New street lighting on major roads in Lusaka city centre has improved the outlook of the central business district following acquisition and installation of the lights. Above is part of Freedom Way where motorists and pedestrians are now able to do their activities without fear of being mugged
Lusaka city centre

By Mthoniswa Banda

IT IS not the ZRA (Zambia Revenue Authority) that most businesses fear in Lusaka. It is the gangs, the Gangs of Lusaka City! With ZRA the taxes one pays are fixed by a known formula and periodically required according to one’s business activities. ZRA waits for the business to declare its activities or sales and then the formula kicks in to determine how much the business owes ZRA and government. This is not so with the Gangs of Lusaka. Their payment is varied, and formula not known. The bosses decide how much businesses pay them and when to pay.

When a business doesn’t have the cash the pay (to pay the bearer on demand) the business is shut down and or their services disrupted. Sometimes their business premise is allocated to another one (those deemed serious with business). One would expect that such a gang operating in Lusaka would do so as a secret society or done in the night, nay.

These gangs operate in broad day light and rub shoulders with the sanctioned offices of the council, Zambia Police, government agencies and business associations. Take for instance in the market, the Gangs of Lusaka control who gets the market stalls and market shops.

They have somehow found a way of acquiring all shops and stalls from the Lusaka City Council and Market administrations and now lease these shops and stalls at their economic figure which in most cases is 10 or more times the rentals charged by the council for these stalls or shops. All the shop owners in the markets of Chilenje, Kabwata, Mtendere, City Market and Soweto Markets owe their rentals not to the Council but to these Gangs of Lusaka.

A simple comparison of the market list from Lusaka City Council and a physical roll call will show you proof of this elaborate and well executed scheme of sub leasing Council stalls and shops by these Gangs of Lusaka. Sometimes headed by the market chairman or boss, they collect levies and other fees as when they deem fit. They can collect funds for a funeral or funds for a political rally or funds to go and watch a football match. The tenants have no choice but to cough out these monies as and when they are required. Farmers that truck their produce to Soweto market or any farmers’market are aware of the power of these gangs.

Farmer Pascal Polepole in his post to the Small Scale farmers Group in November 2018 lamented at the power that these gangs possessed and “were so powerful to make their own rules that if a farmer did not comply they had the audacity to tell one never to come sell at the market again stating that they can even beat you up and confiscate your farm goods and you will not have anywhere to report.” Polepole says the retail agents working with the Gangs of Lusaka even dictate the price at which your goods will fetch.

“They make sure they buy everything from the farmers at meagre prices and remain retailing them at huge profits when the farmer is gone.” Polepole advices new comers to the markets to identify these retail cartels and find ways of working with them if their goods are to be sold at all at these markets.

Another farmer Elvis Chibale claims the police at New Soweto Market are afraid of these Gangs of Lusaka, known as maJimbos, as they wield both political and economic influence at the market. At Intercity Bus Terminus or any bus station, these Gangs of Lusaka have exerted their influence and power such that no bus can load or depart from the station if it has not paid the gangs their share of protection fee and operation fee. Every bus that leaves Intercity Bus Terminus has to pay up as much as K500 per bus depending on size and destination.

Every minibus that leaves the City Council owned bus station, save for private owned ones, has to part away with this loading fee that too ranges from bus to bus size and destination. Their power at one time led to several bus companies like Euro Bus Company, CR and others to break away from operating from Intercity in preference for private bus stations. President Levy Mwanawasa at one time ordered the Zambia Police to get rid of these gangs from the markets and bus stations.

This action resulted in the nabbing of gang leaders who were found with AK 47s and huge sums of monies from the Intercity Bus Terminus. Before then, President Chiluba too had to contend with the once powerful taxi gang called the United Taxis and Transport Association (UTTA) once led by my neighbour from Garneton Kitwe, Willie Nsanda, who controlled the ins and outs of all bus stations countrywide. UTTA had to be deregistered because they were nothing but a gang of crooked individuals that fleeced every transporter out of their hard-earned cash. The UTTA gang owned no bus or taxies and yet controlled the industry.

The modern taxi rank gangs of Lusaka control which pirate taxi or licenced taxi operates within the City of Lusaka. Pirate taxes pay location fee ranging from K1,500 in the taxi ranks on Freedom Way and surrounding areas to K15,000 in the taxi ranks on Cairo Rd and the vicinity of the CBD (commercial business district). These monies go the Gang bosses who in turn give a cut to the town bosses and other gang leaders operating from Council and Government offices.

