Zambia was our crucible country. Three disparate strands came together. The twins who had hitch-hiked a ride through Africa, their uncle who was returning to his work with grassroots slumdweller organisation and the Ace Cook who was venturing completely into the unknown became a potent unit for innovation and for change. Not only would this journey leave a mark on their lives it would have a catalytic and regenerative effect on much of the slum dweller movement in East and West Africa. There is no way Oom could have accomplished this without Twins on Tour and the Ace Cook. This became irrefutable while we were in Zambia.
We entered and exited and re-entered this special country a number of times. As such it was as much the pivot of the journey as it was its crucible. The first visit to the country was made by Joel and the Ace Cook, Morgs and Gabba remained in Mana for a few days extra before flying back to Cape Town
We crossed over at the Chirundu border post - the very port of entry used unsuccessfully a fortnight early by one Tendai Biti. We were not surprised at all that he got blocked. It took us four hours and refusing to pay bribes several times, including requests for bribes from interpol officials. Our supposed infringements? We did not check when the immigration officers at Botswana border stamped the wrong exit date in our passports.
Wise-O and Oom were in Lusaka for less than 18 hours before Oom had to head back to Cape Town for a series of meetings with international donors and Wise-O had to hook up with Gabba who was heading home from Harare, so they could return to Namibia for the first additional cooking event. That was to follow with another cooking event in an even more exotic location than most - Ghana
By September 4 all four of us flew back into Lusaka, reconnected with the SDI affiliate, recovered the Twin Mobile and headed to MTN for a very long wait for local SIM cards and data.
We had dinner with Nelson and Melanie, CEO and COO of PPHPZ. The twins were asleep in the back of Twin Mobile before we got back to our hotel
It was going to be a busy few weeks with the Zambia Federation and we needed all the rest we could get.
It began for the Ace-Cook and the Twins on Tour with a debriefing for the chefs who were to compete in Slum Master Chef Zambia. It was immediately evident that the Zambian alliance had taken the message of mobilizing the Youth very seriously. This was going to be a very youth orientated event. The Zambians appear to have a head start and greater clarity of purpose when it comes to empowering the next generation. They had even stolen a march on the youth Champions in Africa: Nigeria and Kenya.
The women in the youth federation were brilliant at teasing the young men on the team: tempting them and provoking them in a frank and forthright way - something to which the twins, from their sheltered middle class boys only school background simply not respond. Even Wise-O got cornered - literally.
Oom first met with the Zambia team and worked through the call for funds and finance tracking instruments under development at the Secretariat. Then we went visit the projects, beginning with the much vaunted centre at Chazanga
Overly ambitious and carrying several challenges related to infrastructure and services, Oom advised an incremental approach using the expertise of local developers.
In the late afternoon we were taken to see Zambia alliance's "Ten Mile Project" where land was procured in the days that PPHZ were flirting with Reall, for the purpose building middle income housing. PPHZ escaped the fate of Malawi (from whom they took their cue in the Reall area) but clearly and erroneously felt that eliminating the support agency was all that was needed to solve the problem. Oom expressed concern around the unfeasibility of the project and its structural implications for the federation. The Zambia alliance would do much better if they simply sold the land and invested the handsome profits they are bound to make in their resource centre at George Compound.
The Zambia Federation's efforts at individual toilets may be strategically off-target, but their public toilets, including the newly completed one in Masala market, Ndola, are on point. Individual toilets produce a direct benefit to structure owners and land owners and the costs incurred are recovered by increasing the rent for tenants. Contractors are national and regional leaders so they develop vested interests in continuing to deliver a service that simultaneously penalizes poorer, more vulnerable households.
But our trip to Ndola and the Copper Belt (without Morgs who bailed out of this particular trip even though we were not going to be within miles of any crocodiles) was still days away. Before that Morgs and I went to the most intensely emotional encounter - arguably of the entire trip. We went to a meeting of the Lusaka Federation in George Compound.
We received an overwhelmingly poignant welcome from the mother Federation, and then the event was taken to another level of intensity by the Zambia Youth Federation.
This was but one of several stirring rap songs and poems that were presented by the youth. They all had a biting raw intensity and at the same time were rich in social and political commentary.
Instead of eliciting pity or anger in the crowd these beautiful performances unleashed a spontaneous exuberance so honest, so authentic and so upbeat that Morgs overcame his self consciousness and proceeded to dance in front of hundreds of strangers. And the response he received was overwhelming. Dozens of youth joined in, producing a bond with some of them that transcended all the stereotypical barriers and generated trust and friendships that will last a lifetime.