Nestled amidst the captivating Namuswa Hills, located 72 kilometres east of Choma town in Southern Province, Masuku Terminal stands as a compelling testament to the complex relationship between mining operations and the surrounding communities.

The story of this terminal began in 1971 when Maamba Collieries Limited was established under the ownership of government through the Zambia Industrial and Mining Corporation (ZIMCO). The creation of the project area in Maamba marked a momentous occasion, igniting hope and prosperity throughout the region. Subsequently, the construction of the terminal in Masuku, within the Choma district, breathed life into this once-promising community, led by village headman Kadolobyo of Chief Cooma (formerly Singani).

However, as time progressed, the narrative of Masuku Terminal began to acquire a bittersweet tone. During the turbulent 1990s, the region experienced a wave of widespread retrenchments that profoundly impacted the economic panorama of this previously flourishing hub nestled in the Namuswa Hills. The repercussions of this upheaval resonated not only in the lives of the miners employed by Maamba Collieries but also reverberated throughout the neighbouring communities.

While in the area, a MakanDay reporter had the opportunity to meet Patrick Munsaka, a humble cleaner at a local clinic housed in the former management house of Maamba Collieries. Within the vibrant clinic, the reporter witnessed a touching sight—a group of women conscientiously bringing their young children for medical check-ups. This poignant scene stands as a powerful testament to the deep impact of mining operations on the community.

Initially hesitant, Munsaka eventually opens up, sharing the distressing truth of the clinic's constant need for medicines to address chest infections. This unspoken acknowledgment underscores the undeniable link between coal mining and respiratory ailments.

In the midst of this revelation, our reporter's path intersects with Mukonka Hamukangandu, a dedicated schoolteacher. Through him, she witnesses a profoundly distressing scene—a group of young pupils embarking on a challenging two-kilometre journey to reach a distant water point.

The water they encounter is clouded and teeming with living organisms, rendering it unsuitable for quenching their thirst.

The shocking video was captured by Mukonka Hamukangandu

This contaminated water source stands as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the pressing issues plaguing the terminal. It serves as a resounding call, demanding attention to the struggles endured by its inhabitants, particularly the innocent young children who bear the burden of compromised living conditions.

The degraded environment

Accompanied by Munsaka, our reporter embarks on a poignant journey through a land scarred by the impacts of mining operations. She bears witness to the visible aftermath inflicted upon the environment. The degradation of the land, the potential pollution of surface water bodies, and the presence of air pollution are among the challenges that have left an indelible mark on the region's natural resources. However, amidst these trials, a remarkable spirit emerges from the community—their resilience and adaptability in the face of changing times.

Engaging with the people of the terminal, she lends an ear to their stories, celebrate their triumphs, and grasp the profound impact of these changes on their social life, economy, education, and agriculture. As she delves into the echoes of the past, she unravels the threads of a community forever shaped by the presence of Maamba Collieries and driven by the aspirations that continue to define their journey.

Guided by Munsaka, she is transported to a bygone era when the terminal flourished. In his youth during the early 2000s, Patrick and his friends found employment as casual workers, loading coal into trucks and train wagons whenever the regular loaders encountered issues. These memories paint a vibrant picture of a bustling terminal, where the energy of hard work and camaraderie permeated the air.

Despite its dilapidated state, the terminal stands tall, a stoic witness to the memories and aspirations that once filled its corridors. It silently whispers tales of grandeur and beckons all who encounter it to remember the better days it once embraced.

“We had a lot of trucks here every day,” explained Patrick. “Coal used to come from the main mine in Maamba and it was transported to the terminal by buckets. This is where it was crashed and graded and the buyers would come and pick it up. Some came with trucks but many hired Zambia Railways goods trains. There were even mine police officers manning this place.”

Is CDF the answer?

Davison Mwiinga, the chairperson of the Ward Development Committee (WDC) for Namuswa Ward, where the terminal is situated, steps forward to offer our reporter a comprehensive insight into the dynamics and challenges of the community.

Namuswa is one of the 28 wards that make up Choma Municipal Council and one of the two most distant from the central business district of Choma - the Southern Province administrative capital.

It was Mwiinga who led our reporter to the unsettling scene of children drinking clearly contaminated water. Silenced by the gravity of the situation, the MakanDay reporter travels in the battered van, hired from a Choma-based farmer.

The dire lack of access to clean and safe drinking water becomes a sobering reminder of the challenges faced by the residents, particularly the vulnerable young children who must bear the burden of these conditions.

Each bump along the road serves as a sombre reminder of the challenges faced by the community of the terminal. The worn interior of the van mirrors the weariness etched upon the faces of the traveling party, reflecting the urgency to uncover the deeper truths hidden within the community's struggles.

As the wheels rumble over the uneven path, the gravity of the situation lingers in the thoughts. The haunting images of young children forced to drink from a contaminated water source replay in her minds, evoking a profound sense of responsibility.

Guided by Mwiinga, our reporter ventures further into the landscape of the terminal, visiting various projects funded by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). One of her stops is Muntu Mutwe, a women's club that received a generous grant of K15,000 to establish a goat-rearing enterprise. However, as fate would have it, the goats are absent during her visit, as they roam freely for grazing purposes.

These encounters with Muntu Mutwe and the settlement's women's club provide glimpses into the aspirations and endeavors of the community members. It is a testament to their determination to uplift themselves and their families, forging ahead despite the challenges they face.

With renewed inspiration, our reporter continues her journey through the terminal, eager to uncover more stories of resilience, ingenuity, and progress.

Namuswa Primary School

As she makes her way through the vibrant community of the terminal, she is led to a gathering of teachers at Namuswa Primary School. Mwiinga's esteemed reputation precedes him, and his influence in the area earns the team the privilege of being escorted by the dedicated educators to the next destination—an unassuming community school nestled within Siamatende Village.

Under the guidance of Victor Miyambo, the teacher in charge, she steps into the world of this remote educational institution, where 140 primary school pupils, from grades one to five, strive for knowledge and growth. However, the challenges faced by the school are immediately evident.

The absence of a nearby water source casts a sombre shadow over the proceedings. To quench their thirst, the children must embark on a journey down to a nearby stream, where they fetch drinking water, adding a cumbersome burden to their daily routine. Moreover, the inadequacy of the grass-thatched buildings becomes apparent, as they offer minimal protection against the elements that surround them.

Within the modest premises, our reporter observes the smallest of black boards, a stark reminder of the limited resources available to these devoted educators. Victor, with unwavering dedication, explains that the school relies on three government-provided teachers and one invaluable volunteer, who together strive to nurture the young minds entrusted to their care.

It is in this context that Mwiinga interjects, sharing a glimmer of hope amidst the challenges. He reveals that the community school has been earmarked for a CDF-funded project—an ambitious plan to construct a 1 by 3 classroom block, set to be realised within the year. This anticipated development represents a tangible step forward in enhancing the learning environment and providing the students and teachers with better facilities to support their educational journey.

The journey took our reporter to other schools such as Kaunga Community School, where children are facing similar challenges.

As our reporter’s time at the terminal draws to a close, she makes her way back to the clinic, where her journey initially began. Munsaka, her dedicated escort, bids her farewell with a mix of gratitude and anticipation for her return.

Mamba Collieries is primarily owned by a subsidiary of Nava Bharat (Singapore) Pte. Limited, which maintains a majority equity stake. The company has not yet provided a response to MakanDay's inquiries, including any forthcoming plans for the terminal.