Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
A MTENDERE woman – mother and wife – is recovering at home after a group of boys, some young enough to be her children, raped her recently.
The victim, a marketeer in the bustling township, was returning home from the market at about 21:00 hours, when the boys descended on her.
Information has it that the boys took turns in sexually molesting the woman, who was admitted to hospital after the near-death ordeal.
The victim says she is at pains to stomach the thought of her ‘own children’ mercilessly forcing themselves on her, one after the other.
Her rapists belong to a group of outlaws calling themselves Fluffys, a gang of youthful boys who are terrorising residents of Mtendere in Lusaka, and nearby townships such as Helen Kaunda, Kalikiliki and Kalingalinga.
Sadly, the Fluffys join the ranks of infamous Copperbelt gangs such as Tokota, Sons of the Devil, 90 Niggas, Mbwambwambwa and 100 Niggas, among others, that are recruiting boys aged between 12 and 19 in criminal syndicates.
Some of you may recall that two months ago, I wrote about teen gangs on the Copperbelt and how they have established reigns of terror in the townships of Kitwe.
These are young boys who abuse drugs and alcohol and derive pleasure from harassing community members by way of verbal abuse, physical assault (usually of rival gang members) and theft of money, as well as valuables such as mobile phones.
The boys, mostly school drop-outs and below-average pupils, are unpredictable in their felonious acts, but their victims range from motorists (bus and taxi drivers), pupils, to bar patrons or show-goers at nightclubs.
Usually, a woman who crosses their path becomes a target of sexual assault, and this they have done to a number of schoolgirls and passers-by that they meet in secluded places or in the night.
While Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja and his team, are trying to smoke out the Kitwe-based outlaws, the Fluffys in the capital Lusaka have regrouped, and are giving residents of Mtendere sleepless nights.
Earlier, police had almost defused and scattered the Fluffys after arresting their leader but alas, he escaped from prison.
So the Fluffys are back and among some of their atrocious activities is sexual violence against women and girls.
A number of women have complained about being raped by suspected gang members, the latest victim being the marketeer, who was admitted to hospital last week after the incident.
Apparently, sexual violence is a common crime that gangsters often execute against their victims.
When gangsters team up, the lives of women living in the affected communities become threatened, while cases of rape and sexual defilement of young people take an upward swing.
For example, residents of Mtendere say a number of women have been raped in the recent past by suspected members of the Fluffys. However, none of the culprits have so far been arrested for rape, meaning the victims are unlikely to get justice in the courts of law.
And information from residents of Mtendere, Kalikiliki, Helen Kaunda and Kalingalinga suggests that they are living in fear because the gangsters are ruthless.
Most women in the area earn their living from trading at the market; some from shops, while others work in far-away places in the central business district.
This means that the emergence of the Fluffys will certainly have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods.
Marketeers, for instance, normally work late hours nowadays because business seems to boom in the evening, when the working class are knocking off from work.
But reports of women getting raped, and other residents being mugged by the notorious robbers, will definitely trigger self-imposed night curfew on traders in the area.
Some people are already being forced to retire early from the day’s work to protect their lives and safeguard merchandise.
In the long term, this will obviously have a negative effect on commerce and people’s occupations.
But what’s worse is that people’s lives are not safe and police need to step up efforts to weed out the criminals and restore peace to Mtendere township, whose name denotes peace in the Nyanja dialect.
It’s not enough to tell people to get indoors early enough to avoid the notorious Fluffys because sometimes people move late in the night for unavoidable reasons.
For example, there are shift workers in Mtendere and surrounding areas who can’t avoid going back home late in the night.
Things like sickness and other emergencies may crop up in the night and compel people to go out at awkward hours.
Apart from that, some thugs could break into a house or store to commit crime at any time of the day.
What Mtendere needs right now is not a night curfew, but rather a peaceful and safe neighbourhood, where people could go about doing their businesses without the fear of being attacked by hooligans.
Of course people should be cautious about going out in the night because that puts them at greater risk of being attacked by thugs.
But the bottom line is that women and girls need to walk the streets of Mtendere without the fear of being raped.
A mother who is knocking off from the market in the night should return home safely, and so should the schoolgirl/boy on their way home from school.
All residents should sleep tranquilly without worrying about the safety of household goods or wares in their shops.
Working in collaboration with the community, police can defeat the township gangs in Zambia.
Actually, the criminals are known by residents, who I’m sure will be ready to help police with investigations, if they show genuine commitment to creating safe townships.
Police need to declare war against all komboni gangs around the country and they can win the fight if they don’t relent.
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Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA