Lulamba: Where miners’ wives lead

LULAMBA Township in Chingola was known as one of the cleanest and first modern townships that were opened in the area after Zambia got its independence.
An on-the-spot check attests to the view people hold about Lulamba – the houses look beautiful, the roads are tarred, the streets are clean, although those who have lived there long claim that the township used to look cleaner than it is today.
Lulamba, which has a population of about 28,000 people, was established between 1970 and 1972 to accommodate miners from Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
Mercellino Bwembya, who has served twice as the mayor of Chingola, confirms that Lulamba was originally a residential area for miners.
Mr Bwembya recalls that at the time, the then Nchanga Consolidated Mine applied to the council to be given land where it could build houses for miners.
Nchanga Consolidated Mine was owned by the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), whose application for land for the housing project was approved by the council.
The place was just a bush when ZCCM embarked on building decent houses for miners.
The former mayor, who has witnessed the development of the township from the time it was created, says back in the days, Lulamba stood out from the rest of the townships in Chingola because of its modern housing units and clean surroundings.
Mr Bwembya, who served as Chingola mayor from 1964 to 1968 and from 1994 to 1999, said pan bricks were used to build the two- and three-bedroom houses in the township.
The former mayor, who had limited information about the township, took this reporter to stage three to meet Janet Kitenga, who has lived in Lulamba since 1972.
Ms Kitenga shared that Lulamba is a Bemba word which means riverside.
The township was named riverside in the local dialect because it is surrounded by three streams, namely Kamujamba, Chiwempala and Kankoko.
According to Ms Kitenga, Lulamba was famed for being one of the cleanest townships in the area because miners were married to hard-working and neat women who had deliberately decided to keep the township clean.
She says the township looked beautiful because the miners’ wives were competing in terms of cleaning their houses and keeping the surroundings clean.
The desire by residents to out-do their neighbours in terms of cleanliness is what made the township maintain its reputation of being among the cleanest residential areas in Chingola.
Although the township still looks clean, Ms Kitenga insists that the hygiene standards obtaining today fall short of the Lulamba that the miners’ wives made it to be during the days of ZCCM.
Narrating with a smile, Ms Kitenga looked back to the days when Chingola was known as the cleanest town on the Copperbelt and expressed hope that one day the district will reclaim its lost glory.
Despite the township losing its top-notch level of cleanness, she says generally there has been a positive transformation of social services because residents are now able to access health services within the township.
When the township was established, it had no clinic and the residents were forced to travel long distances to receive medical attention at Nchanga North Hospital.
Lulamba Clinic was later opened between 1974 and 1975 after the local authority decided to turn a house into a health facility.
The opening of a clinic excited Lulamba residents because they no longer had to incur extra costs in trying to access health services at Nchanga North Hospital.
Right now, the township also has Lulamba Health Centre, which is among the 650 health posts that Government is building countrywide.
Ms Kitenga said the area initially had Lulamba Primary School before it was upgraded into a secondary and combined school.
In the past Lulamba had high levels of crime, and the lack of police services in the area made the problem worse. At the moment, the township has a police post which has helped to maintain law and order.
Ms Kitenga recalls that in the past, miners who were doing night shift were usually mugged by criminals either on their way home or to the office.
Her husband, who was present during the interview, was occasionally nodding his head, but could not utter a word because his memory could not allow him to do so.
The escalating attacks on miners prompted their wives to seek audience with the mine management, demanding that their spouses needed to be transported to and from work.
KCM yielded to the miners’ wives’ demands and introduced train services to ferry the miners to and from work.
In those days, spouses of miners had a strong voice over welfare matters of their husbands at work.
Sometimes protests over conditions of service for miners were done by their aggrieved wives and children.
“The wives of miners were the ones that convinced management at the mine to provide transport for the miners because the women feared for their husbands’ lives,” Ms Kitenga said.
The mine established a central train station in Lulamba where miners were boarding the train from and disembarking after a day’s work. However, the rolling stock has been vandalised and is in no position to support train movement.
The former train station has been converted into a fruit and vegetable market.
Ms Kitenga says although ZCCM was the biggest employer during the UNIP era, there was also a big milling plant that spurred economic activities and created employment for a number of people in the area.
The milling plant was supporting a lot of economic activities in the area because it was producing large volumes of mealie meal, the staple food.
However, the company closed abruptly when the milling plant developed major functional faults.
A visit to the disused milling plant found the equipment which to a layperson looks good and viable.
On my visit to Lulamba market in the company of the former mayor, I met Annie Chilufya, who says the township has had one market only since 1970.
She says when the market was established, it only had a shelter without tables, until 1978 when the local authority refurbished the facility.
The market was established by wives of former miners and by 1972 to 1973, it became a busy trading place, mostly for female traders.
Ms Chilufya narrates that during the days of ZCCM, business was good at the market because a lot of miners were working.
She says business in the market started slowing around 2000 when a lot of miners were retrenched after the privatisation of the mines.
Ms Chilufya says the other reason business is slow today is that there is increased competition from many people who are earning their livelihoods from market trading.
She also complained about the increasing number of street vendors who are blocking potential customers from visiting formal markets.
Lulamba Market Association chairman Benson Mulima, who has lived in the area since 1987, notes that there has been an increase in the number of shops in the township.
Mr Mulima holds the view that the place has become more economically active than before and more sole traders have sprung up, hence people complaining about their businesses slowing.
He, however, wants the local council to protect traders in the formal markets and shops by stopping street vendors.

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