Focus on Members of Parliament:
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Bweengwa
THE ‘old lion’ Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), once represented this constituency.
He may not have gone on to be leader of independent Zambia, but the people of Bweengwa, which is located in Monze district, are nonetheless proud of their contribution to the independence struggle. Prior to the country’s independence, the people of Bweengwa donated cattle to raise funds to sponsor a delegation to travel abroad to sign the white paper, which represented the country’s freedom from British rule.
One of the old lion’s sons, Baldwin, was to later serve as member of Parliament for the area when the country reverted to multi-party politics in 1991. His sister Ompie Liebenthal Nkumbula represented the neighbouring Namwala constituency.
Talk about an area with a lot of cattle, and you do not have to look beyond Namwala.
But Bweengwa also of the endemic Kafue Lechwe as well as being host to the largest bird species known as the Bird Watchers Paradise found in the Lochinvar National Park, located on the south bank of the sprawling floodplains of the Kafue River.
The area around Lochinvar is said to be different from anywhere else in Zambia and the Worldwide Fund for Nature has classed it as a wetland of international importance.
But it suffers from neglect and those who have visited complain of poor accommodation and roads.
Its potential though cannot be doubted.
It is the same story with Bweengwa constituency, a constituency with an estimated population of about 90,000 people.
The area grapples with various challenges; bad roads, inadequate schools and health posts and poor water supply and sanitation.
Most of these are old challenges.
Take for instance the famous 74-kilometre Monze-Niko Road, which links Monze and Namwala that is being constructed by Unik Construction of China and BuildCon Construction of Zambia; only 30 km has been upgraded from gravel to tarmac. The road, which is vital to the farming community, is usually impassable in the rainy season.
“This road has taken too long to complete. This is almost five years since construction commenced,” complains Mike Hangala, a farmer and resident of Bweengwa. “My plea to Government is to release funds for the project because the contractors have abandoned works due to lack of financial resources.”
The challenges are indeed many.
For Miriam Banda, a mother of three and a teacher, she wants decent accommodation constructed for public workers.
Ms Banda says civil servants posted to the area find it difficult to secure lodging and this affects their performance.
“When I was first posted here in 2013, I found it quite challenging to settle down due to the lack of accommodation. The population is growing rapidly and I believe this should correspond with housing,” she says.
Fortunately though, the new MP, Michelo Kasautu, knows the challenges very well and is determined to address them.
Mr Kasauta, an agriculture specialist and son of a farmer, was born and raised at Banakaila in Monze. He prefers to be identified as a farmer rather than as the honourable MP. Well, he has vast experience in agriculture, particularly in the dairy sector.
He is the brain behind the Monze Diary Farmers’ Co-operative Society, which is said to be one of the biggest in southern Africa. Other diary co-operatives that Michelo has opened in the area are Kayuni, Munyenze, Nachibuli, Nteme and Nakasangwe.
“I was educated at Kazungula Settlement School, Rusangu Secondary School and later studied general agriculture at the Zambia College of Agriculture,” he says. “I worked for the Golden Valley Agriculture Research Trust (GART) as a dairy technician from 2001 to 2005, and later, I went abroad to further my studies at Larryson University in Holland.”
Mr Kasautu, who is married to a teacher, Priscilla, and has four children, was inspired to join politics so as to ably represent the interests of Bweengwa residents, especially the peasant farmers.
Farming is very close to his heart.
The MP, who started farming at the age of three, feels extension services to farmers are virtually non-existent. And then, there is the issue of the e-voucher system, which has its own challenges in its implementation.
“In the last season, only a quarter of farmers received farming inputs around January, while the rest are yet to receive the seeds and fertiliser,” he says. “I have a passion for farming… I want to adequately represent the interest of farmers.”
Mr Kasautu has forged partnerships with the private sector and they are in the process of setting up Livestock Development Centre’s as well as construct and rehabilitate deep tanks so as to respond to the needs of cattle farmers, who are plenty in this area.
But it is not all about farming.
The MP shares Mr Hangala’s concerns regarding the stalled works on the Monze-Niko road and wants adequate funding for the completion of the road, which he says is an economic one. But it is not just the Monze-Niko road, but also feeder roads.
“The last time I saw a grader in my area was during the first republic. The roads are so deplorable that farmers are struggling to transport their produce to the market,” he says.
It is the same story even in the area of education where the MP says most of the infrastructure is dilapidated as most of the schools are pre-colonial. He says the number of primary and secondary schools are inadequate to cater for the growing population.
“The population in my constituency is 90,000 and yet we only have 44 primary schools and one secondary school,” he points out. “This has resulted in most pupils dropping out of school due to limited learning space at high school.”
And because of the limited health facilities in the area, the MP has partnered with the private sector to try and ease some of the difficulties the residents are facing.
So far, a modern clinic at Mooya has been constructed with financial support from Hakainde Hichilema, a native of the area. However, despite being complete, the clinic is non-functional. In a bid to prevent vandalism, the MP has engaged the services of security personnel to guard the facility.
The community is, however, appealing to the government to send equipment and personnel to enable the facility to function.
Then, there is the issue of water.
“We don’t have enough dams and boreholes, hence there is seemingly a battle for water between humans and animals,” he says.
The challenges do not end there, according to the MP.
He says with the exception of Chief Choongo, most chiefs lack decent accommodation and transport. He believes that traditional leaders, who are permanent representatives of the people, deserve to live comfortably.
Mr Kasautu also wants Sam Lyamomba, a traditional ceremony arena to be declared a national heritage site.
It is an issue which brings him to tourism.
The MP is appealing to the Ministry of Tourism and Arts to ensure security wardens at the Lochinvar National Park are remunerated timely.
“The security wardens are usually not paid, hence they end up selling animals to sustain their livelihood,” he says.
On the constituency development fund (CDF), the MP says the area has not received the fund since 2014, hence affecting the implementation of projects. If anything, he wants the fund to be increased for rural constituencies from the current K1.4 million to K10 million to foster development as poverty levels are high in these areas.
Mr Kasautu, who describes himself as the “parent of the constituency”, promises to deliver tangible development during his tenure as MP.
“I didn’t join politics to enrich myself but to deliver services to people of Zambia,” he says. “As leaders, we have an obligation to embrace everyone and this is the reason our forefathers came up with the motto, ‘One Zambia, One Nation’.”