Where to Stay in Lusaka

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

For those travelling to or through Lusaka, the question of where to stay is quite a pertinent one, especially if the costs are not being met by a company or organisation. Accommodation other than the standard large hotels is often not particularly well advertised and one has to rely on the recommendations of friends and fellow travellers. Like most large cities, particularly in Africa, Lusaka can be a nightmare to get around and so choosing the right place to stay in the right area is also important.

Fringilla is the perfect stop for those travelling through Lusaka on their way to the Copperbelt or up the Great North Road and who don’t wish to stop in the capital itself. Just off the main road, it is a welcome break for many a weary traveller, set in cool green surrounds. Accommodation is very reasonably priced – a chalet with one double and one three-quarter bed costs K350,000 – and so is the food; a three course buffet meal with tea/coffee will set you back K70,000. The food is not five-star, but it’s quite acceptable and the menu varies every evening. There is a large playground for the children to lose themselves in and the owners are very friendly; they go out of their way to make sure you have a pleasant stay and are the kind of people who remember you on a second visit.

The only drawback to staying at Fringilla is the number of conferences they host. Be sure you get into the dining room early if you see there are at least another eighty guests there (especially if they aren’t paying their own bills!) If you are travelling towards Lusaka, you will probably need to plan what time to leave the next day. The last thing you want to do is leave early and then sit in traffic for the next hour.

Fringilla can be contacted on Tel: 0211 213-885 or 0211 214-364 or email fringillalodge@gmail.com

Adam’s Croft
For those needing or wanting to be right in the middle of Lusaka, there is probably no better place to stay than Adam’s Croft. Situated in Kalundu area, between Arcades and UNZA, this is an ideal place to stay if you want to be near the big shopping malls and all they have to offer.

Adam’s Croft is a family-run business with the owners living on site. One is guaranteed a friendly welcome at all times and all is done to ensure that your stay is as comfortable as possible. The beds are incredibly comfortable and the rooms are well furnished. Although there are no dining facilities, each room is equipped with at least a microwave, fridge and kettle; some of the bigger rooms and suites have a cooker as well. If you don’t want to cook your own food, you are so near to Arcades and Manda Hill that it is possible to pop out for a pizza or a curry or bring back a take away to reheat. Despite being slightly more expensive than the average lodge, the extra cost is well worth it. Room rates start at K350,000 per night.

Accommodation includes en suite bathroom facilities and DSTV. Although there are no gardens as such like Fringilla, there is a swimming pool in which to cool off, something which is more than welcome after a long day’s journey! For many, the quiet and comfort of the rooms is what makes staying here a superior choice over your usual bog-standard big and impersonal hotel, and some of the guests are long-term. Adam also offers transfers to and from the airport and you may leave your car here while you are away.

Adam’s Croft can be contacted on Tel: 0975 764-463 or 0211 291-014 or Email adams-croft@live.com,

Eureka is ideally placed for an early start down to the Zambezi, Livingstone or the border with Zimbabwe. Those travelling southwards can spend some time in Lusaka and then escape the traffic and chaos of the capital city. For those travelling in the opposite direction, it provides a welcome stop if you don’t quite have the energy or enthusiasm for facing Lusaka until the next day!

Although situated just off the main road, you would be excused for thinking you are in the middle of the bush as game such as zebra and impala are often present, especially at sunrise and sunset. A variety of accommodation is available: en suite chalets, which are the most expensive, smaller A-frame chalets with shared ablution facilities, and a campsite. There is a swimming pool and there is also a bar area with television. The kind of people who stop here tend to be tourists and most of them stay just a night and while you might find the sight of an overland truck spilling over with twenty adventure-hungry tourists a rather intimidating one, it’s actually very quiet at night.

Although pleasantly situated and serviced by friendly staff, the main drawback to Eureka is the food available. Unless you have come fully equipped to cook your own meal, you will have very little choice but to choose something from the bar menu as there is nowhere else around to buy food. The menu offers little in the way of actual meals, tending to focus on light snacks such as steak rolls and toasted sandwiches, which may not be quite what you want at the end of a long drive.

Eureka can be contacted onTel: 0211 278-110

A good many places have sprung up recently which offer bed and breakfast facilities. Not all of these are bona fide establishments and it’s always a good idea to see a room before you agree to take it. Find out what facilities they offer and whether the price includes breakfast or not. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t book into what is essentially a drinking establishment where you will be kept awake the whole night by drunken patrons and loud music.

Eating Out

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Chang Thai

Had an early supper at the Chang Thai on Monday night.

Chang Thai is in the banking park next to Arcades, between Plates Wine Bar and Mint Lounge.

A waitress greeted us with a warm smile and reassured us that we were not too early for dinner. We chose a table on the patio and our drinks (Savannah Dry K16,000 and mineral water K3,500) were promptly served. The waitress was happy to advise on the menu, as neither of us knew anything about Thai food. My companion ordered Prawns Cashewnut (K75,000) with plain Egg Noodles (K9,000) and I ordered Sesame Prawns (K35,000) from the appetiser menu to go with a Thai Beef Salad (K35,000).

We didn’t have to wait long for our food, which was nicely served and beautifully presented. We had both asked for medium spiced food, which was spicy enough for my hardened palate. The portions were just right and the food was delicious. I could eat Sesame Prawns like that every day and never get tired of them. It was a delightful meal and I will certainly be going there again.

Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Following on from last month’s rant on escalating security problems … in addition to installing all the normal precautions of alarms, motion detectors, Kevlar PJ’s for the kids, response teams and a rather natty shark pool under the new glass floor of my office, it was decided that we should supplement our aging trio of terriers with a large calibre guard dog to patrol with the watchman at night. As if poor Gary Moonga doesn’t have enough on his plate trying not to accidentally Mace and Tazer himself, whilst simultaneously being bushwhacked by three small boys.

And so I contacted Lusaka Animal Welfare Society and was told by the elegant, outgoing Claudia that there were some likely candidates at the pound and that I should go down for a look see. I am ashamed of not doing more to support LAWS who do a fantastic job in Lusaka of not only educating people in animal welfare, rescuing abused and abandoned animals (a surprising number of which are simply left behind to starve by end-of-contract expatriates, who should know better) but also assisting local authorities every year in a huge anti-rabies campaign which has to date accounted for over 6000 animals vaccinated. They also offer free spaying of animals, working alongside a US based charity (Spay is the Way) and have neutered over 1000 dogs and cats for owners who could otherwise not afford this. Check out their website if you are thinking seriously of getting a pet.

I arrived at LAWS to the usual yapping and howling but was happy to see that compared to my last visit they were not overwhelmed with canine residents, which I took to be an indication of improving animal welfare standards in Lusaka and not the proliferation of Szechuan restaurants. I was met by Hestie who has taken over from Claudia and is equally dedicated and committed to the charity. Given the number of visitors to our farm and that many are children we would prefer not to be mauled by a savage dog (most in fact), we needed something imposing enough to make a would-be burglar think twice, but habituated enough not to attack our staff, family or guests. I finally settled on a 2-3 year old Boerboel bitch which seemed very calm, was in good condition and with whom I had something in common … a disdain for cats. (Well! They started it!). To clinch the deal her name was Beulah a fine moniker carried by many a redbone and blue tick coonhound, especially one, who legend has it, followed a decades old fox track from Mississippi to NYC until she cornered a fox fur stole in a second-hand store.

I took Beulah on trial and drove home to her mournful baying from the canopied pick-up and installed her in the kennel run with her blanket, food and water and strict instructions to all staff and offspring to keep well away until we got to know her. I introduced my three terriers through the wire and she graciously ignored their snarls with a “no comment” turn of her rather noble head, which I took as a good sign. Over the next 36 hours I walked Beulah several times on the lead and she was surprisingly docile and well mannered for a formerly abused dog. She soon became quite devoted to me and would come to a whistle, which is more than I expect from my kids, but I kept her away from them and the dogs for the first day and a half. On day two I was horrified to see Milo, my 14 year old Jack Russell had burrowed under the wire and was prancing around her in a state of obvious arousal. Hats off to the old chap for his Heffneresque aspirations but I was concerned that he was going to end up starring in an act of consumptive oral sex. However Beulah was not only flattered by his attentions, but acting subservient to a suitor who weighed less than her well proportioned hind leg, to which the same had attached himself in both a physical and emotional sense.

The incipient love affair made me less cautious than I should have been as the two canoodlers spent the next morning in mutual adoration in my office, and by lunchtime Beulah appeared to be calm around the family and immune to any sideways glances and curled lips from Daisy (our crotchety 12 year old terrier).

I should have been more circumspect when the following morning after a night on patrol with Gary my other female terrier came back with a puncture wound in her back you could’ve teed up a golf ball in. Gary told me the dogs had been playing fetch but when Gypsy got the ball first Beulah fetched the whole terrier. He said however that there had been no malice in the bite.

I went out shopping and came back to find the pack of dogs lounging in the kitchen courtyard which was a little surprising as I had left Beulah in my office. The pawprints on the laptop and the broken window frame should have given me a clue to the panic she felt at being cornered and the lengths she would go to, to avoid it. Stupidly again, I made a bad call and taking the dogs to different areas of the courtyard gave them each a bone and jumped in the car to leave. Five seconds, one fierce growl, one godawful squeal later and I was back in the courtyard where Daisy had walked past Beulah and been grabbed in her massive jaws behind the skull and shaken like a rat. I threw Beulah back in my office which she proceeded to trash and went back to the front door mat where poor Daisy lay, semi-conscious and limp. There was no blood, no visible sign of injury but she was paralysed and could not even raise her head. Liza was the only Vet answering her phone and she gave her usual calm and excellent advice on treating Daisy for shock and we got her warmed up and calmed down. With a three year old in the house who is used to taking liberties with small tolerant dogs, Beulah had obviously failed her foster test and I took the shamefaced creature back to LAWS before she could perforate any more of the family.

Sally Jellis of Leopards Hill Veterinary Services took over Daisy’s care and having X-rayed her and kennelled her for three days told us the prognosis was not good. There was no damage to spine or internal organs, that we could see but there had been massive compression and bruising of the spinal cord and only time and TLC would tell. It seemed a poor ending for a dog who’d been with us since before we had children, who had survived elephants, baboons, leopards, snakes and hundreds of encounters with drunk Australian backpackers, who had accepted her slide down the pecking order as the kids arrived and tolerated their manhandling. We carried her from soiled bed to fresh bed, fed her titbits and opiates as required and watched her legs flail and shiver in uncontrolled spasm. She had feeling in her limbs but no control over them.

After ten days or so she was able to get herself in a prone position on one side and after two weeks we found one morning that she had dragged herself away from her bed to pee elsewhere. Three weeks after the mauling, she stood up on her own and now, just a few days later she is able to walk, stiff legged albeit, a hundred yards, and is helluva pleased with herself, as we all are. She may never run like a whippet again but she is happy and mobile and free of pain.

And in case you’re wondering I hear that Beulah has been spayed and is recovering well in anticipation of going to her new home, with a tall, strong bachelor, to whom I have no doubt she will be loyal to the death. So happy endings all round and no shots fired.


by Jake da Motta

Mole in the Hole

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Remember, Remember

I think it was in 1605 that naughty old Guy Fawkes was found to have parked considerable loads of Gunpowder in the cellars of the old Houses of Parliament so that when King James the First of England (The Scots call him James the Sixth; funny lot the Scots, when government vehicles appeared in Scotland with ER2 on the sides certain people took exception and ripped the doors off; when asked why they should do such a thing Authority was told that she was Elizabeth the FIRST Queen of Scotland) sorry to digress but anyway when King Jim addressed the Lords, Bishops and Commons, Guy could light the blue touch paper and blow the whole lot to Kingdom come. Now Guy Fawkes had nothing personal against Scots, it was all about the Demon Religion! Curious; if he had succeeded then the Stuart line would have been eliminated, we would not have chopped Charles’ head off, Cromwell would not have charged about the place with his Roundheads, Nell Gwyn would have had to have flogged oranges to someone else, a breed of Spaniels would require a different name and James the Second, who became a Catholic anyway, would not have used Hanging Judge Jefferies to avenge the first rebellion against him, nor had the father of Bonnie Prince Charlie delivered to the royal bed chamber in a warming pan and we would never have had Drambuie! The likelihood of it all going off was fairly remote anyway, the gunpowder was old (Army Surplus from the time of the Armada) and the cellars were damp! But there you go; ever since then we Brits have been celebrating Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Poor old Guido, in those days you didn’t get banged up for treason, you used to get strung up, until you were nearly dead and then drawn, a procedure that required a windlass with a spike on it, a sharp knife and a chap with some basic knowledge of the interior of the human body. A deft slash, a quick cut and the bottom of the small intestine could be pulled out and attached to the spike, a twirl of the windlass and naughty Guy could have watched his entrails depart his body at the same time as his soul. His head would go atop a spike on London Bridge and his body split into four and sent to the four corners of the kingdom, no doubt by first class post! In fact, he managed to avoid the interesting bit, just as he was about to be strung up he jumped off the high scaffold and broke his neck in the fall!

