LIFE: WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
WERE you a mine police officer in the hay days of ZCCM on the Copperbelt? If you were you will surely remember that one thing you could not do was tease a dog handler.
How I miss those days! I still remember how as a bachelor I used to get two free 50kg bags of breakfast mealie meal from the housing office each month.
I would sell one of the bags and share the other with a relative who had a family.
Those of us who were working for the then Power Division, which has since morphed into the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), in Kitwe lived like royalty.
We were a small work force then, which enabled management and the trade union to look after us as if we were princes and princesses.
When I felt like eating choice tilapia breams I would just go to the CPC Farm in Nkana East with my ZCCM identity card and before you knew it I was singing all the way home with a plastic bagful of live fish, fresh from the ponds.
From the fish farm I would pass through the poultry section and present my ID for a couple of chickens before collecting vegetables and a 2.5 litre container of edible oil at the Parks & Gardens section.
The next day I would present my ID card at the tuck shop in the Central Switching Station (CSS) compound and tell the attendant how many kilograms of beef, chicken or sausage I wanted, depending on what was in stock.
From the tuck shop I would head to the main stores and come back with tissue, light bulbs, bath soap, washing powder and mutton cloth, all for free except the food and sports attire.
I still remember the general managers who were at the helm of ZCCM Power Division at different times during the time I worked there as a detective in the criminal investigations department (CID) of the Mine Police Unit (MPU).
There was the humble and soft spoken Frederick Bantubonse, then the inspirational and caring Hanson Sindowe and the considerate Rodney Sisala, all good men.
I would be very happy to meet these great sons of the soil again. They looked after me well and contributed greatly to my social and professional development.
Back to the issue of dog handlers. I told you people that in the days of ZCCM and our beloved MPU, which we jokingly pronounced as â€œMpuuuuâ€, you messed with dog handlers at your own peril.
For your information we had a dog section, which carried out night guard duties usually at sensitive premises and installations, including the stores, sub stations and residences of senior management officials.
The job title of â€˜dog handlerâ€™ was not the most â€˜admirableâ€™ for any officer to hold those days.
Those who worked in the Mine Police Unit those days will agree with me.
I will not go in much detail, but I am reluctantly confiding to you the name they called the handlers.
I emphasise the word â€œtheyâ€ because I was not one of those who taunted the brave and hard-working dog handlers, whom they called â€œba dogidoâ€ or â€œdogidosâ€ whatever they meant.
But even the handlers did not make matters any better for themselves by exhibiting a deep-seated love for every kind and colour of liquor.
Over half of them were pathetic drunkards, and some people used to whisper that it was the stigma attached to their job that used to drive them to the bars, taverns, tunnels and dungeons to drown their sorrows in the demonic drink.
But they also commanded a degree of respect for the ease with which they managed the vicious and well-fed German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rotwillers, Pit Bulls, Terriers, Hounds and many others ZCCM used to breed and train at its kennels off the Kitwe-Kalulushi road.
The mere growl or bared teeth of the highly trained brutes would send your hair standing on end, and your bowels churning like a concrete mixer.
They were not like those perpetually hungry good-for-nothing, â€˜free rangeâ€™ mongrels you people have been keeping at your homes with funny names.
Yes, I am not referring to those pitiful, mangy and garbage loving things you see roaming your komboni; the type that will yelp and tuck their tails between their hind legs when you merely point a finger at them or cough.
The mine police dogs were trained to apprehend and even kill criminals.
Depending on the instruction from its handler an attack by a â€˜groomedâ€™ canine could be fatal. They were trained to go for sensitive and soft organs of a human being.
The handlers fondly called the dogs â€œAK 47 riflesâ€.
So when the handler had one of the brutes on the leash you addressed him and conducted yourself towards him with unreserved respect, for your own safety.
A bite by a trained mine police dog was the last thing you whished happen to you for it could leave you with crushed â€˜toolsâ€™ or a slit neck.
Next Sunday I will tell you how a careless mine police officer learned the hard way to respect dog handlers.
Comments from readers.
Hello Mr Chisala,
MY NAME is Chembo malasha. Iâ€™m one of the Sunday Mail readers who enjoy reading the newspaper, especially your column entitled â€˜Life: what a journeyâ€™.
This column, together with Mr Boyd Phiriâ€™s â€˜Torn apartâ€™, have made me become addicted to Sunday Mail.
I rarely miss a copy. I liked like the story about the â€˜gluttonous fish mongerâ€™.
It really cracked my ribs. Looking forward to more interesting articles. Thumbs up to you my big Bro. God bless. Bye.
Keep reading Bro Chembo.
And my former head boy at Nchelenge Secondary School, Mr Justine Mushinge, of Ndola thinks my late father, my friends and I should have been arrested for attempted murder for not warning the fish monger to leave the icitombo alone.
I would have pleaded not guilty.
Thou shalt not tease a dog handler! (Part I)
LIFE: WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA