Operation Clean Up

In the eighties, law enforcement agencies led by the Zambia Police used to carry out random raids in Lusaka and some Copperbelt towns like Kitwe and Ndola. They were aimed at ridding notorious townships or compounds off what were referred to in those days as ‘undesirable criminal elements.’

The raids were dubbed ‘Operation Clean Up’ and never at one time included places like Itawa in Ndola, Parklands in Kitwe or Woodlands in Lusaka. Like the recent Chibolya compound raid in Lusaka by the Drug Enforcement Commission and Zambia Police, the ‘Operation Clean Up’ of the eighties started in the dead hours of night, anywhere between midnight and 04:00 hours. The operation always caught residents of the affected compounds like Kanyama, Chawama and Mtendere in Lusaka off guard.

Zambia was in those days home to a lot of freedom fighters from South Africa and Namibia and it was believed some of their goodies like AK47 rifles were ending up with criminals of all sorts. It was also a time when Zambia attracted a lot of our brothers from West Africa especially those from Mali and Senegal who came in search of precious stones like emeralds. But then we also had our bothers and sisters from Zaire (Congo DR) who were in search of anything they could lay their hands on.

Most of the people from these countries were suspected of being illegal aliens and behind various criminal activities including armed robberies. This is what may have prompted the UNIP government under Kenneth Kaunda to take the ‘Operation Clean Up’ route. It yielded some results in that those of our brothers and sisters from other countries who were in the country without proper documentation were cornered and deported to their countries of origin.

Unlike the recent Chibolya raid where several people were rounded up and found in possession of cannabis leading to court appearances, I do not recall the ‘Operation Clean Up’ achieving the same results. I stand to be corrected but what I do remember is that in some instances a lot of strange things were discovered in some people’s homes. Believe it or not, there were several stories of hyenas, pythons and other bizarre things found in some homes.

The eighties were also notorious for shortages of essential commodities like sugar, salt cooking oil, washing detergent and even mealie-meal. As it turned out to be the ‘Operation Clean Up’ in some cases resulted in some people having more than the ‘required’ quantities of any of the essential commodities being rounded up and the items confiscated. Again, I do not remember anyone being brought before the courts of law even though they were accused of being behind the shortages by hoarding the goods.

Your guess is as good as mine! Yes, the confiscated items ended up in the hands of the law enforcers particularly the Zambia Police officers. A walk in Sikanze or Peter Singogo Police camps a few days after the ‘Clean Up’ would reveal just how the confiscated items were disposed off. House after house in the Police camps would have small stands were these items were displayed to be sold. It was a lucrative business for the wives of the police officers and no doubt they always looked forward to their husbands going on another ‘Operation Clean Up’.

Whether the undesirable criminal elements were flushed out remains unclear because crime continued everywhere including in Chibolya compound until it became a no go area even for the police. But I personally commend the Drug Enforcement Commission and The Zambia Police for a job well done over the Chibolya clean up. This like many people have said must continue. It should not just be a one off operation.

As one person who did a number of television reports for the Zambia Broadcasting Services, ZBS, and later Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, ZNBC, on all sorts of illicit activities there, I know that any reporter entering this sovereign territory called Chibolya today does it at his or her own risk. It was bad then when I would go in there with a crew and I know it is even worse now. To be honest I have not been to Chibolya in a long, long time. In fact one of my workmates then, a technician, lived in Chibolya and he used to refer to it as Duly’s township because of its proximity to Duly Motors and Lusaka town center.

Now with the chamba, ibange, mbanje, weed confiscated from the hoodlums in Chibolya it is only hoped it was properly accounted for meaning that what has been accounted for in court is what was actually confiscated without anyone of the men and women in uniform, as they are commonly referred to these days, being found wanting.

Chanda Chimba III is an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. The opinions expressed here are his own.

Source : Zambia Reports

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