YANDE SYAMPEYO, Petauke
JONATHAN Banda was on the verge of losing his marriage to Gertrude Mbewe due to his decision to relocate to Petauke from Lusaka in pursuit of a sustainable livelihood.
Gertrude found it impossible to ‘digest’ the fact that her husband, who was a part-time teacher at a private school, had made up his mind, with guidance from his uncle, to leave the ‘line of rail’ in preference to farming in a rural setup.
But her husband was determined to begin a new life at his mother’s village in Petauke, with or without his wife.
Jonathan, who initially was unhappy at the suggestion by his uncle to leave Lusaka and start farming in the village eventually submitted to the advice.
“Initially, I was so annoyed with this advice from my uncle. Just imagine, you live along the line of rail and then somebody tells you to return to the village and start tiling the land? My uncle categorically stated that he did not see any future in me being in Lusaka.
“My wife and I differed over the issue of relocating and the marriage almost came to an end because she was insisting we needed to settle in the capital city. There is no way I was going to disregard the wish of my uncle because he raised me, hence knew me better,” he recalls.
Alas, today, Jonathan popularly known as Chimweta is a renowned entrepreneur and personality in Petauke, Eastern Province.
Jonathan, who is also headman at Chimweta village runs a supermarket known as Chimweta, Umoyo Milling Plant and owns a farm that, produces various crops.
He accumulated the wealth from a bicycle parking business where he charged clients between K0.50 and K1.
Born in 1960 in Chipata, Jonathan lost his father at a tender age and his family relocated to his mother’s village in Petauke.
Jonathan, who was brought up by his step-brother and uncle, started school at Kapatamoyo in Chipata and later moved to Chadiza and eventually completed his secondary education in Lusaka,.
“Those days, families used to look after extended family members. So after my father died, my brother from another mother took me to Chadiza and I was in school up to grade seven.
“My uncle from Lusaka took over my education from Grade Eight up to Grade 12. After I completed school, I was offered a part-time job at a private school as a teacher,” Jonathan recalls.
He married Getrude and after two years of teaching at the private school, his uncle advised him to relocate to the village and take up farming as a career.
“I have been brought up under a lot of hardships but through God’s divine intervention, I am where I am today,” he says.
Upon returning to Petauke, Jonathan started supplying firewood to brewers of traditional beer.
“I supplied firewood to the brewing companies and individuals on credit and after a week, I collected my dues,” he recalls.
Jonathan combined this business opportunity with farming after which he decided to venture into the parking business.
He says the inspiration behind the bicycle parking business was as a result of him being a victim of theft of his bicycles.
“Some people took advantage of my frequent drunken state to steal my bicycles, hence I would be subjected to walk to Chimweta village from Petauke town.
“This prompted me to develop a business plan of setting up a bicycle park. I approached the police to request for a piece of land and they were in support of the idea as I usually reported the theft of my bicycles,” he recollects.
The police forwarded Jonathan’s business plan to the local authority that approved and apportioned him a piece of land in the central business district.
Jonathan developed the parking lot which could take up more than 100 bicycles daily for a charge of initially K0.50 to K1.00n each.
“That is how I got myself a job. I wanted to look after people’s bicycles as well as their goods as they went round shopping in the Indian shops,” he says.
Jonathan narrates that after saving enough money from the parking lot, he commenced the construction of a supermarket.
“Slowly, I saw my life begin to take shape. In a day, I would raise between K50 and K100, of which I was able to feed my family as well as expand my business.
“What is important in a business is financial discipline because out of the K1.00 charge, I was able to dream big,” he recalls.
Jonathan, however, was quick to confess that he initially had no confidence in the success of the parking business.
“Frankly speaking, at first I thought it was a useless venture but here I’m today. I’m able to run this wholesale shop, I have managed to set up Umoyo Milling Plant which produces breakfast mealie-meal and I am running the farm business,” he says with a smile.
Jonathan, who is no longer operating the bicycle parking business as it is infiltrated, plans to extend his business catchment by developing a poultry and piggery.
The father of seven has left the task of managing the milling plant to his wife, Gertrude and plans to shift the operations of the farm to one of his sons, who has just completed his college education.
“Through the business, I have been able to educate my children. My first born son is in his 30’s, living on his own, while my last born is 18 years old and at secondary school,” he says.
Jonathan, who has inspired a number of people through his humble beginnings, says determination and hard work are cardinal in achieving a sustainable livelihood.
“Life is not an easy ride as we undergo a number of hardships. What is important is to possess a vision and a dream,” he says.
He recalls how everything works with time and faith in God as he once served as an interpreter at a rally addressed by the former head of State.
“In 2011, I got a call from the former head of State, who asked me to travel to Lusaka to be an interpreter at his last rally in Chawama.
“A plane came to Petauke to pick me to Lusaka. That is how God can work at times,” he says.
Jonathan says Zambia, like many countries in the world is passing through economic hardships, which will varnish with time.
He calls for hard work and perseverance if the country is to foster economic growth.