Sunday, September 26, 2010

Zambia: Chibolya: inside the forbidden ghetto

There is a police station situated on the eastern border of Chibolya and John Howard. The police station bears the township’s name, but the locals just call it “Pentagon”. The police, however, are clearly not welcome in Chibolya where they are treated as outlaws.

There is even an invisible off-limit line for cops right at the mouth of Gaza Street.

“We can’t go there in uniform,” one female police officer once told me.
And the gangs do not hesitate in showing their indignation at the mere sight of a cop in uniform who over-steps the off-limit line.

About three years ago, while reporting on the Muslim community in the area during Ramadan, I witnessed first hand a violent scene when scores of stone-throwing residents forced a police vehicle out of their compound.

The police officers had been in pursuit of a minibus driver who had apparently thrown away the traffic rule book. Hence, Chibolya has also become a safe haven for law-breakers.

Yet, things do turn even nastier for the police on Gaza Street.
About three months ago, two police officers were beaten after they tried to help a man whose phone had been stolen. When the victim and the two police officers arrived on Gaza Street in a taxi, all hell broke loose.

The taxi had its windows shattered, while the two cops were stripped of any valuables. They escaped from the scene bare-footed.

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