The Minister for Luapula Province travelled to Lubumbashi in the Congo DR’s Haut-Katanga Province to sign some development deals and attract investment. Honourable Chilangwa is now adding the letter MCC to his name. Just how the PF government thinks that it is a recreation of the UNIP era is confusing. Adopting the letters MCC does not make sense since MCC is not a government role or title.
Chilangwa, MCC (as he prefers) took charming pictures of the events with Haut-Katanga governor; a Bemba called Jacques Kyabula Katwe. Across the border, Ushis and their allied tribes do more than pronounce “ch” as “k”, they write it out that way making the governor spell his name as “Kyabula” instead of “Chabula”. In Zambia though, we would spell it as Chabula, which is pronounced as “Kyabula” by some. And so Chilangwa’s last name can be pronounced as “Kilangwa”. How a “ch” becomes a “k” is the great mystery in Luapula pronunciations. My grandmother Ondi Chibilo, always pronounced Chingola as “Kingola”, and yet pronounced Kitwe as “Chitwe”. I still chuckle at the irony of it all. She belongs to a very blessed memory. May her soul continue to rest in peace.
We commend the Luapula Province leadership for making reasonable efforts to see how they can help Luapula and her people. Beginning from the great Luapula Expo that happened a few years ago, Mr. Chilangwa has been working hard to expose Luapula, attract investments to the province and to open new markets for the Luapula produce. The current trip he undertook to our relatives in Lubumbashi wa Ntashi is a testament of that commitment.
The Zambian government must do more to come up with a comprehensive policy towards the Congo DR. Without a complete policy from the central government, individual provincial initiatives are likely to stall. If the Zambian government does not provide a policy to anchor how Zambia relates to its biggest neighbour, it would be challenging for programmes such as the one Chilangwa is doing to succeed.
Both the Central government and the provincial administration must look at the current projects and see how they can be revived. For example, the Mokambo to Chembe pedicle road is incomplete. And yet that road alone could help facilitate trade between Luapula, Copperbelt and Katanga. If Luapula wants to attract investment to Haut-Katanga or open up that market, it makes sense that the Mokambo to Chembe road is completed. Additionally, Luapula’s biggest trade partner is not Haut-Katanga, but the Copperbelt Province. If Luapula were connected to the Copperbelt Province by a good road, there would be more straightforward trade between these trading provinces. With the Mokambo road, you bring Haut-Katanga into the picture. Zambia must move in and complete its Mokambo-Chembe project. I am concerned that even before this road is done, the provincial administration is already claiming to start new initiatives at Kashiba and Mwense.
What Luapula is doing, and most specifically, what the provincial administration is doing should be praised. Perhaps it is time that Zambia had a conversation about making provinces a little more autonomous so that they can become legal entities on their own. If Zambia allowed a system of semi-federalism as obtains in Congo DR, the provinces such as Luapula would have had a better opportunity to negotiate deals and trade on their own. With the current situation, Luapula must depend on the central government to direct its policy. In any case, calling the Zambian government as the “central government” is an anomaly for we only have one government in Zambia. The Luapula Province administration is still part of the central government and not a secondary government on its own. When we have another look at the constitution of Zambia, perhaps we could tweak it a little bit to grant responsible autonomy to the provinces.
That being said, I hope that the central government will do more and support what Luapula is trying to achieve. Taking cute pictures and signing things is what Zambia has been doing since 1964. We need a comprehensive policy that would guide how provinces relate to their neighbour. I would hate it to see that all these good initiatives go to waste simply because the government of the Republic of Zambia, is not moving in tandem with the people of Luapula who want to have a little autonomous cake in trade with its neighbour.