Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU
IN APRIL this year, President Edgar Lungu declared seven new districts, namely Chifunabuli, Chipangali, Chasefu, Kasenengwa, Lumezi, Lupososhi and Msanzala, to bring the number countrywide to 114. Lundazi was the major beneficiary after being sliced into two more administrative centres. Fondly known as Box 1 Kanele, after a Welsh District Commissioner Colonel Errol Button, Lundazi’s labour ward produced Chasefu and Lumezi districts.
While the information was received with pomp and splendour, there was still a small matter of locating the central business district (CBD) for Lumezi. Without hesitation, Chasefu settled for an area around Emusa and Eggichickeni under Chief Magodi to be its administrative centre.
The small matter of Lumezi CBD is still brewing.
Despite a whirlwind in the making; as interested parties jostle for recognition, the Vincent Mwale-led Ministry of Local Government has since concluded its mandate. Meetings were held to decide the location of Chasefu and Lumezi CBD’s, albeit with veiled protestations from certain parties for the latter.
To understand the intricacies at hand, I did a reconnaissance visit to Lumezi, Lundazi and Chasefu in that order. The threesome is perched on the central portion of eastern Zambia and borders both Luangwa Valley and Malawi. The original Lundazi CBD is 187 kilometres from Chipata, while Lumezi is on the 155 kilometre mark.
In essence, the crafters of the new Lumezi district wanted to avoid locating Lumezi CBD at Lumezi itself due to its uncanny short distance to Lundazi’s umbilical cord.
Traditionally, Lundazi was divided into 11 chiefdoms representing Bisa, Chewa, Ngoni and Tumbuka tribes but with the latter cutting across all. The three valley chiefs of Chitungulu, Kazembe and Mwanya speak Bisa laced with Tumbuka but are under the Chewa jurisdiction. They are joined to the fold by Mwase, Chikomeni, Zumwanda, Mwasempangwe and Kapichila under the Chewa ambit. On the other hand, Magodi and Phikamalaza are of Ngoni ancestry while Mpamba is the only Tumbuka thoroughbred.
By district status, Chasefu now has two chiefs – Magodi and Phikamalaza, Lundazi has three, Kapichila, Mwase, who is called Mwasentembwe in full, and Mphamba, while the remaining three valley and an equal number of plateau chiefs are squarely in Lumezi district. The new boundaries have three plateau and an equal number of valley chiefs in the new Lumezi district. The original Lundazi has remained with three chiefs on the supposed geographical belly while Chasefu has two traditional rulers.
As a person who cut my career in Box 1 Kanele, it was easy for me to find my way and quickly gather facts about Lumezi and why its citizens are waging a silent battle on the location of its CBD.
Firstly, the Government has done its part by consultatively engaging the locals on the location of Lumezi CBD. Although meetings were semi battles, it looks certain that the new CBD might have to be located in the valley for non-obvious reasons. Plateau subjects are not very amused by this move as the initial favourite for the CBD was Lumezi.
Reasons advanced were that Lumezi already had a fully-fledged hospital, an active missionary centre, a national service camp and related basic infrastructure to support a new CBD without crying. Above all, Chief Zumwanda had already identified land for the task without much ado. In short, Lumezi was ready for its new status.
The three valley chiefs, on the other hand, contend that the gist on new districts is to ease the burden of people moving long distances to access government services. Their proposal, which was met with resistance, was for the CBD to be located as centrally as possible. They pointed to the fact that Lumezi as a capital of the new district was disadvantaged by being 30 kilometres from Lundazi.
On the other hand, Chief Mwasempangwe’s subjects wanted the CBD to be around Chikomeni as Lumezi is close to 100 kilometres from their chiefdom. There were even suggestions that perhaps Mwasempangwe should be linked to Chipangali district. Chikomenians themselves are alive to the fact that their area is close to Lukusuzi national park and would not be a suitable CBD. Boasting a number of small-scale mines like Mutangula, Dickson and Kamimbi, the area is best left as a commercial entity for the new Lumezi district.
When I visited some communities in the valley, the chorus was that Government in its wisdom gave Lumezi district status as one way of catering for their marginalised area. Chitungulu, Mwanya and Kazembe see this as a signal from God that he has heard their prayers. Since all the six chiefs in Lumezi fall under Kalonga Gawa Undi Mkhomo the 5th, King of the Chewa people of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, the puzzle was left to him. Without much ado and fanfare a decision was made.
By the time I was concluding my almost month-long visit to the area, a decision had been made on the new CBD for Lumezi. There were even suggestions that since the new CBD will be at a place called Katawa in Lumimba, perhaps the name of Lumezi district itself should be changed to Lumimba; although that is another story.
Preparatory works on erecting communication towers are underway at Mtimbansonjo, Chibeza, Zokwe, Mbuzi, Mwanya and Lumimba. Although unrelated to the development of a new CBD, many locals swore that this was a signal that the new Lumezi, or is it Lumimba CBD, will undoubtedly be in the valley.
Apart from hilly areas, the proposed CBD has landmarks that include: Katawa junction and Lumimba, Chisowe and Lukula streams. Ten kilometres from Chitungulu, it will extend about three kilometres off Katawa junction towards Chisowe and Lumimba streams and a further 7.5 kilometres towards the Lukula stream. Basically the offer from valley chiefs is a 10-square kilometre CBD that has room for expansion, if needed.
With more than 40,000 people in the valley areas of Chitungulu, Mwanya and Kazembe, CBD status will surely make a major difference in their lives. Many valley people spoken to praised Government for bringing administration closer to them.
There is, however, another small issue of floods; when the Luangwa River bursts its banks, will the new CBD be built with flood resistance capabilities? The new administrators are up with a task and might be requested to look east, where most of our aid comes from.
The author is a social and political commentator.
Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU