Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
I WAS just arriving back in Lusaka after a short tour of duty on the Copperbelt, when I received a text message from Luapula Province Minister and Kawambwa Member of Parliament Nickson Chilangwa.
“Come to Kabwata at the Natives,” the minister’s message read.
After offloading some goodies I had bought on my way from Ndola, along the Great North road, I drove straight to the Natives.
I was certain he wanted us to discuss the development of Luapula Province, the land of cleanliness (ku calo cabusaka) and land of fish (ku calo camunani) as we often do.
I was surprised at what awaited me at the Natives.
A whole brood of former Nchelenge Secondary School pupils sitting in a circle welcomed me.
Honourable Chilangwa had managed to round up the noisy bunch from all over Lusaka. And what a sweet family re-union that was!
I saw faces I had never seen since I left Nchezy in 1984, after completing my Grade 12.
The men and women welcomed me with a lot of excitement. Some of them had only been seeing my name and face in the Zambia Daily Mail and Sunday Mail.
Hon Chilangwa asked us to introduce ourselves and the year we left Nchezy.
“The purpose of this come-together is just to meet, mingle and share sweet and bitter memories of our days at our former school, and to come up with some ideas on what we can do to help,” he said.
Hon Chilangwa shared, amid catcalls and giggles, how he, Emmanuel Kalasa and a few other young ‘hotheads’ then were expelled by school authorities after being implicated in inciting and leading a riot over poor meals.
“We were only allowed to go back and write examinations,” he recalled amid praises, rebukes and laughter.
He was in Form I when I was in Form III.
We all shared our individual and collective exploits while at Nchezy in the 1980s.
Some notable names were also recalled and discussed.
Some of them were Nelson Ngosa, Moses Kasanga (Uncle Moze), Alfred Chabu, Percy Bwalya, George Mwandia, Ezra Chella, Davy Lord and Albert Bwalya (Zee).
We talked about teachers such as Mr Banda ‘Kafwafwa’, the funny English teacher, the ever-smart Mr Mushauko, Mr Chipoka, who used to wear old-fashioned clothes from the 1960s, Mr Muhandu the sports master, Mr Mwape Mungu, the vernacular language genius, Mr Musuwila and Mr Mark N Mutale (Jimmy Young the youngest headmaster).
I was happy to meet Mr Boyd Katebe. I think he was in Form III when I was in Form I in 1980 and was the cause of the first riot I witnessed, a violent clash between pupils and the local community (the vast Kashikishi village).
Petty thieves had been terrorising the girls’ dormitories for some time and pupils had finally managed to corner one of the audacious intruders, whom they mercilessly battered beyond recognition before handing him over to the local police.
The suspected thief happened to have been a member of the local community, and the villagers vowed to attack any pupil who would stray outside the school to avenge the beating.
Few days later Mr Katebe was walking on a bush path while returning to school after receiving treatment at Saint Paul’s Mission Hospital.
He was ambushed by a mob of villagers near Indeco Milling Company plant.
They brutally assaulted him, leaving him bleeding with a lacerated nose.
When the pupils learned about the assault tempers flared. Our ‘war planners’ immediately went to work.
At a raucous meeting at the main notice board it was resolved that we “teach the villagers a lesson.
Armed with sticks, metal pipes, stones and other ‘weapons’ we – boys and girls – marched into Kashikishi village chanting Cadet songs.
The villagers were caught completely unawares and had little time to react. Kashikishi village was swarming with ‘armed’ pupils in uniforms.
It was a lightning, multi-pronged attack, planned and executed in militia style.
After about an hour we retreated back to the school, villagers had started mobilising themselves to fight back.
Several pupils were injured, but there were more casualties among the villagers. Many of them also lost goats, pigs, dogs, chickens and ducks, which were ‘summarily executed’ as collateral damage by the rampaging pupils.
That particular night all male pupils did not sleep in dormitories but we were deployed to guard the school, including the girls’ section, as there was a strong rumour that the villagers had mobilised themselves to counter-attack under cover of darkness.
It was an unfortunate incident which did not reflect the kind of relations that had existed between the two parties in the past.
The villagers were generally very kind and compassionate towards pupils knowing that many of them had left their parents and guardians very far away.
Fortunately, peace was restored.
We were more affected by the conflict because for a whole week there was nothing at our beloved Zanzibar Market (Pa Zanzi) near Cohen (Mwakoweni) Compound.
There was no amabote (boiled fresh cassava), no ozamwina (fried fish), no ifitumbuwa (fritters) and no tutobomutwe (home-made crunchy cookies).
It was dangerous to sneak into Kashikishi to buy the delicacies. We were therefore very happy when the villagers started coming to Zanzi again.
Mr Katebe recalled the episode with relish.
“It’s me who sparked the riot in 1980 after the villagers waylaid me and beat me up as I was returning from hospital,” he recalled proudly.
I was surprised to find Mr Kabaso Malisa, my former classmate and senior member of the study group I belonged to.
The other members were Chrispin Mutale, Nyemba Vincent and Bernard Sangweni.
We were also members of the Reggae Club (Jah men).
It was a wonderful reunion, and we resolved that all Lusaka-based former Nchezy pupils meet bimonthly at the Natives near Break Point.
Our secretary, Fani Chirwa, will announce the date on the Nchezy Alumni WhatsApp group. See you there!