The African Diary (3)

 Mumbwa, Zambia

July 2, 2000




Sunday, July 2, 2000

Today was going to be one of the special days of the entire trip as we were going away from Lusaka to a remotely settled area about 100 miles west of Lusaka in the district of Mumbwa. There we have two groups of United Church of God members living in settlements called Nalubanda and Muchabi which are about ten miles apart. Today they were all going to meet in Nalubanda.  I was looking forward so much to meeting them and learning more about how they live.

About two years ago these people lost ALL their cattle to Corridor disease which is carried by the wild African buffalo. Since people community graze their herds, disease often spreads rapidly. They have almost no veterinary support and once disease takes hold, there is nothing that can be done.  I am very interested in working with Heifer Project International which has its head office in Little Rock, Arkansas and seeing what can be done to not only restock these herds, but also to see through proper care and management that this type of disaster does not happen again. 

Our people have been reduced to subsistence farming. They raise everything that they need, but that's it.  The last two years Andre van Belkum has been carrying out a seed program to supply these people with seed they need for raising the maize and cotton. Cotton is their only cash crop.  They were able to double production after one year and double it again in the second year.  But, it still remains that they can only plow with human power. They often harness their wives and children to pull the plow while the head of the family guides the plow.  

We were leaving for Mumbwa at 7:00 AM hoping to get out to the Mumbwa area by 10:30 and spend the entire day with the church members.  Kamani Banda normally drives out here in his small Peugot, but as a special benefit, his boss let him use his Land Rover Discovery to make the ride a little easier. Also, the main road out west of Lusaka towards Angola and Nambibia had been upgraded since Andre was out this way last and drive time was going to be reduced by two hours.  The main highway was built and maintained by the Chinese who for years, along with the Russians, have maintained an interest in this area for political and economic reasons. This was first built in the days of the Zambian leader Kaunda who was a humanist.  But, even with the upgraded road and Land Rover, our easy ride was not to be. 

In the Land Rover was Kamani Banda, his eleven year old son Joe, an extra driver by the name of Webster, Andre and myself.  As we pulled out, the driver remembered that we needed to get more coolant which we managed to acquire at an out-out-the-way shop. So we tried a few out of the way shops early on Sunday and found a few bottles of coolant.  As we tried to start the Land Rover, we discovered that the battery was dead. Reason?  Broken belt.  We pushed the Land of many pushes for the day, and went to the Kariba Minerals where Kamani works to get and install the new belt.  After half an hour it was on and we started heading west.

About 20-25 miles into the trip bonnet (hood) flew up cracking the windscreen (windshield) in two place while buckling itself into a crumpled sheet of junk metal. There was no way it was going to close. The hood must not have been properly latched after we worked on the inside of the car.  Our driver Webster vanished into the bush into a small settlement. Five minutes later he appeared with about ten feet of thick electric wire.  With it the badly mauled hood was tied down as Andre and I pressed down. We proceeded on.

A few miles later we noticed the temperature gauge rising. It finally hit the red mark and we had to stop.  Kamani Banda and Webster started unraveling the wire that had so carefully kept the hood in place. Webster slightly turned the radiator cap and we watched it gush. We waited for a while for the radiator to cool and put in a little coolant. Off we go.  

Not more than seven kilometers later the gauge is red again.  Are we ever going to get to Mumbwa? Will I have come all the way to Africa only to be turned away so close from coming to our people? We wait for the engine to cool down, and move on. Then we stop and decide to put as much water into the radiator as we can. Webster heads off to another settlement and returns with two vessels of water which is not easy to come by in this arid area.  We pour as much water as we can into the radiator, pray silently and hope for the best.  Kamani decides that it might be good for Webster to return to Lusaka and bring  Kamani's car while we limp on with the nine year old Land Rover. They flag down a a blue Leyland truck that comes our way. Webster jumps on in the back. We never see him again.  I hope that Webster since had been seen!

The temperature seems to be holding steady. We turn off the main road on to roads that I had never been on the likes of before. Narrow in places, with craters that we had to carefully negotiate through. Desolate!  We were on this road for the next two hours to our destination. The terrain is interesting. We see a red field of a paprika crop. I don't know how our elder Kamani Banda drives through this with his Peugot. the vehicle he normally uses when visiting the area.  We were jostled, tossed about, and at times our heads would thud against the room as we unexpectedly hit a deep pothole. We had to have the window partially opened along with the roof. Our clothing was full of dust.  We go through tiny settlements, then have to decide what fork to take in the road. I know that I would NEVER be able to find my way out if I had to. We we jostled, tossed and would hit the roof of the van.  We had to have the window partially opened along with the roof. Our clothing was full of dust.  We go through tiny settlements, then have to decide what fork to take in the road. I know that I would NEVER be able to find my way out if I had to.

At 1:30 PM we arrive into the the settlement of Nalubanda where our people live.  Children were posted at sentry point a little distance from the destination.  They sprinted to the village to announce our arrival.

I was hoping to comb my hair (which had the consistency of a brillo pad) and tidy up a little, but the men approached the Land Rover with welcoming greetings of joy.  I was ecstatic at being able to visit with people whom I had heard so much about from Andre van Belkum.

