Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
I WAS in the heart of the capital city, Lusaka, a few days ago when I came across a small group of wheelbarrow pushers
commonly known as ba Zamcab.
Apparently business was slow that day, and the four to six youthful porters were whiling away time in the buckets of their modified carts.
They were engrossed in a lively banter that centred on the travails of one Zamcab pusher, who was lamenting about the problems he was experiencing at home with his older sister.
The youth, whom I estimated to be in his mid-20s, said he had almost beaten his sister the previous evening for failing to educate her children on the need to respect him as their uncle.
But his colleagues warned him the action would have landed him in a police cell.
“Imagine my nephews and nieces, some as young as 10 years, calling me ati ‘ba Perry’ instead of calling me ‘uncle’. When I complained to my sister she was very rude, saying I should prove to the kids that I deserved their respect,” he grumbled.
Perry said the argument degenerated into a bitter quarrel with his sister hurling abuse at him and daring him to do whatever he wanted if he was annoyed.
“I almost punched her in the face, but I restrained myself because she is my older sister. I don’t know why she doesn’t respect me. Maybe it’s because I am living in their small house,” he grumbled.
Perry said his brother-in-law was employed as a security guard who spent much of his salaries on alcohol and women in the ‘tunnels’ of Matero township.
“Sometimes he works up to five months without being paid, and the money my sister earns from her kantemba on the roadside is very little.
“But when he gets paid he disappears for days. It’s me who helps to meet the needs of the family from the little money I earn as a Zamcab boy. My sister is ungrateful. She shouldn’t be insulting me. One day I will beat her until she becomes unconscious,” he warned.
But one of his friends rebuked him, “Iwe, don’t even think about it. How can you beat your older sister? Do you want to go to Chimbokaila [Lusaka Central Correctional Centre]?”
But Perry was defiant. “So kulekafye ba sista baletumpa ati nga naboma balantwala ku polisi [you mean I should ignore her provocations simply because I am afraid of being locked up by the police]?” he argued.
Perry explained that he was not scared of being arrested because he knew how to secure his release.
“You think I am afraid of the police? Kubeba fye ati bwana mukubwa nalakwa, nikululukileni [you just tell them that you are sorry and ask them to forgive you]. They are not difficult,” he said.
Someone raised his head from his wheelbarrow, looked at Perry and laughed. “Aaah! Ba Perry. Ukalanda shani naba police nokupaunda tawapaunda, necisungu tawaishiba [how will you talk to the police when you are not educated; you can’t even speak English]?” he challenged him.
“Kubeba fye ati [just say] I am sorry bwana. Forgive me bwana,” Perry said and there was more laughter.
He rationalised that if he had too much fear of the police everyone, including children, would turn him into a door mat and insult him at will.
But someone reminded him that if he was arrested for assaulting his sister it might be the end of his ambition of becoming a godfather, with his own Zamcab fleet.
The young man agreed and pledged to restrain himself no matter how much his sister insulted him.
“You are right bakaamba; I am getting closer and closer to achieving my dream. Even if she calls me a dog I will just agree ati cacine ba sista ndi mbwa [you are right my sister, I am a dog].
“If she does not leave food for me despite the fact that I also contribute I will just sleep quietly and come and eat here in town the next morning,” Perry pledged.
“Now you are talking sense. There is nothing wrong with pretending to be a fool as long as you know what you want to achieve bakaamba [big man],” someone encouraged him.
“Cacine mukaamba; efyakucitafye [you are right; that is what I will do],” Perry acquiesced.
He said he was looking forward to the day when he would be the proud owner of up to 20 wheelbarrows and an employer of other Zamcab pushers.
“Don’t worry guys; all of you will be my employees. I will be paying you well,” Perry said with a serious tone.
But his confidence drew laughter and sniggers. Someone even suggested that he might be under the influence of the weed, junta or something worse, like a demon.
“Imagine me calling Perry ati ba boss and cashing to him,” he said and laughed, his head resting on his folded jersey on the extended cargo rack of his Zamcab.
But another porter, who was the best dressed, reprimanded those who were laughing at Perry’s vision.
“You are laughing at him? That is how people become big bakaamba. I personally wouldn’t mind working for you, Perry mwana. I will be praying for you so that your dream comes true,” he encouraged him.
Someone agreed. The laughter had died down now.
Perry savoured the encouragement.
Other members of the group started sharing their own dreams, and frustrations. One of them said he wanted to own a Toyota Spacio one day and drive around town like a don.
He promised his friends that he would be driving them home every day after knocking off, and there was no laughter. They were serious.
I had been eavesdropping on the conversation while pretending to be busy with my smart phone.
The lesson from the Zamcabs is that all people, no matter their station in life, have dreams. Don’t look down on anyone.