It is hard to contain shedding tears when confronted by the stark realities of poverty and neglect in Lukulu and Mitete. The state of the villages is reminiscent of war-torn countries, the nutritional condition of children is heart breaking, most public institutions are in desolate condition and the major road, such as the one linking Lukulu to Kaoma and Zambezi districts could be described as amongst the worst on the African continent.
Lukulu and its neighbouring Mitete district are an ugly scar on the moral conscience of post-independence Zambia. The two districts, just like a good number of others in Zambia, remind us in a painful way that the social, economic, political and cultural emancipation of our people is far from being achieved 51 years after independence!
Lukulu and Mitete do not have a single factory that could provide decent jobs to the thousands of unemployed youth. There is no industry that is being systematically harnessed to serve as a foundation for economic growth. Worse still, there is no collective effort amongst leaders and citizens to find solutions to these intricate but solvable problems. How then do you expect to see any positive changes in Lukulu and Mitete given this inertia?
In the midst of all this, the natural resources such as timber are savagely exploited to the benefit of a few middlemen and companies in South Africa, South Korea and China! Similarly, the cattle herd that was decimated by neglect and diseases provides some reasonable profits to a few middlemen and firms from the Copperbelt and Angola and leaves very little in the local economy.
Fishing is still conducted at artisan scale and with a growing population destined to slowdown. Yet there is no visible support to fish farming that could help secure fish protein for diets and household livelihoods. The economic future of Lukulu and Mitete is therefore bleak and poverty will remain chronic.
At the core of the poverty in Lukulu is a capitalist system that has weakened the ability of the state to actively pursue economic development where it is needed most. Expecting foreign investors and the so-called private entrepreneurs to be the locomotive for the economic transformation of a district like Lukulu is sheer arrogance. Without a good infrastructure, a critical mass of local social capital comprising of well-trained men and women and a government that is uncompromising on equity considerations, the poverty of the people of Lukulu and Mitete will continue to worsen.
As poverty is perpetuated in Lukulu and Mitete, we should expect more desperation and chaos. The signs are there already. A high level of pre-occupation with superstition and witchcraft, brutal murders of perceived witches and wizards, high risk behaviours in the pursuit of livelihoods, political opportunism and the loss of personal dignity and self-esteem amongst most of our people in these districts are all strong indications of a social-economic order that has failed. If capitalism has worked for the top leadership in the capital city, Lusaka, it has definitely failed in the Lukulu and Mitete villages.