Newsletter (September 2, 2010)

Dear all, Timothy has been busy working with the new library software. After the initial set up, things will be much easier for him as he is dealing with something that he really knows. The library is now able to add records to the new system and very soon staff and students within TCCA will be able to use it. There is still some more work needing to be done with the servers which can hopefully be done soon. TCCA also needs to get a better internet connection as the present one is no longer adequate. Unfortunately such a connection is very expensive in Zambia and we are looking at NZ$900 per month. This will be a heavy burden on the TCCA budget.

The Chinese lady (Middle Fan) who we met in Ndola last year and who is now working in one of the biggest mines north of Kitwe, invited us to visit her last Sunday. All the Chinese staff in the mines stay in a compound very close to Kitwe. Before visiting her, we had long known that most Chinese workers in the mines live in compounds, that very few people have been there and that there are all sorts of rumours about the compounds. So we were very happy to be able to go personally to have a look. If you think a Chinese compound is like a prison or a shanty town, then you are very wrong. Actually it is one of the best residential areas that we have seen in Zambia. All the buildings are new, facilities are good and modern, and it has lots of space, a big gym and an even bigger canteen.

Talking to our friend was very interesting. She has a social work background and she really wants to help the locals and try to break the barrier between Chinese and Zambians. She can tell us of the difficulties and struggles that she and the company encounters. She also told us the company is spending a huge amount every year in community development work, which is very encouraging to know. Unfortunately, she is let down by the behaviour of the many so-called Christians in this country, and this is sad and it is difficult to explain to her and let her understand that that true Christianity is something quite different to what she has seen.

The national telephone company was recently sold to a Libyan company and the first thing the new owner did was to make all the workers (about 2400) redundant! Then about 700 of them were re-employed on a three-month contract. The headquarters of the company is in Ndola and only a handful of them were re-employed, so Ndola was quite hard hit by this. We go to a tyre company to have the car tyre pressures checked quite often. (Unlike New Zealand, it is quite difficult to check tyre pressures. Most petrol station don’t have pumps and even if they do, most likely they are not working properly.) The man who used to do this for us told us, “we are all struggling and we don’t know what to do.” At least he said this very cheerfully, but for most people, things are really not well.

Several days ago we met two New Zealanders who came to Zambia to see some charity work run by their organisations. One of them has been here many times. Normally they are accompanied by a Zambian staff member based in Lusaka. Somehow our conversations turned to the cost of living in Zambia. We said that it is high and we wondered how people here could survive. The Zambian staff totally agreed and said most families are struggling. The economy seems to be good, copper prices are high, but somehow the economic benefits don’t flow to ordinary Zambians. He said corruption levels in the country are high and people in departments demand money from you because they can not survive without it. They may demand K5,000 (NZ$1.50, US$1) from you, and with this money they could use it to buy a small packet of mealie meal, an onion, a tomato, perhaps an egg. That will be a meal for a family. He is not trying to justify bribery, but just to illustrate how people are struggling.

The Jesuits here compile a “Basic Needs Basket” every month in different towns in Zambia, a monthly expenditure for a family of six. We have attached the latest figures for Lusaka (you can also find it at www.jctr.org.zm) and after reading it you will understand why most people are struggling. Other provincial towns are slightly cheaper but then more people are unemployed in smaller towns. This is a very tragic situation and unlike an accident, it is continuing and it is happening every day. With Christian love.

Back to Tim and Zara’s home page