MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe
KAMANDA market in Kabwe district’s Makululu township draws people from all walks of life in search of two things: exotic clothing from the flea market (known locally as salaula) and fresh fish from Lukanga swamps.
But walking into this informal settlement comes with a few rules.
Since the 1990s, when the population in the sprawling township took a sudden surge, the crime rate also increased, forcing individuals to be extra vigilant.
The upswing in population came after the privatisation drive spearheaded under President Frederick Chiluba’s government, which saw thousands of Zambia Railways and Kabwe Mine employees who had lost employment through retirement or retrenchment opt to settle in the township.
But the original settlement started in the 1970s, during the rural-urban migration in search of employment in the mines.
Ireen Chanda, who lives in Highridge residential area but frequents Kamanda market, shares a few pointers to anyone intending to enter the area.
“Dress down, leave all valuables and, if possible, be accompanied by a male. Also, be wary of young boys coming too close as they are usually spies for gang members,” she says.
She is wrong on one count. Dressing down does nothing to sway the sharp eyes of locals.
“Alo sister, mwaisa mukutandala? Mulefwaya isabi? (Hello sister, are you here to visit? Would you like to buy some fish?),” A man calls out from under a small shrub opposite the market.
He is among a group of men gathered round cups of alcohol, with a bottle of Brandy held firmly between his feet.
He makes no move to stand, so I surmise the call is just a communication that a new face has been spotted in the township.
“People here know each other, make no doubt about it. Even the regular visitors are well known,” says a senior officer at Kamanda Police Post, Fabiano Muyodi.
Mr Muyodi says Ms Chanda is correct on her second piece of advice about being wary of young boys.
He says the biggest problem affecting the township now is gang-related crime.
“Most victims will explain that some young boys will come close and once they have ascertained that a person is carrying valuable items, they begin to whistle. This alerts the robbers to pounce on the unsuspecting individual,” he says.
He says while several attempts have been made to curtail these gangs, many spring up under different names.
The names are as hard to decipher as their intentions.
“Some names go by the name of 100 Spirits, Bafipondo, D-crew,” he says.
Mr Muyodi says the police are on the hunt for the ringleaders.
The 2010 census puts the population of Makululu ward at 3,328, with the age group 10 to 39 having the highest number at 2,172.
However, what is collectively known as Makululu township is a combination of different wards such as Chililalila ward (5,489), Zambezi ward (8,230) and Moomba (11,038), giving the township a population of 28,085.
The police have a long search to catch the faces behind the gang.
But an economist with interests in setting up social enterprises in the township, Mubambe Shula, believes it is easy to decipher the meaning behind the robberies.
“That is a sign of a serious lack of employment opportunities and recreational facilities,” he says.
Mr Shula suggests that setting up facilities that will provide capacity building in entrepreneurship and trade identification is the way to go.
With the first secondary school in Makululu only nearing completion, Mr Shula’s plans seem feasible.
Government contracted BSBK Joint Venture to build Makululu Secondary School in Kabwe. The works started in 2014.
The school would be able to take in a fraction of the over 1,000 youths in the township.
Currently, pupils attend schools located in surrounding townships. These include St Mary’s, David Ramushi and Mine School.
“It is important that research is conducted to determine what kind of social enterprise can be undertaken to revive the town to its once upon a time glory as an economic hub,” he says.
What research might not reveal is that the area around Kamanda market was previously a graveyard, until the swelling growth in the neighbourhood forced the local council to close it.
“As the population grew, many people began to build closer and closer to the graveyard, until it was completely overtaken and people would simply dig out the bones and rebury them in a corner of their plot or burn them,” a smartly dressed old man says.
Dicks Swaba, 61, agrees to an interview after walking past me several times as I chat with some women.
“I am waiting for my girlfriend, but she is taking long and am considering calling another one,” he says as he sips from a small bottle filled with shots of spirit diluted with Coca-Cola.
Mr Swaba points to a simple-looking white house, near where the group of men spotted earlier are seated.
“That’s my house, I have 14 rooms and six tenants. So I am very comfortable,” he says.
Mr Swaba says he bought the house after retiring from Kabwe Municipal Council in 2004. He says he gets about K1,000 per month from the most expensive demarcation of the house.
A small random survey indicates that rent ranges from K1,000 for a 2 bedroom house to as low as K40 per month for a room.
Mr Swaba fidgets with his phone as he contemplates calling one woman over another and asks to be excused as a middle-aged woman walks towards us. It is unclear if she is actually coming to meet him.
Women outnumber men in this township, and they are involved in many kinds of entrepreneurial activities such as selling vegetables, making fritters and selling salaula.
A young lady, in modern clothes with well-manicured nails, sells second-hand tops at a stand near the police.
“I am one of the lucky ones because my parents have this business. But many of my friends are just at home or playing around,” she says as she cuts the interview to attend to other clients.
I move over to an elderly tailor nearby, hoping he will have more information about life in the township. But it turns out that Alison Banda has not always been a tailor here.
As we chat, a young man comes rushing from the police station nearby, torn shirt in his hand.
“Mudala, zingati apa…fast fast nili namulandu mukati umu (Big man, how much will it cost me [to fix the shirt], I have a case inside (referring to the police station).
Unfazed, Mr Banda continues attending to my chitenge until a woman identified as the young intruder’s brother comes pleading for him to quickly mend the shirt so that the case can be lessened.
The woman explains that the young man got into an altercation with his father, and in the process tore his shirt. The father, in anger, went to the police station, and the policeman, in an effort to reconcile the two, requested that the young man should quickly have the shirt fixed.
The young man looks barely 20 years old, and his aggressive demeanour does not look repentant.
“These young people are like this every day, nothing new. Every day, there is a fight reported at the police station. They have nothing better to do,” he said.
In the hours I spend at the market, families trek in and out of the police station. Young women crying, old men tired and bent over, young men drunk and angry.
This is the face of Makululu which many fear; the face many talk about.
But it has a brighter side, as I soon learn from Paul Machuta.
Tall and lean, dressed in a 1970s style with a slack tucked way over the belly, Paul takes me on a tour of Makululu.
Paul strikes a funny stance and speaks in a slang and uses colloquial terms. However, behind this demeanour lies a very sharp and assertive mind.
“But sister ulifye bwino ka, pantu uku tuleya nga wanchaya zindagwa, naine nalauma zingule (If your intentions are not clear as we move on, I will also turn on you),” he says.
The tour reveals faces of laughing children, young women drawing water, and projects underway by various orgainisations such as Habitat for Humanity,
The tour ends with the market stalls, where we meet Elvin Nyambe, who has been trading here for over 10 years.
He now has three stalls lined up.
“I first came here in 1996, but left to work in town. After resigning, I came back and started my business again,” he said.
He says there is a good profit in his business of clothes, chitenge material and slippers.
Councillor for Makululu ward, Victor Kolala, agrees with him.
“Those with entrepreneurial skills are making a good living out of Makululu, and the Government is working hard to ensure that social amenities are brought to the townships,” he says.
In the recent road construction projects, Government tarred the road bordering the township. Eighteen roads branch off from the road into the township. They are used to as bearings when navigating through the maze of houses.
Aside from the roads, Government recently approved a K10 million water project, says Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga.
He says many more developmental projects are marked for the township, which has been in existence since the 1970s, when the first miners settled in from as far as Luapula Province.
Many of those miners, including Paul’s parents, have since died, leaving behind a population of entrepreneurs, social service workers and landlords like Mr Swaba.
They have also left behind young men like Paul whose occupation is unknown and their future uncertain.
MARGARET CHISANGA, Kabwe