According to one taxi owner, James Phiri (not his real name for fear of being beaten) who plies his trade from Lusaka’s Longacres area, ‘no new taxi can be allowed to operate in any area unless they are willing to pay these entry fees and contribute protection monthly fees to the Boss and his crew.’ On our roads, every motorist knows that when one is on a journey, they need to keep some loose cash to oil the palms of another Gang of Lusaka.

This one wears the Zambia Police Traffic uniform. They make your travelling around the city of Lusaka hell. They hide in un marked roads and blind curves lying in wait for any suspicious looking car or motorist, regardless of whether the car or drivers have adequate papers and registrations. They grab your driver’s licence or claim to impound your vehicle for a countless number of offences until you pay up a ludicrous figure of K450 times the number of offenses cited.

They know that the inconvenience they create on your journey will force you to negotiate for a lesser charge and pay a release fee (ya ka lunch or admit of guilty) before you go. Their behaviour once forced the RTSA (Road Transport and Safety Agency) through their then Public Relations Manager Mukelwa Mangolwa to say “it was not in order for traffic officers to confiscate drivers licences or impound vehicles for offences that require bookings” adding that “we (RTSA) have communicated to the Police High Command on this issues … police officers have to differentiate between impoundable and non-impoundable offenses to avoid inconveniencing the traveling public” he told the media.

These Gangs of Lusaka are becoming sophisticated every day and are arming themselves with resources and weapons that very soon, no market will run without their say so and no business will operate without paying taxes. They will one day move into real estate or expand through-out Zambia and begin holding people’s properties and businesses at ransom. Just across the river in South Africa, motor taxis gangs kill each other over who operates in what route and what kind of bus size can be allowed in their locations.

In June 2016, Uber drivers had their vehicles burnt and several drivers killed when these gangs declared Uber operations illegal in the Sandton area of Johannesburg. Jonathan Ayache, General Manager for Uber told the media “It’s been consistent violence against our drivers for months and all that we want is to work and earn an income to provide for our families”. Government through its agencies like ZRA, the Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Lusaka City Council need to reclaim these business operation areas away from these Gangs of Lusaka. Not only are these gangs reaping where they did not sow, they are distorting the market offices of our economy and are adding huge costs to the cost of doing business and costs of goods and services. Their actions are illegal and counter-productive to the spirt of enterprise and hard work of the majority Zambian worker.

The author is Media Relations and Communications Expert at MB Zambia Ltd www.facebook.com/MthoniswaB

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44 COMMENTS

  1. Lawlessness comes when you have a known thief in state house, one who swidled a widow and had his law practise licence taken away, EL.

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    • Best article of the year.
      This article is describing what PF is, in out. Probably 3 gangs make up PF. On of the gangs is Jerabos.

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    • The power being yielded by PF cadres is unprecedented. How can there be so much lawlessness in he country? Easy, the Minister of Home Affairs is a thug from Katondo street and the president is a failed lawyer was was disbarred for defrauding a widow ( and he has a the audacity to talk about morals!)

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    • Until these gang’s illegal activities start touching the lives and businesses of the powerful and enablers (in other words, politicians) nothing will change.

      Like the author has stated, these gongs will soon graduate into real state where most of these politicians have their monies invested/starched. But it is always better to cure/treat a CANCER before it spreads. And we have a growing Cancer on our hands if what the author has described is true…..crime knows no limit if left unchecked!

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    • Unfortunately we losing our country to these thugs and cadres …there is no one to turn to not even the crack commando unit The A Team can help us. We seriously need to get our country back …forget about the utterly Lazy good for nothing Bum look beyond the incompetent work shy tin; we need new players on the field urgently who have a real heart for this country but we need to rethink our governance to stop these thugs ever surfacing again.
      Its no surprise that a Job Advertisement of Mortuary Attendant by a Government agency made social media headline because job ads never really make it to print under these thugs who scramble for them behind closed doors.

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    • XXXX Princess you are not worthy not absolutely not worthy of that name “Nubian” you ignoramus.

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    • Very true I’ve said it many times that Zambia Police Traffic officers are decampaigning PF. If PF want to lose in 2021 let them continue allowing the Traffic Officers to mount illegal roadblocks that inconvenience thousands of passengers and motorists. As for the other gangs these are simply cadres that need to be disciplined but they too are decampaigning PF which will come back to affect PF at voting time. Karma is real.

