JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
AS 2018 draws to a close, we look back at some of the big stories that happened during the year; stories that gripped our attention, wowed us and shocked us. Stories that made us laugh, angry or even cry.
When the year 2018 dawned, the country (Lusaka City in particular) was still grappling with the cholera outbreak that had changed the lives of many citizens. About 70 people died during the outbreak.
The army was deployed to clean up the city and schools could not open as scheduled. Even churches in some affected areas were barred from meeting.
The cholera outbreak also affected the New Year festivities, with many churches cancelling the overnight prayer meetings that are usually held on New Year’s Eve.
The cholera outbreak was finally contained and the army returned to their barracks on March 23.
But while life returned to normal for the rest of the citizens, some people had shocking acts up their sleeves and would make shocking headlines in 2018.
Take for instance the step-father in Chienge district who slammed an infant against a wall, killing the child.
James Chola allegedly vented his anger on the infant because its mother delayed to open the door after he returned from a drinking spree.
And in Mongu, a man stunned people when he stabbed his wife to death in the most unlikely place – inside a church.
Police arrested 33-year-old Kabinga Chikaba of Kasima village for killing his wife, Jane Lumoonga, 35, at Christian Apostolic Zion Church in Mongu, where she was attending midweek prayers.
Chikaba did not want his wife to attend church.
In Serenje, a 43-year-old female teacher at Kamwala Primary School was arrested for allegedly burning her tenant’s one-year-old baby over unpaid two months rental arrears amounting to K50.
Irene Chibuye was arrested and charged with assault.
And then there was the shocking video that caused public outrage, showing a man indecently assaulting a seemingly unconscious woman in Peteuke, Eastern Province.
When the video went viral, the suspect, Rogers Mwanza, went into hiding in Malawi.
The 28-year-old was later arrested in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, and charged with indecent assault, and for circulation of obscene material.
He faces up to 14 years in jail if convicted.
And in Mansa, Luapula Province, a 37-year-old man was arrested for allegedly putting up his four-year-old son for sale.
The asking price was only K25,000.
According to police, Geoffrey Chongo had transported his son from Mansa to Samfya district, where he had contacted a witchdoctor to help him find a buyer for his son.
However, the medicine man alerted police about the unthinkable act, leading to the arrest.
And the most unfortunate thing happened in Mafinga district, Muchinga Province, when an eight-year-old boy accidently shot dead his younger brother, aged four, using their father’s homemade muzzle loader gun.
The incident happened in Chimaila Village.
They say there is a thin line between love and hate. And 2018 produced a number of stories involving love relationships that went awry.
One of the saddest was a 31-year-old teacher at Kayambi Secondary School in Mungwi district who drowned while trying to rescue his wife and two children from Luchewe River.
And why was his wife in the river with the two children?
Apparently she was on a suicide mission.
Elsewhere in Vubwi district in Eastern Province, a 32-year-old man allegedly killed his two sons before committing suicide following a marital dispute.
Brighton Phiri allegedly forced his sons, aged six and eight, to drink a pesticide before he, too, took the poisonous substance himself.
This same script was used by a 30-year-old businessman of Emmasdale in Lusaka, who committed suicide in a lodge by drinking a pesticide which he also gave to his two children, who also died.
Joe Tembo killed himself as well as his son and daughter after his wife reportedly refused to reconcile with him.
And in Mumbwa, a man lost his manhood after another man cut it off for allegedly flirting with his wife.
The victim was named as Coast Choongo of Chikwanka village in Senior Chief Shakumbila’s area.
Police in Sesheke, Western Province, arrested two men in connection with the murder of a police officer who was reported missing before her body was discovered in a shallow grave.
According to investigations, the police officer, 29-year-old Caroline Chembwe, was killed by a 23-year-old man identified as Edward Mwanza, who had gone to her house to buy a car which the murdered cop was selling.
Police said when the police woman reached the suspect’s home, she received a phone call from another interested buyer who offered to get the vehicle at a higher price.
This made her change her mind. But Mwanza would take none of that. He stabbed her to death.
The killer later returned to Ms Chembwe’s house to dispose of her body with the help of his friend identified as Dan Njimbu.
It was supposed to be an eating competition, but it turned out sour when an 11-year-old Grade Six pupil was choked to death.
This happened at Bethel Private School in Mpika, Muchinga Province.
The school was hosting a contest to choose Mr and Mrs Bethel, when one of the participants got choked during the eating competitions and was later taken to the hospital and died.
And one father learnt the hard way that strong drinks are not for babies.
A two-year-old boy in Nakonde died after drinking kachasu, a locally-distilled spirit, allegedly given to him by his father.
The boy’s father, Sam Sikaonga, 35, was arrested.
In Nchelenge, a 19-year-old man was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labour for stealing his mother’s underwear, which he needed for a ritual.
Gift Chongo of Luswili Village in Chieftainess Kanyembo’s area in Nchelenge was charged with one count of theft of his mother’s underwear valued at K20.
The magistrate told Chongo that the method he wanted to use to create wealth was not normal. Obviously.
A police officer of Ndola turned his gun on himself after wrecking a police vehicle.
Sergeant Geoffrey Swana, 33, killed himself using an AK 47 a few minutes after the official vehicle he was driving got involved in a road traffic accident.
An officer from the Zambia Correctional Service in Mufulira shot and killed himself after failing to stomach being demoted at work.
Simumba Simumba, who was demoted to the position of sub-inspector, ended his life by shooting himself in the chest.
Away from the surreal and sullen stories, there was a heart-warming story of Charity Nanyangwe, the junior traffic cop who got promoted after pictures of her controlling traffic in heavy rains without a raincoat went viral on social media.
But the romantic feeling that was created among the pubic towards the traffic police did not last long. A few months later, four traffic police officers in Lusaka were busted while mounting an illegal roadblock where they collected over K2,200 from motorists.
The disgraced officers – Sergeants Laban Bwalya and Charity Zuze, and constables Moses Chiinga and Mukeya Chibesa, were suspended, pending outcome of investigations.
It was a brazen act, two white rhinos killed in the Mosi oa Tunya National Park in Livingstone.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife suspected the killing of the rhinos was an inside job involving park workers.
Later, two magistrates were arrested alongside three other people in connection with the killing of the rhinos.
They were identified as Active Tambo, 46, of Sinazongwe and Elvis Siakachoma, 44, of Kalomo.
Also arrested were David Mununga, 66, an estate agent from Senanga, Sydney Mulenga, 31, a contractor from Kasama, and Mwala Mwendanei, 39, a businessman.
RISE OF GANGS
Unfortunately, 2018 also saw the rise in the incidents of gang crimes.
The gangs, namely 90 Niggas, Sons of the Devil, Fluffy and Tokota Boys rained terror in high density areas in Lusaka and Copperbelt, attacking citizens.
Some of the gang members were arrested and put where they belong – behind bars.
And then there was little Vincent, the four-year-old boy who was left alone after his mother and baby sister were killed in a senseless hit-and-run on Kafue Road.
His story elicited a lot of public sympathy from a cross-section of society.
After spending weeks in hospital with only hospital staff by his side, and following the publication of his story, Vincent was reunited with his family.
Of course not everyone made it through 2018.
Veteran freedom fighter Mama Chibesa Kankasa, who had become the female face of the freedom struggle, died in South Africa.
One of Zambia’s longest-serving politicians Daniel Munkombwe died.
The veteran politician was granted his final wish: to have President Lungu attend his burial.
Without doubt the death of a fourth-year University of Zambia student Vespers Shimunzhila during riots was one of the biggest stories in 2018.
Vespers died of suffocation in her room during protests by students over unpaid allowances.
She was mourned by a cross-section of society.
Also not making it was Minister of Gender and Kasenegwa member of Parliament Victoria Kalima.
She died at Maina Soko Military Hospital, where she had been admitted.
And then there was Lusaka Mayor Wilson Kalumba.
Mr Kalumba, who was aged 54, died in hospital, where he was taken ill.
The entertainment world also lost Caristo Chitamfya Junior, 24, who was a renowned QFM Radio disc jockey.
He died in a road traffic accident after his Mercedes Benz car rammed into a truck on Great East Road.
Enough of 2018, looking forward to what 2019 has in store.
Happy New Year!
JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka