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Ngabwe determined to ‘sail’ above new-district challenges

WHICHEVER direction one takes in Ngabwe, it bears no semblance of a district, but that of a big village made up of hundreds of homesteads which are separated by forests, marshlands, rivers and streams.
Few schools and health centres are the only visible Government structures.
Made up of the Ngabwe and Mukubwe chiefdoms, the new district created out of Kapiri Mposhi has a population of 19,260 people.
It is the fourth new district in Central Province which late President Sata established in 2012 to facilitate development and improve service delivery.
Under Kapiri Mposhi, the people in the chiefdoms (or wards) were covering long distances to access services in Mulungushi Ward, where all government departments and Kapiri Mposhi District Council are located.
Even now the people are either accessing services in Kabwe or Kapiri Mposhi.
Although Ngabwe is no longer part of Kapiri Mposhi, it is still under Kapiri Mposhi Constituency.
To facilitate effective representation of the people, Cabinet has, however, approved the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ)’s recommendations to create Ngabwe constituency.
“At the moment, we don’t have government infrastructure,” Kapiri Mposhi member of Parliament Eddie Musonda said. “Ngabwe was only declared a new district recently and we are just starting to put up infrastructure.”
Plight of civil servants
Civil servants deployed in the new district are willing to work but are experiencing challenges in executing their duties because of lack of office and residential accommodation.
District commissioner Melody Phiri and other heads of departments are living and operating in tents at Iwonde Primary School.
“We did not refuse to be in Ngabwe, but we find it very difficult to be here because of the challenges we face,” Brenda Ngulube, labour officer for Ngabwe district, recently told Central Province Minister Davies Chisopa when he visited the district.
Ngabwe has 10 government schools. Fourteen are community schools, which are mostly constructed of mud, poles and grass.
Shortage of teachers, lack of infrastructure and less teacher-pupil contact are negatively affecting the performance of pupils in the district.
“Generally poor education infrastructure is a major problem in Ngabwe. Classrooms are also not good for the pupils,” Victor Sialubala, district education standards officer, lamented.
Enrolment levels are also low and the girls are the worst affected.
To improve access to secondary school, Government has upgraded Ngabwe and Mumbachala primary schools.
“These schools will cater for pupils from grade one to 12,” Mr Sialubala said.
Delivery and access to healthcare services is another major challenge.
The people rely on Ngabwe Health Centre, Mukubwe Health Centre, Mumbachala Health Post and Chirwa Island Health Post, which are underdeveloped.
The facilities lack equipment and essential drugs.
Some health centres are not easily accessible, consequently sick people trek to Kabwe General Hospital to access health services.
Government has plans to build a district hospital and more health centres for people to access health services.
Like in other rural areas in Zambia, people in Ngabwe are peasant farmers who mainly grow maize during the rainy season.
According to Central Province permanent secretary Edwidge Mutale, the wetlands in Ngabwe must be exploited for rice production.
The people also keep cattle, goats, pigs and chickens.
Fishing is already a lucrative business in the district-in the Lukanga Swamps, which spreads across Kapiri Mposhi and Ngabwe (that is in Kapendwe, Lwanchele and Chipepo) and Kafue River.
Bream or impende is the main fish species found in the water bodies and this has led to the establishment of Lukanga Camp and Luamala Fishing Camp located on Chirwa Island.
The Department of Fisheries wants to increase fish production and promote sustainable utilisation of fish resources as a way of facilitating economic growth, job creation, fighting poverty and improving nutrition.
All roads in Ngabwe are gravel and are generally in bad state.
Mukobeko-Chipepo-Mukubwe-Ngabwe is the main one. This road becomes impassable during and after the rainy season such that transportation of farm inputs, produce, and movement of people are negatively affected.
“The biggest challenge in Ngabwe is the issue of roads,” Mr Musonda, the lawmaker, said. He urged Government to improve the road network in Ngabwe.
Government has captured Mukobeko-Chipepo-Mukubwe-Ngabwe under the Link Zambia 8000 road project.
Ms Mutale says the upgrading the road will also involve construction of a bridge across the Kafue River to link Mukubwe and Ngabwe by road.
Currently, vehicles and people cross the river using a pontoon which sometimes breaks down.
Traditional governance
Chiefs Mukubwe and Ngabwe are two traditional leaders in the district who represent the Lenji speaking people.
They are helped by indunas and village headmen and women who are principal advisors on the day-to-day administration of the chiefdoms.
Chief Mukubwe is happy that Government has declared it a district.
The traditional leader has released 11,567 hectares of land to Government.
Chief Mukubwe notes that Ngabwe and Mukubwe have lagged behind other areas in terms of development.
The district commissioner said Government has allocated K24 million for the construction of a district administration block and staff houses between Mumbachala and Iwonde area.
Other structures earmarked for construction are a civic centre, post office, police station, 20 high-cost and 10 medium-cost houses.
In March, Mr Chisopa directed the civil servants to stop operating from Kabwe and Kapiri Mposhi and move to Ngabwe.
Mr Chisopa said Government appreciates the concerns of workers and expects them to live and work in Ngabwe, where their services are needed.
The workers appealed to Government to provide a better working and living environment if they are to effectively discharge their duties.
They are concerned about lack of offices and houses, lack of transport, erratic funding, bad roads, reliable telecommunications, electricity and water.
“I would like to encourage you that it’s not easy but it’s a process which we have to pass through,” Mr Chisopa said. “Let’s commit ourselves to serve the people of Ngabwe.”

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