CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
ACCORDING to a teacher, the Tokota Boys started as a group of delinquent pupils at a secondary school, but later transformed into the criminal gang it is today.The teacher, who asked to be identified only as Mr Chalk for security reasons, said the existence of the Tokota Boys has created a hostile learning environment in New Ndeke and surrounding townships.
He shares what he knows:
“The Tokota Boys was started by our own pupil, Mayweather [real name Mwamba Siame]. It started with disorderly behaviour during sports activities. We could just hear that our children had been beaten up by a group of boys led by Mayweather.
The situation got to a point where we started using the cadets to protect the pupils, including visitors, during sports events.
We gave a number of the undisciplined boys forced transfers and counselled the boy several times, but he wouldn’t change.
They took to drinking utujilijili [cheap cane spirits packed in sachets] and openly smoking marijuana.
After failing Grade 9, most of these children refused to repeat. Mayweather passed to Grade 10 but he refused to return to school.
They would boast that they were engaged in witchcraft and that they performed rituals at the graveyard in Chamboli at night with the help of a witch doctor.
This was meant to spread fear so that they were not challenged.
One time the boys abducted some girls, our own pupils, and took them to a house in Changachanga area to sexually abuse them.
With the help of the cadets, we managed to rescue the girls and reported the matter to the police, but nothing happened to the boys.
They were terrorising our pupils, even stopping them at the gate.
Any pupils who reported the harassment were targeted. They would be waylaid and beaten brutally by Mayweather and his thugs.
Such pupils would even stop coming to school. It was only when we made a follow-up that we discovered why the child had not been reporting for classes.
Then we started hearing about ba Tokota.
They extended their activities to their communities, where they would insult adults, disrupt social functions and started beating pupils from other schools.
The girls were most vulnerable.
We could see the young gangsters in small groups at certain spots smoking marijuana and drinking utujilijili.
The emergence of Tokota Boys can be attributed mainly to socio-economic factors.
The main ones are parental failure and substance abuse, especially among school dropouts and poor performers in class.
There is excessive abuse of liquor, especially utujilijili, among these children.
As parents and guardians we should play a bigger role in combating gangsterism because we live with these children.
We cannot blame the Government. These children come from our homes.
Unfortunately, some parents are irresponsible, especially in New Ndeke. They don’t take interest in the lives of their own children.
We need to know where they go. Who are their friends? If we see them flaunting money, where did they get it from?
Each time we call parents and tell them about the behaviour of certain pupils, they always defend their children as if they follow them around.
The police here in Kitwe are another big let-down. These boys could be arrested but the next day, they would be released without being charged.
One time they abducted a girl from our school. We reported the matter to the police and the boy, Mayweather, was arrested.
But he was released the next day.
That puts us teachers, the girl and parents of victims at risk of being attacked by Mayweather and his friends, who have been boasting that they do not fear the police.”
(Mr Chalk names the same three police officers other residents have been mentioning as the ones allegedly influencing the release of the Tokota Boys and drinking beer with the gangsters)
“Our boys and girls are learning in fear. We have even advised them not to move alone but in groups when coming to school or going home for their own safety, but it should not be like that.
The Tokota will stop a pupil and demand that he or she give them money. If he or she does not have any money, they will either beat him or her badly or force the child to join them in abusing alcohol.
It is worse for girls. If they do not have any money, the boys will either strip them naked in public or drag them away and gang-rape them.
This behaviour can partly be blamed on low education. Most of the gangsters are low performing pupils and school dropouts,” Mr Chalk said.
There seems to be a political dimension to the gangsterism, which the teacher feels Government should investigate.
“The three police officers who are often seen associating with the Tokota Boys are known staunch members of a well-known opposition party, which is reported to be running secret gyms where these boys go for weightlifting.
There is also a smaller group of violent boys which is usually found at Ndeke Village filling station during weekends.
It was created by the same political party during campaigns for the 2016 elections.
The boys will be playing loud music and drinking beer with the same compromised police officers at the filling station in the evenings.
They drive around in a red car, which a leader of the same political party is reported to have bought for them during the campaigns.
The youths will viciously attack any one they suspect to be a member of the Patriotic Front.
Those boys are also slowly turning into a dangerous gang.”
Mr Chalk said wherever the Tokota Boys and the other gangs such as the 100 Niggas of Mulenga or Sons of the Devil of Bulangililo meet and recognise each other, there is a bloody battle.
“The current action by the police has brought some peace and normalcy. We just hope it is the beginning of the end of these gangs,” he said as he shook hands with this writer at the end of the interview.
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka