Chipata – Long Journey to City Status (

It is like an endless song that Chipata this time around, is headed for a City status.
The town is a gateway to the World’s acclaimed South Luangwa National Park and also a vital link to Malawi, a country that shares a lot in common with Zambia.
Of course, Chipata is the administrative capital of Eastern Province and it is one of the fastest growing districts in the country.
In June 2007, according to the report entitled ‘Journey to a city status’, the journey to attainment of a city status started with the formation of a steering technical committee.
Then late Chipata Town Clerk Bernard Siwakwi became the major advocate or pioneer in the changing of the face of the border town into a city status.
Two years later, a report was submitted to then late Local Government Minister Ben Tetamashimba who apparently also assured that he would work hard to ensure that the project was met.
But unfortunately, there was nothing that was achieved after his death.
However, the journey for Chipata to become a city has not been an easy task as it had been viewed by most of the people as a mere political propaganda.
As the only alternative land for a possible Five Star Hotel and other key infrastructures as a condition to meet the city status, the local authority proposed the relocation of the oldest golf course to another place.
It was agreed that the 1902, golf course was not a solution as it was benefiting the elite and had little economic impact in the central business place of the former Fort Jameson town.
The local authority had indicated that a luxury hotel and a shopping mall on the land where the golf course stands today, will add value to the beauty of the border town and also help in meeting the benchmarks in attaining the city status.
This ignited the debate between the golf trustees and the local authority, but all in vain, and the attempt to repossess the land remains a far fetched dream.
Many of the best and most established benchmarks are produced by major corporations, consultancies and banks.
Firstly and most decisively, cities with large numbers of multinational firms tend to have more lively city centres, higher investment rates, more tourism and greater public and commercial recognition.
The urban world is in full swing and the number of people living in cities is increasing day by day unlike in urban areas.
Yes, Chipata District has the population of about 460,000 of which 160,000 residents are in town.
Then Local Government and Housing Deputy Minister Forrie Tembo said it was practically impossible for the border town to attain city status due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure to meet the standards of a city.
Mr Tembo said Chipata Municipal Council had a huge task ahead to turn the dream into reality.
But President Lungu assured that Chipata, Kasama, Solwezi and Mongu would be transformed into cities during his tenure as head of State.
Mr Lungu said Chipata would soon be a city once the Chipata General Hospital was upgraded and modern infrastructure put in place.
Historical Background
The name ‘Chipata’ has a distinctive character of the hills associated with its historical importance and setup of a war area.
Other than the African wars, the whites also had the town as their strategic centre of the battle zone.
Areas such as ‘Memorable Order of Tin Hats'(MOTH) and ‘Magazine Compound’ where the magazines for battle were kept supplement the setup of hills defining Chipata as a battle and protection zone.
MOTH was founded in 1927 by Charles Evenden as a brotherhood of South African front -line ex soldiers.
The ideal of the ‘Order’ was to help fellow comrades in need either financially or physically and to remember all servicemen who have answered the ‘Sunset Call’ both in war and peace time.
According to Chipata Town Clerk Davis Musenge, this carries the uniqueness of Chipata in history.
Economic activities and developments
The economy of Chipata is agro-based with maize, cotton and tobacco being the major cash crops most of which are intended for the export market.
This has led to an increase in domestic trade as well as cross border trade with both Malawi and Mozambique.
With the operation of Chipata-Mchinji railway line, the opening up of the Nacala Corridor and commissioning of the rail line, has increased the regional integration trade.
Despite having a number of bicycles, the town has of late, witnessed several cars and other types of auto mobiles.
Council financial base
According to Mr Musenge, the council revenue base currently was within K30 million to K50 million with less than 60 per cent of the residents paying most of the fees and charges to support service delivery in the district.
Currently, Chipata has a general hospital, clinics and health posts, while the district hospital is currently under construction along Lusaka road.
“Chipata has St Eugene University, Colleges, St Annes Cathedral Parish, High schools and lower level schools spread throughout the district,” he explained.
He said the council has embarked on an ambitious programme to promote private sector investment in the area including establishment of pharmaceutical companies and construction of other private learning institutions.
Commerce and industries
Mr Musenge said: “all the major banking, lending and insurance institutions have branches in the district and the council is establishing a self-contained town with adequate residential, commercial and industrial provisions starting this year and this will support the economy of the district”.
Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EPCCI) President Thomas Mtonga said the town has all its takes to become a city.
Banks such as Barclays, FNB, Zanaco, Indo-Zambia, Cavmont, Investrust, Finance, Stanbic, Banc ABC, NATSAVE and other insurance companies were available in town.
On communications, Chipata has all forms of communication facilities including the recently established optic fibre for data and voice communication.
Apart from other leading mobile communications, the border town has other communications such as radios and television stations which are privately owned.
Radio Maria Zambia owned by the Catholic is the oldest; Breeze FM, Radio Feel Free and Chipata Television (CTV) are some of the available communication forums.
Newspapers such as Times of Zambia, The Post, Zambia Daily Mail and a government public relations wing, the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) with the latest entrant Muvi Television, are existing for the betterment of the general citizens as far as information was concerned.
Hospitality facilities
The district has Protea, a three Star Hotel, and Chrystal Springs which is a two star hotel, as well as motels, lodges and guest houses dotted around.
Mr Musenge said a private company has already applied to construct another four Star hotel at Moth Hill.
Chipata has a shopping mall and another one to be constructed starting in April 2015.
The level of infrastructure in town is being upgraded as well as having new ones in place. These include roads, commercial and industrial infrastructure and an airport which has been funded for expansion.
Chipata Mayor Jealous Phiri said the town was striving to attain a city status and that, the local authority would support any initiative aimed at bringing development to the district.
All in all, this attainment of the border town as a city will really be a dream come true.
The residents of the district are looking forward to it attaining a city status as President Lungu has promised.
Source: Business