Now Round Table in Kalulushi decided that it would be a good wheez to raise money for sundry charitable causes. We discovered that there were a number of obstacles in the way. First of all any bunch of muzungus having some form of celebration in the early part of November was viewed with grave suspicion by the Authorities as we could have been celebrating the anniversary of UDI wherein another deeply committed and sincere person also committed an act of treason. The Authorities had good cause for suspicion; it was only the previous year that one Ozzie Winfield, Chief Geologist extraordinaire, had lined up all the waiters at the Recreation Club and led them in a rousing “Three Cheers for Smittie” followed by a beautiful rendition of God Save The Queen. No one could explain the motives of a staunch South African Republican to do such a thing but it was eventually put down to the imbibing of an excessive quantity of Ndola brewed Lion. Now the second obstacle was in the procurement of Fireworks. For the first year only we were really lucky to find an old stock of Brocks fireworks in a shop in Ndola. Apparently it had been part of a batch brought in to celebrate Independence eight years previously and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the vast majority of them worked.

Permission obtained, fireworks ready, a Guy prepared and put atop the huge bonfire by the Round Table Hut, in which a bar was opened and food made by the Table Ladies offered for sale, the event was ready to go. Storm clouds lowered around as the good people of Kalulushi gathered to support the event. The bonfire was lit and the first firework, a huge rocket, was ignited. The fuse sizzled, the suspense was awful, it looked as if we had a dud to start with when, all of a sudden, the rocket, having thought that it had achieved a considerable altitude, let forth a huge quantity of brightly coloured balls of various hues, screaming horizontally through the assembled audience. One hit Dave Wightman, assistant pyrotechnic, full in the chest. He staggered back, tripped and fell into the box of fireworks behind him; very prompt action staved off the instant braai that could have ensued! After that all went well; the Golf Course immediately behind the Round Table hut was set on fire, a Tabler who scaled the fence with a fire extinguisher to put out the little blaze got his genitals trapped by the barbed wire atop the fence, had to be helped down and taken straight to the bar for immediate pain relief. Gary Cushing, the bar manager was doling out Champagne cocktails at 25 ngwee apiece and a few of those were guaranteed to erase any memories of pain or anything else for that matter. The fire burnt low, the food consumed and the bar drank dry and right on schedule, down came the rains, in time to stop the fire on the Golf Course in its tracks.

In subsequent years the Authorities acknowledged the great powers of the rain making ceremony that these stupid muzungus performed. Hazards remained however. There was the year that somehow or other the bonfire got lit an hour early, no one would confess but we all had our suspicions about the Tabler who had suddenly lost his eyebrows. Then we had the time that the Chinese rockets went whizz bang on surface. There was enough explosive in the rocket, it was just the weak top on top. The following year we made a plan. A table was put out in the morning and over a hundred cheap little Chinese rockets were spread round the edges of the table, and the ends dipped in paint and left to dry. The 5th of November fell on a Sunday but us traditionalists must hold the event upon the correct day. This gave one Colin Bones an excuse to avoid the work party in the morning, he had religion and needs must go to church and come afterwards, usually when all the work was done. Sure enough he arrived to admire our handiwork. He was accompanied by his wife, stunningly beautiful who exuded sex appeal from every pore but she was totally unaware of the effect on us chaps. We suspected that Colin was fairly immune to her allure to boot being a trifle dozy in many respects. They approached the table upon which the rockets rested. There was also a reel of fast burning Igniter Cord which was being used to construct a lattice to connect to the rockets to achieve an almost instantaneous barrage of rocket fire. Colin examined same, dripping ash from his cigarette all over the place with the inevitable result that a horizontal holocaust occurred. Colin and his beautiful wife were unscathed but bewildered; what had they done? The rest of the work party emerged from the cover that they had taken, some of us with painful wounds, I mean, literally having a rocket up your arse is quite embarrassing. We forgave the couple and, luckily, had enough rockets left to make sure that the night went off with a bang!

Wonder Women

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Developing more female motorbike riders is an on-going challenge for the Lusaka Motor Cycle Club (LMCC). Like most motor sports the equipment, track and training opportunities as well as attendance at competitive events doesn’t come cheap. However, motor sport provides an exciting spectator event and a great advertising opportunity for corporate sponsors all over the world, including Zambia. Events can also provide a forum for highlighting current community and public health campaigns that affect both women and men.

International recognition of women in sport gained momentum in 1994, with the ‘Brighton Declaration’ that aims at the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport. The world governing body for motorcycle sports, and the global advocate for motorcycling The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) signed this Declaration in 2006.

Long gone are the days where girls are expected only in the ‘cheer-leading’ role in most sports, but with motorbikes the rider is relatively more vulnerable. Racing speeds on motocross tracks can range up to 50 kilometers per hour with only boots, helmets and leg padding to protect you from a fall. Parents are often heard to voice their concern that their girl-child might “get hurt” in contrast to pushing a boy to compete as if the boy would get hurt any less in a bad accident?

A good crop of determined coaches both male and female, but especially female, is probably the best way to give girls a chance in the sport. Commenting on the 2010 FIM Africa event in South Africa, one parent said that the saving grace for her female racers were the ladies who deliberately sought out and encouraged all the girl participants “from Women in Sport”. Her comment on most of the other organisers and parents attending the same meeting was that she found the attitude towards lady riders “generally dreadful”.

Considering that the sport takes discipline and dedication from the whole family and we have so much space in Zambia it is actually surprising that more women have not taken the lead in bike-riding. Girls who have the opportunity to travel round the farm or neighbourhood on the family-owned bikes do not seem to see that this is a natural beginning to engaging in competition. Some of the models are unwieldy for female riders to handle and the terrain is demanding, but you could say the same thing for horse-riding which enjoys much better participation of women and girls.

For more information on the sport and ‘social biking’ in the Copperbelt and Midlands you can get hold of the LMCC Secretary on email: bethbecker55@gmail.com



Wacky Wildlife Eating Waste

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

In the September issue of The Lowdown we wrote about the pressure under which Africa’s wildlife is struggling to survive with the onslaught of commercial poaching operations whose prime purpose seems to be the export of wildlife body parts to other countries.

