By MILDRED KATONGO –
A BORDER is a line separating two countries, administrative divisions, or other areas.
Under normal circumstances, one leaving a country and entering another is supposed to possess special documentation which shows they belong to a different country.
Interestingly, this is not the case for a place in Masaiti District that has assumed the name of Maria Chimona.
Maria Chimona is on the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the people in the area do not even seem to recognise the boundary line.
They have lived together for many years and have formed families from the inter-marriages which have been taking place.
A first-time visitor to Maria Chimona would not differentiate Zambians from Congolese because they have formed solid bonds as families.
“The border demarcating Zambia and the DRC has been so porous that people from Congo just walk into Zambia and marry,” Katema Chitenge, who is Headman Mulyata’s adviser, told the Copperbelt Times in an interview.
Mr Chitenge said not long ago, the influx of Congolese into Zambia at the Maria Chimona border point was so high that Chief Chiwala expressed concern.
The traditional leader advised his subjects to ensure that there was order, as well as not to allow people into the country without any controls.
Mr Chitenge said the village had now become a “mixed family” because there are also Zambians who have married Congolese and have settled in Zambia.
“We have a lot of people who have come from Congo. They have settled here and have families. In fact this village became known because of that same reason of people crossing the border to marry from either side,” he said.
Maria Chimona is a desperately poor area where people earn their living through peasant farming.
The place looks desolate, and one could easily tell from the looks on people’s faces that they endure many hardships.
The vast village is composed of shabby structures which house big families.
Mr Chitenge said the village faced a big challenge of water as people in the area shared one borehole.
The only school and clinic available for the local people are located far from Maria Chimona, making it difficult for them to access health and education services.
“We have no school or clinic in our area. We walk long distances to access health services and our children walk long distances to go to school. So we need education and health services closer to our village. If anything, let there be a clinic and school in this village,” Mr Chitenge said.