CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
BESIDES Twigee Lee there were other gangsters that terrorised the City of Kitwe in the 1980s through to the ‘90s, before the emergence of the current teen gangs the police are working hard to dismantle.In 1988, there was a notorious gang of criminals led by Frank Chibusa. Like the Sons of the Devil and Tokota Boys of today, the gang comprised mainly teenagers who donned latest outfits such as kawasha (stonewashed jeans) and military-fashion denims common among American actors featuring in Vietnam War movies.
Some of the other members of the gang were musician 204, Kamwana, Charles Polepole, Lombe, Star Boy and Pendo.
The gang was behind a spate of armed robberies, aggravated robberies, thefts, rapes, burglaries and assault.
Chibusa and his bandits specialised in breaking into commercial properties such as ZCBC and shops owned by traders of Asian origin in Kitwe, Luanshya, Chingola, Chililabombwe, Mufulira and Kalulushi.
Gangster 204 used to play bass guitar in the celebrated Serenje Kalindula Band at Mushipi Tavern in Chamboli, and was a damn good bassist.
He played alongside such musicians as Saiman Kaseba, Kalulu, Zango Seshe and Roger.
In one of their raids they broke into a shop in Kalulushi, but as they were returning to Kitwe with the loot they met the feared, no-nonsense anti-robbery squad from the Kitwe district headquarters of the Zambia Police.
The crack unit gunned down gang leader Chibusa, Kamwana and another member.
Others, including Charles Polepole, 204 the bassist and Lombe survived the shootout and managed to escape the police dragnet.
According to a Kitwe resident who lived in Chamboli then and is familiar with the gang, Charles Polepole fled to Tanzania while bassist 204 back-crawled into hiding in the bush.
“Lombe fled to Mkushi where he is still eking out a living as a farmer.
But Charles Polepole has never returned to Zambia having witnessed with his own eyes the deaths of his gang’s leader, Chibusa, and other members killed by police bullets,” the source said.
He said Kalindula bassist 204 is still around, keeping a low profile in Mulenga township of Kitwe.
Those who have been seeing him once in a while say he is a sorry sight.
“The man is finished. I am sure he misses those days he and his fellow gangsters used to show off their latest clothes and expensive shoes bought with bloody money or seized from robbery victims,” the resident said.
He attributed the short lifespans of many gangs to the hard-working, brave and patriotic members of the police anti-robbery squad such as light complexioned Felix, who relentlessly pursued bandits until they were either killed or brought before the courts to face justice.
“Nowadays it seems our officers are prepared to go an extra mile to rid our town of gangs, but the human rights activists have been demoralising them by always siding with the criminals (demanding trial in courts of law),” the source said.
In the short time he reigned as a gang leader in the late 1990s, Chanda Siliya left corpses, injury, loss of property and misery in his trail.
He alternately lived in Ndola and Kitwe, and caused mayhem in both cities, shooting and robbing defenceless residents in their homes and motorists.
The thug was finally cornered in Ndola after committing robberies and murders in Kitwe.
The anti-robbery squad consisting of some of the finest and efficient men the Zambia Police Service has ever had such as Felix, a Mr Musumali and Mr Sakatu, put an end to Siliya’s reign of terror.
After capturing him he led the police to a hide-out in Ndola’s Sinia township where he used to hide the AK 47 assault rifle he had been using in armed robberies.
He used to hide the gun in a pit latrine, using a rope to lower it after a job or pulling it out when he and his gang were about to stage a robbery.
Sometimes he would bury it in the yard where it would remain until the next ‘job’.
Accompanied and completely surrounded by the anti-robbery squad, Siliya dug the gun out of where he had hidden it and handed it over to the officers.
Out of desperation he suddenly bolted and made a dash for freedom, but he met his match in the anti-robbery squad, which riddled his body with bullets, killing him instantly.
The day he was buried at Kawama cemetery, Ndola residents flocked there to witness his burial.
They piled his grave with motor vehicle shells, disused bicycle frames, stones, tree branches and all kinds of objects until the grave was completely covered.
Even a week after his burial, people were still throwing objects at his grave and insulting him in his death.
The rest of the gang dispersed in various towns but police pursued them and gunned down more than half of them, marking their end.
Another gang of extremely dangerous and violent criminals that reared up in Kitwe around this time was led by a gangster known as Angase.
Notable members were Ackim, C Chanda, Trevor, Limbikani and some suspected Congolese.
They committed numerous armed robberies and hauled property valued at thousands of Kwacha.
After a relentless manhunt, the police anti-robbery squad captured him and recovered a large assortment of stolen household, commercial and industrial property.
A crestfallen Angase led the officers to Kakolo resettlement area where he had hidden his AK 47 assault rifle.
Unable to learn from what had happened to the gangsters of the past, he tried to run away from the police in a maize field, but the efficient officers stopped him in his tracks, killing him on the spot in a hail of bullets.
They hotly pursued the remnants of the gang and gunned down a number of them as well.
A retired police officer familiar with that operation recalls that Trevor managed to escape on a Congolese TAQWA bus and is believed to have moved from one Great Lakes country to another fearing Zambian police were still tracking him.
The story of gangs of the past and their bad ending continues tomorrow. email@example.com
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka