Zambia’s Accepted Norms – Mostly Carried Over from the Dark Ages

File Picture: Traders at Soweto market in Lusaka trading under heaps of garbage

By Theresa Lungu

Two weeks ago I wrote the article, The Immorality of Convicting Iris Kaingu. I was struck by the polarized views the article invoked in bloggers. Despite well-crafted insults directed at me from some bloggers, I was encouraged that for the most part readers mounted a stand on the topic, argued it constructively and offered solutions. To add on, I would suggest that the Judicial system quit wasting time and money on those ridiculous blonde wigs from the English medieval days that they keep clinging to and get going with constituting new statutes to accommodate effective prosecution of emerging crimes brought on by technology.

Well, since there hasn’t been any new sex scandals to write about, I will just go back to writing about the mundane, the everyday norms that we sigh at but deem too complicated or confusing to tackle. I am contemplating a few topics, such as why the opposition MPs are allowed to flee Parliament whenever they lack plausible contributions or the appointment of Willie Nsanda as head honcho at RDA or perhaps try to
guess who the next person President Sata will send into retirement…Ok, I just dropped the latter because honestly I don’t think President Sata himself knows whom he is going to send into retirement on any given day. The man is just spontaneous! I better leave this topic alone before I get a call from Winter Kabimba threatening to shut me down. He may be brushing off his own blonde wig since he is now the Justice Minister. At least we now know what his position in the Patriotic Front Government is. Before, he was just the annoying hanger-on stepping on everyone’s toes and drawing blood.[pullquote]I would suggest that the Judicial system quit wasting time and money on those ridiculous blonde wigs from the English medieval days that they keep clinging to and get going with constituting new statutes to accommodate effective prosecution of emerging crimes brought on by technology[/pullquote]

Speaking of accepted norms from the dark ages, the other day I was watching a news video clip shot in one of the emerging compounds near Chilenje in Lusaka, Mapoloti to be exact. There, over 200 families have set up homes sans bathrooms. They have built their ‘dream homes’ with no regard to indoor plumbing and have now resorted to defecating in plastic bags or the nearby bushes. Then the residents dared go on camera to lament the lack of toilets and Government’s indifference towards their plight. I was very irritated by this particular group of people who think they can just go and settle on piece of land with no planning and then turn around and blame government.

People, bush pooping is totally unacceptable! Not only is it stinky but grossly unhealthy too. Mapoloti is full of unemployed young men who stood in front of the camera that day bad mouthing the government. You know what boys? Dig yourselves pit latrines and use the bush to grow some food, how about that reversal of fortunes? Ask the government for some grain and fertilizer. Scratch that, you have already fertilized the ground, just ask for some grain and perhaps a Mill because Guy Scott is never coming to your house to install porcelain toilets and bidets.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the many shortfalls of government but as citizens we ought to be fully aware of our own role in improving our communities and turning Zambia into the country we want it to be. The attitude of letting government initiate everything
while we sit on the sidelines and hail insults (Zambians lead the world in insults), is never going to put doctors and medicines in our
hospitals, it is never going to improve our infrastructure, it is never going to stop the brain drain and all the other wrongs that we
see in Zambia. Mapoloti residents are just one example of how we disempower ourselves then turn around and look for someone to blame. In the colonial days, civil servants took and misused BOMA resources to spite Roy Welensky and his cronies. The only problem is, the BOMA is long gone, we just celebrated Zambia’s 48th Independence anniversary

Nonetheless, the culture of ripping off the BOMA is still alive. Austin Liato can attest to this. Hospital workers take linen and medicines, other civil servants misuse office funds and resources and that sort of thing. I remember having a relative in the civil service. He brought home all sorts of things from his office.Typewriters, stationery, even chairs. He always said that those things were for the BOMA and we should all enjoy them.

After misusing public resources we resort to posting notices such as the one found at UTH outpatients department:

Kindly take note that members of staff at UTH work under very strenuous and demanding conditions due to the increase in the disease burden and critical shortages of manpower. Patients and relatives seeking medical attention at UTH should therefore be mindful that it may take a bit of
time for them to be seen by our medical personnel. Assaulting any member of staff is a criminal offence and offenders will be arrested
and prosecuted. Thank you – UTH Management

While Zambia has evolved nicely into the 21st Century with smartphones, satellite TV, Japanese cars and shopping malls, a part of our culture is still steeped in the dark ages. I bet some of you are getting ready to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day right there in Lusaka! Go


  1. Thresa,
    its a good article, there may not be enough substance but you pointed out at the beginning that there was no sexual scandle and you would therefore deal with mundane things! At least you had a teacher of English! I too watched those women and boys complaining about toliets and deliberately using very crude language about their defecation option, which I wouldnt expect to come the mouth of refined Zambian woman!!! The culture of complaining to Government on every aspect of our lives is quite irritating and unfortunate, even when we are the archtects some of the problems!!

  2. Refreshing peice. how come we do not know about ******? seriously our country has carried really ancient norms from the dark ages and most pipo flinch at the thought of modernity. On the culous blonde wigs, i for one still laugh at the sheer use of those heat emitting white hair in tropical summer Zambia. How does one expect any sense from the bench when their brain cells are boiling in the summer heat?

    • hahaha hehehe! wandepula iwe and for that you are hereby sentenced to 10 days holiday to a country and place of your choice except zambia….. ke ke ke ke.

  3. Theresa , i totally agree with you at a lack of sense of responsibility among the majority of our citizens.We are still haunted by a culture of passing on responsibilities to others and care less about the consequences of our actions.If one creates a problem,one should take enough responsibility to teach others the consequences and solutions.The common solution would be in our education system which needs to be redesigned to directly relate to local situations.I notice in your picture a lady blending in the garbage.This is a clear example of what more needs to be done to our education system.

    • My inspirational Quote of the day: In Zambia, we have “a culture of passing on responsibilities to others and care less about the consequences of our actions” Chiinga Siavwapa.
      I have had to accept to be labelled a “cantankerous” uncle just to try and teach my extended family that no matter how much handouts i can send them, they cannot change their destiny if they fail to grasp the concept of choices, Control and consequences. I tell them that you have contrl over your choices but no control over their consequences.

  4. You article is engaging. One motivation speaker Jim Rohn said “Do not wish it was easier, wish you were better. It’s not the blowing of the wind that determines your destination, it’s the set of the sail. The same wind blows on all nations i.e. opportunity mixed with difficulty”. True isn’t it? And gosh I dislike those wigs, they epitomise animal farm syndrome Zambia wallows in.

  5. Zoona this is a fair and well balanced article, i hope bloggaz’ll refrain from hate and trible comments, such as kaponyaz and bakolwe unless you have mapoloto mentallity where you expect the goverment to dig you pit- boggaz.

  6. Good food for thought article,this is positive criticism.You have never heard villagers complaining about toilets.Next thing you will hear people complaining and wanting govt to come and wipe their assses with monalisa tissue.Zambians are so lazy that the only time you ever see are Zambian sweating is when he is dancing to music under the influence of some intoxicating cold liquids.
    We seem to blame everybody else but our own selves for even some preventable problems we go through.

    Seriously,as bad as it may sound,a Kaffir needs Sjambok discipline on his asss to get any tangible result out of him.indiscipline and stupidity will kill this country.

  7. Yes, Yes….

    Great Article….

    Problem is,…..we Zambians (me included) always know what to do,…. but how to do it is where we always fall short! For these guys to be cr@pping in plastics, means that there is something that they don’t know….something that you and i know, but is a bit alien to these people….!

    THey obviosuly don’t appreciate such wise words,…. that is if they even log on to the net and read this article….

    So, the thing is,…. who is going to pass that message to them in a way that they start becoming self reliant in certain aspects of everyday life other than waiting for Buteko to come and save them…! Whose responsibility is that?
    And then we have our ever “developing Zambia”… Nice buildings and malls but sad looking hospitals….!

    • Agreed ba Black Thought… So since Ubuteko is a bit overwhelmed, can the rest of us come together and make a difference in these people’s lives by sharing ideas with them. To communicate empowering messages for them to become self reliant. Unless we do so, our Zambia will not develop…

  8. For real there is a general attitude of ‘letting others do it for us’ with most Zambians. However this attitude will never change if no one goes down to the communities to make people realize its not enough to blame the government because they as citizens also have to do their part. Awareness is mostly taken for granted in Zambia. If us who see the social order not to be appropriate do not do anything, then nothing will ever change because people on the grassroots see this ‘blaming others’ attitude to be normal. The empowered Zambians lets do something and not just talk……!

  9. A lot of better things would be achieved if the mindset of  many a common man would change for better. It;s simple logic really, planning a house should NEVER EVER leave out a plan for chimbusu. Then they turn round shouting at the top of their voices…GOVERNMENT!! You are the government people, wake up!!! good article…..problem is non of those humans will read it

  10. That’s a nice piece of writing, Theresa. Your word -combination, coupled with a deep sense of down-to-earth practical humour, and an intellectual mastery of the subject at hand, is just wonderful.honestly, iam impressed. keep it up…we need such brains to promote sound, intellectual presentations.

  11. the problem with most Zambians and Africans as a whole is that they expect the Governement to do every thing for them.Even building such simple things as toilet.Take responsibility for your actions.

  12. very interesting and engaging piece of analysis. Everything the government this the govt that. That is all I have ever heard for the longest time. Enough is enough!!! Zedians are too reliant on everything. Like Theresa says build your own pit latrines and grow your won food right in your yard. Form community groups and plan your won projects for fundraising so you can improve your own communities. Off the topic one other serous issue to consider is about lack of work ethic pa zed. Work starts at 8am someone turns up at 10 or even 11 then has the cheek to knock-off at 15:30 and still get paid a full wage and even go on a 3 month holiday? Blame blame blame lazy lazy lazy

  13. This is a great article. Can’t believe the author would do it the injustice of mentioning the “Iris Kaingu” piece in the same breath. You may have authored & felt ever so strong in what convictions you advanced in favor of Iris but your previous piece lacked objectivity. This one is either swimming on its redemptive tone for u or it just trumps your “Iris gate” article for professional objectivity. 

  14. Iris was/is a victim of the patriarchy that is deeply entrenched in Zambian society and many other African societies that subjugate, oppress and persecute women in many, many ways; some ways are subtle, some are insidious, some are overt, some are incipient, but they are all oppressive. Theresa, those white wigs are another manifestation of colonial mentality legacies disguised as ‘tradition’. You are right about them. You sound like you’re not in Lusaka by the way.

  15. Theresa, as much as I appreciate your opinion, I was left with no option but to underscore this article. You wrote very eloquently about how our Zambian society is stuck in the dark ages but offer no plausible suggestions much less solutions.
    These so-called mapoloto residents (by the way it’s actually mapoloto and not mapoloti) are entitiled to basic housing among other things that our government is “supposed” to provide to its citizens, period. These people can not and will not be reloacted because, there’s simply no proper procedure(s) in place to provide adequate accomodation for all those people. Note; there are many other areas we can mention facing this same issue. Government has simply failed. There’s alot of discussion to be had from this topic so, let’s hear it!

    • I dare say the author was trying to prompt the dialogue we see going on here; it is hoped that the article permeates this forum and becomes a conversation among the ‘enlightened’. Of all articles by a Journalist in Zambia, Ms. (or Mrs.) T.Lungu writes in a way that conforms to proper English convention. There are some things I would suggest she add to the article but it does get the intended effect on readers. 
      We Also must note that WE ARE GOVERNMENT, the leaders in power are accountable to us-  the mechanics of which are quite obviously flawed in Zambia. One comment mentions how vital improving not only access to education but “redesigning” it to fit the times (I would say refocus education goals but that’s just semantics.

  16. This problem is country wide. Folks take up land without any regard to what the law states and assume it as their own. There is no regulating the allocation and the contruction of any structure on any peice of land. It could be the mentality of the people but then again, what are laws for if they can not be enforced? There’s the issue of ignorance which in itself, is also a problem. People have to be educated on the issues of land acquisition and it has to start with government (local) officials taking initiative to make sure the majority of citizens are aware of what the law states. If you went to ministry of lands today, it’s like a jungle in there. No one knows where to find what and if they do, they expect a bribe or something. This should be unacceptable on all levels.

  17. You talked about: “Dig yourselves pit latrines and use the bush to grow some food”? Well, first of all, these people were NOT supposed to have settled where they are currently. So, to suggest that they go and build their own latrines as opposed to defacating all over the place is a none starter. These people have to first be made aware that, what they did (build those maplotos) is illegal. Second, government should provide an alternative dwelling site for them and reconcontruct the current structures with proper basic houses, with adequate sanitation and drainage systems. This can only be done by enganging local government officials and figuring out the best way to mitigate this problem. Trust me, without an alternative, this problem remains perpertual (understandably so.)

  18. Some Zambians have built houses very close to Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company sewer ponds. By law, those should have been put 500m away, those ponds existed before the houses. Due to our foolishness and stupidity, we are now building where we shouldn’t! Now, those people who have built near the ponds are asking the company to spray the pond to kill mosquito larvae. They want free mosquito nets. They want govt to do this and that FOR THEM! Jesus come.

  19. Due to corruption, ineptitude and virtual lack of technical and supervisory capacity, Lusaka City Council has been watching people build from foundation to completion on illegal land. Political party Cadres became the land delivery agents, without following any City development master plan. No planned roads, haphazard orientations and overcrowding. Plain stupid Idiocy!

  20. The author of the article spoiled the broth by mentioning one shameful individual. Freedom is not absolute. We know that we all sin but it does not mean that we now openly and go on a wanton display and praise for pervasion. We are wrong by sinning and one sinning person exposed should not be praised! Check what name our sister Iris has earned for herself: just google, “horny Zambian slut Iris”.

  21. Watching stories on TV from a sofa is not the best way to do your research. An illegal compound is not a standard, Theresa should go there and ask the people how they found themselves there instead of making assumptions. There are slums all over the world even the USA, but  this does not mean that they can be used as a standard of accommodation inherited from the past. The key is to understand that, in this world there are 2 types of people, the haves and the have not, the rich and the poor. The government should come up with a policy about shelter in line with population growth. In 20 years under the  MMD, home building came to a standstill and the population continued to grow. The govt should invest more into housing building, selling old houses is not the solution!

  22. Good article, sharp and to the point. Those are the results of extreme lazinnes on the part of those people. A person who cannot keep himself clean suffers from a mental illness, they say poverty is the biggest mental illness there is on this earth.

  23. Councils need to be capacity-built in terms of finances and human resources. Many council workers, especially in the Engineering sections or is it Director of Works leave much to be desired. More so is the INSPECTORATE dept. What do these guys do? There is no regulation of what people are doing, especially on land. If one puts up a property on a wrong site it can’t be moved but demolished. Who has the resolve to plunge into that? You hear costs, like compensation…

  24. The argument that slums exist everywhere even in the United States is only true to an extent that there will always be the have and have not. But in Zambia it is now common to find a very nice house, big 4 or 5 bedroomed, with harvey tiles on the roof located in a small yard of crammed Mtendere or Marapodi with hardly any space for parking a car, let alone a garden.

  25. My biggest argument is that of regulation and promotion of standards and sanity! Wether the community is a poor one or not, these must be basics. Colonialists used to enjoy themselves space and clean air in Woodlands, Rhodespark, Long Acres and what have you which we are turning into Freedom compounds now! Extra house for rent in that corner and poultry house in another…

  26. SANITY, ORDER, AND STANDARDS… promote CLEANLINESS because if houses are spaced, it is easy to notice which house or family is dragging their dirty out of their yard to damp in the road or drainage. Dirty accumulates in roads and compounds where dwellings are closely parked together because their yards or plots HAVE NO SPACE to accommodate a rubbish pit and pit latrine for 2 years. Secondly, the people or users are so many that dirty is generated rapidly!

  27. Good observations in this article. Frankly speaking I think Zambians are lazy people who always want things done for them including digging a pitlatrine for them to sqart and s-hit. The only things they can do for themeselves is complain, blame others for their ills, drink alcohol and have sex to forget their problems. Zambians also like copying things that are not appropraite to them, this explains why they even trade in used underwear. Zambians must re-discover themselves and do things that not only work for thm but will build the country and ascertain a good life for the future generations. Men are crooks, women are bitchy. What a christian nation. Wake up Zambian and work for the future of your country and children.

  28. It is very clear that most of the bloggers who have made contributions on this article come from the Zambian middle class and upper class without much knowledge and experience of the hardships of the majority of Zambians who do not even know what the internet is. Most of you bloggers who are agreeing with the author received your education on a silver platter. You never so much as paid for a pencil and everything was paid for you by your parents and you are busy condemning the residents of Mapoloto. Some of you guys in the diaspora got your sholarships to study abroad because of your parents’ connections not because of your intellectual ability. Even your jobs have come because political connections. So just shut up!!!

    • when my folks were alive, we were what would be considered middle class, however I left Zed  by my own effort having graduated high school. During my secondary education I lived with various relatives for periods longer than a year and had to go fetch water miles away because we had no running water. We did however have a dug up latrine in the back- your excuse that it can’t be done is invalid. They are a community, why not not organize and build a communal latrine? Is it too complicated? Is it lack of know manpower? No, it’s clearly a lazy attitude , sad to say. This general malaise affects different facets of Zambian life as well. Necessity of the ‘father of invention- all they have to do is dig the damn thing.

  29. #35 – You just cant stand the fact that there are Zambians in Diaspora who have made it on their own without silver spoons or connections. You shut up!!!

  30. @Nubian Princess, You need to be more discerning when it comes to reading as you obviously cannot distinguish the word “some” from “all”. I did not say “all” people in the diaspora got there because of silver spoons or connections. You are obviously not very bright and I wonder what kind of work you are doing abroad.

  31. When I was growing up in Chilenje there was order and sanity. I went there a couple of months ago and the place is a real mess, uplanned constructions and a lot of mud cabins for rent, the tuma roads we were using have been “closed” beacuse someone has claimed the ka road as part of his plot. There are no drainages and rain water is all over. Can the council please bring sanity to this once respected and historical place of lusaka! At leas the roads have been done in many areas.

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