(By Oliver Chisenga and Chambwa Moonga)
A COMBINED team of commandos, regular Zambia Army and Zambia Police officers fought running battles with Lusaka’s Kanyama residents yesterday, ‘switching off’ those who wanted to be allowed to trade. The rioting residents argued that hunger had overwhelmed them in their homes following their removal from the streets and ‘congested’ markets within the densely populated area.
Kanyama, according to the Ministry of Health, is one of the epicentres of a cholera epidemic in Lusaka. The irate residents, who were chanting ‘we want change’ slogans as they rioted, said they would not stay home without trading when they were expected to pay bills and run their households.
Some of the residents talked to by The Mast told President Edgar Lungu and the PF government to “step aside” and let another party take over the affairs of the country, accusing the regime of failure.
“Ubumi bwa muntu bwaba mumala, nomba abantu muchitafye mwabatwala uku mwabatwala uku, baleonaulafye ama capital. Abana ba ma sukulu apa bakesula, so abantu balefwaikwa indalama shakulipila ku sukulu (One’s life is in the stomach but they are busy moving traders from one place to the other. Soon schools will be opened and school fees have to be paid. So, how are we going to pay? Most of us have very little working capital which, I am afraid, will be consumed!),” said Marjory Muyaya.
“Nomba apa twalafwa ne nsala noti cholera, government itubeleleko uluse. Abantu babaleke baletantika, emo balila nokulishisha abana. Life mu Lusaka yalikosa (we shall die of hunger instead of cholera, which they are preventing. Government should have mercy on us and allow us to trade. Life in Lusaka is hard).”
Another trader, Lauren Phiri, complained that life had been hard since they were driven away from the streets and markets and she asked what role President Lungu was playing amid despondency among hundreds of stranded traders.
“Nanga Ba Lungu basebenza nchito bwanji nga bantu bavutika so? Tifuna kusebenza manje; tivutika maningi! Aganiza tikudya chani apa pe banavala ma market? Tavutika maningi; tizadya chani? Tizalipila chani ku ma sukulu (what job does Lungu do if people are suffering like this? We want to work now, we are suffering a lot. What do they think we are eating after they closed the markets? We have suffered a lot, what will we eat, how do we settle school fees?)” asked Phiri.
“Ngati vabakanga basiyileko benangu; imwe ba Edgar Lungu nichani? Imwe ba Lungu ku Chawama mwenze kuvutika so muziba vamene tipitamo. Naimwe munachoka mu komboni so osaona monga ndise vipuba (If you have failed to govern, step aside; what’s going on, Mr Lungu? Mr Lungu, you used to suffer in Chawama and so, you fully understand what poverty means, you came from the compound, so don’t think we are fools).”
The traders, who later started chanting anti-PF and Lungu slogans, said it was time the government took them seriously, instead of using the cholera outbreak to send them to early graves.
They insisted that it was not the first time the country was ravaged by cholera and wondered why the PF government decided to paralyse their businesses over a disease that was not new.
“Lungu akangiwa! Mwamene umu mu street nimwamene tidyela nakupeleka bana kusukulu. We are tired of running, so forward chabe apa,” said Vainess Mbewe as the crowd chanted “forward, forward, forward, we want change, we want change”.
A check around midday by The Mast found that Los Angeles Road that leads into Kanyama was like a war zone as a plume of smoke from burning tires on various points of the road smoldered. Scores of residents, who remained resilient after being choked by teargas, chanted anti-Lungu slogans on the wayside.
At Lady Daina Secondary School, the enraged residents burnt a tipper truck registration number ALK 8573. Metres away from the abandoned tipper truck, anti–riot police officers gathered at the adjacent Total service station and residents would intermittently pelt different objects at them but the officers, initially, responded by placating them.
Police officers, however, charged at the residents and fired tear gas canisters. While combative events were unfolding along Los Angeles Road, gunshots were sporadically heard right inside the residential area. A tense situation characterised the surrounding areas and all nearby shops were found closed.
Earlier around 11:35 hours, riot police threw numerous tear gas canisters in Chibolya compound after residents blocked, with stones and other stuff, the tarred road that passed through it. While four police vans carrying armed officers were parked near Chibolya Primary School where police officers were mobilising to unblock the road, a vehicle carrying commandos sped directly into the rebellious road blockers and the crowd disappeared into the close by structures.
The police vans then followed and the area was all covered in a ‘cloud’ tear gas, sending whoever was nearby, including these reporters and their photo-journalists, into transitory uncertainty. Police and Zambia Army officers stood guard around Namununga School along Los Angeles Road, screening vehicles that attempted to drive towards Kanyama.