WHILE a salary at the end month is what motivates many a people to turn up for work every morning, David Khuzwayo Lungu has turned up on the road to control traffic for the past five years – driven by his desire to reduce road traffic accidents.
The 59-year-old resident of Chipata Compound in Lusaka is an all familair face to regular users of Kasangula Road in Lusaka.
He operates from the rail crossing just near the junction leading to Chipata Clinic.
Overtime, Lungu has endeared himself to motorists who are regular users of the road who honk and wave to show him some love as he controls traffic.
From a distant glance, he may seem like a Road Transport and Safety (RTSA) officer but not, he is a volunteer who spends his mornings and evenings helping motorists find their way through the heavy traffic that characterizes this part of town.
Lungu shares his story of how his ‘hate for traffic accidents’ pushed him to start his daily routine of controlling traffic.
As The Mast Newspapers crew park their vehicle at a distance to observe and interact with the ‘traffic officer’ commonly known as Pull Up, a phrase he is fond of screaming at motorists when in traffic, he reluctantly agrees to an interview because he fears traffic would have built up as he talks to the press men without him on the watch.
Lungu agrees to be interviewed on condition that the chat should not take more than five minutes and that it should be conducted close to the road to enable him still work while the interview is ongoing.
Asked on when and how he started his noble service, Lungu reveals that he lost his employer who stayed in Lusaka’s Roma Park and this opened his eyes on a new chapter in his life.
“I grew up with the president on the Copperbelt and when I was growing up, I stayed with whites and I worked different jobs, my former employer Mr. Kitchen, early in the days, a captain of the ship trained me in a number of works,” he says.
“When I came to Lusaka about 18 years ago, I started working as a guard but I was equipped with different skills and when I started working, my employer, a female died and she was so good to me. For two weeks I had to minister vehicles in Roma until burial.”
He recalls that an accident scene in the early hours of one morning got him to realize his passion.
“In 2015, I was cycling my bicycle very early in the morning, an accident happened right here [he points at the rail crossing] involving a train which was coming from Ngwerere and a Canter Truck which was coming from the direction of Heroes Stadium and they collided and as I was about to go by, another vehicle, boom and at this point I had to park my bicycle and start controlling traffic to prevent more accidents from happening,” he said.
“About 30 minutes later, a female police officer came and I asked her to continue because I was tired having worked all night as a guard but she told me to continue and called for reinforcement from RTSA officers who found me on the scene when they arrived much later.
“We managed to remove the Canter Truck from the rail line and the train passed then traffic started flowing normally again. From that very time, I realized that my boss, who had a good heart had inspired me to do that and I told myself to continue doing that.”
“I was here for six months, people complained and asked me to also help deal with traffic at the other junction that leads to the sewer ponds and I also started helping there and things are moving.”
He discloses that his journey has already been over five years and he credits God for his survival.
“I now have been here for five and a half years, doing this job without pay. At one point the RTSA even threatened to arrest me for illegally controlling traffic and I stopped for a month but the national service and the army came and asked me why I wasn’t doing it anymore. Even the police came and asked me and I told them I had been threatened but they told me to go back on the road and help and I did,” he says.
“They told me that you are saving lives, go back we will talk to RTSA. That is how I came back on the road until today. I don’t want to fight with anyone, this is national duty, its my heart that feels at peace when I do this. Other people are called to be served, I am called to serve, that is why I am here. Its my passion to save this nation on traffic.”
When asked how he provides for his family, Lungu reveals the goodness of some motorists who realize his good deeds.
“Well, for the past five and a half years, I thank God, people here on the road, they sometimes give me handouts as they drive by and sometimes, I go all day without a tip and I go home empty handed but I will always return the following day to do my job. Five months ago Novare Mall on Great North Road came and asked me who pays me, I said nobody and they bought me this uniform and shoes and also offered me mealie meal and money for food every two months.otherwise I have been depending on tips from motorists and I thank God for his grace, He has seen me through, my family is surviving,” he says.
“ Although sometimes I feel burdened by my family responsibilities especially rentals, God provides. Apart from my five children and a wife, I have a number of dependants at home. It’s not easy but I have hope that one day it shall be okay,” says Lungu as he looks to the road and says ‘duty calls’ and he walks to the road and helps an ambulance make way to the nearby Chipata Clinic.
A resident of Kabanana, Richard Kafula who could not hesitate to add his praise to who he thinks is a good person aiding motorists.
“He helps us a lot with traffic and this seems like his passion. If the authorities like RTSA or Zambia Police can help him get some form of formal training otherwise he is a good man. This road is congested to the max each morning and evening so he really helps us,” he says.
A fruit and vegetable trader selling her good near where Lungu operates from feels Lungu is a good Samaritan who helps those on the move.
“He is a good person. He jokes with us and the motorists,” says the teenage trader shying away from giving her name.
Story by Tobias Phiri and Pictures by Melony Chisanga