Features In focus

Choma: New capital on fast growth path

WELCOME to Choma, a small friendly town whose centrality compelled late President Sata to declare it the administrative headquarters for Southern Province.
Situated about 285km from Lusaka and 188km from Livingstone, Choma was in 2011 declared provincial capital by President Sata who was convinced that moving the headquarters from Livingstone to Choma would ease administration of development in the province.
As expected, a couple of people were skeptical about the shift of the provincial capital to Choma, while others like Choma Central member of Parliament Cornelius Mweetwa, welcomed the development and asked Government to put up modern infrastructure in the district.
Aware of the new provincial headquarters’ dire need of a facelift, Government allocated K15 million to kick-start infrastructure development that could match Choma’s new status.
Choma has a total land area of 7,296 square kilometres and a population of 180,673, according to the 2010 national census. Most of the district lies 1,400 metres above sea level.
The weather here is a typical climate of southern Zambia with temperatures between 14°C and 28°C, and sunshine ranging between nine and 12 hours per day.
Tonga is the predominant language spoken in the area, but English remains the official language.
Agriculture is the main economic activity in Choma. The district has approximately 180 commercial farmers, 150 emergent farmers and about 23,206 farming families who are involved in the production of livestock and cash crops.
Primary crops include maize, cotton, tobacco and groundnuts; with primary livestock including cattle, goats, pigs and poultry.
Choma acts as a market town for neighbouring districts such as Namwala, Sinazongwe and Gwembe which are the major fish suppliers to the district.
Apart from that, Choma houses one of the largest and oldest milling companies in the country, Choma Milling. The milling company has been in operation since 1980 and produces about 25,000 metric tonnes of mealie meal per annum, 20 percent of which is sold in the municipality of Choma and 80 percent to the rest of the country.
Choma has two main beautiful tourist attractions; the Choma Declaration Site in Shampande township and the Choma Museum, situated on the Lusaka-Livingstone road.
The captivating Museum preserves the cultural heritage of the Tonga people and houses various traditional artefacts that include beadwork, musical instruments, clay figurines, spears and jewellery, among other relics.
Choma stands as an iconic district as far as the shape of Zambia’s political history is concerned and the Choma Declaration site signifies the coalition Government of 1972 which was formed after the signing of an agreement between then UNIP leader Kenneth Kaunda and late Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula of the African National Congress.
Choma has two hospitals: Choma General Hospital located within the central business district, and Macha General Hospital in Chief Macha’s area. There are about 32 health centres spread across the two constituencies of the district.
The district boasts of having the highest coverage in education in the province with a total of 188 schools of which 124 are basic schools, 40 community schools, 13 private and 11 Government and grant-aided secondary schools.
The district is divided into two constituencies: Choma Central and Mbabala, which are further divided into 20 wards. Like every district in Zambia, there exists both traditional and political authorities in the district.
About two years after Choma became the provincial capital for Southern Province, there was a visible facelift on the district in an apparent Government attempt to transform the economic outlook of the new provincial capital.
Choma district commissioner Bernadette Hamweemba says she is confident her district will in a few years’ time be transformed into an admirable town.
Ms Hamweemba is happy that soon after declaring Choma the new provincial capital, Government released a substantial amount of money for infrastructure development.
“Just after the declaration of Choma as provincial capital, Government awarded China Jiangxi Corporation a K31 million contract to build a six storey administration complex at the former Choma airstrip. Am happy the works are progressing well and the project has also provided employment for the local people, especially the unemployed youth.
“Apart from construction of the six storey administrative headquarters which is expected to add beauty to the outlook of Choma, the Government is also building over 60 high, low and medium cost houses for civil servants who relocated from Livingstone to Choma…this project is nearing completion,” Ms Hamweemba says.
Furthermore, the district commissioner is also happy that Government awarded a K126 million contract to China Jiangsu for the construction of 30km of selected urban roads, a project which is progressing well.
Ms Hamweemba also points out that the declaration of Choma as provincial headquarters has bolstered investor confidence in the district.
“From the time we were declared provincial capital, we’ve witnessed the coming of Investrust Bank, First National Bank, Bank ABC and Indo Zambia Bank. Just a few days ago, Budget Stores opened their first outlet in Choma,” she said.
Ms Hamweemba, however, observed that her district is in dire need of a modern bus station and market to suit its provincial capital status.
“…the population of this place keeps growing and people in the corridors are not moving freely because some vendors are trading in the corridors and the temporal bus stations have also contributed to congesting the town,” she said.
To address Ms Hamweemba’s concerns, the Choma Municipal Council says it has long-term plans to build a market and bus station.
“With help from the central Government and increased revenue collection, the council plans to develop new markets as well as improve on existing ones to accommodate local traders… We also intend to construct a modern bus station,” council public relations officer Ramona Phiri said.
Ms Phiri said the local authority will not relent in its efforts to ensure residents receive quality service aimed at making Choma a beautiful garden.
“Apart from the upgrading to bituminous standard of 30km of urban roads in Choma, the council is currently installing street lights around Kalukungu market at a cost of K200,000. This project is almost done and we are only waiting for the power utility to connect electricity,” she said.
Ms Phiri said the council is also rehabilitating drainages at a cost of K70,000.
And to investors wishing to complement Government’s quest to further develop Choma, Ms Phiri has a message for them: “Choma district offers great investment potential and as part of the council’s vision to attain city status by 2020, Choma Municipal Council has a deliberate policy to reserve land for potential commercial investors.”

Send Your Letters

Facebook Feed