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The early 1970s were not a peaceful time in Central Africa. The white settlers in Zambia's (which was formerly called Northern Rhodesia) sister colony of Southern Rhodesia decided to buck Africa's trend of black-rule by declaring unilateral independence from Britain in 1965 and then broke completely by becoming a white-ruled republic in 1970. This led to the start of the Rhodesian war for black-rule. At about this same time, the Portugese colonies of Angola (on Zambia's western border) and Mozambique (on the eastern border) decided it was time to start their struggles for independence. To the north was the non-functioning state of the Congo (Zaire). With all these wars for independence and chaos, the only land connection Zambia had to the outside world was by a long road trip through Tanzania (Malawi was basically a dead-end).
On a couple of occasions, a Zambian acquaintance would bring three Angolan 'student' gentlemen around to my flat, asking if they could stay for a few days. It was no problem for me and we seemed to get along quite well. I never did find out what they were actually studying and, in hindsight, I think it is much more likely that they were somehow aligned with one of the Angolan liberation movements. The Zambian government actively supported many of these movements with training camps on its soil and there were actual air raids by the Rhodesian air force on occasion. The border with Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was completely closed and no celebrations AT ALL were allowed on November 11 because that was the date in 1965 when Southern Rhodesia declared its white-ruled independence.
Updated Mar 10, 2008
As a young child I lived in Luanshya with my family. Like Bwana Brown's story of a break-in, we had also been warned to keep the German Shepherd dogs shut in the kitchen to avoid them eating poisoned meat. One night, my mother woke up thinking that she had heard a sawing sound. She listened carefully but thought she had imagined it so she went back to sleep. In the early hours of the morning I was woken up by my father screaming and shouting and hammering on the bedroom door. We had been locked in by a burglar and although Dad had tried to catch him as he sneaked about the bedroom, he had managed to run past him and out through the bedroom door, blocking the door behind him with a metal bean pole. Dad was making as much noise as he could to try and wake the baby sleeping in the next room to check that he hadn't been taken.
In the full light of day, we found that the metal bars on our windows had been sawn off and the burglars had entered through that window. It just so happened that that particular night, My younger brother (3) and I (5) had been allowed to sleep in my parent's bed as a treat. We have no doubt that we would have been coshed on the heads if we had been in our own beds, woken up and started to make a noise.
My baby brother, asleep in the nursery was not taken thank God, although the fear that night was so great that it still, all these years later, is the subject of nightmares.
The thief was caught a couple of days later and the chief of police, who was very polite and friendly, came round to tell us.
From that night on, the dogs were always left to roam the whole house. ....
Written Sep 5, 2007
As I looked out at the robbers, I thought: "they know we are home, one has been chased out, phone does not work, no neighbours across the street - and yet these guys refuse to leave". A few seconds after processing this, I concluded that I was going to have to go out and kill the 3 of them. Once I had made that decision, my fears were gone and I slipped into a very calm state that I have never experienced before or since.
I pulled on my shorts and walked to the kitchen where we had enclosed Dynus, the owner's German Shepherd. He could be a vicious dog who, during the daytime, normally patrolled the grounds of the house, but we had been instructed that he should be kept here at night (to avoid poisoned meat tossed over the fence). I grabbed the first bread knife I saw and went to the front door with Dynus at my side. I unlocked it and stepped onto the porch, where I could see the 3 guys lined up across the crushed rock driveway, but already Dynus was out before me. As I charged toward them, now in a blind rage yelling and cursing at the top of my voice, I could hear and see the driveway rocks flying as Dynus bore down on them with every bit of traction he could get. They started to scatter but it was too late as he took one down - I was onto him in seconds myself and threw the dog off as I stabbed the guy with all my might. Saw one coming at me from the side with a boulder, got up to face him as he threw it and missed - went after him as he made a break to run into the darkness (I don't know what happened to Dynus after I threw him off). Just then the 3rd guy, standing in the gate said he was going to shoot - went for him too and he turned and fled into the darkness of the golf course across the street. When it all settled, even the guy who had been down had managed to get away - but I never was able to straighten the knife blade!
Eventually I went to a neighbour who phoned the police and later took me to the hospital for a few stitches in my back. After all, I had a softball game to play later in the morning.
Updated Dec 14, 2006
After my 2-year CUSO contract was finished, I returned to Canada for a month before I decided to go back to Zambia and try something different. This time I found a job with GEC (English Electric) as a sales representative for their heavy electrical equipment division, making the rounds of all the mines in the area to see if they had any problems. I was still living in Luanshya, but this job was based out of the nearby (50-km or 30-miles) city of Kitwe. However, that was no problem because they let me have full use of a new company Fiat 124 four-door sedan!
The 2-lane highway between Ndola and Kitwe (with Luanshya located about half-way between) was one of the busiest in the country. It was full of slow-moving semi-trailers lugging loads of copper ingots and belching black smoke at road level, dilapidated cars and pick-up trucks and the odd bus, with everyone trying to overtake whatever was travelling more slowly. Of course, with the numerous 'bush bars' situated in the mopani forest countryside, one could never be too sure who was driving while under the influence of the local 'chibuku' home brew! As a result, I took to driving with my headlights on at all times (although not normally with the High beams on as in the photo) long before it became mandatory equipment on all vehicles in Canada. I got a lot of strange looks and people flashing their lights at me but at least it did the trick!
Updated Dec 4, 2006
My wife's sister and her husband also lived in Luanshya and they asked us if we would look after their very nice 'Mine' house opposite the Golf course while they were off to USA and Canada on a major 2-month vacation. It was a common practise to have someone hold the fort while people were away, so we said it sounded good to us. The house had a large outside treed area surrounded by a 6-ft steel mesh fence, but we only locked the gates if we were away from the house.
It was a Saturday night and we had returned late from a movie at the Cinema, locking up the house and going to bed. At about 3 AM we were suddenly shocked to our senses by the sounds of breaking glass from our bedroom window (the one furthest to the left in the photo). It was one of the few times that I have felt panic, as the first thing that flashed though my head was "if they are in the house already, we are dead!" We could hear men shouting and more sounds of breaking glass as I stumbled over toward our window. Before I could even do anything there, I heard Sue scream from the adjoining bedroom where she had run to check on our 8-month old daughter. As I rushed in, I saw one of the Zambian intruders crouched in the window where the main pane of glass used to be - with a boulder lying in the crib beside our daughter. When he saw me coming for him he quickly exited and I apparently cut my back on the edge of the window as I lunged for him - but I only found that out later.
Sue grabbed Samantha and ran with her to the far back bedroom while I returned to our main bedroom to take stock of the situation. I once again stood at that window and shouted out at the three men standing in the dark driveway as they continued to pick up boulders edging the flower beds and threw them through various windows. (Continued next tip)
Updated Nov 24, 2006