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What your kids do at shopping malls

Life: What a journeyCHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
YOU, young people of Lusaka, why are you bent on driving me mad with your delinquency?
You know that I love you all, but your behaviour will surely force me to review our friendship.
In the mean time I am reporting you to the owners and managers of shopping malls. Yes, I am blowing the whistle on you.
You thought you were clever? I know what you have been doing when you are at those shopping malls.
When I first heard the complaints from some members of the public, I thought they were just being malicious.
But now I know why they have been complaining. One of the recent weekends I decided to spend a bit of time at one shopping mall’s upper deck car park and see for myself what goes on there.
There were children racing with mini race cars as usual and a sizeable crowd of spectators, mostly parents and siblings, watching the racers as they navigated their way round the meandering route improvised with a maze of discarded motor vehicle tyres.
By the time I was descending and heading back home I was seething with anger at the debauchery I witnessed among the youth, most of them adolescents.
The first thing I observed was that quite a good number of them were carrying school bags on their backs or shoulders. I didn’t have much trouble knowing what they were carrying in those bags.
For some time the youths pretended to be interested in the car racing. Then they began walking away to parked cars, with some of them leaning against the safety steel bars, pretending to watch what was happening down on the ground.
Then they began nudging bottles of brandy or whisky out of bags, pockets or hand bags. They began pouring the deadly contents into half-full soft drink bottles.
After filling up the soft drink bottles the brandy or whisky bottles disappeared back into the bags, pockets and hand bags. The young ones began moving around the car park, nonchalantly sipping from their innocent looking soft drink bottles while holding one another’s hand or waist.
Some came with soft and energy drinks that were already laced with the spirits and drunk of the liquor with abandon.
Many girls, dressed in all kinds of bizarre attire with funny make-up, were busy on their phones, probably calling their lovers. It was common even downstairs to see a girl here and there busy on the phone, trying to communicate with her date.
Their lovers would finally appear, alone or in groups, to join the girls. I noticed that the place was crawling with the youngsters as the day grew older.
As usual, the new arrivals would first go to watch the car races before fanning out to various spots within the upper deck car park.
I saw some of the girls, as young as 15 years, walk to parked cars and ‘disappear’ into the comforts of the vehicles. As a former detective I decided to carry out a bit of spying.
I used to enjoy under-cover operations as a cop, and snooping on the kids was like reliving some of those covert ops. And did it take me long to confirm that the kids were indeed up to no good?
I saw that they were bent on nothing but mischief. From the corner of my right eye I could see the girls and boys, in some cases girls and men, curdling and kissing with frightening passion inside the cars.
Some of the cars would drive down and out of the shopping mall, to God knows where, with the neck-rubbing and kissing love birds. After about 30 minutes or an hour the girls would be back at the car park, on foot, without their partners.
By 14:00 hours it was clear that some of the children were drunk, looking at the way they were talking and frolicking around the car park – noisily chasing, pulling, pushing and holding one another in horse play typical of adolescents.
This abuse of liquor was taking place right under the noses of the ‘alert’ security guards who were patrolling the car park. Anyway, who would blame them?
How on earth would the hard-working officers know that the “soft drinks” the kids were imbibing were hardly “soft” but as hard as granite?
The youngsters are not fools. They know that what they are doing is illegal and immoral. So they have to be smart. Even as a parent it is difficult to know what they are up to unless you are alert.
Fortunately, their behaviour will finally give them away. You can tell that someone is acting or speaking under the influence of some evil substance.
Sundays and public holidays are the worst. The upper car parks are choking with the kids – both genders.
The other secret I unearthed is that most of the alcohol that the children abuse in the car park is not bought within the shopping mall.
It is ‘imported’ from outside in bags, pockets, hand bags and cars.
By the time I was leaving the shopping mall I was wondering what has become of the young generation. As I walked past a government building I saw two boys.
One of them was slumped against a steel fence in a sitting position, his head lolling on his right shoulder. He was too drunk to walk, and kept cry-calling his mother with a feeble voice.
His friend was standing over him trying to figure out what to do.
Passersby were shaking their heads, frowning, pouting their mouths or grunting to express their disgust. Some blamed the boys’ parents, others disagreed.
“He has taken one too many. Alcohol doesn’t have mercy, not even for kids,” quipped a man as he walked past the drunken pair.
“My friend, get up. Can’t you see people are looking at us,” the stronger one prodded his friend in frustration and kicked him in the leg.
He tried to help him to stand, but they both fell, causing laughter among passersby.
One passerby accused the stronger and slightly sober boy of plying his friend with alcohol or tempting him to drink and should therefore take him back to his parents safely.
“Iyai, sindine namumwesa moba. Amwa mwine eka cabe [no, I didn’t tempt him to drink, he drunk it on his own],” he pleaded his innocence.
Well, I had seen enough. I moved on to mind my own business. Wake up call to parents.