Travelling to the Village in 2016 Zambia

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BridgeCocerTwoBy Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.


Since the Curriculum Development Center (CDC) of the Ministry of Education approved my novel “The Bridge” to be used for teaching English Literature in Secondary Schools from Grade 10 to 12, there was one thing I was very anxious to do: I wanted to go to a few Secondary Schools. I wanted teachers and students to meet the author of the novel directly. Most of the knowledge we acquire in Zambia is foreign. Not that there is anything wrong with foreign knowledge, products, ideas, books, or novels, but there is a need for Zambians to realize that we as Zambians can do many of the things that are always from foreign countries. That will gradually build our confidence.

When I arrived in Lusaka, I made the radio and television appearances. I wanted to visit some secondary schools in the Eastern and North-Western Provinces of Zambia. How was I going to do this?


Using a Vehicle

I could have used the bus like I often do. Since I had so many commitments and did not have the whole year for the 2 trips, I decided the best way to visit the few schools was using a rental vehicle. Fortunately Avis at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka had just the vehicle I needed: the F 15 Double Cab diesel Ford Ranger. As soon as I left the Airport Parking lot, I noticed a distinctive personality of the diesel vehicle. It had tremendous power to tackle the steep mountains of the Muchinga escarpment but also it did not hum or whine, instead it growled which was reassuring.


Lusaka to Lundazi

I was excited, full of energy, and pumped up for the journey to Lundazi. I filled up the tank. The last was to stop at the farm in Ibex Hill in Chainda where my aunt had prepared nshima with two tender nicely roasted doves as relish. I was ready. The journey to Chipata is slow until after Chongwe when you begin to hit major road marks; the tsetse control barrier-check point is one of them. The most challenging part of the trip is between Rufunsa and Nyimba. This is where you encounter the Mchinga escarpment hills, sharp bends, and steep climbs. Trucks loaded with hundreds of bags of maize, cotton, and other commercial products may end up using all their more than 12 gears. The F15 Ford Ranger simply growled through the steep hills and  ninathila dizilo as I poured diesel according to the Zambia parlance. As you navigate through the sharp bends, your foot has to quickly, constantly, and carefully move from the accelerator, brakes, and the clutch to down or up the gears. You have to focus because often a huge surprise could be just around the sharp bend.

Road work

Road work


Just after Rufunsa there is 10 km or 6 miles stretch of the road which includes the treacherous and dangerous manekera. It is no longer dangerous as the new Zambia government at Independence in 1964 fixed the road which the British colonizers had been unable or unwilling to do. But in the 1950s the rough gravel road was perched on the edge of the mountain where only one vehicle could travel at any one time. Any mishap including brake failure result into the vehicle, truck, or bus plunging may be a thousand feet down the abyss of a steep embankment.

I stopped briefly at Luangwa bridge at 4:00pm and bought some dry fish to eat in the village. I crossed the massive Luangwa suspension bridge and arrived at Nyimba at about 6:00pm as it was getting dark. The road was being repaved from Luangwa all the way to Chipata. There were some detours. The new repaved road was good and spectacular with a wide shoulder for bicyclists, pedestrians, and ox-drawn carts. When it got dark the marked road with reflectors looked like a well-lit airport runway all the way to Chipata where I arrived at about 8:00pm and spent the night.


Village F 15 Surprise.

The 746km from Lusaka to Lundazi are all paved except the last 33km or 21 miles to my home village. I drove through a gravel road that had not been graded for nearly 2 years. The final 2km to my village had a surprise. I was crossing a dry creek which had a wooden bridge which another nearby village driver used to cross with his SUV. The F 15 growled at the bottom of the small creek and rose out of the embankment, immediately there was a noisy piercing screech only on the driver’s side of the front wheel when I hit the brakes. The screech lasted all the way to the village. I was worried

The following morning at 7:00 am I wanted to drive to the next village to visit, when to my horror the entire clutch pedal for some unknown reason was on the floor. It was impossible to change gears. I panicked. I had to be back in Lusaka in a few days. Besides visiting with parents and all the relatives in the village, I did not have time to attend to a major vehicle mechanical failure. I called Avis in Lusaka. The manager calmly told me they could send another vehicle that could be there before the end of the day. That was reassuring. But I told them to hold on.

Before the end of the day with the use of the widely available cell phones, someone brought two small bottles of clutch fluid by minibus from town. The local mechanic came and fixed the minor problem. Avis did not have to send another vehicle all the way to the village 746 kms from Lusaka.


