Tuesday 25 May 2010

Return to Lusaka

It must be 15 years since I was last here. Lusakans seem to have taken to fast food and shopping malls big time. These and a few other trappings of prosperity are the most obvious changes. The people look wealthier which in African terms means bigger and healthier as well as better mobiles, more cars and smarter clothes.

Most of all I am struck again how pleasant and courteous everyone is -- even offcialdom. In my own typically vacant way I have had two brushes with the powers of law and order. Firstly whilst out on a walk to stretch my legs after the 10 hour flight I inadvertently strayed into the barracks of the Presidential Guard, directly opposite His Excellency's palace. I was looking for a quiet spot away from the main road to make a call. A very smart Military Policement found me and asked if he coudl help me. He was so polite and offered to find me a quiet spot out of the restricted zone for me to make my call. Helpfully he explained that I might be suspected of being a terrorist giving instructions to my associates so it was better that I moved. Given the MP's AK47 and a large number of others in the immediate vicinity who was I to argue. He took me to the other quiet place and asked it there was anything else he coudl do to help.

Later on back at the airport to meet Kassim I was alarmed because the Dar flight had emptied and still no sign of him. Eventually an immigration offcial approached me and asked if I would come back airside. There I found K amid a gaggle of officers. He had been detained because he had no money, they felt (quite justifiably) that he had a rather sketchy story about being there and for reasons entirely of his own he was pretending not to speak very much English. The chief officer allowed me to explain, asked a couple of questions, said he believed me and stamped K's single A4 sheet temporary passport. He then said that it was not a good idea to overstay, because in that type of circumstance the Immigration Service might not be so willing to compromise. All in about 5 minutes with smiles, goodbyes and many welcomes to Zambia.

With both incidents I imagine what would happen if a Zambian had make equivalent errors on a visit to the UK.

It is a clear, sunny autumn here. Too cold at night for K but rather balmy by my standards. Lusaka remains the LA of Africa in terms of its sprawl and reliance on the motor car but the air is fresh and there are enough places within walking distance to keep us amused.  

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