BENEDICT TEMBO, Sesheke
NAMUKOLO Mulele is a big fun of pizza. She also enjoys chicken and chips from Hungry Lion.
Unfortunately, Ms Mulele cannot access her favourite fast food within Sesheke district where she works for the local authority.
Ms Mulele, a planner at Sesheke District Council, is therefore forced to cross into Katima Mulilo in Namibia where she satisfies her tastes.
She is not the only Sesheke resident in this situation.
In a bustling border district, most residents of Sesheke and neighbouring Mwandi district trek to Katima Mulilo when they get paid to buy groceries and other necessities because there is no departmental store in the two areas.
So, the residents troop to Katima Mulilo where they go to shop from Shoprite and other departmental stores there.
â€œMost of us shop from outside, even for pizza as well as food from Hungry Lion, including entertainment,â€ Ms Mulele said.
Following the construction of a bridge across the Zambezi River to land-link Sesheke to Katima Mulilo about 11 years ago, a lot was expected from the Zambian border.
However, the structures are sub-standard, making it less attractive to even Zambian shoppers.
â€œI was also surprised with the structures that are there and the type of shops (tuntemba),â€ Ms Mulele said.
Things fell apart at the Zambian border when some squatters helped themselves to some pieces of prime land just by the entrance to Katima Mulilo border post.
The Barotse Royal Establishment has also contributed to the situation by laying claim to some pieces of land there.
Despite this, the local authority has not given up on restoring sanity at one of the countryâ€™s borders by making more land available to serious developers.
â€œWe have some plots in Katima which we have sold, we hope people will adhere to planning standards,â€ Ms Mulele said.
Part of the land has been designated for a shopping mall, civic centre and a modern market.
Ms Mulele said Maz Logistics, a Lusaka-based company, has been offered land where it intends to build an office block.
She said the local authority intends to ensure that the Sesheke economy starts to benefit from the spending power of the residents and migrants by enticing some big supermarkets to set up base in the district.
So far, Spar and Shoprite have been engaged to go and open shops in the rural district.
Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) Katima Mulilo station manager Collins Sichivula said ZRA officers clear fish and motor vehicles at the border.
Mr Sichivula said the border, which opens at 06:00 hours and closes at 18:00 hours, has benefitted from the construction of the Katima Mulilo bridge.
The Katima Mulilo road bridge links Namibiaâ€™s Transâ€“Caprivi Highway to the Zambian road network, forming a section of the trade route from south-central Africa to the Atlantic, known as the Walvis Bay Corridor. It is also intended to carry tourist traffic.
The KfW, the German government-owned development bank, supported the rehabilitation of the road and bridge for E33 million.
The project started in 2002 and was finished in 2006.
â€œThe bridge has contributed to the smooth flow of traffic especially on the Walvis Bay Corridor,â€ Mr Sichivula said.
Previously, Mr Sichivula said, Katima Mulilo border, the gateway to Malawi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, used to experience traffic congestion like the one being experienced at Kazungula when the pontoon was in operation.
Former African Development Bank (AfDB) country manager for Malawi Frank Kufakwandi said there has been an improvement in the movement of people and goods since the construction of the bridge.
â€œThe movement of people is fast and quicker on the bridge, one can notice that trade between Sesheke and Katima Mulilo has increased substantially. Our only concern is that we are buying more from Namibia,â€ Mr Kufakwandi said.
Zambians are buying beverages, grocery and fish from Namibia.
On the other hand, Namibians are buying timber, maize, millet and a thorny herb called the devilsâ€™ claws, which is believed to have medicinal value and cures, among other ailments, HIV.
The Katima Mulilo border is a catalyst for Zambiaâ€™s imports such as vehicles coming from the United States of America and Europe through Walvis Bay port in Namibia.
Even equipment for the mines comes via Katima Mulilo border just like the copper destined for Europe leaves through the same port.
Mr Kufakwandi said while the border is contributing immensely in facilitating imports and exports, the damaged M10 road between Sesheke and Kazungula is doing a dis-service.
â€œThe road between Sesheke and Kazungula needs urgent attention. The repairsâ€™ pace is too slow, some of the areas repaired are already damaged,â€ he said.
But Gomes Haulage which was repairing the Livingstoneâ€“Kazungula road said it is awaiting governmentâ€™s approval to commence working on Lot2 of the road.
Mr Kufakwandi, who also served as managing director of the Zambia Forest and Forestry Company (ZAFFICO) before joining the AfDB, said Sesheke has a lot of potential for economic transformation.
He cited agriculture, timber, livestock and tourism which can be harnessed to contribute to uplifting the living standards of the people in the district.
He however said while there is potential for agriculture because of the fertile soils, there are inadequate feeder roads.
â€œSesheke has some of the most valuable timber species which if well managed can contribute not only to exports but employment on a sustainable basis,â€ the man, who was a conservator of forests in ZAFFICO, said.
Sesheke also has precious stones which can be harnessed to create employment and earn foreign exchange for the country.
Mr Kufakwandi, who owns Jowali Motel in Sesheke, believes there is also potential for Sesheke to work closely with the Livingstone tourism circuit.
He said there is need to increase accommodation space and also upgrade some of the existing facilities in Sesheke.
â€œSesheke is definitely growing, we hope that it can be transformed in the next 10 years from a boma to a town. While individuals have put up housing infrastructure, there has been very little institutional development,â€ he said.
as a result of the increasing population, the district hospital (Yeta) cannot meet the demand, so is the education sector.
Mr Kufakwandi, who served for the AfDB for 18 years, has noted that Sesheke has serious challenges with water supply.
â€œSixty percent of the people in the boma (urban area) have no access to piped water, a matter which needs urgent attention,â€ he said.
Mr Sichivula, the ZRA Katima Mulilo station manager, said like all borders, the lengthy border between Namibia and Zambia means that it is porous in most areas.
He said smuggling takes place mostly in the night.
â€œSome people think that it is their birthright not to pay taxes and want to benefit from their proximity to Namibia,â€ Mr Sichivula said.
He said Zambian and Namibian tax authorities usually collaborate on the issue of smuggling by exchanging information as well as conducting joint random patrols.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Sesheke