Village Life

Village and small town life in the Eastern part of Zambia in 2016 is good. People are building more brick houses in the villages and purchasing a few iron roofing sheets at a time after they have sold their cotton and other agricultural produce. People are using solar power for charging phones and for house lights. Up and down the entire road from Lusaka to Lundazi people just look visibly busy, healthy and happy. This does not mean if I asked the people they would say they have no problems; unemployment, illness, prices of farm produce, poverty, problems which school fees for children’s educations, and problems with fertilizer for farming. The massive road paving and construction camps along the Lusaka Chipata road suggests people have jobs although this might be temporary. Signs of commerce are everywhere. My father is 93 years old and my mother is about 90 years old. They are alive, healthy, and happy in the village. They have seen so much change in Zambia since the mid 1940s when they married. My father had then started his primary school teaching career.

St. Monica's Secondary School

St. Monica’s Secondary School

Return to Lusaka

I delivered a copy of my novel: “The Bridge” to Lundazi Seconadry School, Chizongwe Secondary School, and St. Monica’s Secondary School. My return to Lusaka was smooth and uneventful. I stopped at Nyimba at 10:00am and ate my breakfast of nshima with rape and chicken. I arrived in Lusaka at 14:00 hours or 2:00pm. By they way, the screeching on the driver’s side front wheel stopped after driving on the paved road from Lundazi to Chipata for about half an hour. It seems the screech may have been related to driving on a very dusty road to the village.



One Response to Travelling to the Village in 2016 Zambia

  1. Brother Mwizenge, welcome to Zambia for your visit to deliver a few copies of your book to selected schools near where you went to High School. I have already on previous occasions congratulated you on the selection of your book for high school education in literature. I have also on previous occasions, told you how much I enjoy your story telling ability. It is increasingly a lost art in Zambia. Your books are rich with stories and I truly enjoy them.
    Now to the subliminal message of your article/story. I picked up two points, 1. That the governments since independence have been improving the main road from Lusaka to Chipata/Lundazi, corollary life along the line of main road evidences a lot of economic activity and employment. 2. That the road to your village is not paved, though villagers are trying very hard to improve their life circumstances by constructing brick houses etc.
    What you observed is truly a continuation of the colonial legacy where road and rail networks are built functionally and instrumentally to move goods and people for the benefit of the colonial and now present governments and for the benefit of urban areas. The majority of the people who feed this country and supply the urban cheap labour are not applied with the road networks. Your road to your village is an example. Your village has hardly benefitted from the largesse of independence. My village hasn’t either. I live in eastern Monze. I went to Canisius Secondary School. This is a Jesuit run school where the children of Kaunda, Kapwepwe, Chona, Mwanakatwe, Zulu, Milner, Bulawayo, etc etc went. There is a girls school coupled with Canisius. There is a huge Catholic community there. There is a major Mission hospital and a teacher training college. Towards that area, there is Chief Ufwenuka, Chief Chona. West of Monze there is Chief Monze. Get this, there are no paved roads to all these important places. This is because these important areas are not along the line of rail. There is a paved road going east off the line of rail going to Maamba coal mine. You know the reason. There is a resource there. Coal.
    Though Chiefs are an important resource to the cultural, economic and political fabric if our country, there are no paved roads to the majority of the Chiefly palaces. I don’t know whether there’s one to Chief Mpezeni. I didn’t ask him when we once stayed at the Apogo Lodge in Lusaka together. Nice chap. I should have taken his offer to get me some land there in his Kingdom.
    The majority of the people in Zambia live either in villages, where roads are not paved, like your village and my village, or in shanty compounds. Just yesterday I drove through Chibolya and I can report that Chibolya is teaming with people but there are hardly any paved roads even though the majority of the working class live in shanty compounds like Chibolya. I drive through Kanyama often to visit relatives and firmer grade seven classmates who live there. The roads are not paved except the major artery. The side roads that go deep inside are not paved. There are bumps and rocks that destroy cars. These roads are impassable during the rain season. When it is windy, people have to contend with dust in their food , clothes, class rooms, houses, bodies etc. There are hardly any clinics in the villages and shanty compounds.
    Yes, the Lusaka to Chipata/Lundazi Road is paved and shows economic activity as it should be, but this government and any government has to do more and make the majority of the people enjoy the econmic and independence pie as well. Right now, as your story tells, the legacy of economic apartheid continues unabated.
    This has to end.

    Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
    July 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm

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