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    • Yes these gangs have already moved into real Estate now…..Zambia is slowly slipping into Lawlessness and Lungu is the enabler

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    • When there is a dis-functional govt, lawlessness prevails. Lungu’s laziness & relying on thugs to hold onto power, is the root cause. You cannot have a govt that awards, pardons & celebrates criminals like Youngson, Shawi & General Kanene.

      PF Thugs at Soweto market are hijacking farmers’ produce, especially tomato.

      As soon as your truck of tomatoes is slowing down, a mob of PF thugs is chasing the truck. They demand immediately that for you to sell from the truck you have to hand over K650. You’re blocked from selling. An agent insists only he can sell, not you & he expects K35 per box. So your expected K100 is really K65. Your profit is K12 per box. You phone a friend who sells in Kitwe & Ndola (Chisokone & Masala) and he tells you the same thing happens there as well.

      How…

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    • CONT’D…….

      How can a PF thug with no official accreditation except his savagery hijack the produce of a farmer or trader and dictate price and also EARN MORE THAN YOU THE OWNER OF THE CROP?

      Just imagine the labour of ploughing the land you put in, plus costs from seedlings, fertilizer, watering, pesticides plus hiring a canter only to get K12 profit per box while a PF thug gets K35 per box.

      We’ve been fed to the wolves.

      2021=Kuya-bebele

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    • Government through its agencies like ZRA, the Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Lusaka City Council need to reclaim these business operation areas away from these Gangs of Lusaka. Not only are these gangs reaping where they did not sow, they are distorting the market offices of our economy and are adding huge costs to the cost of doing business and costs of goods and services. Their actions are illegal and counter-productive to the spirt of enterprise and hard work of the majority Zambian worker.

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    • In honouring Youngson, Kitwe DC Binwell Mpundu and his friends did not act in public interest. So, Binwell Mpundu should be dropped by the president for bringing the govt and its party to shame. Honestly, how can one honour the late gangster, Youngson Kalobo. May his Soul Rest in Eternal Hell…

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  2. Sadly this is as a consequence of the AIDS epidemic. Most members of these gangs are orphans raised by their very young elder brothers or sisters and if you ask me orphans make good recruits for terrorists and gangs. They have seen so much death and suffering in their young lives that they are willing to hurt other people because they have nothing to lose.
    It’s easy to blame PF but let’s keep in mind where we are coming from as nation. This should be concerning for every well meaning Zambian. If we don’t get up as a nation and teach social responsibility and values and morals to our nieces, nephews, grandchildren it will be all downhill from here.

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    • By Yona Musukwa
      In the last few days, I have come to learn that many Zambians are angry but silent. Their anger, their pain, their struggles, don’t find expression in the main stream media.
      Since Thursday, I have been recieving and exchanging SMSes, WhatsApp and Messenger messages from outraged friends, strangers and victims, hurt by the decision to honour the infamous dead leader of a gang. Many have been recalling with pain and furry the terror that the honoured youth inflicted on their friends and relatives. Many have denounced the decision, describing it as totally disgusting, insensitive and insulting to the nation and to all those who witnessed and fell victim to Youngson’s terror!
      In honouring Youngson, Kitwe DC Binwell Mpundu and his friends did not act in public interest. They…

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  3. It is so sad to see hard working Zambians lose their money because of these people. If the government really cares about the people, it will take action swiftly.

    We shall know what to do otherwise in 2021. Enough is enough.

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    • We will not be able to learn from this coc#K-UP as we will vote for the thugs in PF. I’m now convinced that we Zambians are so stupid that we would even vote for a dead dog ????
      Come 2021 and we will still have PF so I hope you all suffer even more and that you eat rotten meat because we deserve to suffer even more if we don’t change in 2021

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    • @John, if you read the article you would have understood that the gang phenomenon in Zambia is NOT new. Chilluba, Mwanawasa (in short, MMD) had to contend with these gangs. Now PF has an opportunity to do something about this once and for all. So stop insulting innocent voters.

      I don’t care what party takes over after PF, they will still have this problem too. After all, they are the same players moving from one political party to the next in search of the same opportunities to steal and exploit innocent and hard-working Zambians if by chance they are voted into power. What do you think people like Tekere Banda or GBM will do when they get back into Govt? Same old [email protected]!

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    • Nzelu – you chaps never learn…you should protect your “names” with Gravatars…really laughable!!

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    • Yamba

      Stop trying to protect the corrupt theif lungu,
      Lungu and pf need these gangs to terrorise citizens to vote for them.

