NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka
JULIUS Zulu arrived in Mtendere township in 1964 as a little boy with his parents. Initially he and his family were living in Kalingalinga township but moved to Mtendere due to political wrangles in the early 60s.
Back then, he remembers seeing buses under the United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ) moving along one of the townships main roads called Alick Nkhata.
There was also a social welfare hall where different activities like dancing and sports such as boxing took place.
A lot of places that existed in Mtendere many years ago are still there today, although their names have changed, but Mr Zulu remembers nearly all of them, having mastered every corner of the townships.
There was, for instance, a place originally called Friday’s Corner which belonged to the Simbeye family and is now called New Zambeef.
Friday’s Corner hosted Zamrock artistes like the late Paul Ngozi and Ricky Ililonga.
“It was a social place, you know. All those powerful musicians during the time of Paul Ngozi used to go there,” Mr Zulu shares.
Mtendere is known for being a united community and when its members came together to begin building Mahatma Gandhi School, it attracted the attention of the Indian community, who lent them support.
The school has over the years educated hundreds of residents and Mr Zulu has been its PTA chairman for over 10 years.
Because of his background and influence in the area, he is considered a born Mtendere leader.
Mtendere is one of Lusaka’s oldest settlements and is a Nyanja word for peace.
The township was originally a bush reserved for the development of high- cost houses similar to those found in Woodlands area of Lusaka.
According to a report done for the Lusaka City Council (LCC) by Mulimba Yasini, the first settlements in the area were established in the 1960s by a Mr Chapetwa, who was a United National Independence Party (UNIP) Kalingalinga ward chairman, and his supporters.
Mr Chapetwa left Kalingalinga due to political clashes between the supporters of UNIP and the African National Congress (ANC).
This group was later joined by other residents of Kalingalinga who were forced to leave the area as a result of constant threats from the council to demolish the settlement to pave way for the expansion of the University of Zambia (UNZA).
With time, many other people went and settled in the area.
“The housing structures in Mtendere, like other squatter settlements, were in a poor state. They were makeshift houses made of either poles and grass or mud bricks with grass thatched roofs. In 1969, the council started upgrading the area into a site and service scheme. By 1971, the council had graded the roads and the area was demarcated into sections. In the same year, plots were demarcated and given out to individuals for construction,” Yasini’s report reads in part.
The council had planned high-cost houses for Mtendere, but due to political interference and lack of capital by the owners of the plots, the plan was not attainable.
However, Yasini shares that most of the houses constructed in Mtendere were far much better than those in unplanned settlements.
They were made of concrete blocks with cement and the roofs were made of iron sheets. At best, the houses equalled or surpassed the conventional ones.
Politically, Mtendere was a stronghold of UNIP and enjoyed massive support from Easterners and Northerners who were the majority in the area. The area was organised into branches and each branch was headed by a chairman. The branches were subdivided into a number of sections which were also headed by the chairmen.
Mtendere settlement is a legally recognised settlement since 1967 (GTZ). In 1971, the settlement was turned into a housing area by the LCC under the site and service scheme.
It is located between the Presidential Housing Initiative (PHI) on the north, Helen Kaunda on the west, Natural Resources Development College on the east and Kabulonga on the south. The settlement is located in Mtendere ward 30 and operates under the Ward Development Committee (WDC), whose major role is to facilitate development and implement developmental projects in the area. It further ensures that the standard of living is enhanced and basic facilities are available. The WDC is registered by the council under the Societies Act and is governed by the WDC Constitution.
Mtendere ward 30 councillor Watson Mtonga said the township is presently battling a number of challenges.
The first challenge is the delay in the construction of a modern Mtendere police station after the old police station was closed last December.
“As I am talking to you now, we don’t have the presence of police officers around so crime levels are so high whereby everyday people are being attacked and their items are being stolen,” Mr Mtonga shares.
He said appeals have been made constantly that the police station must be constructed urgently because safety is the number one priority in a community.
Mtendere has also been affected by erratic water supply over the years. Mr Mtonga said long-time residents of the area have lost hope that the water situation will ever improve.
He said Mtendere is one of Lusaka’s largest communities, with over 120, 000 people and has many development needs.
In Mtendere east where the population is roughly 50,000, there is no school and pupils as old as 10 and 11 were being enrolled in grade one this year. As a result, there is dire need for classes in the Mtendere mainland to be increased to cater for the high demand for education.
“Our youths are failing to access youth funds as a way of youth empowerment and the women also have no access,” Mr Mtonga says.
Most of Mtendere’s residents make a living by surviving on the informal sector as the township is located far from the central business district (CBD).
The current water problems are said to be as a result of maintenance works by Millennium Challenge Zambia at the Iolanda Treatment Plant in Kafue.
The settlement is divided into 20 zones. Residents from each zone democratically elect 10 people (five male and five female) to form the ZDC. Two representatives (male and female) from the ZDC are elected by the members to form the WDC. The work of the ZDC is basically to identify developmental needs in their zones and forward them to the WDC.
Today, Mr Zulu spends his days at the Landlords and Tenants Office in Mtendere where he helps settle disputes between landlords and tenants in the area.
Most of his friends are no longer living in the township but he continues to call it his home.
“It was beautiful in our days, even now. Some of my friends have asked me when I will move but I tell them only God knows when I will move,” he says.
NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka