at Muchindu.
A mother’s shelter at Bulyambeba rural health post is also in the pipeline.
President Lungu in July this year launched the Kalomo-Dundumwezi, Itezhi-tezhi-Namwala road project. Construction works have since started and will cost US$18.78 million.
There are also plans to construct the Nkandanzovu bridge in an effort to ensure that rural areas were more accessible.
“The rain season is coming soon, these are some of the things we need to look at otherwise, we will be cut off,” he said.
Solar hammer mills have been installed in Kasukwe, Mikata and Omba in an effort to ease people’s lives.
Mr Sing’ombe is also lobbying for the construction of the Nanyemu dam and the Kalomo–Chikanta road.
Dundumwezi has seen primary schools such as Habulile, Kasukwe and also Nkandanzovu upgraded into secondary schools, in order to improve education infrastructure and access to quality education.
Dundumwezi is well-known for maize production. In fact, Kalomo district, where the constituency lies, is the second largest producer of maize in the country, and this constituency accounts for a large portion of that.
But there are now efforts to encourage production of other crops, as well as boosting poultry and livestock production.
With the help from Care International, land has been identified for vegetable production, and training in vegetable production, poultry and livestock management.
In terms of health, the constituency has received four health posts out of the 650 health posts Government is building across the country.
“In 2011, President Sata assured us of these health posts, so far, we have four. We need boreholes now,” says Mr Sing’ombe.
Mr Sing’ombe also wants Dundumwezi to be connected to the national electricity grid.