Kachere Art Studio share the same concern as we do – that these poaching operations are depriving our children and our grandchildren of their birthright and their national heritage. To bring this to the attention of the public in general they have embarked on a unique sensitisation programme – the erection of statues around the country, the first of which is a rhino at the park at Longacres Shopping Centre in Lusaka.

But this is a statue and a statement with a difference – a rhino framed in steel and wire, which is being stuffed full of plastic which has been collected off the streets of Lusaka – killing, if you will pardon the pun, two birds with one stone. Once as much plastic waste as possible has been stuffed into the rhino, further plastic waste will be applied to the outside and then heated to form a hard shell around the rhino – an ingenious idea.

The Kachere Art Studio artists have been ‘manning’ the statue for eighteen hours a day since World Rhino Day on 22 September, engaging passers-by, school children, kaponya, Ng’wangwazi, street kids; in fact anybody who cares to become part of what they are doing, educating these people on the need to protect our heritage (wildlife and other) for future generations and the need to keep our environment clean and green.

But it goes even further – they have been giving the kaponya’s lessons on how to print on T-shirts, effectively giving them a way of generating income for themselves. We expect that in the future we will see home-printed Chipolopolo T-shirts for sale on the streets prior to big soccer games. How good would that be? Much better than mass produced (outside of Zambia) shirts in our Zambian colours.

The passion of the artists for this cause is astonishing and they have also generated massive enthusiasm amongst Lusaka residents including Lusaka’s Mayor. The local press have given this project extensive coverage and even the China News Agency has been there. But where is the BBC? They seem to be missing in action.

Following the success of the rhino in Lusaka, Kachere plan to take this to all the major centres in Zambia, the Big Ten!

As we go to press, the rhino is almost completely stuffed and by the time this issue of The Lowdown hits the streets, the rhino should be complete with a hard outer shell and a strengthened base to ensure that Lusaka’s rhino doesn’t fall over but instead remains a permanent fixture on the park at Longacres.

Funding for this project has been provided, in part, by the Civil Society Environment Fund supported by the Governments of Denmark and Finland.

Join them on Facebook





No More Timbers To Shiver

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Heading into town on Saturday 20 October, I was surprised to see tree branches blocking access to Haile Selassie Avenue from the traffic circle at Longacres. Not having time to glance up the road whilst trying to dodge some of the Corolla Crowd who were doing their strange manoeuvres, I continued on in the direction of Rhodes Park for my meeting. Having completed that I returned to Longacres to see how things were going with ‘our rhino’

Imagine my dismay when I found, on ‘the rhino’s’ doorstep, the City Council pruning … NO, they were not pruning. They were HACKING the branches of the trees that line the sides of Haile Selassie Avenue. Not only did they hack the branches but they have left the wounds open leaving those fifty or sixty year old trees (they were enormous when I was a child) open to attack from bacteria which could eventually kill them. The only sin that I could see that these trees have committed is that they give lovely cool shade to Lusaka’s residents who wait for, embark on or disembark from buses at the bus stops underneath them.

Was it not just two weeks previous that Lusaka Mayor, Daniel Chisenga, stood under those very trees in the October heat whilst he visited the rhino statue to help reinforce Kachere’s message of protecting the environment? Or was the Mayor’s visit just a photo opportunity?

Are these trees not almost the next door neighbours to the offices of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia? The irony of it!

And here we have volunteers from Lusaka 100 worrying about beautifying our city, yet the City Council who are supposed to be the Guardians of our city are out annihilating some of the cities few remaining trees?

The LCC website tells us that ‘it is a serious offence for anyone to cut trees in Public Area without permission from the Council’. [Sic]

I guess that by now you might have gathered that I am spitting mad. So mad that I am forming an ad-hoc spur-of-the-moment protest group – CADOOTS – Citizens Against Destruction Of Our Trees – and I am going to bombard the Council with letters of complaint. If you want to be in cahoots with CADOOTS, letters should be addressed to the Town Clerk, Lusaka City Council, P O Box 30077, Lusaka.



October 2012

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

Cover October 2012

A Million Years of Heritage

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

The LuangwaValley- those three words evoke images of elephant, lion, leopard or perhaps a carmine bee eater.   Whatever your wildlife preference, the Valley is renowned for its natural beauty, and rightly so.  Less well-known is its long and rich cultural history.  Did you know that people have lived in the Valley for at least one million years, or that the first farmers arrived 2,000 years ago?  Probably not, unless you just happened to bump into the researchers from the University of Liverpool, England, who have been working in the Valley in recent years.  The first phase of their ‘Past Peoples and Environments’ programme is now finished, and before the second begins it is time to take stock, look at a few highlights and consider the uncertain future of the Valley’s cultural heritage.


How long have humans lived here?

When the project started, no one could say just how long humans have lived in the Valley, and we are still trying to answer this basic question.  Stone tools litter the surface in some areas – and have been reported since the 1930s – but such finds tell us only that the tools are there, not when they were made.  To establish the age of the artefacts we need to find them buried in sediments where they have lain undisturbed.  Modern scientific dating methods can then give us an age range for the sediments surrounding the artefacts – that is the good news.  The bad news is that the sands of the Valley are difficult to date using conventional methods, so we have had to use more experimental techniques.  The results tell us that early humans were already in the Valley one million years ago, and probably much earlier.  Similar stone tools have been found in the Rift Valley of East Africa where they have been dated with great accuracy to at least 2.6 million years old using volcanic sediments.  Unfortunately, we don’t have such sediments in the Valley and there is another problem we face with the early record: it is eroding away.  Our one dated site is (was) along an active tributary of theLuangwa, and seasonal flooding has washed away the sands containing the oldest stone tools.


But there is no need to despair, because erosion also reveals new sites. In a large and still unexplored region we can and must rely on ‘nature’ to do some of the hard work for us.  The public can help by reporting any new exposures with stone (and bone if you’re extremely lucky) to the National Heritage Conservation Commission and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (and not picking things up!).  Our research also suggests that very early sites may be preserved closer to the Muchinga Escarpment, further away from the erosive effects of seasonal flooding.  Part two of the project will target this more remote area, and we hope to bring a new dating method into the field which will help unlock the age of the very earliest human settlement.


Farmers meet hunters 2000 years ago

At the other end of the time scale, theLuangwaValleycan now boast some of the best evidence in the region for the arrival, 2000 years ago, of farmers who brought with them a new way of life.  They arrived in a landscape already inhabited by peoples who lived by hunting and gathering foods.  Humans have long been hunters and we can see evidence of inventions in the archaeological record – like the stone-tipped spear – that made us even more effective predators.  The bow and arrow was a later innovation (perhaps 70,000 years old in southernAfrica) that came into use well before farming.  The ‘Later Stone Age’ hunters and gatherers of the Valley left their characteristic small stone tools over large parts of the landscape.  With a little training, you can quickly spot these artefacts that once were the hafted inserts of knives, scrapers and arrowheads.


A combination of systematic survey with excavation has given us an excellent understanding of where these hunter-gatherers lived in the Valley during the past 10,000 years.  They chose locations that offered a mix of water, plant and animal foods and the resources for making tools.  The escarpment and Nchindeni Hills also provided rock shelters as temporary homes, and these were often painted in the same geometric patterns found elsewhere inZambia(visitNachikufuCaveor the many caves at Kasama to see examples of this widespread tradition).


For me, the most interesting ‘moment’ in the Valley’s long prehistory was the first contact between the resident hunter-gatherers and the immigrant farmers.  Two very different cultures met 2,000 years ago, and from the archaeological, historical, and genetic evidence we’ve gathered we can say that they lived side-by-side.  It is only recently (circa 1800 AD) that we lose sight of the Later Stone Age peoples.  Some may have adopted farming and others may have left the Valley in search of hunting grounds elsewhere.  Perhaps their descendants are the Batwa who live today in the wetlands of northern and centralZambia.  The fate of the Valley’s first peoples will be a focus of our next phase of research.


A heritage for all to see?

We have just scratched the surface of the Valley’s prehistory, figuratively as well as literally.  Huge gaps remain in our basic understanding of all periods, but at least we have made a start on piecing together this enormous puzzle.  Another challenge now remains: to find a local home for all the artefacts we have uncovered.  The people of Mfuwe and visitors alike ought to be able to see and learn from this material.  That is not yet possible, but we hope that a local heritage interpretation centre will be built soon which can be a place of study, education and enterprise.


We have more than prehistory in mind – the predecessors of the dinosaurs once roamed here.  There is much recent history too from European explorers including Livingstone to the ravages of the slave trade, and in the 20th century the establishment of the national park and the relocation of the Bisa and Kunda.  The heritage interpretation centre is one way of giving back a past to the Valley’s humans as well as helping to make a more informed future – for locals and for tourists.


To learn more about the proposed heritage centre: www.liv.ac.uk/giving/africa


By Larry Barnham



A potsherd representing the early farmers in the Valley



Stone pick ('Early Stone Age') more than 300,000 years old

Cookie Cutter

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

There are two major sides to the ‘biscuit’ story in Zambia, one that relates to the frightening levels of child stunting and malnutrition and the other that is about sharp business acumen and an eye for opportunity.


Shortly after independence our school children received milk in a school feeding programme. Linked to this was an initiative where tons of Australian milk biscuits were donated for distribution inZambia. A 1969 document reads “The biscuit contains no reducing sugars and can therefore be made using conventional biscuit-making equipment and baked in a conventional oven. The composition of currently produced biscuits is as follows: protein, 20%; fat, 20%; carbohydrates, 50%, plus Ca, Fe, I, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid; the caloric value is 50 kcal/10-g biscuit. The major ingredients are butter oil, co-precipitate, castor sugar, wheat flour and full-fat soya flour. The biscuit is dough-nut shaped; packed in a moisture-proof package it has a very good shelf-life under tropical conditions.”


Similar biscuits were eventually prepared and sold by the old parastatal-run Dairy Produce Board in the seventies and were really quite tasty. Since that time it has been left to the private sector to put a decent tea biscuit in every child’s school lunch box.


Even though our thriving sugar industry and wheat production levels does make the production of biscuits good sense for local manufacturers  it is quite a challenge to BUY ZAMBIAN on the shelf alongside the competitors from Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. But they are there, usually in brightly labeled packaging with catchy names. Anybody who listens to the radio can’t have missed the advertising for ‘Chicco’ and ‘Musa’ biscuits and now the ubiquitous Trade Kings is distributing an ‘Amazon’ product called ‘Spinners’.


Manufacturers’ details, available on the internet when you google Zambia Association of Manufacturers, will yield names such as ‘Batul’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Sunrise’ Biscuits. But not everything is sweet in the industry. Cases of quarrels over brand names have already hit our local court system as we share the market with our neighbours in COMESA and rivaling competition from SADC.  Stories of bitter rivalry between regional manufacturers abound.


Going back to the issue of micronutrient malnutrition it is a fact that your ordinary tea biscuit is relatively cheap, light and palatable to most children, so we hope that this is an avenue that will engage the Zambian corporate more towards balancing the profit motive with social responsibility. As far as we know the fortification of sugar with Vitamin A is still an obligatory component of production and many of the local biscuits have a soya component, so your little one should be getting more than just a sweet treat!


Any reactions from our readers that will help us suggest the best food-value Lowdown ’Christmas Hamper’ for the more needy, including orphaned and vulnerable children’s shelters that have sprung up over the past years are very welcome. The right time of the year to be more discerning about the ordinary packet of locally produced biscuits beyond checking the ‘sell-by’ date!

Steady As A Rock

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

This month, as we celebrate Zambia’s forty eighth year of Independence, we look at another Zambian symbol – Mulungushi Rock of Authority.


As a child and teenager, we often heard about Mulungushi Rock on the news, always in the context of a UNIP meeting. Not being much interested in politics, I never thought too much about it, nor did I think much of the history and what was so important about this rock. In fact my disinterest in politics was such that when plural politics returned to Zambia in 1991 and political meetings were still being held, I still did not think any further, leaving it to the politically active to ponder over it.  My interest was only piqued when I started thinking about which Zambian symbol I was going to cover in this article.


In 1960, the nationalists who had broken away from the Zambian African National Congress wanted to arrange a conference under the banner of the new party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) on the direction of the party and how to achieve independence. To do this, they needed to be away from the ever-present eye of the colonial authorities, not easy for a crowd of two thousand who would be there for some days. The site chosen was a rocky area close to theMulungushiRiver, north of what was then Broken Hill (now Kabwe).  The river provided a good supply of water and it was felt that this was a good place for the participants to meet and to camp. The camping was not in tents, but in temporary shelters. This conference led to UNIP, under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda, becoming the major party of independence.


