Zambias Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale should take responsibility for the Cholera Outbreak

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ZAMBIA and its capital city of Lusaka are again making embarrassing headlines of being at the center of yet another Cholera disease outbreak. We say embarrassing not out of spike for our humble citizens that habit our high density areas were Cholera has been reported but because of our failed Local government system that Vincent Mwale heads as minister.

We as citizens should not accept a situation were we as a country allow ourselves to make the same mistakes over and over. Zambia has had Cholera before and the reasons that lead to the dangerous disease outbreak are well known and documented. Just to put it on record, Cholera is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.

A close look at how this bacteria is transmitted and what is the root cause of Cholera outbreaks informs us that it’s the Ministry of Local Government that is the responsible party to put in place measures that can eliminate or minimize the recurrence of this deadly disease. It’s public knowledge that even leading countries like the USA and the UK had Cholera but they fixed their water reticulation and Sewerage systems to end the Cholera outbreaks.

Our analysts research at ZBT has revealed that Ministry of Local government has been implementing the decentralization policy for years without any tangible and visible results on the ground for our people to see. The local government ministry and directly the Lusaka City Council have been talking about upgrading our high density areas (referred to as Shanty compounds) by provision of piped treated water, sewerage services and garbage collection services but all these promises only became prominent at campaign times but implementation post elections has been lackluster.

The nation has been treated to promises of raising municipal bonds and infrastructure funds on financial markets by city and municipalities across the country and all these have been more talk and less or no action. Our humble people from mostly high density areas brace themselves and even sleep at polling stations, turn out in large numbers to elect our leaders so that they can solve these communal challenges but our leaders are letting them down.

Even the Members of Parliament from the affected areas are conspicuously quite at this height of the Cholera outbreak. Why is this so? Are they Enjoying holidays and have traveled out of the country? This is the time that they need to show leadership. We need all hands on deck and see the people’s representative, mayor of Lusaka and council officials at the forefront to confront this outbreak. Cholera has far reaching economic and life effect as its not only financial or medical treatment costs, but human lives that are lost. So far about 30 lives have been lost.

We are seeing an attempt to make this outbreak appear like it’s a Ministry of Health Issue, No, it’s a local government issue. Its the local government system that has allowed our public health department to be hijacked and reduced to an insignificant quanta. It’s the inefficiencies of the Local Government System Zambia and specifically in Lusaka that is leading the nation to recurrence of this scourge.

The Local Government System should Spearhead and work with other ministries and especially work with Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company to deliver piped and treated water and sewerage services in all habitable areas, including our compounds were the majority of our citizens reside.

It’s shocking that the sinking of boreholes in Lusaka which on average cost up to about K10,000 to K20,000 continues to be the most viable option to get water reticulation for households. If citizens are able to pay huge amounts to have boreholes drilled, why can’t the Local Government Ministry and Lusaka Water and Sewerage come up with alternatives that these funds when put together can be used to deliver piped water?

Why has Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company lamentably failed to take a leaf from a fellow State Owned Company like ZESCO to sub-contract these pipe water system construction works to deliver clean and treated drinking water to our citizens? Are the responsible technocrats in government being compromised by Drilling Companies not to find a lasting solution so that the drilling business can continue to thrive?

Underground water is said to be contaminated in Lusaka and the onset of the rainy season will only make the situation even more difficult to contain. We need the Local Government System to urgently start working in Zambia and soon. We need solutions that go to fix the root cause of the Cholera outbreak.

Efforts by the Ministry of Health, the Armed Forces who have just been called upon and all other parties working round the clock to combat the outbreak are well respected and applauded as they seam to have taken the lead, but their solutions are post the outbreak, but it’s the root cause of Cholera outbreaks that need to be fixed. Otherwise, Cholera will remain with Zambia for the next rainy season if the water reticulation System and waste disposal systems for our citizens are not resolved once and for all.

There is urgent need to have strong leadership at the Local Government Ministry that can deliver decentralization, and ensure that the fruits of this decentralization are realized. Our local government system in its present state is dysfunctional, councils complain that they have no funds but yet have high number of households within their municipalities that don’t pay land rates, they are simply not able to enforce existing laws.

Parking space in Lusaka is almost finished, chaotic and yet the funds raised from parking fees are not worth discussing, unregistered and therefore not licensed (pirate) taxis are prevalent and yet the councils seem to only want hand outs from the the central government. People are willing to pay garbage collection fees and yet there is no credible garbage collection company across the country. We can go on and on, but what is clear is that we need a more transformational and more effective leadership to make a dent and transform the municipalities not only in Lusaka, but across Zambia.

Why are Zambian authorities so passive and reactive to serious issues as opposed to being vigilant and proactive? Did it surely have to take the President to intervene and direct the security wings to step in? What is the role of the authorities and ministers then?

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