CHANDA MWENYA, Lusaka
“GRAVEYARDS are full of indispensable men”, so goes the adage. But the residents of Lusaka’s Kasisi-Maploti sprawling on the edge of Foxdale, north–west of Lusaka seem determined to defy that notion.
The residents are displacing the dead from their graves at a time the Lusaka City Council is grappling to find burial sites for departed souls.
The residents, of the fast-growing Kasisi–Maploti have apparently encroached on a traditional burial site on the periphery of Kasisi.
The residents who recently built a police post are now determined to embark on a community market project on a piece of land believed to contain 25 unmarked graves.
While a Kasisi-Maploti community market ad hoc committee is working on formalities to have the remains exhumed from the site, the residents are momentarily using the piece of land for farming.
It is a complex farming venture as some graves still remain clearly marked.
“The community has agreed to build our own market here. Just like we found land for the construction of our police and the health posts, we want to have our own market right here,” narrated Moses Miti, whose house borders the newly-built Kasisi Police Post, a stone’s throw away from the graves.
In the 1970s, Kasisi-Maploti was virtually a bush with isolated farmland households.
One such household belonged to Lackson Sambwa and his wife Esther Mwila Tepeka, who have since died.
Nonetheless, their surviving daughter Lute, born in 1980, still lives on the family property with her four children and six other relatives in a tiny two-room house edged by other houses some still under construction.
When the Sambwas lived there in the 1970s, they boasted of a huge farmland only boardered by a running stream with fertile banks.
The once vast farmland has been reduced to a radius of the two room house by towering mansions.
Lute blames the encroachment on her family property on indiscriminate allocation of land by political party cadres.
She has vivid memories of her neighbourhood she calls her home since her birth.
“My father moved here in 1971, he was working as a house servant for a certain white man. This place was virtually a bush. Our land initially extended up to those trees over there and stretched to the thicket over there.
“And beyond those trees, were graves. Two of my nieces were actually buried there, but people have now built houses over them. I cannot even tell where the graves of my relatives are,” recounted Lute.
Lute, who has lost both her parents, has witnessed the transformation of Kasisi-Maploti from a “graveyard” to a sprawling residential area.
“When this place was scantily occupied, people in this area used to bury their relatives randomly around that place where there are new houses. And when the community started growing and there was need for more burial land, some people started allocating graves,” Lute said pointing at the sprawling residence.
There is no official record of when people stopped burying around Kasisi-Maploti area, but it is believed it could be as late as 2005.
Some residential developers in Kasisi-Maploti have dug out what is believed to be human bones during the construction of their sewerage and septic facilities.
Ironically, even when Kasisi-Maploti has been developed spontaneously, residents are determined that the area has the necessary amenities even if it means displacing the dead from their graves.
Another Kasisi-Maploti resident, John Phiri, who has built his house on the edge of the area containing the 25 graves, showed this author a stretch of land that is earmarked for the construction of a road that will lead to the anticipated Kasisi Community Market.
It appeared though that the plan for the construction of the said road was an afterthought as the area is literally occupied by houses.
But that is the similar resolve the Kasisi-Maploti residents endured when finding the location for the construction of their health post.
Residents like Lute and others who have their relatives buried on the cherished piece of land are not so keen on the construction of the market, let alone the road, because they are required to come forward and identify the graves of their departed relatives so that the Lusaka City Council could bury them elsewhere.
In February, this year, the Lusaka City Council issued a public notice urging members of the public who had relatives buried there to assist in identifying them.
The notice that was published in the daily newspapers read; “Lusaka City Council is in receipt of a request from CPD property to remove twenty five (25) graves from subdivision AC98 and AC99 of subdivision 256 of 609, Foxdale. This is to facilitate for construction of works.
Therefore, pursuant to the provisions of section 91 to 97 of the public health act cap 295 of the laws of Zambia, personal representatives or next of kin to the twenty five (25) deceased buried at the site are requested to come forward and provide information necessary to facilitate for the exhumation and reburial of the remains”.
Once the process of grave identifications is done, the “dead men” will be dispensed to another site.
And then the residents of Kasisi-Maploti will build their market and defy the adage, “graves are full of indispensable men”.