PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
CLEVER Zulu certainly lives up to his name; he is clever in his actions just as his name suggests.
He wakes up every morning from his house in Lusaka’s Kabwata township to walk to Panganani road in the light industrial area to stand either in the blistering cold or heat of Lusaka to make one of the precious components in a motor vehicle.
Clever has assembled metal bars and rollers in a way that when he swings the handle of the jerk, it presses the bearings into the hub; and that is his source of living.
He calls the process as press fitting, which involves fitting the wheel bearing into the hub.
The hub is a component that makes the wheel rotate but many of them succumb to the bumpy roads. That is what necessitates the job that Clever does. He works with his colleagues Justine Mukuka, 28, and Clement Chembe, 29.
Their way to the hub started with a trip to the sprawling Soweto market where they looked for metal bars and assembled them. They also procured a jerk which is fitted in the middle of the bars where the pressing takes place.
His job is very demanding, but eye-catching; taking the jerk handle up and down with the right hand while the left puts the bearings into position.
For a smaller hub, he demands about K30 while the bigger ones fetch over K100, and that is what gives him an average earning of around K150 per day. But he admits that there are days when he knocks off without earning anything.
“The spirit in business is never give up,” he counsels.
His pressing machine is made of four metal supporters that are affixed to the ground and stand tall to take care of his his height.
When he presses the jerk handle, the roller at the bottom of the jerk goes under thereby causing the pressure which is necessary for pressing the bearing into the hub.
Afterwards, he then extends his hand for payment; the job is done.
The noise discomfort the machine causes is not much of a bother to him but is a real irritant to a first-time visitor.
The only hardship is that he does not have the resources to buy the ball bearings and the hubs to press in advance in order to sell the complete products to his clients.
As a result, at times, he has to wait for hours before a customer can walk over.
Clever is appealling to well-wishers for help in order to commercialise his venture by stocking ready hubs.
“Some clients delay me too much because they don’t trust me. They walk around looking for hubs and bearings so that I just press for them. That can take half a day because they think I will put a mark-up on the price if I buy for them. That really takes long,” laments Clever.
Unlike the huge mechanised machines that are commissioned with splendor after feasibility studies at huge costs, Clever’s mechanics were just a one-man launch created out of the desire to make a living for his family.
The initiative is not a product of expansion or any form of study on how profitable the plant would become but merely his desire to graduate to a life style and create something better.
“A man is judged by the work that his hand does,” he says. “I just realised that what people were calling complete hubs were created out of a simple process. I also knew that if I find metals, I could make the hubs and also supply them.”
Perhaps not unexpected, Clever has no idea of what is involved in patenting a product and how it works.
“They will just confiscate my metals and close my business,” he quipped when asked whether he had considered patenting his craft.
According to online sources, a ball bearing is a type of rolling element that uses balls to maintain the separation between the metals with its purpose being to reduce rotational friction and support loads. It achieves this by using at least two races to contain the balls and transmit the loads through the balls.
As one of the bearing races rotates, it causes the balls to rotate as well. And because the balls are rolling, they have a much lower friction than if two flat surfaces were sliding against each other.
Although bearings have been developed since ancient times, the first modern recorded patented ball bearing was awarded to Philip Vaughan, a Welsh inventor and ironmaster who created the first design for a ball bearing in Carmarthen in 1794.
On the other hand, a hub is a central part of a wheel that connects the axle to the wheel itself. In a bicycle, a hub is the central part of a wheel or that part into which the spokes are inserted.