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My day at Chibolya abattoir

LIFE: WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
IT WAS time for my madam and I to make our monthly visit to the small-scale livestock market between Lusaka’s COMESA Market and the infamous Chibolya mini-township.
We find it cheaper to buy a live goat and then have it slaughtered at the makeshift abattoir for our family’s protein requirements for the month.
So on this particular day, we as usual arrived after 14:00 hours when it is easier to get a good bargain. Bana Chisala usually handles the bargaining while I chat with the vendors a few metres away.
As I sipped a drink while chatting with three vendors at their makeshift stand a man appeared from the nearby COMESA Market panting and perspiring under the weight of a bagful of cheap shoes, looking distraught.
He was walking and looking around like someone who was lost while still carrying the bag of shoes on his shoulder.
The men and women crammed with luggage in a stationary two-tonne Mitsubishi Canter light truck told the man in a vernacular language that the vehicle he had to travel on had just left.
This threw the man to the verge of tears. He asked the crew of the light truck if they had any contact numbers of their counterparts but they did not have.
A passenger at the back of the Canter gave the distressed man a mobile phone number, which he called. After several attempts someone answered and told the man to go to Makeni turn-off.
The passengers on the Canter and a group of livestock and indigenous chicken traders huddled on the ground beside their luggage advised the desperate man to do what he had been told.
“You are just wasting your time,” someone said. “Go to Downtown and board a bus to Makeni, you will find them waiting for you. They can’t leave you.”
Two young men offered to help him carry the bag of shoes to the roadside, but because of the language they were speaking he vehemently declined the offer and held the bag tightly.
“Faza, leteni tumisendeleko ukufisha pa rodi, mwalatupelakofye ka K5 ka menshi [father, let us help you carry the bag to the road side; you will just pay us K5 for mineral water],” one of the youths said.
But the man looked frightened, convinced that the ‘helpers’ would make away with his bag of shoes or mug him on the way.
The vendors I was chatting with tried to assure the man that the boys would safely escort him to the road side, but he was adamant.
“He thinks they are thieves just because of the language the boys are speaking,” one of the vendors said and laughed.
His friend chipped in, “That is the problem with these people. They think everyone who speaks Bemba is a thief. We had warned him not to go away because the truck was about to start off but he insisted that he would not take long, but he did not want to listen because of the language we were speaking.
“Now he has found that he Canter has gone. He doesn’t even know where Makeni is.”
I learned that it was the man’s first trip to Lusaka. As he was trying to figure out what to do next he was pacing up and down.
“Faza, tiyeni tumitwale balamisha. So truck ilemilolela, ninshi muletina kanshi [father, let us escort you or else the truck will leave you. What are you afraid of]?” one of the two hustlers coaxed.
The man only budged after my vendor friends assured him that the boys would not harm him.
“If they do anything stupid just come back here. We will catch them before long. They can’t do that because they earn a living here and wouldn’t want the cadres to ban them from coming here,” one of the vendors said as the man reluctantly let go of the bag of shoes, which one of the youths put across his shoulders.
They hurried away towards Kafue road.
My wife beckoned to me to follow her as a young man dragged the protesting goat she had bought towards the make-shift abattoir.
The poor animal knew what would happen to it where it was being led and was fighting with all its energy. I felt sorry at the futility of its struggle, but quickly banished the thought as unnecessary. God gave these beasts to us humans as relish and ozamwina (braai) after all.
I drove to the abattoir, which is on the western edge of the market. I found one of the many energetic young butchers indifferently tying our animal’s hind legs to a line between two wooden poles.
By then the animal had accepted its fate and was no longer struggling. The mere smell of death, the fresh blood of over a dozen of its own kind which had already been slaughtered in the most callous way, had convinced it that its end had come.
As the goat hung head down, the young butcher walked closer, held its head in the crook of his left arm and bent it to one side. Then he nonchalantly produced a long knife from his right gum boot.
With two effortless strokes the blade of the razor-sharp knife severed the head of the goat leaving it attached to the body only by the spine. Its warm blood spurted to the ground in crimson jets. Almost every minute two or three goats suffered the same fate.
By the time we were leaving the abattoir with the cut-up meat of the goat stuffed in big blue plastic bags the youths had put to the knife over a dozen animals.
I admired the efficiency, zeal and expertise with which they went about their bloody work.
“At least, faza, we are able to pay rent and look after our families. We don’t steal from people,” the young butcher said in appreciation of the generous tip I had put on top of the K15 slaughtering fee as we parted company.
charles_chisala@yahoo.com

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