GBM in development discourse with constituency

Geofrey Mwamba

“WE have been ‘thirsting’ for your presence as our area member of Parliament so that we can explain some challenges which we are facing…now that you are here we are happy because it is helpful when we present our challenges to you so that you can preside over the issues,” Village Headman Monica said when Kasama Central MP and Minister of Defence Geoffrey Mwamba visited the village during the tour of his constituency.
The traditional leader’s remarks were evidently a reflection of how the locals felt upon seeing their representative in Parliament as they agreed in unison to ‘punctuate’ the headman’s welcome speech.
The people of Monica in Chief Munkonge’s area like other places in Kasama Central listed a number of similar challenges and struggles which included lack of boreholes for clean water, clinics, schools and proper roads especially in rural outskirts.
“We want a clinic nearby because people from here have to walk a long distance to seek medical attention and it is worse for pregnant women and under five (years old) children.
“We have problems finding clean water in the dry season because the stream we depend on dries up…this is why we would like to have boreholes where we can get clean drinking water or we risk getting waterborne diseases,” he said.
Women have formed a club to help empower their households but were lacking capital for revenue generating projects while youths have sporting clubs and want to ‘keep fit and active’.
Mr Mwamba donated K2,000 to the women, who intend to embark on vegetable farming for sale, while the youths were assured of sports apparel.
He said boreholes will be drilled in strategic places to enable people in the village access clean drinking water and that the area will benefit from the over 600 clinics which Government plans to construct countrywide.
Some communities have taken up the initiative to build school infrastructure by making bricks and plan to later request support for cement, iron sheets among other building materials.
Mr Mwamba also urged communities in the constituency to initiate pre-schools to enhance early childhood education.
He also assured the people of Kasama that Government will also continue supplementing their efforts in farming through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
He said graders will soon be purchased using Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to improve road networks in farming areas.
Meanwhile, the tarring of township roads in Kasama is nearing completion. The development will significantly and conspicuously change the ‘complexion’ of the Northern provincial capital’s residential and shopping areas.
And farmers in the hinterland of Kasama are not happy about the delay by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to purchase the maize from them.
They complained about spending nights in the cold awaiting for the agency to purchase their harvest.
“We have been here for three days and even more days for others and we are not being attended to…we have also been told that FRA has run out of empty grain bags while there are rumours that they will only purchase 10,000 bags so we want to hear from you as our MP…is this is true?” an anxious looking Christopher Mulenga, a farmer in senior chief Mwamba’s area asked.
Mr Mwamba however dismissed the rumour and assured the farmers that Government through the FRA will provide more empty grain bags and purchase maize from all the farmers in the area.
Mr Mwamba was surprised that the FRA has not started paying farmers who have supplied maize despite Government releasing funds for the agency to purchase the crop.
He wondered why some farmers in Kasama are spending nights “in the cold” at FRA depots when Government has released funds for maize purchase from farmers.
Mr Mwamba also urged farmers to utilise the electronic voucher system of exchanging maize for farming inputs such as fertiliser.
“I am surprised to find maize lying around and I am wondering why the maize has not been bought by FRA when Government has released funds,” he said.
He also assured farmers that the government will supply fertiliser on time as the Patriotic Front (PF) administration has effectively revamped the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) and that fertiliser is already in storage sheds awaiting distribution.
Mr Mwamba said Government is also putting up solar lighting systems as a remedial measure, especially in public social infrastructure such as schools and health institutions in some rural areas where electricity is yet to be connected.
Government through the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) has embarked on a countrywide project to connect rural areas to the national electricity grid.
“This is to encourage pupils in rural areas to gather in schools and study at night. This can also encourage school authorities to initiate night schools for the elderly or those who did not get an opportunity to go to school,” Mr Mwamba noted.
He said Government will further address other challenges in rural areas such as water and sanitation by sinking boreholes.
The area MP has also set aside funds and promised to source for more funding from the Ministry of Education to drill five boreholes, purchase a minibus, refurbish a kitchen, and expand a recreation hall at Kasama Girls Secondary School.
The school is the largest in Kasama with over 600 pupils.
“Do not be shy to tell us (Government) about the challenges you are facing…do not hesitate to communicate to me or through your area councillor, this is why you voted for us.
“President Sata wants to address the challenges you have been having from previous governments and this is according to what we promised during election campaigns,” Mr Mwamba said.
In Kasama’s Brown area, an emotional land wrangle between Chinese contractors and residents had been ‘brewing’ awaiting Mr Mwamba’s attention by convening a meeting with the concerned parties.
Mr Mwamba directed security wings to investigate alleged reports of fraud surrounding the compensation of some residents, whose land has been allocated for the construction of an electricity sub-station.
He said security wings must work closely with the District Commissioner to establish facts on the matter.
This followed complaints from residents whose cassava and maize fields were destroyed by Chinese contractors constructing the power sub-station.
Some affected residents complained of being under compensated while some claimed that they had not received any payment despite submitting estimated costs of their damaged crops.
Mr Mwamba said the Chinese firm must fully compensate the affected families and that some members of the committee had allegedly undervalued the damaged crops.
“I want a list of people who signed and collected money that was offered for compensation. I want to establish if the money you promised them is what you have compensated them. I have tasked the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), police and the DC to verify this in the interest of everyone” he said.
It is undisputable that development can only take place if people are allowed to participate in planning and implementation through free interaction with leaders who must listen and work towards addressing the challenges.