PRISCILLA CHIPULU, Ndola
IT IS known as a place where mischief and confusion is the order of the day.
Chipulukusu is one of the biggest townships in the Copperbelt Province, located in Ndola near the central business district.
Despite changing its name to Mapalo, residents insist that the township will forever remain Chipulukusu.
The township, which, according to the 2015 Ndola District Situational Analysis, has a population of 37,703 people, is famous for wrong reasons and sometimes hilarious ones.
This is why residents, led by the Church, petitioned the Ndola City Council (NCC) to change the name of the township from Chipulukusu, whose meaning is vague, to Mapalo, which means blessings.
The ‘christening’ of Chipulukusu to Mapalo came as a result of a petition to the council from over 1,014 residents in 2001.
In March 2010, the council approved the name change of the township and the new name was gazetted on February 4, 2017.
The meaning of Chipulukusu is not clear as residents give different versions of the same. Some say the name Chipulukusu came about from an old kiln for processing industrial lime near the township which used firewood as a source of power.
The placing of fire in the kiln was known as ‘ukupulukusa’ and over a period of time, the place came to be known as ‘kwa-chipulukusu’.
Another version is that the original settlement sat on very soft ground which formed sticky mud during the rainy season. The process of removing the mud from either the feet or tyres of motor vehicles was called ‘ukupulukusa’.
There could be some other versions, but whatever they are, the social vices in the township rendered the name Chipulukusu unpopular, which prompted the petition by the residents, who were eager to remove the negative tag.
NCC acting public relations officer Hamson Chisenga says the petition to have the township name changed started at a pastors’ inter-denomination seminar held at the local Bread of Life Church on August 22, 2001.
Mr Chisenga said the reasons cited for the change of name were the wave of crime in the community, including murders, burglary and general thefts.
Although the challenges of crime, alcohol and drug abuse still persist in the born-again Mapalo, the township has been experiencing a lot positive developments as a number of business houses have been set up.
Chipulukusu councillor Kennedy Phiri says, unlike in the past, a lot of modern houses are now being built on well-defined and properly serviced plots.
Mr Phiri said the township can now boast of community schools, a police post, a local court, public schools, two markets and business houses.
“Before 1990, Chipulukusu township was notorious for harbouring armed robbers and this used to scare away would-be investors. But following the improvement of security in the township, investor confidence has been established.
“This was one of the reasons why the residents decided to change the name so that the past atrocities could be forgotten,” Mr Phiri said.
He explained that acts of violence, drug abuse, prostitution and alcoholism prompted some residents to think that the township was cursed, hence asking for God’s mercy through the name change to Mapalo.
Some residents believe that God has indeed shown them mercy because crime has reduced drastically and, as a result, business houses have expanded, whereas modern buildings have been set up.
Many bars have been converted into churches and residents believe that the transformation is by divine intervention.
However, the transformation is happening gradually, according to residents who complained that alcoholism and drug abuse still present daunting challenges to peace and tranquillity in the township.
Having been recently transferred to Ndola for work, I took a walk into Chipulukusu, which is near my new home, Northrise extension. This was to have a feel of the famous township and to see for myself some of the things I had heard and read about in the media.
Dusty roads, houses made of mud, and modern houses cover the township as people move on with their daily activities.
Before getting into the township, my first expectation was to find huge and tall muscled men, dressed in all black and harassing people, but hell no, I was wrong! I actually met a group of friendly women, who looked drunk.
One of them actually came to me asking for my bottle of water to quench her thirst as it was a sunny day.
After walking for a few minutes into the township, I came across a 53-year-old woman, who has resided in the area for more than 30 years.
Regina Mutale, who is a social worker with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, revealed that, according to history, a white man had a lime mine in the area.
Big machines were used to break stones which made a lot of noise (ukupulukusa amabwe) during the mining of lime, hence the name emerged as the residents called the area Chipulukusu, which means to shake.
Ms Mutale further said the township has places like Kabulamfumu and Chibolele, an area whose name means rotten because history has it that it used to stink due to decomposing human bodies that were dumped there by criminals.
Other areas are Mapalo and Chingalo, which mainly had people from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Regina, whose husband died in 1998, explained that Chibolele has transformed from a dumping ground to a beautiful community with a school and modern houses.
“When [former President] Kaunda came, he decided to give plots at Chibolele to people to curtail criminal activities,” Ms Mutale said.
Despite facing social problems such as prostitution, underage drinking and early marriage, the reborn Mapalo hosts a lot of Pentecostal churches, almost on every street.
And just like Chibolya township in Lusaka, which is ill-famed for drug and alcohol abuse, Mapalo is not short of that.
As I walked around the township, I could see a couple of people freely displaying marijuana and other drugs while others were intoxicated with the forbidden spirit, kachasu.
Worried residents in the township are calling on Government to intervene by curbing alcohol and substance abuse.
Shadreck Chisanka, 71, who has lived in Chipulukusu most of his life, says the Mapalo wind of change has done nothing to transform some young people who have continued abusing alcohol and drugs, resulting in criminal activities.
Mr Chisanka suggested that some churches should be closed down because they are perpetuating immorality in the township.
He said a prophet from a named church was beaten recently after he was caught having sex with one of the married women he had taken to the bush on the pretext of exorcising bad spirits from their marriages.
Mr Chisanka said some churches are contributing to the moral decay in the township because they are not preaching what the Bible teaches.
“The churches of nowadays are not helping to reduce the bad behaviour in the area. Some of the young people engaging in immoral activities are leaders of some of these churches,” he said.
Another resident, Sophia Mbewe, feels Mapalo has a long way to go in terms of shading off its negative reputation.
Ms Mbewe said the township is still held in bad standing because of such social problems as young people making early sexual debuts, alcohol abuse and crime.
Ms Mbewe said women in the area have proved to be more enterprising than men because of alcoholism, hence it’s the females that often propose marriage to the men.
“In Chipulukusu, getting a man to marry you is as difficult as getting a job. These days, it’s the women that are proposing marriage to men,” she said.
As a result of this, married men from other townships of Ndola are abandoning their families to seek solace in the arms of desperate women who are looking for life partners.
And a check at the police station and local court revealed that the township records an average of five police cases (criminal and civil) on a daily basis, while the local court handles over 100 cases per month. Among the common local court cases are use of insulting language at 30 cases and divorces 25 cases per month.
However, Ndola Central Member of Parliament Emmanuel Mulenga feels crime levels have gone down in Chipulukusu and development is taking shape.
Mr Mulenga said his office is actively working with community leaders and the Church in a campaign to inculcate good morals in the people.
He further said his office plans to introduce diverse programmes to empower the local people.
The MP also hinted that Government wants to upgrade Chipulukusu police post.
“Immoral activities will reduce further, and in order to end such activities, we need to build the capacity of institutions that handle such issues,” he said.
At the end of my walk in the township, I realised that Chipulukusu faces similar developmental challenges as other unplanned townships in Zambia.
And Mapalo is just a name on paper as residents and civic leaders alike still call the township Chipulukusu.
There are also mixed feelings over the level of crime and social vices in the township, with some people painting a gloomy picture, while others, esppecially civic leaders, are saying there is a notable improvement.
PRISCILLA CHIPULU, Ndola