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Sunday, 4 August 2013

What Is Behind Lusaka Township Names?

Once on a private internet community a few years back we discussed the origins of the townships in Lusaka, something I had forgotten about until a friend asked me to write about it to commemorate the capital city’s centenary this year.
Obviously, a number of other writers have written about some of the names of some of the townships and residential areas such as John Laing, John Howard, Kuku and others having been farms belonging to those people and Kuku having been a cooks’ quarters. I will not talk about these names.
My interest is in the names of residential areas such as Libala, Lilayi, Chilenje, Chainama and even Kabulonga that I will talk about. A Soli friend of mine, now late, who hailed from Nyangwena in the Manyika area of Chongwe explained these names to me over 20 years ago.
As people may know by now, Lusaaka was a Soli village somewhere near where the National Assembly stands in the capital city. But again, the name could have been derived from Lusakasa, the name given to one primary school in the city. We will leave the origins of the name Lusaka here.
Starting with Libala, the Soli phrase, according to my friend, is libala lya kame, translated as my field. It may appear as if the Soli villagers had their maize fields in the Libala area. It is not known how the name came to be used for the township that was built there but one would imagine that when the fields were being cleared, the people were crying libala lya kame, libala lya kame (my field, my field)!
Libala Township stretches from near UTH on the western fringe up to the eastern end of Arakan Barracks. The southern fringe keeps on expanding beyond what was the Njanji Commuter railway line.
For Lilayi, very well known for its police training college several kilometres south of the capital, it probably originated from the Soli expression lilayi lisuba, the sun is setting or what in most Zambian languages is one way of saying, euphemistically, it’s getting late.
It is not clear how and why the people who built Lilayi Training School adopted the name Lilayi but one would imagine that the local Soli workers, at the end of the day, would say lilayi lisuba, pick up their tools and go back to their homes in the surrounding villages.
Chilenje, as you might expect, was probably a village or settlement in which Lenje was mostly spoken in an area of mostly Soli speakers. Lenje language was probably more prominently spoken in the northern fringes of Lusaka but having it spoken in what is now Chilenje was a bit unusual thereby referring to the area by the language spoken there.
The name Chainama has always been associated with the mental hospital of that name to the east of Lusaka’s central business district. It has also assumed connotations of madness or confusion. One would often hear terms such as “you are chainamic!” to mean you are confused.
In Soli, chena simply means well like from a greeting muli anchoni? with ndi chena ma or ta as the case maybe, ma for woman or mother and ta for man or father. Like most names that have been distorted in the process, Chena ma came out as Chainama. One would think that there must have been a revered woman in the area whom everybody responded to as ndi chena ma—I’m well mother—upon her greeting. Simply put, Chainama is a response to a greeting in the Soli language.
Have you ever wondered how the name Kabulonga, even mispronounced with a strong b as in brewery, came about? Legend has it that there lived in that area, a woman who was married to one Buloongo and she was referred to as MukaBuloongo or Buloongo’s wife.
As expected, the English colonial masters must have had difficulties pronouncing the name MukaBuloongo and shortened it to Kabulonga and the name has stuck to this day.
And still talking about names, Lusaka’s residential areas that have English names also have local names which are rarely used if acknowledged. Chelston, Rhodes Park,  Northmead, Olympia Park, Villa Elizabetha all have local names.
Chelston is Chakunkula, the name which a school in the area is named after. The local name for Rhodes Park, named after imperialist entrepreneur John Cecil Rhodes, is Maluba.
Northmead is Mutambe while Villa Elizabetha is Namununga. Olympia Park is supposed to be Chiwalamabwe which is the equivalent of mposamabwe or stone throwers which is a reference to Zambia’s freedom fighters. It is probably symbolic that even the National Assembly building was built on Manda Hill in Chiwalamabwe otherwise known as Olympia Park.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


By Gershom Ndhlovu 

After problems at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe in Zambia’s Southern Province in which one of the Chinese supervisors died at the hands of the striking workers who were demanding a minimum wage which had recently been announced by government, internet-based Crossfire BlogTalk Radio invited the area chief, Sinazongwe, to discuss the issue. In the course of the show, the chief was asked if he sat on the board of directors of the mine, the question to which he, unfortunately, said no. I realised then the reason why there were problems at the mine and by extension, why there were, if not problems, at least lack of development in most of the rural areas with huge investment infrastructure. I also realised the reason why the rural parts of the Copperbelt such as Mwelushi, Mukutuma and such places from which some of the world’s best emeralds are extracted are poor and are only left with gaping holes of the pits from which the precious stones are dug out like ugly scars of violent injuries. There are other areas where only a few people have benefitted while the majority have remained impoverished. After Chief Sinazongwe’s interview on the show, my mind raced to the model that Royal Bafokeng Kingdom of north-western South Africa has employed to harness the platinum resources that are abundant in the area. The king holds the resources in trust on behalf of the Bafokeng people and the developments that come out of the profits are there for all to see. In fact, Rustenburg, one of the towns is home to one of the stadia that hosted the word cup 2010. According to the Royal Bafokeng Holdings (Pty) Limited website, RBH is responsible for the management and development of the commercial assets of the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), with the overall business objective of maximising returns to enable the RBN to deliver sustainable benefits to the community. Chief Sinazongwe himself lamented that chiefs, or at least he himself, was not paid any royalties by Collum Coal Mine and other companies operating in his area. Talking about empowerment, this is where the Zambian government needs to work out good policies that will not only benefit citizens through partnering with foreign investors, but enabling chiefs and there representatives to sit on boards of these companies and contributing money to trusts that would spearhead development in those areas. In 2010, Lumwana Mining Company (LMC) in the North-Western Province projected to spend up to K1.2 billion on community projects that included building classrooms and adding maternity wards to health centres that had not had adequate facilities for decades. “This year we are looking at a total of 19 projects in local communities aimed at uplifting the lives of the people here,” Sustainability Manager Brenda Liswaniso was quoted as saying in the company’s publication, Lumwana News. Not to put LMC’s corporate social responsibility into question, the issue as stated from the outset, is the inclusion of traditional leaders on boards of directors if only they can play the role of conveyor belt in terms of sharing profits from the companies operating in their chiefdoms to development projects for the benefit of all subjects and even job and entrepreneurial creation. Similarly, all investors should not only incorporate CSR like LMC but they sould go a step further and incorporate the Royal Bafokeng model which the Zambian government should take time to study and implement it especially in areas where new investment is taking place. It is a well-known fact that Zambia has a lot of natural resources in most parts of the country from which all citizens ought to benefit not just through minimum-wage paying jobs but through infrastructure and entrepreneurial development.