Friday, December 02, 2005

The townships of Lusaka

Mother and son
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Yesterday, we spent the day with Benson, who had offered to show us around the townships of Lusaka. Similar but quite different to our visit to Kawaza village. Poverty always looks worse in cities than it does in the countryside and this was no exception.

The weather did not help, being cool and grey after a day's rain the day before which left many of the unmade roads into muddy ponds, as we walked around the markets of Soweto.

Soon we stopped off at another traditional healer, this one doing a brisk trade in African viagra and doing without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Then we were off to visit a local community school, set up and funded by local residents. It was little more than a leaking shed with a few very basic benches placed inside on which sat the young children, many of whom were orphans. It was a much pooer sight than the school in Kawaza, but a good initiative anyway. You just wonder why the governemnt would not help fund such a place as even a small amount of money wopuld seem to be able to do a lot of good.

After this, we visited a family, where Benson was due to bring a new pair of shoes, a satchel, some books and pens, all provided by a private benefactor to a young orphan who was being looked after by his grandparents. He looked quite stunned at what was being given to him, the poor chap.

The neighbouring area was a shanty town, built next to what seemed luike the community rubbish tip, with a disgusting smell and a tremendous potential for harbouring all sorts of diseases. Why could this area not be cleaned up and waste disposal facilities provided? Where is the governement? The local council? Shocking.

The government now has a pile of money on its hands as it no longer needs to pay interest on the massive loans taken out by the country under previous leaders as the loans have been forgiven. There is supposed to be a committee looking at what will now happen to the money which used to be spent on interest payments. One really hopes it will find a use in combatting poverty and disease and improving education, but nothing ahs been provided so far, apparently.

We would have liked to have asked some MP's, as we went to visit the House of Parliament. Unfortunately, they had adjourned for their December recess the day before... and so the place was empty and being tidied up.

A very impressive debating shamber, modelled on that at Westminster, with two massive ivory tusks and beautiful stuffed lion and leopard in front of the Speaker's Chair. The lady who showed us around was very helpful but we did not feel it was polite top ask too many searching questions about the current political situation.

The big issue at the monment is constitutional change and a reduction in the power of the President (much like in Kenya, where they were thinking of going the other way). Of course the President seems to be doing his best to 'persuade' MP's not to pursue such changes, by giving them pay rises and promises of money to be spent in constituencies.

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