A middle class or peasant life during ZCCM?

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By Son Mumbi

Could the life of a person who lived “kuma yard” in the mines during the ZCCM era be seen as middle class? The reason I am interested in this question is because I think it had distinctive elements of peasantry. Let me explain. I lived in the 1980’s with my parents in a large, detached three bedroom villa. Our garden had expansive lawns, where hibiscus and frangipani flowers flourished and was bounded by a well trimmed hedge of bouganvillea. My father a well spoken engineer played golf at the weekends and spent quite a few evenings at the mine club where he indulged in one too many mosi. My siblings and I went to a well funded mine school, where we were taught to convert our African names to Anglicised ones by manner of pronunciation. We read children’s classic story books, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, ‘The Oregan Trail ‘etc.

My mother…mmm this is where I get a bit confused. You see, my mother did not need to work, but she engaged in activities reminiscent of a peasant life. For example, every weekend during the rainy season I headed with my mother kuma bala (my father only occasionally joined us). There I helped her clear the field, plant and weed for a harvest of maize, groundnuts and pumpkins. At other times, my mother traveled to Luapula to buy dry fish. I wrapped this fish in newspapers for my mother to sell to people in the neighborhood. I cannot say that my mother is the only one who exhibited signs of peasantry, I did too.

Despite using the wide range of sports facilities that ZCCM provided for my entertainment, I felt drawn to the bush that surrounded the mine town. There, with a small band of friends, I would collect wild fruits Ichenja and Ifungo. Sometimes I would attempt to trap birds using tree gum or in more murderous moods try to kill them using home made catapults “amaregeni”.

My elder sister, who was then listening to Annie Lenox on radio and sported straightened spiky hair was at some point during that era secluded in her room with smoke scented old women who chastened her boldness and beat drums. I eavesdropped as these women taught her about medicinal roots to be found in the bush.

Today, I am struggling to make a living on the Copperbelt, I tried my hand at being a copper dealer but failed to make the cut. In today’s spirit of entrepreneurship, I am now growing sunflowers for vegetable oil in the same bush I played in as a child. My economic activities as a subsistence farmer today would in no doubt make me a peasant, but I struggle to think of myself as only that.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. kumayadi, never really understood what it meant or still means coz every house has a yard? koma yadi yalunsonga. some any in LSK??

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  2. thats the good part about mothers, they never forget there roots. I am sure even when ur dad stopped working she still lead a normail life because she was already ussed to doing her own business. Middle class or not life mu komboni rocks.

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  3. Those eighties were the worst in Zambia economy-wise and people did everything and anything in their desperation to survive.I remember as a child the mealie meal, soap,cooking oil and sugar queues.Ba KK as well what point was he trying to prove?

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  4. ba Texas, what a sobriquet, Ku Mayadi means the low population residential areas like Sunningdale and Kabulonga. And coming to the story at hand, I think we all had well to do parents at some point. During Kaunda’s era. However when things went tough they all fell off. This would have been an individual error if it was just a few people. Alas, it was a whole generation. the way I see it, the more I analyze it, the more I realise that kaunda done brainwashed the whole country and we are still trying to reverse his doings. But be strong because you can do anything through Him that strengthens you.

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  5. i feel you
    i was once there
    thats a zambia we may never experience again
    Ku ma yadi Lo!
    Zambia sweet mother Zambia
    Love en miss you

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  6. Ah this article reminds me of life in the copperbelt in the 80s. We lived in a spacious well maintained ZCCM house.Service delivery was excellent.My siblings and I went to ZCCM trust schools,ZCCM hospitals, ZCCM mine club,tennis clubs etc. The mines would provide soap,tissue, bulbs,mealie meal, meat etc (deducted from dads salary I guess). Life was good.Even when I had to share a slice of bread among my 4 siblings it seemed ok.There were mango and avocado trees, sugarcanes we could patronise if we were hungry. I think our diet was excellent not the greasy chicken andchips of nowadays! ah ZCCM we enjoyed!

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  7. The lost good old dayz………….hell knows if thingz on the copperbelt will ever be as good as they were when ZCCM was rocking)))))))))))

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  8. Those were the worst days. To find a Mosi, you’d have to trek all over the place from Southend to Lotus Inn to Northmead to Chelston. when you eventually find it, you had to buy a meal to be served. For some years, there was no Fanta/Coke/Sprite but only Tarino. Mealie meal coupons were issued to civil servants to obtain it. There were empty shelves in ZCBC and Mwaiseni Stores and you couldn’t find sugar, cooking oil, bread. And all this because of KK and his system of patronage and paying for all the liberation movements, and nationalising any successful business. My, that was truly hell on earth!

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  9. Shame that you never grow up plus the good education the mines provided never benefited you , You are a failuer ,you ae not a peasant but a loafer looking for sympathy which you will never get .I wander if you rae still dependent on your parents

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  10. this is my kind of life
    those were the days despite having all the sporting facilities we just opted to go in the bush to get incheja infungo and not forgetiing visiting ichimbotela… i bet this article is cuming from some one who lived in the same neighbor hood like mine in chingola

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  11. It seems this is a case of looking back at lost opportunities. I grew up in a mining town though I stayed in the council run area but had friends whose parents worked in the mines and went to mine schools. Am here in Europe doing my post graduate studies because of friend from mine schools who shared there material. One of them is a senior lawyer now. Unfortunately this guy seems not to have utilized the priviledges his parents provided….His father being an Engineer in the mines could have been even above middle class…dont cry over spilt milk

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  12. Ba Son Mumbi,
    You tell it like it was… yes those days where good days… who can forget getting FREE 50kg bags of breakfast mealie meal, Nappies and baby sets free??There was no water or electricity bills..The kumabala issue was just because some people could not get used to buying fresh maize and ground nuts from markets and probably those mama’s really had nothing else to do… these days….. its each for oneself!

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  13. #14, I have a feeling this writer was in my neighbourhood in Luanshya’s Newtown….

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  14. Mrs Stevens, Amama muliuli? Tilimakola.
    Here is where most of us missed the point back then. It made us not think self sufficiently. Kaunda had us masked. Who paid for all the free emenities? If we had followed the true route to investing and saving we would be better of as a country today.

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  15. By God’s grace we shall all make it, believe in Christ and pray; do not forget to work hard as well. MAy God bless you all.

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  16. Middle Class simply means a SECTION OF SOCIETY BETWEEN THE POOR AND THE WEALTHY. In simple terms miners in Senior Staff were even above MIDDLE CLASS.

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  17. This made some very interesting reading. Ifwe we stayed in Butondo and this analysis or story depicts exactly the way we lived there that time. Kumabala taught me a lot personally – self sufficience and hard working. I generally applied this later in my life. I used to complain back then but I eventually came to appreciate that kind of training when Batata (I fail to say dad, was not used to saying that but batata) retired from the mine and went back ku mushi in Luapula.

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