The other day, you carried an article in which an American woman spews out a litany of allegations at the Zambian community in USA – describing them as nothing but a bunch of gossipers, drunkards, jealousy and lazy individuals! I must admit I am enthralled by her flair of writing………this might have definitely impressed my late English literature teacher.
In this offering, I seek to buttress some of her assertions………particularly aspects of jealousy and gossip.
I have no doubt our colleagues in the US were chocking with envy to imagine Sylvester Mumba, a simple villager from Luapula who eked a living fashioning objects out of wood, had stolen the heart of a sophisticated lady from the land of plenty. Much schooled and more privileged as they were compared to Mumba, most of them probably don’t even have the balls to propose a “manifesto” to a person of Caucasian extraction on the streets.
Why on earth would the so called Mumba’s companions be making frantic calls asking the lady to divorce him and marry them instead? As if this wasn’t enough, others went a mile further asking the lady to go to bed with them so that they could show her what they were made of as if they don’t encounter white chicks daily, including prostitutes?
Zambian ladies are equally disappointing; why should they back bite their own brother like that? That Sylvester did not marry the lady because he loved her but because of poverty and the opportunity to grab a green card? What profit is there to gain from such malicious gossip and slander?
This author has every reason to believe that most Zambians living abroad shy away from efforts to build closely knit communities and aren’t generally supportive of one another. Allow me to share a classic example.
A few years ago, I was invited to visit the UK by a British pastor friend. A few days of my sojourn, the pastor alerted me there was a Zambian lady in his church married to a Nigerian. Like me, she hailed from the Copperbelt mining town of Kitwe. The couple was requesting the pleasure of my company to join them for dinner at their residence.
After suffering through foreign cuisines, some of it partially cooked or completely raw vegetables, I was super excited and my taste buds quickly responded by secreting excessive saliva at the prospect of a home grown meal……..well, finally!
When I was dropped off at the couple’s residence that evening, the husband was still at work. It was only the lady and their two adorable kids at home. Of course the lads wasted no time hauling stuff out of their bedrooms to show off to me amidst feeble protests from their mom.
As I sipped on a giant mug of coffee in between, the lady couldn’t stop throwing a flurry of questions at me. How is the political climate at the moment; the ruling party seems to be receiving a lot of heat from the opposition? What about the economy, are people managing to make ends meet? What of infrastructure development; are the roads still as bad as we left them in the 1980s?
If the lady was conversing with you from another room, you would’ve mistaken her for a Muzungu from the upper echelons of society. Her English was quite impeccable!
Enough of her questioning! I firmly put the mug on the table and looked at her. It was now my turn to interrogate her!
“So……have you acquired your British citizenship; how are you finding life in this cold country?”
Suddenly, this polished demeanor had crumbled like a cookie! For once, I thought I was talking to an ordinary person from the townships.
“You tell them…..” she suddenly shrieked like one possessed. “Tell everyone back home that life in the UK is tough! You’ve to do more than one job in order to survive in this country. People are better off staying home than attempting to cross oceans and come to Europe…….”
Saved by the bell! The front door finally swept open and there he was. He was a towering fellow with broad shoulders.
“Hello my brother!” his velvet voice reverberated across the room as I stood to greet him. “Welcome to London.”
Nshima with boiled bubble fish and okra was something I was craving for the past couple of days as I contended with the cruel British weather.
As I dexterously rolled up a lump of nshima into a small ball and dipped it into a bowl of okra that one Canadian friend had the cheek to describe as it resembled snort, I turned left and directed my arsenal at the Nigerian.
“So my brother……how do you find life in the UK? Don’t you miss your extended family back in Nigeria?” I had to make sure I fired two quick ones before he could duck.
He let out a thunderous laughter as he shifted his gaze. This seemed to have a ripple effect on his kids and they joined in the laughter. The wife wasn’t impressed; it was engraved all over her cute face.
“Miss my family………?” he mimicked. “My brother…… how can I miss my family when they are all here with me? I had to make sure they all joined me – my mother, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunties…”
“Interesting…….” I observed as I trained my eyes on his wife, “Interesting indeed.”
She quickly avoided eye contact and darted off to the Kitchen to fetch sweet course. She couldn’t hide the egg on her face.
As I was driven back to my hosts later that evening, my mind was embroiled in turmoil as I tried to make sense of the conflicting answers from the couple on the question of immigration.
What was the motive of the lady discouraging Zambians from traveling to the UK? Was it because she was envious of fellow citizens coming to Europe to have a feel of the good life she was enjoying? How come her husband had repatriated his entire family to the UK? Why didn’t he just let them stay in Nigeria if life was indeed rough in the UK?
Perhaps readers can help with answers.
Bill M. Kaping’a