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Bitter side of sweetest town in Southern Province

THE moment you enter Zambia Township in Mazabuka, you bump into a horde of happy people enjoying kachasu, an illicit alcoholic beverage usually distilled in the dead of night to avoid the watchful eye of the authorities. If you think you have seen
enough of kachasu dens in Zambia Township, you would be surprised to find similar scenes in Kaleya and Kabobola townships,
where kachasu drinking has become part of most people’s daily lives. In these neighbourhoods, unlike in other places in the
country, the illicit Kachasu is distilled in broad daylight. The residents seem oblivious of the illegality of their activities concentrating instead on ensuring they have the commodity available to customers who come in groups of three or four to
indulge. Kachasu is a Zambian traditional spirit. It is distilled in many townships in the country, though usually served to those
who take it secretly. Despite many negative reports about kachasu, the uptake of this illegal beverage seems to have become a norm in the townships, with groups of people camped in the yards where the production is done. In these downtrodden townships, 200-litre drums of the illicit Kachasu are usually displayed almost in every street and no-one seems to be bothered
about anything as the trend has become acceptable. Kachasu production is believed to be the major source of income. One would see the 200-litre blue drums on each street and think they are meant for water storage when not. The display of drums at
the entrance of every home in Kabobola, Zambia or Kaleya townships is a symbol or an indication that there is ready-todrink kachasu at a fee. There are two major factors that have led to this illicit production of kachasu in the townships. Some ingredients used in distilling kachasu come from within and are easily accessible. The molasses or thick syrup that people use as a sweetener is one of the main ingredients of kachasu and is found within the district. The people use molasses, sugar
and yeast for producing kachasu, which is in two grades. The first-grade kachasu is the one that is distilled first and is
known to be more potent. The kachasu that is distilled after the first grade is done is known as second-grade as it is not as potent as the first grade. Even in terms of price, the first grade kachasu costs more than the second grade. One of the kachasu traders who declined to be named said the first-grade sells more than the second grade. However, people always have something to fall back on in case they are not able to afford the first grade. “The second-grade kachasu sells more towards the end of the month-end, when people are broke,’’ she said. The kachasu is distilled in large quantities for the export market
in South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. The author came across several trucks and vehicles that were transporting the commodity to unknown destinations. Another kachasu producer in Zambia Township who preferred to remain anonymous
explained that she has a ready market in both South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. “This type of business is lucrative. I have educated my children using this same kachasu,” she said. The woman said she was able to build a house and have it electrified using the resources from kachasu. She said previously most of the children in the townships dropped
out of school because their parents were not able to afford school fees. “Today, the case is different, we have parents that are able to afford education for their children,’’ she said. She claimed the Kachasu that is exported is used for making gin and other spirits after some laboratory analysis and quantification. “Even among us, we have those that distil it better than others. Those that have mastered the skill of distilling the best kachasu always attract more customers. This has to some extent resulted
in some rivalry, but we are able to manage it,’’ she said. Kabobola Township has a catchment area of over 22,000 while Zambia and Kaleya townships have a population of over 37,000. The source said it is very difficult to control the sale of the illicit kachasu in the three named townships of Mazabuka because most households consider the business as the major source of
income. She said one full drum of molasses is able to make eight to nine litres of Kachasu which is either grade one or two.
Going round the township revealed different age-groups of people freely enjoying the illegal alcoholic beverage and the culture seems to have been accepted. Another woman of Kabobola Township said people in the area are free to carry out the illicit business mainly because there is no police post as it was demolished years back. True to her word, this writer found Kabobola police post demolished while some people were occupying part of the remaining structure. It is alleged that members of the community in Kabobola decided to demolish the police post after an altercation with the police over some matter. Asked on how residents of Kabobola manage to regulate themselves, she said people in the area have learnt the importance of living in peace. “People do not really fight, we know how to mingle without bringing trouble,” she said. Studies by World Health
Organisation (WHO) in 2022 revealed that the percentage of alcohol-attributable deaths among men amounts to 7.7 percent of
all global deaths compared to 2.6 percent of all deaths among women. Total alcohol per capita consumption in 2016 among male and female drinkers worldwide was on average 19.4 percent. WHO also states that alcohol consumption causes death and
disability relatively early in life. In people aged 20 – 39 years, approximately 13.5 percent of total deaths are attributable to
alcohol. There is a causal relationship between harmful use of alcohol and a range of mental and behavioural disorders, other noncommunicable conditions and injuries. Efforts to get Mazabuka Manucipal council Public Relations Manager Caroline
Simumba on what the local authority is doing to control the situation in the three Townships failed as she was on leave. “ Sorry, I can’t comment on the matter, I am on leave,” Ms Simumba said. Mazabuka Manucipal council town clerk Allan Mwiinde said
he could not say anything bad he was busy at the time “ Kindly spare, I am busy, I can’t comment on that matter now,” Mr
Mwiinde said.