      Atleast FJT ,as corrupt as he was , tried to stop them , but this corrupt fraudster lungu is actively promoting them…

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    • Spaka – he will respond and state that he is neutral….really laughable…yet he is trying by all meets to not mention the elephant in the room.

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  4. it’s not really about changing presidents from on to the other. with our mentality and culture of the day even Kagame can’t transform the country. there are a number of things that need to change be talking of who is at the hem.

    Industrial and French revolutions were not inspired by politicians but by masses. We shall keep on voting and changing leaders from one to the next without significantly changing Zambia. At the moment the current government and those in opposition do not inspire any confidence of a real revolution Zambia needs. Yes I as many others feel we need change but to who? lost! no idea. We are just in a Maze until we get sober.

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  5. Biggest problem is that this has been a problem from the Kaunda days. Kaponyas have always been a menace. The Army and National service need to be sent into cities for two years. All this nonsense would seize. Kampyongo needs to be removed as a minister, him, Kapata and Bowman Lusambo. They do not look like they add any value to Zambia

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    • Really laughable..Kaponyas in suits during Kuanda’s days? The bunch of clowns in State House today the Kaizer’s and Sikazwe’s wouldn’t even pass vetting for a job as a driver during KK’s time. Kaponyas were confined to markets back then.

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  6. Sounds like gangs of New York operating in Lusaka. We all know how corruption has erupted in these government offices. From now on I will play this card because I don’t want to be a victim of poverty. Sorry guys boma ni boma.

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  7. Zambia can overcome these issues if government makes it a priority. The US government destroyed MAFIA gangs by infiltrating them and finding the leaders and then catching them on tapped phones and surveillance. It took a long time but citizens were freed from paying bribes and distortion fees, which resulted in higher costs for regular citizens. It is all about targeting a specific problem for many years until it was sorted out. It is all about long term planing to fix persistent problems which affect innocent citizens.

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    • You watch too much tv…have you seen the people around lazy lungu? Which appointee will investigate his master…

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    • What ? Which government? These gang bosses are top government officials. The rot goes up to the top man in state house.

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  8. Well articulated article. Very correct status of what is happening and may those in power please help the business people. Especially the struggling masses who are the real victims of these gangs.

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  9. Get rid of cadres from the face of the Earth through Parliament vote. Deploy all security wings and do a Kaunda type of clean-up operation in ALL sectors of our rotten Zambia. Monitor this clean-up for the next 5 years, regardless of which government is in office. Cadres are a dangerous to national security. They add no value to decency and social order. Enough is enough.

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  10. As bad as this there is worse that happens with tenders now. Imagine that you’ve validly won a govt or quasi govt tender, you do the job and once you’re done getting the payment is almost impossible if you are a non entity like me. A gang operated by individuals in the PFNYL will approach you that they can expedite your payment because they know the minister, permanent secretary and or some senior govt official at state house. This has happened to before and I have decided never to do govt contracts. The individuals demanded as much as 15%. Same also goes with insurance claims especially for certain companies who you’ve to fight to be paid your claim. Once word gets round that you having difficulties getting your claim, a member of the clique will approach.

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  11. PF need these gangs, these gangs are used to terrorise citizens to vote for PF.

    Their payment is a free hand at the extortion of citizens.

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    • They just have to succumbe to cader extortion…….there is a ring of lazy criminal PF caders feeding off the hard work of Zambian farmers , shop keepers and marketeers by was of extortion.

      To extort citizens is their payment as PF enforcers …..

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  12. Nice article, stating realities on the ground. It would be nice to go deeper. Interview some of the gang members why they do it and where they take the money collected, its nice to hear from the horse’s mouth than from those who tend the horse!!

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  13. Gangs of Lusaka,- MaJimbos
    Gangs of Copperbelt,Jerabos
    Gangs of RTSA,NRC,Passports,Chimutengos
    Gangs of Chimwemwe,Kwacha,Bulangililo,-Tokota Boys,Sons of the devil,
    The problem is laziness and high levels unemployment among the youth.

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  14. I honestly don’t know what to say over this all issue but just wish these people we have entrusted to run this country can what is expected of them and those who don’t let them choke in their sleep. Honestly how do they even find peace to sleep at night knowing that their actions led someone’s kids go to bed without a meal. whether we change the government, politicians will always be politicians and politics itself remains a dirt game. Change is inevitable and change we MUST.

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  15. THE CENTER OF POWER IS EDGAR CHANGWA LUNGU.

    HE IS THE ONE TO RESOLVE THIS PROBLEM NOW.

    Call for a COBRA ONE meeting.

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