After 1964, Mulungushi Rock was used for UNIP party conferences and for major policy speeches such as the Mulungushi Declaration in 1968 when government declared its intention to acquire what was termed equity holdings (usually 51% or more) in a number of foreign-owned firms. These firms were to be controlled by the parastatal Industrial Development Corporation (INDECO). By the beginning of 1970, majority holdings had also been acquired in the two major foreign mining companies, Anglo American Corporation and the Rhodesia Selection Trust (RST); becoming Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines (NCCM) and Roan Consolidated Mines (RCM) under another parastatal body, the Mining Development Corporation (MINDECO). This was followed in 1971 where control of insurance companies, building societies and some foreign banks was acquired and run under the Finance and Development Corporation (FINDECO).   INDECO, MINDECO and FINDECO were brought together in 1971 under another monolithic parastatal, the Zambia Industrial and Mining Corporation (ZIMCO), creating one of the largest companies in sub-SaharanAfrica, with KK as Chairman of the Board. The nationalisation programme was closely followed in 1973 with the massive increase in the price of oil and in 1975, the halving of world copper prices. These two factors coupled with the well known and well documented inefficiencies of parastatals was the start of the downward slide ofZambia’s economic performance and by 1976Zambiahad a balance-of-payments crisis, and we very quickly became massively indebted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A mere ten years later,Zambiawas one of the most indebted nations in the world. But the vagaries of our economy is not the subject of this article.



Today, many political meetings are still held at Mulungushi, although as far as we can understand they no longer take place at ‘The Rock’ but at the convention centre which has been built a few kilometres away, close to Mulungushi University. Reading through old press reports, it is clear that some interesting incidents have taken place at these meetings – Ministers being ‘chased’ because they were not wearing  ‘third-term T-shirts’ and police confiscating a total of ninety two pistols from cadres attending a meeting.


Putting aside the politics, we set off for a visit to Mulungushi Rock to see for ourselves, not knowing what to expect. A monadnock or inselberg is an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain. I am not a geologist, but I would not describe what we saw as a monadnock or inselberg – it did not rise high enough like the inselbergs at Mutinondo. Instead, I would call it a granite dome or a good southern African word – a kopje. But like Mutinondo’s inselbergs, the mat-forming sedge, Coleochloa setifera, is in abundance.


With the large expanse of rock and a tributary of the Mulungushi River only about half a kilometre away, one can see why it was chosen as a meeting place. Sadly on our visit there, the inevitable bush fire for this year had already swept through the surrounding bush and up parts of the rock destroying the vegetation and leaving everything blackened.  But it was a pleasant day out and had we been better prepared, it would have been a pleasant place for a picnic.


To get there, from the railway crossing in Kabwe (a landmark you can’t miss), proceed north along the Great North Road for 22.5 km. Turn right into the Mulungushi University premises at the second entrance (not the first one with the concrete arch).  After entering the University grounds, proceed straight for 1.4 km along the tarmac road, turn left down a small dirt road for 550 metres. Turn right down another dirt road and proceed along that road for 2.3 km. At this point, if you look to your right you will see The Rock through the bush and if you follow the small dirt track to the right, it will take you to The Rock less than one hundred metres away. GPS co-ordinates are 14°17’53.46″S, 28°34’52.66″E.


Having visited Mulungshi Rock, I have now sated my curiosity, but I have one remaining question. Sometime in the intervening years, the rock became known as the Mulungushi Rock of Authority. Where did the addition of the word ‘Authority’ come from?


Protecting Kasanka’s Bats – The Necessity Of Tourism Policies

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

The annual migration of straw-coloured fruit bats Eidolon helvum is regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world and it takes place in Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. For example, CNN recently listed it as one of the 20 “must-see places in the world” and in his latest book “Ultimate Wildlife Experiences”, esteemed naturalist Mark Carwardine has included the bat migration at Kasanka as one of the top 25 wildlife experiences in the world.


This international acclaim has helped spread the word about one of Zambia’s smallest national parks and has tempted tourists from all over the world! Given that Kasanka is approximately six hours from Lusaka and even closer to the Copperbelt, along good tar roads, it also makes Kasanka a very popular destination for residents of Zambia, too.


En-suite rondavels overlook Lake Wasa and are located only a short drive from the bat forest. It is from the Wasa Lodge that most guests depart for the ‘’bat experience safari’’, taking a guided game drive through the miombo woodland towards the mushitu forest where the bats roost. Here, guests can climb one of the hides to observe the bat extravaganza where densities reach up to hundreds of bats per square metre.


The annual bat migration from Central Africa to Kasanka is synchronised with the mass fruiting of water berry and masuku trees and they start arriving around mid-October and typically stay until the end of December. This gives visitors only a short window of opportunity to experience the phenomenon and makes for a very busy season at Kasanka. It is not uncommon for up to 100 visitors to come to Kasanka over a weekend and one of the biggest challenges for the Kasanka Trust management is to facilitate this increasing demand, whilst mitigating disturbance to the bats.


The estimated 8 to 10 million bats spend the daylight hours roosting within an area of mushitu evergreen swamp forest known as the Fibwe Forest. Monitoring the movements of the roosting bats over several years has shown that there is a clear preference for a patch of mushitu closest to the Musola Stream. Bat densities are highest in this area, and it is the part of the forest normally occupied throughout the bat season. With daytime temperatures exceeding 35 degrees, it is thought to be the flow of cool air generated by the stream, together with the closed canopy of swamp fig that makes this area a preferred roosting location.


Prior to 2007 visitors were permitted to walk through the forest to observe the roosting bats, whilst supervised by an armed scout. In 2007, a number of tree platforms were constructed, primarily to facilitate a crew from the BBC, filming part of David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ Series. Three of these platforms were constructed in the centre of the roosting area. During 2008 and 2009 it was decided to utilise the platforms for tourism.


2010 was busier still, with four filming crews, several groups of professional photographers, together with increasing tourism pressure. The KTL management formulated strict codes of conduct for all parties to minimise disturbance and conflicts between visitor groups.  Despite this, massive localised migration within the mushitu forest was documented, clearly indicating that roosting areas were abandoned as a direct result of human activity. Notably the presence of humans upwind from roosting sites seemed to have a negative impact.



This disturbance increases bat stress levels as they are forced to roost in sub-optimal habitat resulting in reduced fitness and potentially increased mortality. Shifting roosting also increases the area that is used, and with that the number of trees collapsing from the sheer weight of the bat masses. Ultimately, this disturbance could result in the bats abandoning this site, and this great phenomenon being lost forever.


With these concerns in mind, it was decided to prevent any access to the core roosting area. The hides in the centre of the forest were abandoned and new hides were constructed downwind from the main roosting site. Following these measures, in 2011 the entire colony moved back to the core area, on top of the abandoned hides – a sure success in protecting the bats and ensuring that many more tourists will be able to enjoy this spectacle.


The Kasanka Trust’s policy for the 2012 bat season aims to maintain the preferred bat roosting areas, whilst giving tourists a thrilling wildlife encounter. Visitors who join the “bat experience safari” will be hosted on an improved and enlarged central platform, which provides a stunning panoramic view over the core roosting area from a safe distance. Visitors will be accompanied by an experienced guide who will explain more about the bats and their behaviour, as well as making sure everyone has a refreshing sundowner in their hand as the bats emerge. Two public viewing areas are available from where visitors are able to enjoy views of the bats emerging from the forest. The bats can also be seen from the famous ‘’Fibwe Hide’’, boasting breath-taking views over the swamps


By monitoring the migration year on year, KTL can safeguard the long-term conservation of the bats and their habitat. This in turn will enable the Trust to give visitors an unforgettable bat experience, and to reinvest funds from tourism into future conservation and community initiatives. For more information about the bats and Kasanka, contact wasa@kasanka.com or visit www.kasanka.com.


By Frank Willems, Heather Ashcroft & Sam Philips

Electric Light Orchestrated

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

Once again, suppliers of electricity, ZESCO, have submitted a proposed tariff increase, to become effective November this year. At press time, this application was still in the hands of the Energy Regulation Board (ERB), the date for submissions from the public having expired.


I don’t believe that there is even one ZESCO customer in Zambiawho will say that they are happy with ZESCO’s performance.  Ask anyone and they will complain about load shedding, voltage fluctuations, slow response times when outages occur. Many times, even getting Faults to answer the phone is an exercise in futility.


Having said this, I do see some efforts being made to improve service or perhaps I should say efforts being made so that customers have a perception that service delivery has improved.  I took the time and effort to register my account with ZESCO’s ‘SMS Service’.  This means that one receives notifications via SMS of planned outages or load shedding. This works … sort of.  Sometimes when experiencing load shedding, I will receive an SMS advising me of this. But usually this is only received an hour or so after I have called Faults to report the outage.  Should this not be notified in advance (even just a few minutes) so that I don’t waste my time and the call centre’s time reporting the outage?  But one also doesn’t know whether the delay is with the phone system and not with ZESCO.  Over the last few weeks, I have been receiving advance notification that my supply might be load shed that evening or the following morning. This is infinitely more helpful as it does enable me to plan my work or at least get dinner cooked early. And it is always nice when the load shedding doesn’t happen, presumably because there is no need.


But back to the tariff increases.  I have done some digging around on the ERB website and other places to get to grips with these, seemingly, perpetual tariff increases.  Over the last few years, it seems as though ERB has made some inroads into working with ZESCO to improve their performance, not only in electricity generation, but in administration and other areas as well. A very interesting and very shocking, if you will pardon the pun, document is the Cost of Service study for the period 2002 to 2006.  Key revelations from that document are:

– Five straight years of losses;

– Increasing cash flow problems;

– More than one-third of all customers not metered;

– The average cost per employee doubled every two years between 1999 and 2004 and their total staff costs are 50% of their total annual expenditure;

– The average cost per employee was K 9.5 million per month in 2005/06

– Mining clients use 50% of the power generated but their rates are at a level 28% below the cost of generation.

– ZESCO employees do not pay for power

– Donations amounting to K 9.5 billion; entertainment costs amounting to K 436 million; and ZESCO United Football Club costs amounting to K 4.7 billion.”

– Exported power is sold 15% below cost

Unfortunately, an updated Cost of Service study is not available but it would make very interesting reading.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) were developed and these are being monitored. The ERB has emphasised the need for ZESCO to meet their KPI’s for any future tariff adjustments, including the one now being considered. But a look at ZESCO’s submission to the ERB and the progress on the KPI’s for the last quarter of 2011, shows some gaping holes:

– Only 16% of new installations had meters installed

– 21% of customers are still unmetered

– Only 6,134 out of a targeted 8,000 meters were installed at already existing connections

– Only 89% of customers are billed regularly

– Of the existing debt, K 96,484,199,000 is for Pre-Paid customers

– The customer/employee ratio is at 95 as opposed to the targeted 100:1

– Since 2009, an additional 500 members of staff have been employed, yet the number of staff and the annual cost of these staff is supposed to be reducing. ZESCO project a 10% increase in staff costs in 2012/13

– ZESCO claim one of the justifications for the tariff increase is the increase in the cost of copper products. Yet they continue to supply the [copper] mines at subsidised rates when world copper prices remain high.

Having highlighted the above, do you believe a tariff increase is justified?  I quote from the ELO hit song, Confusion:

Confusion,I don’t know what I should do.
Confusion,I leave it all up to you.


Out Of Your Tree

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

Kabwe, almost exactly half way between Lusaka and Ndola, is not a town where one would plan a weekend away (unless it’s at Mulungushi Dam). For most of us, it’s a ‘dirty little town’ on the road between Lusaka and the Copperbelt, a town where we know that Zacaria Phiri is going to be out in force checking vehicles, a town where we are going to get stuck behind a slow moving truck and a town where there are speedhumps to slow down your approach to and departure from the railway line.  The fact that the trains don’t seem to run very often, so much so that mishanga sellers have set up their stalls across the railway lines, obviously didn’t figure when the road engineers planned the speed humps. But the fact remains, most of us keep to the ‘main’ road,Independence Avenue, never turning down a side road to see what might be found around the town.


I say the ‘main road’. Ask any resident of Kabwe and they will tell you that Independence Avenue is not the main street of Kabwe. Rather, the main street is Freedom Way, the road running parallel to Independence Avenue to the south. It is in this street that you will find one of Zambia’s declared monuments and national heritage sites – the Big Tree.


The Big Tree is a fig tree, and I am reliably informed (by Mike Bingham) that it is a Ficus wakefieldii.  This species of fig tree is usually found much further north and it is thought that this tree originated from a planted specimen although there are many mature trees of the same species in and around Kabwe. But this tree is special – its canopy stretches about fifty metres from side to side – a truly gigantic specimen – which must be a hundred years old or close to that. Photos taken in the 1950’s show an already enormous tree. The tree, in days gone by and still today, is a popular meeting or gathering place for the town’s people.


But all is not well with the Big Tree. On closer inspection, one can see some of the leaves have turned brown and a look underneath the green leaves and on some of the stems shows a white mealy substance. The experts tell us that this is woolly aphis or what is also known as mealy bug.


The question, of course, is what to do about it.  First choice is obviously an organic pest management regime and there are many recommended – scrubbing the aphid colonies with a stiff-bristled brush, using an earbud dampened with alcohol to remove the bug, a mixture of mild detergent and water and wipe the bugs off with a soft cloth, spray Tabasco sauce or garlic extract on the aphids. Clearly none of these are achievable in this case.


Malathion is the recommended pesticide to use for woolly aphis and with its relatively low human toxicity, this may be a solution. But how to apply it?  Ideally it should be sprayed where the damage is noticeable but with a tree this size, how does one do that? For house plants they also recommend spraying the organic material below the plants which may harbour the bugs. Will spraying the soil beneath the tree have any effect?


Will some pruning of the worst infested areas help?  Certainly getting more air circulating around the leaves will help the general health of the tree. Or do we just leave it and hope that, as Mike Bingham says, it may shake it off on its own?


What do our other tree experts think? Are any of them prepared to take on this, if you will pardon the pun, monumental task?



Fool On The Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

FOTHOh dear. It was two years ago exactly that the Fool on the Hill column was all about crime and keeping yourself safe inLusaka, and here we are again. Certainly in the New Kasama / Leopards Hill area there has been at least one armed robbery that due to good luck and cool heads concluded without serious violence, but this combined with the recent upsurge in rapes and murders in Lusaka, has spawned a great deal of speculation and trepidation in the neighbourhood.


With widespread unemployment a likely by-product of the enormous-one step hike in the minimum wage, especially in December when the agricultural workers collective agreement is renegotiated, there are going to be many more people with much less money in the semi-rural areas around our cities. In addition there will be resentment towards employers who have been forced into liquidation and down-sizing by the new laws. Many of the largest employers in the mining and agricultural sectors are foreign companies and now that racist and xenophobic rhetoric are fashionable in the media with statements like that of a railway expert “We don’t need whites to help us run this rail line” in the Post Online (13th Sept 2012) one can expect a large portion of blame and anger to be directed against foreigners rather than the Zambian civil servants who pass sweeping new laws without due diligence or consideration of their knock on effect.


Sadly, however that is just a small part of the problem as statistics from our nearest high crime rate neighbourSouth Africashow.  In 81.5% of murders, 75.9% of rapes, 89% of assaults with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and 89.3% of common assaults, the victims and perpetrators were related to each other. SAPS reports that most contact crimes take place in impoverished township areas, and according to the 2006 State of Cape Town report, the high crime rates are predominantly concentrated in certain township areas where there has been a rise in drug-related crime and where the gangs have taken over in the absence of adequate law enforcement. So when crime rates rise the majority of victims are the immediate family, friends and neighbours of the perpetrators and whilst the middle class elite sits behind electric fences with fingers poised on armed response panic buttons, a higher percentage of the majority of less fortunate people will be assaulted, raped or ripped off at home by their disgruntled and unemployed brothers-in-law.


The US State Department  the US Bureau  of Diplomatic Security  and the UK Foreign Office  websites all list carjackings, housebreaking and robbery, and date rape as the highest current risks in Zambia.


All give the same advice on the first threat namely; try to be especially alert in the last few minutes of your journey home, check your mirrors and if you think you are being followed or see an occupied car parked on the street go round the block to make sure. Be aware of strangers lurking on the road near your gate. Install an electric gate with motion sensing lights and a camera or fake CCTV housing so that anyone lingering there or attempting to tamper with it will feel exposed. Remove any shrubbery or features around the gate which could afford an attacker a hiding place. Stop on the road and wait for all traffic to pass before you activate your gate so that you can’t be boxed in on your driveway, don’t make the turn until you are sure you are not being watched, and when it’s open pass through the gate and close it immediately making sure nobody has slipped in on foot behind you. If you are visiting someone or don’t have a gate buzzer, don’t sit at the gate on the intercom (especially after dark); phone when you are five minutes away and stay on the road and beep your horn until the gate is opened.


Home security systems have changed in the last few years and many firms in Zambia now offer a cell phone based system which can be armed, disarmed and tweaked by sms, from your phone, allowing you to have a great deal of control remotely and to be notified immediately of any problems. Door magnets, motion sensors (PIR’s) and infrared beams allow houses to be zoned for total intrusion alert when you are absent or partial cover of sections of the property or building only when you are in residence.  Choose the company that has the closest response vehicle, check whether they are armed and also what measures they have for entering your property if your gate is locked and the intruders are already on the inside. You don’t want them to be phoning you to borrow a ladder while you are busy with a gun to your face. I was surprised that several of the companies I spoke to had no plan in place for this eventuality, which is surely quite common.


Also where I have previously advised NOT buying a gun for home defence unless you are already a legal, safe and competent gun owner I would now add the caveat that with the Leopards Hill Shooting Range in operation there is now a venue for expert training in use of firearms for self defence for corporate and private clients, which no new shooter should go without (contact richard@bigrush.co.za). With ammunition now available to shoot on the range there is no excuse for being a poor shot due to restrictions on what you can purchase on your firearm blue book.


Recent research conducted in South African jails with convicted criminals flagged several interesting points. Security guards are easily immobilised and are often used as informants especially where they are employed by an outside company rather than the property owner. A private security vehicle patrolling the area is a formidable deterrent in the absence of reliable policing, so join and support your local neighbourhood watch. Large guard dogs are not a problem to housebreakers who simply poison them a few minutes before entering the premises. Far more difficult to bypass are small dogs kept inside a house which will raise the alarm and are difficult to neutralise. Who would have thought a Maltese poodle would be a better bet than a Mastiff for protection? And take a leaf out of the criminals’ own book and have tinted windows installed on your vehicle like a gangster. Hijackers hate them as they don’t know if the car is occupied by a little old lady or five dopped up Boks supporters spoiling for a fight.


Finally the best protection is a state of consciousness. Being alert to the possibility of foul play and keeping that always in the back of your mind is not as negative or doom-laden as it sounds. You’ll find it makes you less anxious being observant and perhaps overcautious all of the time than allowing your feelings to ebb and flow according to the current crime rate. And it’s better to have discussed a safe plan and taken precautions in preparation for an event that will hopefully never occur than to be surprised and unprepared if it does, even if that means an uncomfortable conversation with your kids and wife and being laughed at by friends  for being paranoid or overly theatrical.


Every precaution you take should be about buying time. The longer it takes for an intruder to get you into the untenable position where you or your loved ones are at point blank; where all bets are off, all strong boxes are opened and all stashes revealed, the more chance you have of still being safe when the cavalry arrives.