By CHRISPA MULENGA
PUTTING food on the table has become an uphill task for many Zambians. But being the entrepreneurial lot that they are, Zambians, perhaps inspired by the adage “man must not only live, but live abundantly”, stop at nothing to make ends meet.
Unemployment has pushed many into creative maneuvers and unorthodox out-of-the-box tactics to earn an extra coin. Forget the crooks who engage in illegal enterprises such as pick pocketing, choke-hold artistes who rob people along dark alleys at knife or gun point and con artists like the famous Katondo boys.
There are some strange jobs Zambians do to feed their families that would shock you:
1. Bus fillers Forget the rough and noisy touts who get paid to holler at passengers- who know where they are going, anyway-to get into buses. We have young men and even grown up women who fill up unoccupied buses to create an impression the vehicle is full and just about to leave the stage.
You have probably heard a tout shout, “Kwasala umozi munthu eyambapo bus manje manje or the only available space is for the last two who are in a hurry)”, only for you to get into the matatu and see some ‘passengers’ disembark one by one? Well, for the uninitiated, those are not commuters, but bus fillers who get paid for that gesture. “
We make K10 to K20 each time we ‘fill’ a bus for long distance but for shorter distance like from the compound into town its K1. In the morning hours, I can sit in ten Marcopolo buses,” says John, who plays his trade at Lusaka’s Intercity bus station and makes approximately K100 each day.
He says business starts booming around midday when there are hardly any commuters. Strange as it may sound, John, just like any serious Zambian, wakes up as early as 6 o’clock and reports at the bus station. At Intercity station, John says he has tens of colleagues with whom they do the job.
2. House Sitters In Lusaka and any other big town like Kitwe, if you live in secluded leafy suburb and plan to travel for a while, we now have bureaus which not only hire out house helps, but temporary house sitters.
These individuals are hired out, not to cook or clean in clients’ houses. All they do is laze around, eat, entertain themselves with music and TV and keep the house in ‘occupied mode’ when the owners are away. This is aimed at warding off crooks who target unoccupied homes or anyone with ill intentions, including neighbours.
3. Sperm donors Desperate to make money, some young university students in Lusaka have turned to sperm and egg donation. Some time back, single women who wanted children, but didn’t want to get married had a hard time getting the right sperm. Some had to blackmail men they suspected had better genes to sire children with them.
So, what happens is that these women date and sleep with these young boys getting them pregnant. Once that happens, the boys are dumped and life goes on. But the boys are paid handsomely for their sperms. But in most cases, the boys never get to know that they are merely being used by the rich women whom they are dating.
4. Queue place holders Zambians will stop at nothing to make their daily bread. Take, for instance, what my colleague experienced during his last minute dash to pay Road tax at RTSA. If his story is anything to go by, then, Lusaka has professional ‘line-standers’. “Just when I expressed by disappointment over the long, slow queue, I immediately got approached by a gentleman who was just hovering around, asking to hold the line for me at a fee as I went to run errands in town,” says the journalist.
“I thought it was a big joke, but it turned out to be real. We exchanged numbers and as I was handling my other businesses, he kept updating me how short the queue was getting. I gave him k50 after I returned almost over 1 hour later,” says the journalist. With Zambians’ fondness for last-minute rushes when beating deadlines, professional ‘queue-standers’ could be making a killing, save for the fact that they don’t advertise their services.
5. Naked dancers If you thought getting to ‘work’ naked is a preserve of night runners, think again. Lusaka is now littered with young women who dance naked to make ends meet. If you are the conservative type, a venture at some clubs in Lusaka at night will offer shocking revelations. Besides prostitutes, there is a group of women whose job is to go round night clubs dancing in their birthday suits. “I strip-dance at close to three clubs every night from Wednesday to Sunday,” says a woman who only identifies herself as Miss Babes.
She says besides a retainer fee of K200 per night she gets from some of the clubs, she offers lap dances to party-goers ranging from K100 to K200 each. “A lap dance can last between ten minutes to half an hour, depending on the client’s choice and pay. Some will buy you drinks and ask you to keep them company for hours,” she says. She says their core business is to dance naked, but once in a while some clients normally demand more than that.
“Sometimes, we offer more than dancing in the nude, but that costs an arm and a leg, between k500 to K700 depending on the client,” says the stripper, who claims to be a single mum and makes so much money that she affords a house girl who takes care of her kid when she is working at night.
6. Professional mourners In most parts of Zambia, to have a heroic sendoff for your dead kin, he or she need not to be a ‘great’ or ‘important’ person, because professional mourners are always a call away. At a fee, these individuals will offer deafening wails, repeated hysterical sobs and blow whistles, giving the funeral the heroic status.
Like real mourners, female professional mourners behave as though they have been overcome by emotions and break into dirges, writhe on the ground as if in pain for the loss, cursing the devil and grim reaper. Their male counter parts, on the other hand, run all over with twigs, wailing like lunatics, with others hang on overloaded vehicles as they shout and honk.
7. Cuddlers for hire In Livingstone and other places around the country with a lot of tourism presence, they have taken the game a notch higher. There are young men who get hired by aging female foreigners to not only satisfy their sexual needs, but to cuddle with them when they feel lonely. “Some mzungu clients pay up to K300 just to be cuddled for comfort and made feel wanted for an hour or so.
Despite this job involving strangers in bed or on couches, it has a downside in that either party at times gets carried away emotionally, with one thing leading to another. And before you know it, you end up making love,” says Charo, a self-proclaimed professional cuddler, based in Livingstone.