CHAMBO NG’UNI, Ngabwe
IT is a new district having been declared as one in 2012 by President Michael Sata. Before that, it was part of Kapiri Mposhi, a small town about 200 kilometres north of Lusaka whose main claim to fame is that it stands at one end of the TAZARA railway.
It has been mooted as a future capital city, one to replace Lusaka in the way Abuja replaced Lagos in Nigeria in 1991 after being built in the 80s.
Journalist Daniel Sikazwe seems to be fond of Ngabwe. Ever since it was sounded out as a future capital city, he has been regularly commenting on it.
“These people of Lusaka, when they arrive there dear Ngabwe, if you’re the kind that is shy to ask questions, they will show you they don’t like villagers and villages. They like to live in places where there are no trees, singing birds and flowing rivers. They will clear you in no time and build shopping malls beaming with products they don’t produce. You will become the capital city of Pretoria,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“And remember at that time Julius Malema will be president, ndate Jacob Zuma will be resting at Nkandla. If you’ll have an international airport, you must know that Mmusi Maimane almost arrives in a Zambian Capital. If you think I am just clowning about these Lusaka people, just look at what they did to Kalomo before they moved to Lusaka. Do not say you were not warned!”
The 161-kilometre stretch from Kabwe to Ngabwe, which is on the west of the provincial capital, is long, rough and hectic.
It is a journey of about four hours through Kapiri Mposhi to Ngabwe district, which also doubles as Lufubu constituency. Depressions are a common feature on this road and almost make the road impassable in some sections.
During the rainy season, vehicles usually get stuck in the mud and ponds of water. Most times, there is no keeping on the right lane or left lane in battered sections of the road.
While vehicles veer on either sides of the road, drivers have to cautiously negotiate their way for their own safety and their passengers. Where there are settlements, you are likely to encounter cyclists; bicycles are the main mode of transport among the many residents of Kapiri Mposhi and Ngabwe.
There are also some commercial farms between Kabwe and Kapiri Mposhi, but once in Ngabwe, it is mainly villages that can be seen. The make-up of the villages tell of the underdevelopment of the district.
The Kabwe-Ngabwe road is an important link road and also connects Ngabwe to Mpongwe on the Copperbelt. Ngabwe district, made up of Mukubwe and Ngabwe chiefdoms can be accessed through Kabwe via Kapiri Mposhi on one side and the other through Mpongwe.
There is a pontoon on the Kafue River which ferries vehicles and people across the two chiefdoms. But the local people also use dugout canoes to cross the river.
Chief Mukubwe, whose chiefdom is located about 140 kilometres from Kabwe district, is concerned about the bad condition of the road from Kabwe to his chiefdom. The Kabwe-Mukubwe road is said to have been made decades ago by the UNIP government.
Fortunately, some maintenance works have started on the Kabwe-Mukubwe road. But Chief Mukubwe also wants all the feeder roads opened up, rehabilitated and maintained because Ngabwe is an agricultural region.
“These roads play a major role in transporting our commodities to the market,” the chief says.
But the establishment of Ngabwe as a district is expected to promote development. So far, the district administration, civic centre and houses for public service workers have already been constructed.
But Chief Mukubwe says what the new district needs now are more health facilities and learning institutions as the facilities are currently not adequate.
“We’re happy with the work the government is doing, and this should continue because we want to see more development. In the past years [before it was declared a district], we felt like we were not Zambians,” he says.
“Ngabwe is now on the map of Zambia and people now know that we are here.”
The major issue is the Kabwe-Ngabwe road.
“The road is in bad condition and it’s really a major hindrance to development in Ngabwe,” says Ngabwe Council chairperson Ishili Mizinga.
Ms Mizinga says the Road Development Agency (RDA) has engaged Sable Transport to grade the road starting from Kabwe towards Kapiri Mposhi to improve its condition.
But there is some flicker of hope with Sable Transport having started grading and rehabilitating a stretch of about 40 kilometres.
“This road is covered under the Link Zambia 8000 project and we are informed that next year, it will be upgraded to bituminous standard,” Ms Mizinga says.
The section of the road after the Kafue River in Chief Ngabwe’s area is reported to have last been graded in 1982 but the stretch from Kabwe to Kafue River in Chief Mukubwe’s area was last graded in 2014.
But Ms Mizinga says there is urgent need to construct a bridge on Kafue River to link Mukubwe and Ngabwe chiefdoms by road. The ferrying of equipment and building materials using the pontoon is a challenge because it is small.
“The pontoon on Kafue River is small. As long as we continue using the [same] pontoon, development in Chief Ngabwe’s area will be affected, and this is why we want the pontoon to be replaced with a bridge,” Ms Mizinga says.
Chief Ngabwe is happy that the government is making efforts to deliver development and improve the delivery of services.
“They are going to put up a district hospital, and they’re going to grade the roads,” Chief Ngabwe, whose chiefdom is located 185 kilometres from Kabwe, says. “So, the plans are there [to upgrade the road] and if funds permit, they will start after the rains.”
The road is what everyone is talking about, including Lufubu member of Parliament Gift Chiyalika.
“The road network is not good in our district,” Mr Chiyalika, who is the first MP for Lufubu constituency, says.
But other than the road, lack of electricity remains a major challenge in Ngabwe.