Emer­gence of Tokota Boys, dubbed ‘Sons of the Devil’ a re­flec­tion of true un­em­ploy­ment lev­els

Zambian Business Times - - LIFESTYLE - By Grace Na­mun­y­ola

They say an idle mind is the devils work­shop, a say­ing that per­haps rings true when you look at what is hap­pen­ing to the youths of Kitwe, Zam­bia’s sec­ond big­gest city by pop­u­la­tion. Sup­pos­edly a min­ing town that should be em­brac­ing a min­ing boon. To­day, we may talk about the youths of Kitwe, but we will not be far off if we project that this des­per­a­tion ex­hib­ited by young peo­ple may soon be con­ta­gious to spread to all key cities and high pop­u­la­tion cen­ters of Zam­bia be­cause of wor­ri­some un­em­ploy­ment lev­els.

The heavy weight of un­em­ploy­ment is deeply felt in cities and towns, that is why it is dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend why the of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics show that un­em­ploy­ment is high­est in West­ern, fol­lowed by Lua­pula and then Muchinga prov­inces why the true re­flec­tions of so­ci­ety un­em­ploy­ment such in­crease in crime rates and gang­ster­ism blow up mostly on the Cop­per­belt and in Lusaka. See graph be­low for un­em­ploy­ment sta­tis­tics as at March 2018 com­piled by the Cen­tral Sta­tis­tics Of­fice – CSO.

These three re­gions are still op­er­at­ing rel­a­tively agrar­ian economies, more agri­cul­tural with their in­hab­i­tants, peo­ple hav­ing a fall back on Agro and nat­u­ral re­source de­pen­dent eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties and less for­mal em­ploy­ment ex­pec­ta­tions. But when com­pared to Lusaka and Cop­per­belt re­gions which are the top two most in­dus­tri­al­ized re­gions in Zam­bia, the lack of a job can drive the youths to in­san­ity, to lev­els of des­per­a­tion that are now man­i­fest­ing.

Some of the so­cial vices and ac­tiv­i­ties mak­ing head­lines by that these crim­i­nal groups com­pris­ing mostly of youths on the Cop­per­belt in­clude rob­bery, mur­der, beat­ing in­no­cent cit­i­zens, theft, caus­ing brawls in pub­lic places, gang rape, strip­ing in­no­cent women. With more in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there are sure more cases that have gone un­re­ported.

What is dan­ger­ous about these groups is the ‘heart­less’ na­ture of mem­bers of these gangs, they have and con­tinue to cause a lot of pain and fear to res­i­dents of town­ships where they op­er­ate from through with their cruel acts. These acts are meant to in­tim­i­date and cow peo­ple into sub­mis­sion.

The most re­cent act that went viral on so­cial me­dia in­volves an in­ci­dent that hap­pened where a 16-year-old boy of Kitwe was as­saulted, striped and sex­u­ally as­saulted by 19 boys call­ing them­selves ‘ Tokota Boys’ with the in­ci­dent caught on am­a­teur video. The vic­tim was re­peat­edly hit with sticks and stones be­fore forc­ing him to eat his own fae­cal mat­ter.

The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion called for their im­me­di­ate ar­rest, mem­bers of the pub­lic were up in arms and called for their ar­rest. Pres­i­dent Lungu’s of­fice di­rected the Cop­per­belt Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, Char­ity Katanga to crack the gangs and ef­fect ar­rests. The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion(HRC) spokesper­son Mweelwa Mu­leya said that the de­vel­op­ing trend­ing of youth gang­sters, par­tic­u­larly in some parts of the Cop­per­belt and Lusaka, vic­tim­iz­ing in­di­vid­u­als is wor­ry­ing and called for de­ci­sive ac­tion by law en­force­ment agency.

‘’Gang­ster­ism in­fringes on a wide range of hu­man rights and free­doms. Vic­tims are phys­i­cally, psy­cho­log­i­cally sex­u­ally and ver­bally abused. Oth­ers are de­prived of their prop­erty and the right to free­dom of move­ment, se­cu­rity of a per­son and the right to life be­cause of con­stant threat and at­tack’’, he said.

Mu­leya fur­ther on stated that in most cases, de­hu­man­iz­ing ef­fects of poverty, neg­a­tive peer pres­sure and drug abuse are catalysts for such ju­ve­nile delin­quency man­i­fest­ing it­self in or­ga­nized crim­i­nal syn­di­cates. This re­quires the in­volve­ment of ev­ery­one in sup­port­ing the law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing or­ga­nized crime.

Though it’s only right that par­ents and guardians of such youths are urged to pro­vide di­rec­tion, coun­selling and guid­ance, there is a big­ger so­ci­etal prob­lem of lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. Both par­ents, guardians and the youths are ill pre­pared to deal with the cur­rent sta­tus quo.

For the par­ents or guardians, they them­selves may be un­em­ployed, or are stuck in jobs that keep them work­ing from dust till dawn, with lit­tle or no time to raise the chil­dren or wards. Most were ed­u­cated in the colo­nial style ed­u­ca­tion that had lim­ited con­tent on self-em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship, what guid­ance does so­ci­ety ex­pect from this gen­er­a­tion of par­ents/guardians?

The youths them­selves have a sim­i­lar worker men­tal­ity kind of ed­u­ca­tion such that, en­trepreneur­ship and self-em­ploy­ments is more of a ‘mo­ti­va­tional talk’ than a prac­ti­cal sub­ject. There­fore, the abil­ity to earn an in­come is grossly un­der­mined. There is need for a me­thod­i­cal ap­proach to turn around this worker men­tal­ity to sup­port self-em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship.

As much as the law en­force­ment agen­cies can ef­fect ar­rest and put the cur­rent gangs and their ring lead­ers con­fined in jail, there is need to solve the root cause of this trend of gang­ster­ism. If the route cause is not ad­dressed, this prob­lem will re­cur as soon as the po­lice op­er­a­tions sub­side.

One of the fea­si­ble rea­sons for this trend of emerg­ing gang­ster­ism is lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. The best type of em­ploy­ment - the for­mal em­ploy­ment sec­tor - re­mains stag­nant at about 750,000 in Zam­bia with a pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mated at over 16 mil­lion trans­lat­ing to 4.68%. The for­mally em­ployed num­ber has been at this level for some time and rarely is there any gov­ern­ment com­mit­ment to widen this num­ber. Plans to for­malise some in­for­mal jobs are very bleak.

In­her­ent pref­er­ence of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in Zam­bia is to lean on sim­ple and quick so­lu­tions at the ex­pense of sus­tain­able ones. This prob­lem of youth gang­ster­ism is a vivid man­i­fes­ta­tion of deeper and yet more com­plex vices and un­em­ploy­ment plagues hence the needs for a deeper route cause anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine more com­plex sus­tain­able so­lu­tions. The ZNS pro­gram of em­pow­er­ing the youth could be just one that was promised in the 2017 -2018 bud­get with man­i­fes­ta­tion awaited.

Cop­per cath­ode pro­cess­ing at a Zam­bian mine. De­spite a min­ing boon un­em­ploy­ment re­mains a key con­cern in the min­ing ar­eas lead­ing to rise in gang­ster­ism among the youths a con­cern that gov­ern­ment has been chal­lenged to ad­dress.

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