We were introduced to the two leaders Maxwell Kasakabantu with his wife Joyce and Apren Momba and his wife Grace. Apren quickly tells us a great misfortune two nights ago: his home was gutted and lost almost everything!  We went to the site of his home.  All was destroyed except for the walls.  All his furniture and clothes, books and tapes. His wife and children were safe and he was able to rescue the church tape player used for services. 

We go around meeting the women of the village as well. Many are busy preparing the meal in a covered shelter where the community meal is being cooked. Pots of maize, chicken and antelope are sitting on coals and fire. The children are dressed in bright colors are curious about me. I have fun taking photos of them.  With my digital camera I show them what they look like and they giggle and bring others over to see. 

There is no electricity in Nalubanda. Last year for the Fall Festival Kamani Banda brought out a generator so that everyone could see the Festival video. It also provided light in the evening. Some children awed, never having seen a light bulb in their life. The church tape player originally used batteries, but they were being used up so fast that another solution had to be found which was to use a car battery and use solar panels to trickle charge it. It worked great!

We are ushered into the community building which is used for gatherings and church services. This was constructed by the men of this community. Other brethren from a neighboring community about ten miles away came for this combined meeting. Some came by bicycle, others walked. On bicycle one family of four all managed to balance themselves as the husband pedaled away. The "limo" of the day was a family that had come in by a team of oxen. We saw seven bicycles parked together.  This is a very important means of transportation. We are going to have to something to help the people have more bicycles.

The feast is served. A kettle of warm water is brought to each of us, poured over our hands into a basin.  We are now ready to eat.

Sodza, the maize dish is the staple dish around which everything else revolves. Much of the cutlery was destroyed in the fire. The people here eat with their hands, but for us they did manage to find a few large spoons. I lopped off a little of the sodza and put on my plate. It actually tastes quite good. Then the meat was offered:  antelope (which was killed a few days earlier), chicken or intestines. I asked for the first two choices. Intestines, I found, were the livers.  

Typically the women do not eat with the men. Andre had asked if the women could be closer in joining us for the meal. They were a bit closer, but still separate. There are so many babies and children!  

Song services in Nalubanda

The service begins. Apren Momba is the dynamic song-leader. The quartet sings music praising God. Beautiful! See the pictorial and musical at pix4.htm to get a bit of the flavor of the day. The service was translated into the Ilo language for those who did not understand English. In Zambia there are 73 languages in six major groups.  We were in Ilo country.  Lusaka is Chewa, the language the Kamani Banda speaks. Actually, it's also the language of much of Malawi to the east and is spoken by the Chonde's.

Andre and I both spoke. I spoke about how more than anything what God wanted from us was our heart.  Our complete volunteer devotion to Him. Voluntary submission and devotion was something that He could not create by fiat. I also spoke about all the wonderful things happening in the United Church of God. In spite of their remoteness, the people are well-informed. They read the Good News voraciously. Every time I mention how the various activities in the Church are growing, they break out in spontaneous applause. They asked questions about why the Bible Study outline section no longer appears. They had found that useful and now it's gone. I'll have to talk to Scott Ashley!  

After I sat down I put some of the pictures I had taken digitally on my laptop computer and showed them to the children who were exuberant. A group of children quickly formed around the computer. 

I also wanted to see where they raise their crops. I was led to the cotton crop which was still out in the field. Also, I saw the fields where the maize had been harvested. Since they had lost ALL their cattle two years ago, they are without pulling power. We talked to them about our efforts to obtain cattle with the help of Heifer Project International.  I told them that it would be a process involving education and working with practices that would ensure that the wildfire spread of disease would not be repeated. 

The Head Man of the territory came to the village. Our presence aroused his curiosity. He sat through part of the church meeting. I understand that we are going to have to be on his "good side" in order for a cattle restoration project to be successful. He came up to privately and asked: "Do you have anything for the Head Man?"  I fumbled for a ten dollar bill and gave it to him. I hope our relations are satisfactory. He had earlier asked Andre if he had any or if he would bring some bullets. He is the only one who is allowed to hunt legally. Poaching is a major problem in these rural areas. 

The sun began waning and we knew that the end of our visit was nigh. Because we were three hours late, we realized we would have to travel most of the return journey in the dark. The entire group sang a farewell song that again was stirring.  As we get in the Land Rover it's pointed out that our front left tire is low. A bicycle pump appears and the problem is remedied.

I was wondering how were were going to get through all the ruts on the first 35 miles of roads.  Kamani Banda did an outstanding job and it took only two hours to get through the 35 miles out to the main road. There is concern that after dark there is risk of getting ambushed by bandits.

Once out on the main highway back towards Lusaka we cruised along at a good clip, however, we were stopped by roadblocks on about five different occasions by police carrying AK-47's . They would peer into the Land Rover and then wave us on. They look for maize coming into the city and charge an immediately payable tax of 500 Kwacha per bag (3200 Kwachas to the dollar).

We finally got into the outskirts of Lusaka at about 10:00 PM. I noticed that Kamani Banda did not stop at red lights in the night.  Sitting at light waiting to change can make you a sitting duck for hijackers.  We got back to the Palm Wood Guesthouse after a most exciting day that I will never forget!


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