Insane-looking ‘man of the people’ fires salvo at exploiters

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 10:29:37 +0000


By Phili Chirwa

IT was a hot Saturday afternoon in October, 1989.The tall and hefty stranger introduced himself as Bamba Kamuchimba, “Man of the People.” Clad in blue overalls and military-type boots, he had suddenly appeared before scores of street vendors selling outside Lusaka’s Mandevu Township Market, his hands in his pockets. He looked very annoyed but for what reason, nobody knew.

For about five minutes or so, the man just stood there like a statue, staring blankly at the vendors, all the while shaking his head as if in utter disgust. One man was heard whispering to his friend, “What does that man think he is doing, standing there like a statue? Is he crazy?” His friend warned him to shut up, saying, “He will hear you and you will be in big trouble. Let’s just wait and see what he is up to.”

At long last the giant, with his hands still in his pockets, started talking. “Do you people here ever go to church?” he asked, referring to the vendors.  “I doubt it very much. You people are worse than Satan. Tell me, why do you sell your things at inflated prices? Who told you that money grows on trees, er?”

The situation was such that the vendors found it prudent to keep their mouths shut. They did not think that the man was sane.

“My name is Bamba Kamuchimba, that’s what people popularly call me in this compound, Bamba Kamuchimba, Man of the People,” he continued. “You don’t even want to answer me because you know deep down your wicked hearts that you are nothing but a bunch of shameless exploiters, idiots, fools, scavengers! You will see today, you stupid vendors!”

Bamba Kamuchimba said he was a very proud man because “I sweat for what I eat. I am not an exploiter like you. Honestly, how can you sell five leaves of rape at K100, a caved-in BP container of beans at K2,000 and a small bream at    K3,000? You people are murderers! You deserve to be hanged because you are daylight robbers!” he shouted.

He challenged those who were angered by his remarks to follow him to his house if they considered themselves to be “real men.”

He said he did not live very far from the market “and as I have already said, my name is Bamba Kamuchimba, Man of the People. No matter how much you exploit the masses, you won’t get rich.”

Again, there was no response from any of the vendors: all of them still found it wise to just listen because they were convinced that the man was probably insane.

Just then, there was commotion inside the market. Bamba Kamuchimba, together with onlookers  and some of the vendors he was insulting, rushed into the market to see what was happening.

There, locked in a bitter scuffle, was a man and his wife with the latter apparently enjoying an upper hand. The man was totally drunk and failed to parry the blows from his buxom wife. Soon, he was bleeding from the mouth.

“This man is a fool,” the angry woman was shouting. “He got paid yesterday and he has squandered all the money on beer, leaving me and the children suffering.”

More blows were rained on the hapless fellow. It took time for people to separate the two combatants as the woman seemed determined to teach her husband a lesson. As the two were led out of the market, Bamba Kamuchimba smiled and said to the woman, “Congratulations, auntie. You have my total support. I have no sympathy for men who waste money on beer and prostitutes at the expense of their families.”

One would have thought that that marked the end of the episode at the market, but then the brief interruption did not daunt Bamba Kamuchimba from continuing his diatribe against profiteering. This time, he directed his  attack at the party officials in the market.

Calling them “toothless bulldogs”, Bamba Kamuchimba ordered  the officials to resign “because you have failed to deliver the goods to the people. What were you people elected for? Just to sit in your offices and watch  people being exploited by these shameless marketeers?”

He then went all over the market, ordering marketeers to reduce their prices “with immediate effect,” shouting, “Perhaps you people don’t know me. I am a tough guy. I can close this market if I want to!”

At one point, one young man aged about 23 or so ordered Bamba Kamuchimba to leave the market at once “or else I will blow your filthy  brains out. We have had enough of you. Get out of here and fast!” he shouted.

But instead of leaving, Bamba Kamuchimba looked at the young man scornfully for a while and said, “Young man, you have no right to tell me to go. I will go when I want.”

“Do you want me to beat you?” the young man asked as he took off his shirt in readiness for a fight. “You can’t be insulting us like kids.”

He grabbed Bamba Kamuchimba by the collars of his overalls and shook him violently, but friends restrained him, saying the man was not in his normal mental state.

Soon after the scuffle with the young man, Bamba Kamuchimba left the market. Out of my journalistic curiosity I decided to follow him, albeit discreetly and at a safe distance. About half a kilometre away from the market, at the northern edge of the township, two kids, a boy and a girl, ran towards him, shouting excitedly, “Daddy! Daddy!” He lifted both kids, holding one in the right arm and the other in the left, and kissed them. His wife was then preparing what appeared to be some relish on a charcoal brazier outside the house. Bamba Kamuchimba got a stool and sat on the verandah as he started playing with his kids….


The author is a Lusaka-based media consultant who also worked in the Foreign Service as a diplomat in South Africa and Botswana. For comments, sms 0977425827/0967146485 or


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