Community demonstrates against substandard roadwork

KALIMBEZA: Some 100 community members in the Kalimbeza area took to the streets on Wednesday to demonstrate against ongoing Government funded roadwork, which they are claiming is inferior.

The demonstrators first petitioned Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu at Katima Mulilo before proceeding to Kalimbeza, where they read out their grievances to officials of the Nexus Group, which is upgrading the Namalubi-Isize-Luhonono road to tar.

The road is being upgraded so local inhabitants will no longer be cut off by floodwaters from the Zambezi River and the project is expected to be completed in 30 months.

The demonstrators, led by Mulife Musweu, accused Nexus of failing to employ locals who could have assisted in identifying spots where the company could erect bridges and put up culverts on the 22 kilometre gravel road situated along the flood-prone plains.

“A good example is that you get these people (Nexus) erecting bridges pointing to villages, which might ultimately cause flooding. Some bridges are too small or short compared to the volume of water flow during the flood season. Some culverts are being erected opposing the normal current of the stream where the floodwater normally flows. Employing locals could bring improvement to these areas since they are the people who have physical knowledge of the ever-changing environment of the flood plains,” Musweu said.

He went on to say that when the groundbreaking ceremony for N.dollars 437 million project was held in November 2014, Nexus promised to employ 300 local community members and four contractors from the Zambezi Region.

However, according to Musweu, this has not been the case as Nexus has allegedly only managed to employ two local tipper truck operators, while 23 of the 25 machine operators from other regions are allegedly related to company officials.

“Our local community members who managed to get jobs with Nexus are paid less than their counterparts from other regions. We have qualified locals who can be foremen, surveyors, and operators of all types of machines. We want these positions to be allocated to us according to our qualifications and experience,” Musweu said.

Accepting the petition, Sampofu said his office is aware of the issues and grievance of the community, adding that he is engaged in talks with the Roads Authority (RA), which is the appointing authority of road works in the country.

“The issues have been received by my office. We are currently in talks with the RA about how best to go forward in addressing your concerns,” Sampofu said.

Nexus site agent Paul Blazek declined to comment on the allegation of poor roadwork and nepotism, but said the petition will be forwarded to the company executives and human resources management.

“I cannot comment at this stage. The company executives will peruse the petition and make a decision on what to do,” Blazek said.

The community gave Nexus a deadline to respond to their grievances by 13 May.