THE Zambia Daily Mail has in the last few weeks been publishing articles authored by CHARLES CHISALA on the history of criminal gangs in Kitwe.
A number of readers have been reacting to the articles, and the following are some of the reactions:
I read with interest the article in the Zambia Daily Mail that you published about the killing of the Lion of Kitwe.
I have looked for his story for years in the papers but I couldn’t get one until today.
I was telling friends about stories of crime in Zambia, and the Lion-led squad was the main story.
He was a very good person and very friendly. We stayed about nine streets away from where his family home was.
I used to see him take a bus to town every morning because our street was the bus route.
Lion was a down-to-earth guy; a soft-spoken fella who with his squad that included Dicher (Richard), Sammy Kelebi and John amongst them were not killers but just a hired gang that stole nothing but copper and other metals from goods trains.
You mentioned in your article that they dressed smart and wore expensive perfumes, which was true.
That is the sketchy part about their story.
In Kitwe those days we had three prominent business men who were the first dealers in what you call ndandashi (cobalt and copper concentrates). They were the first Jerabos [copper dealers].
These were the people who hired the Lion and his gang. The operation was simple: They would usually put oil on rail tracks while a goods train was approaching.
It would slow down and they would climb on top and offload copper, throwing it down while the train was moving slowly and they would pick it up and then it would end up with the men behind the operation, who knew a good market for it.
And while on their trips abroad, the businessmen would then bring these guys very expensive suits and perfumes, and they would pay them decent amounts.
I became close to him [Lion] when he met a girl from my class. I was in Grade 7 at Machona Primary School then.
We became friends. He would give me a lot of stuff. I even used to visit him, despite the fact that his mother never allowed people at their home.
As expensive as he looked, the man slept on a tiny single-bed mattress put on the floor.
His lifestyle and his parents’ home were two different stories.
I witnessed one incident one evening. It was a late night and we were seated on the streets with the squad.
They were talking about how they dodged bullets when stealing copper from warehouses and wagons while sipping some expensive imported brand.
Then the police from Kitwe police station came. They [gangsters] didn’t run and police approached and just greeted and them and said, “Mwati titenga baso [do we arrest such people]?”
I laughed the following day as I narrated the story to my friends.
One of my uncles also became very friendly with him [Lion] because he started buying copper from the squad.
When Lion died [he was shot dead in Twibukishe by police from Kamfinsa], we were all sad in our neighbourhood.
He did nothing to us. Our parents praised this criminal because he was such a respectful big fella.
They used to be safe when they were drinking in the same bars where Lion was also enjoying beer.
I heard the news that [former Kamfinsa Mobile Police College commanding officer] Wazakaza Ng’uni had shot the Lion of Kitwe as I was studying at Mukuba Secondary School during the holidays.
So, we went and watched while they loaded his corpse and took it away in a van and tears dropped down our cheeks involuntarily.
Apart from Shasha [Lovemore Mumba aka Shiwili] the miner, the most notorious and dangerous criminal was Twigili [Twig Lee].
He terrorised Mindolo, Miseshi, Chachacha, Twibukishe, St Anthony and Kandabwe townships and further north of Kitwe like Buchi, Chimwemwe and Ganerton.
He was a killer and a rapist. A petty fella with blood in his eyes. When he was killed in Mindolo North near Kitwe Teachers Training College, the whole of Kitwe hailed the anti-robbery squad.
After Lion, Twigili and Shasha sprung up a lot of other gangs that took over.
One of the most notorious was led by Lion.
These were the ones who would steal from a tavern.
While trying to break the safe in the tavern, they started drinking chibuku and got so drunk that they failed to climb out through the hole they had broken in the roof.
The drunken thieves would all fall asleep right inside the tavern! And police would just pick them up the next morning without any resistance.
But that is how they started. Later, they became lethal and a dangerous gang stealing almost anything, including baby napkins.
Anyway, thanks for the story. I wish I had met you before you published it. I could have given you the right names and data about the life and crime of Miseshi-Mindolo.
I am based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
I would like to appreciate your article on the end of the three notorious gangsters published in the Daily Mail.
What your article does is to demonstrate to the many youths that have ventured into crime that crime does not pay, which serves to discourage them.
This is indeed commendable.
One of your previous articles was on the SOD [Sons of the Devil] and Tokota Boys, two gangs that were a concern to us as some of our employees come from the areas where these gangs operate.
It is gratifying to learn that these gangs have since been wiped out and your articles may have helped the police in this cause.
Well done sir.
I would like to encourage you with this kind of journalism.
You have been running a series; a rare thing in Zambia. People end up with half-truths when stories are not followed up as you have done with the story of the gangs in Kitwe.
But I missed the one on the fall of Twigee Lee.
I am a native of Kitwe, although I am no longer a resident.
I knew some of these gangsters like Lion, Twigee Lee, Chibwe Ndete, etc.
Keep up with this good journalism.