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Showing posts from 2016

How Malawi is mopping up Zambia’s staple food

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JACK ZIMBA

 A MAIZE storage shed for the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) lies empty at Vizenge in Chipata, Eastern Province – not a single bag of the grain in store. Outside, a large green tarpaulin lies disused. Usually, it should be covering stacks of maize bought from farmers in this highly-productive area.
The records in the clerk’s book show that since July when the crop marketing season started, the FRA here has only bought 77×50 kilogramme bags of maize. It is just enough to fill one four-tonne truck.
There are only two entries in the clerk’s big book; August 31, when he bought 25 bags, and on September 22 he bought 52 bags.
“People just say they will bring the maize, but they don’t bring,” says Whiteson Phiri, the clerk at the depot.
With the crop marketing season almost over, the depot clerk sounds less optimistic of making a third entry in his ledger. Elsewhere in this region, the sheds were closed a long time ago, for want of business.
Something is awfully wrong. Where has all t…

Nabwalya: Hell in paradise

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THE South Luangwa National Park is a real paradise teeming with wildlife.
One of the most noticeable things driving around in this torrid land are heaps and heaps of elephant dung – some fresh, some dry and some semi-dry.
It makes one think a recent report about dwindling elephant populations across Africa was a hoax.
Drive down to the Luangwa River and you will see a rich biodiversity within a few hundred square kilometres.
A group of hippos enjoys a bath in the remaining pools before all the water is finally licked up by the scorching sun, leaving behind a dry river bed resembling a sandy desert. In the surrounding bushes, there is the impala in their countless numbers, baboons, kudu, puku, waterbuck and giraffe, while large herds of wildebeest and zebra roam the nearby plains. There are also large populations of the fearsome buffalo.
The night belongs to the ravenous beasts – packs of lions, and the elusive and solitary leopard – and its silence is broken by the occasional whooping …

Down the rugged road to Nabwalya

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JACK ZIMBA


A PUFF of hot air hits my face as soon as I step out of the air-conditioned vehicle. It is a harsh welcome to Nabwalya, a vast chiefdom that lies 130 kilometres east of Mpika, in the Luangwa valley. At the small Catholic mission, the only place that has a few Spartan rooms for lodging, I’m warned to never leave the door to my chalet open, to avoid snakes slipping in. “There are many snakes around here. Yesterday I killed a spitting cobra right there,” says Father Weldemar Potrapeluk, pointing at the spot he killed the venomous serpent. He is the parish priest. One of his dogs is blind in one eye after an encounter with the spitting cobra. I needn’t any stronger warning. And yet, the first warning I got coming to Nabwalya was not about snakes, but the road that snakes over mountains and down the valley, connecting this remote area to Mpika town. So how do you get to Nabwalya? By four-wheel drive vehicle, only. That is so official that on the turn-off from the Great North Road to N…

So this is Dundumwezi

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JACK ZIMBA


AFTER driving for over an hour through a maze of dirt roads, and making several stops to ask locals if we were still on the right track, we sighed with relief when we burst into the gravel road leading to Dundumwezi. Here, motorists have curved a network of bush tracks to avoid the actual road which is in a bad state, becoming impassable in the rainy season. On the way, we came across several trucks laden with farm produce headed for Kalomo or Choma.
And when we arrived at Kasukwe, one of the main outposts in this vast constituency, we found welcoming locals too eager to help strangers.
Photojournalist Brian Malama and I had travelled to the remote constituency, south-west of
Kalomo district in Southern Province, whose name has now become a byword for something negative; a mockery or scorn word, or just something to laugh about; all because of an incredible margin in presidential results favouring the opposition United Party for National
Development (UPND) in last month’s gene…

Namwala: Community torn apart by politics

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JACK ZIMBA
THE extent of devastation was clearly visible from 300 metres above as the military helicopter swooped over the landscape – burnt-out houses dotted the banks of the Kafue and Namwala rivers.
And as we came to land in a cloud of dust, there was no soul to welcome us, not even children, who would normally get attracted by the huge helicopter. Two scruffy dogs, abandoned by their owners, seemed happy to see us.
We had landed in Chikwato village in Namwala district, a scene of one of the worst political violence in many years.
After some minutes on the ground, a horde of villagers came out of their hiding to meet us, each one of them eager to tell their story about the night their houses and livelihoods went up in flames, torched by suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) supporters.
“This is where the sofas were, and that is where my bed used to be,” Gilbert Mwala told me, as we stood in a burnt-out shell of a mud-and-straw house.
But the spots Mr Mwala was p…

Namwala: Community torn apart by politics

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JACK ZIMBA
THE extent of devastation was clearly visible from 300 metres above as the military helicopter swooped over the landscape – burnt-out houses dotted the banks of the Kafue and Namwala rivers.
And as we came to land in a cloud of dust, there was no soul to welcome us, not even children, who would normally get attracted by the huge helicopter. Two scruffy dogs, abandoned by their owners, seemed happy to see us.
We had landed in Chikwato village in Namwala district, a scene of one of the worst political violence in many years.
After some minutes on the ground, a horde of villagers came out of their hiding to meet us, each one of them eager to tell their story about the night their houses and livelihoods went up in flames, torched by suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) supporters.
“This is where the sofas were, and that is where my bed used to be,” Gilbert Mwala told me, as we stood in a burnt-out shell of a mud-and-straw house.
But the spots Mr Mwala was p…

What I learnt from one devout Muslim family

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JACK ZIMBA
Lusaka

WHEN Yussuf Ayami’s 12-year-old son, Musa, sighted the new moon, the family rejoiced because it signified the end of Ramadan – the month-long prayer and fasting observed by Muslims world over.
The appearance of the moon also meant the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, one of the most important festivals on the Muslim calendar.
Yussuf is a devout third- or fourth-generation Muslim, descended from the Yao in Malawi. He is a self-effacing man with a kind, friendly face.
It is early Wednesday morning and many Muslim faithfuls, mostly young men and women, gather at the Chawama mosque to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
There is everything to signify this day is special.
“We have to dress the best, look the best,” says Yussuf’s wife, Bibian Makwinja-Ayami.
The women are dressed in their long dresses with their heads covered with colourful sequined hijabs or head scarfs.
Young men, some wearing gallabiyahs (a long robe-like attire) and kufi hats share perfume. One must not appear for prayer w…