CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
FROM the accounts of victims, friends and parents of victims it is clear that had President Edgar Lungu not directed the Zambia Police Service high command to step in, Kitwe would have been totally under the control of teenage gangs.
It took the directive by the President for the police to confront the gangs of young criminals aged between 12 and 20 and curtail their criminal activities.
Until recently, residents of New Ndeke, Old Ndeke, Luangwa, Mindolo, Chamboli, Malembeka, Bulangililo, Kwacha and Kwacha East had been at the mercy of the Tokota Boys, Sons of the Devil, 100 Niggas and 90 Niggas.
Some of the victims are still traumatised after falling into the hands of the thugs.
A Grade 9 pupil at Ndeke Secondary School recalls how the Tokota Boys assaulted him and got away with it, allegedly with the help of one of three police officers residents have been naming in Ndeke as the gangsters’ friends and collaborators.
During an interview in Kitwe recently, the 18-year-old boy intermittently broke down as he narrated his ordeal at the hands of the malcontents.
“They ambushed me near Changachanga as I was coming back from school. I didn’t expect them to attack me.
I passed three boys who were standing on the side of the road. One of them ran after me and grabbed me by the collar of my uniform shirt.
The other two joined him. I was surprised because I had not spoken to them.
They started punching me with fists while their friend held me, accusing me of having quarrelled with the girlfriend of one of them at school.
I asked them which girl they were talking about, but they just kept punching me all over the body.
(The boy pauses to wipe a tear from his right eye, then resumes the account)
I fought back and grabbed one of them and held on tightly as the blows landed on my body.
Some men ran to my rescue, forcing the boys to let go of me and run away, but I tightly held the one who had grabbed me by the collar of my shirt.
I was bleeding from the mouth.
We managed to overpower him and took him to Ndeke Village Police Post, where I gave a statement. The police detained him and promised to take him to court while they were looking for his accomplices.
But the officer who was dealing with my case is a known close friend of the Tokota Boys.
The boy’s parents pleaded with me to withdraw the case and offered to meet the cost of my treatment at the clinic.
But out of the bill of K500, they only gave my uncle who looks after me, K200.
Every time I asked the police when the case would be taken to court, they just said they would take him to Kamfinsa [Correctional Facility] soon.
We just saw the boy moving around freely. The police had not even informed us that they had released him.
I even stopped going to school because I was scared that the Tokota Boy and his friends would attack me again to revenge his detention.
They had assaulted four other pupils from Ndeke Secondary School the same week.
We discovered that they had girlfriends at school who were reporting fellow pupils to them. If you had an argument with one of the girls, she would report you to her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend and his friends would then waylay you as you and beat you badly.
The girls were called with their parents and warned that they would be given forced transfers if they continued associating with the Tokota Boys.
The situation is better now. They are afraid of going to jail. It’s only that some police officers were releasing them every time they were arrested,” the boy said.
Another boy, a school-leaver and former pupil at the same school, has his own story to tell:
“I was with some of those Tokota Boys at Ndeke before they either failed exams or dropped out of school.
They used to harass us a lot. They would stand outside or near the gate stopping pupils.
They would demand that you give them money. If you did not, they would grab your bag and remove whatever they wanted before throwing it back at you.
If you resisted they would start beating you.”
Taxi driver James, of Buchi township, will never forget how the Sons of the Devil thugs assaulted him and almost burnt the Toyota Noah vehicle he was driving between Bulangililo and Kwacha townships one afternoon.
“They had mounted an illegal road block stopping all the vehicles. There were about 20 or so of them and they were all armed with planks, iron rods, machetes, knives, screwdrivers and catapults.
They stopped me and introduced themselves as SOD. They demanded K100.
I refused to pay them because I did not know why I should pay.
Suddenly, they surrounded the vehicle and started waving their weapons at me. Some were banging on the roof and the bonnet with planks.
They ordered me to open the door but I refused. I locked the doors and wound up the windows, but they threatened to smash the window panes and burn the vehicle.
I was surprised because the boys looked very young, but they were very violent and disrespectful.
Three of them blocked the road with rocks as one started banging on the driver’s window to break it. I was forced to open the door.
They pulled me out and pinned me to the ground while calling for matches and petrol.
I had never been so scared in my life before.
(He shakes his head)
Someone shouted that police were coming, and they scampered in different directions. That is how I escaped.
Those boys were not bluffing. They would have killed me and burnt the vehicle,” James narrated.
The crackdown by police has, however, provided some relief to the traumatised victims of gang violence like this lucky driver, and residents hoping they will now be safe.
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka