NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka
AT 72, Ignatius Mwansa talks slowly and in a low toned husky voice. I have to strain my ears to hear him in certain instances during our conversation about Kanyama where he has lived since1976. He found himself here after he was transferred from Kafue to Lusaka as an officer in the police service.
When he arrived in Old Kanyama he found the houses in the area were scattered and built in an unplanned manner.
He says there were a lot of challenges in those days as residents were travelling long distances to collect water from nearby farms.
“They would wake up early in the morning to go and draw drinking water from the farms. Most of them were collecting water from shallow wells in the area for things like washing clothes and cleaning utensils,” he explains.
In the late 1980s as people started building their own houses, they also sunk boreholes which helped others in the township who still faces water challenges.
Another prominent figure in Kanyama’s history was a white man, Mr Mwansa says was named Hopkins who lived in a section of Kanyama near Los Angeles road.
This is part of the township that was passed to him when he moved to Kanyama. As for Kanyama’s name, he shares that there was a person who was staying in Khola area called Chinyama who used to sell meat.
Like many townships in Lusaka, Mr Mwansa says Kanyama had its share of political conflict particularly between the United National Independence Party (UNIP) and the African National Congress (ANC). This he says is what led to a split in the township and to the creation of New Kanyama.
Today, he says it is a challenge to run a township as big as Kanyama with many unplanned structures which makes it difficult for certain services and facilities like roads, water and schools to be run efficiently.
He is also concerned with the crime in the area.
“It is very bad,” he admits. “Especially with the young boys and young men in the area who lack jobs. They have joined gangs and take drugs and drink a lot. As a result, at night, they go stealing for them to survive.”
His worry is that the township lacks enough spaces to keep the youth involved in constructive activities that can help them stay away from crime.
He says old places like Musonda Bar, Chola’s Place and Pa Noah are some of Kanyama’s landmarks.
In his recollections of life in Kanyama, Chris Bau says Kanyama was a real haven of many people (tribes). He says one area in Kanyama was for Somalians (known as Kuma Somali.) “Especially the last road on the southern side of new Kanyama,” he notes via the website www.zambia-advisor.
“In old Kanyama the area between Chine Chikayeba and Mwabonwa were the Yaos commonly known as Achawa, between Mwabonwa and Kwati Kwangala grocery, were the Congolese known as Akasai, between Kanthu ni Kako and Kalinso groceries were the Zimbabweans (mostly Ndebeles),” Bau shares.
Brown Moses Kazumba moved to Kanyama in 1982, a few years before his retirement in 1985.
His house, that appears like a greenery of sorts, with potted plants of varied species, is built close to the old Musonda Bar that Mr Mwansa referred to during our conversation.
He became a member of Kanyama’s Resident Development Committee (RDC) in the early nineties at a time when the main concern of residents in the area was the lack of water and poor roads.
With support from Care International, the Kanyama Water Trust was built in Kanyama after the RDC sensitised the people and conducted research to find out what the people needed most.
“Many people were complaining about water because they were getting water from shallow wells,” he says.
Mr Kazumba eventually became the Scheme Acting Manager of the Kanyama Water Trust in 2007.
Sanitation and health was also of major concern to the residents of Kanyama because they did not have proper pit latrines.
He says sanitation in Kanyama has remained bad because the switch from the RDC to the Ward Development Committee (WDC) was done promptly and affected the sanitation programmes initially being spearheaded by the RDC.
According to a profile of Unplanned Settlements prepared by Mulimba Yasini for the Lusaka City Council (LCC), Kanyama is located on the western side of the city centre and lies on the right hand side of Los Angeles Road.
The township borders the following area: New Kanyama to the east and Chibolya and John Laing to the south across Los Angeles Road.
The settlement is located in Kanyama Ward 10. It operates under the Ward Development Committee (WDC) whose major role is to facilitate development and implement developmental projects in the area.
The WDC consists of 60 duly elected representatives from each zone and a ward councillor. The WDC are registered by the Council under the Societies Act and are governed by the WDC Constitution.
The settlement is divided into 30 zones with 10 people- five males and five females, from each zone democratically elected by the zone residents to form the Zone Development Committee (ZDC).
Two members (male and female) of the ZDC are elected by the ZDC as representatives on the WDC.
The work of the ZDC is basically to identify developmental problems in the zones and then forward them to the WDC for action.
Mr Yasini shares that Kanyama was the name of a Luvale man called Mr Fosholo Chinyama who lived in the area.
“He worked as a farm supervisor for a white man called Mr Portketer. When the white man left the country, Kanyama was left in charge of the farm. He started allocating plots to friends and relatives from the village and other settlements. Soon many people started flocking to the area to settle. Eventually the population in the area had increased and the housing structures expanded. Public problems were beginning to unfold. Most of the people living in the settlement were not working, they were mainly involved in brewing illicit beer,” explains Yasini.
The community lived in shacks built of poles and mud and thatched grass roofs. The settlement did not have a school or a clinic and people were drinking water from the shallow wells around the settlement.
Though there was no police presence in the area, it was peaceful according to Yasini as the residents had developed a system of policing where people coming to the area for the first time were asked to produce identity papers.
Yasini also notes that the two political parties operating in Kanyama were the ANC and UNIP. However, the ANC happened to be the major party in the township.
Political clashes between ANC and UNIP supporters characterised the happenings in the township then.
“Old Kanyama was nicknamed Biafra in 1972 and when one party system was introduced, UNIP become the sole political party,” Yasini shares.
Kanyama was now organised into two branches for UNIP and these branches were subdivided into sections. The most active members of the political party in the community were selected as branch and section chairmen.
As stated by the LCC, the housing infrastructure in Old Kanyama is informal and without layout plans and on-site sanitation facilities.
The plots are small and houses are squeezed together. The houses are made of concrete blocks with iron or asbestos roofing sheets, but most of them are poorly built.
The main road linking Kanyama Settlement to the city centre is Los Angeles Road. The road is tarred and in good condition. The inner-settlement roads are gravel and most of them are in poor condition. During the rainy season they develop potholes and become slippery.
Water in Kanyama is supplied by the Kanyama Water Trust and the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC).
Kanyama Water Trust supplies Old Kanyama while the LWSC supplies New Kanyama. Raw water comes from boreholes which were commissioned in 2002, states Yasini.
The major community facilities found in Kanyama settlement include two government basic schools, which are Kanyama Basic School and Twashuka Basic School; two clinics plus three police stations which are the Kanyama police station, the Lusaka West police post and Trishue police post.
Other community facilities found in the settlement are a community centre, two main markets, one service station, two football grounds and several bars and nightclubs.
The LCC notes that the women in Kanyama are mainly involved in income generating activities like petty trading, the brewing and sale of illicit brew, tailoring, food making and selling.
Others work as maids and or render services as sex workers.
The men of Kanyama are engaged in carpentry, petty trading, bricklaying, welding, plumbing, mechanics, conductors and stealing.
“There are only a handful of people who are involved in formal employment,” Yasini shares.
For years Kanyama has experienced serious flooding during the rainy season. During this period pit latrines get flooded with water and their contents overflow, contaminating the soil and water sources.
The floods cause serious damage to roads and housing infrastructure and also leave pools of water contaminated with human excreta and serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and harmful bacteria.
The congestion of houses and overcrowding poses a serious health hazard to residents in form of fire and respiratory diseases. Some houses are not well built and during the rainy season or after heavy winds, they collapse or their roofs are brown off. This causes extensive damage to properties and in certain cases deaths of people.
NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka