Eastern Province is experiencing a motorbike boom in Zambia, with record numbers of people using bikes to get to and from work.

However, official data from the police also show that 16 riders died in the first two quarters of 2022.

It is not clear whether there is an increase in deaths as police are yet to provide data from the previous years.

Police statistics show that Eastern Province records an average of two deaths each month in motorbike accidents.

Chipata - the provincial capital, has recorded more deaths, 7, than any other district in the province.

Acting Eastern Province Deputy Police Commanding Officer Kennedy Chibwe, revealed that bike accidents left 68 riders with serious injuries during the first six months of the year.

Some of the deaths and injuries have come from attacks by criminals. Police records show that between January and July 2022, 32 motorbikes were stolen and in the process 20 riders were left injured.

The attacks are becoming more common. For example, on 20 June 2022, Maloni Banda, 30, of Mthilansembe Compound in Chipata was nearly killed when he was attacked by two robbers.

He told MakanDay that at about 19:00hrs, he was approached by a smartly dressed customer at Kapata Market for a ride to Vila Pumula area.

“When we arrived (there), while exchanging money with the unknown customer, another man suddenly appeared and hit me with a metal bar,” he said. “My customer joined and they both bit me until I fainted.”

Banda who is still nursing some serious injuries said he was picked by unknown people who took him to the hospital.

For Yobe Zimba, he was not so luck when he was attacked in early April this year. He died on the spot.

His brother, Thomas, said Yobe’s body was found with wounds – a sign he was attacked by robbers.

“I keep wondering why the robbers had to kill him, when they could have just got the motorbike,” he wondered.

Yobe left behind a wife and three children.

The family is still waiting for answers from the police.

Police say attackers are duped into thinking the criminals are genuine customers. Deputy Police Commanding, Chibwe said unfortunately, many riders are falling prey to these tricks.

“Riders are duped, sometimes they are called using their mobile numbers that they (attackers) need their services, once they get to where these people are, they are attacked,” said Chibwe.

But the Motor Riders Association believes the number of attacks and fatalities can be reduced if the bikers get registered and "make safety their priority".

“Our own research has shown that these attackers work in an organised group,” said Joseph Mwale, Acting Association Chairperson. “Almost all the motorbikes that have been recovered after robberies are recovered from other districts or Malawi.”

Mwale said their research has also shown that the attacks usually occur between 19:00hrs and 22:00hrs

He said GN motorbike engines are on high demand, especially among farmers who use them for pumping water during irrigation.

He said despite the risks, many local people continue with motorbike taxi business due to lack of employment.

Some bikers have been venting their anger on the police.

On 7 April 2022, there were chaotic scenes in Chipata town as riders, carrying Yobe’s coffin on its way to the burial site, blocked the road near the Chipata Central Police, to force police to release one of their colleagues who had been detained after his bike collided with a vehicle.

The riders only proceeded with the funeral procession after the release of their colleague.

While celebrating his release, another rider sustained injuries in a collision with a vehicle. The riders again blocked the road for 30 minutes following the crash, to stop the police to investigate.

But this time, the body had already been taken for burial at Hellen Cemetery along the Chipata/Lundazi road.

Acting Eastern Province Police Commanding Officer Davis Simwanza said police had to fire gunshots in the air to disperse the unruly riders.

Later in the afternoon, Chipata Mayor George Mwanza held a sensitisation meeting to discuss the safety of those using motorbikes.

Another incident involving bikers was on 22 April, 2022, this time a crowd of irate Chipata residents pounced on a suspect who attempted to steal the bike from Abraham Daka, 37.

Simwanza said thieves attacked Daka, of Kagunda area in Chipata as they tried to steal his bike.

He said Daka was hired by a man who later tricked him to stop the bike so that he could pass urine. Then another man emerged from the bush and hit him with a hammer in the head.

“He started struggling with these people and people nearby heard the noise and came to his aid,” said Simwanza.

Police are appealing for the riders and anyone else who has information about the criminals to come forward as soon as possible.

He also appealed to riders to register their bikes to easy investigations.

“You might be aware that even the motorbike they attempted to steal (from Daka) is unregistered, and this kind of thing is making it difficult for us as law enforcement officers to investigate these cases,” said Simwanza.

Simwanza also said police impounded 123 unregistered motorbikes, 46 of which were registered by the owners after being impounded, 41 are pending registration while 13 are currently undergoing registration process.