Kangaroo Court in Lusaka ‘s unplanned settlement In’gombe


By Nkonkomalimba Kafunda

In’gombe originally one of the several Lusaka unplanned settlements is a sprawling lively compound near the University of Zambia neighboring Kalundu on one side and Roma on the other, a place teeming with life and the various daily conflicts that go with it.

It is here that I witnessed the most bizarre court session imaginable.

In a makeshift structure in front of what can only be described as a rickety table draped in PF chitenge material, with an exercise book full of banknotes, sat a tall thin old man with a toothless assistant next to him holding court with several people gathered before them. This was the local Patriotic Front Branch Chairman sitting as Judge as he presided matters mostly of a civil nature. Members of the community with grievances take their matters there to be heard. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are charged K30 for ‘stationery’ before any case is heard.

On Sunday one of my good friend Lawyer Frank Gwaba’s relatives was summoned to this court. We arrived there as the judgment was being passed on a young woman who had been taken there for defamation. She was found guilty and was fined a goat or the cash equivalent to be paid within three weeks. She was told by the ‘Judge’ that she should consider herself imprisoned until the fine is paid. Failure to pay will result in a custodial sentence at the local police station.

As Frank’s relative’s case was called the ‘Judge’ asked for K30 from the lady at which point Frank intervened stating that what was the happening was illegal, that the Chairman had no authority to either summon nor judge members of the public unless it was a party matter.

This greatly vexed the chairman and his secretary in no small measure. “So you have come to intimidate us.” he shouted as he took a gulp of a transparent liquid that seemed to increase the bulge of his eyes.

Surprisingly, the intervention did not go well with the gathered crowd, whose Sunday afternoon entertainment had been brought to a sudden halt. The crowd of, mainly, women cast aspersion on Frank’s character showering us with unprintables in showing support for their ‘Judge’ who agreed that what he was doing was indeed illegal as he asked us to leave probably to safe guard his authority and more importantly the sizeable pile of notes that had been collected thus far. The case was, therefore, not heard.

We drove to the nearby police station to report the illegality, naively thinking they were not aware of the vice. They were alert to these happening and so did their superiors in Chelstone they informed us.

Unfortunately, we can’t do anything to these PF members. There have been worse cases. We arrested one cadre on charges of aggravated robbery and within two hours he was out.

These people have become untouchable and touch them at your own peril. You can find yourself transferred to Chilubi Island where you will be reporting for work in a banana boat,” said one officer.

However the police did issue call-outs through the victim support unit for the plaintiff and her witness and with this, we left the crestfallen officers in defeat knowing full well their power had been usurped, their wings clipped by the mighty PF.


  1. This is lungus Zambia.

    Everything is corrupted , run by PF thugs and crooks.
    Seems rule of law is in the hands of these PF thugs.

    Lungu intentionally let’s this happen as a means of controlling the public…..

  2. Not taking sides. It’s worth noting that most of these so called shanty compounds have existed for many years without police, health, schools and life has been going on. Ask yourself how these places have been surviving. It’s through the so called shanty judicial, security, and spiritual systems. Funny stuff happens in compounds and are sorted out at this level. Ask people in Mazyopa, kasisi, ngombe, misisi and many more compounds all have an elderly person/ people who acts as chair person.unfortunately these days any one believes it’s politics at play if doesn’t go your way.

  3. Beginning of the end for the rule of law and the Beginning lawlessness, thanks to Edgar Lungu. But he is going next year even if he doesn’t want.

  4. KZ, where is your usual comment? These are your people. Surely you have something to say. This is the Zambia your friend Lungu is creating for us. A mockery of democracy.

  5. Oh my gosh you should write a novel. I liked the description of the “judge who shouted at you as he took a gulp of a transparent liquid which increased the circumference of his eyes!” The part where policemen feel terrorised by the fear of being transferred to chilubi where banana boats are used as transport for officers to make arrests was hilarious. If this was a novel it would all be funny. But this is how PF has annihilated and ravaged all systems in Zambia. A real tragedy it is.

  6. This is just hilarious!! The writer’s description of the judge is awesome. I guess people take their own initiative with certain things.

  7. It’s a message that we need local courts in compounds . Population has grown drastically we can’t be relying courts at BOMA only. Create more courts, create more jobs for lawyers. Finish.

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    Agree good writing there and an awesome grasp of the language!
    I also agree with the poster writing above that unfortunately this is how life goes on in these neglected ghettos. There are unofficial structures that exist from a home to the bus stop; markets all the way to the beerhall. It’s more a sign of poverty created by the PF government itself as opposed to the fact they are so powerful they have taken over the lives of people. The “judge” is simply using and deriving his authority from the PF (obviously illegally and unaccountable).
    Problem is when you stop it, chaos reigns and you overwhelm the official systems… imagine going to police and the local courts for simple misdemeanors like owing someone K10 or insulting someone.
    This type of life will only improve if you…

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    …This type of life will only improve if you improve social structures; eradicate poverty so people are even aware of their rights and you bring in law and order that is apolitical.
    Nice writing though!

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