Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scripture Union Van stolen into Zaire – 11th June 1991

Recently our country has been plagued with theft of motor vehicles involving thieves coming from Zaire in collaboration with Zambians. The rate at which vehicle owners are losing their vehicles is so alarming that many are finding it unsafe to drive especially at night. On June 11th 1991, it pleased the Lord to allow the Toyota Hilux belonging to S.U. Zambia to be stolen into Zaire. Below is a brief account of how the Hilux was stolen.
Mr Kunda Kalifungwa
Mr Wilson Kamanga

After months of planning a tour of North Western Province S.U groups, we finally set off for Solwezi, the provincial capital of N.W. Province from Scripture Union House, Kitwe at 15:30 hours on June 11th 1991. Our aim was to reach our destination within three hours in time for a meeting at Solwezi Secondary School. We arrived in Chingola at 16:00 hours and made a stop over at a military check and at a Christian couple’s home to collect some empty bottles for use in buying some soft drinks. Upon buying food and drinks, we left Chingola at 17:00 hours.

Between Chingola and Solwezi, we met two road blocks mounted by the Zambia Defence and Police force respectively. Roughly 20KM after passing the second roadblock we overtook a Toyota Twin-Cab parked by the road side seemingly ready to branch off into the bush. The men in it were shabby looking and did not seem to be the true owners of the vehicle. The Twin-Cab was full of bicycles and live chickens packed and ready to be sold. After by passing the Twin-Cab we saw ahead of us a small motor bike belonging to the Zambian Government with two passengers on it. We had just managed to overtake the motor bike when we saw the Twin-Cab we left parked behind go right in front of us and made a stop. One of the men in it fired six bullets in the air in our direction. This forced us to stop and wait to see what was going to happen. Two men, armed with rifles came out of the Cab and made their way to the van, one in the direction of the driver’s seat where Mr Kamanga was seated and the other went to the passenger’s seat where Mr Kalifungwa was seated. Incidentally we were only two of us in our vehicle. Pointing guns at us, they asked us to surrender keys to our van and go in the back of it. The motor bike we had just by passed was also pushed in the back of our van making us realize that the two men on it were actually part of the group in the Twin-Cab. The men were six in number possessing on AK 47 rifle with three sub-machine guns. They spoke Swahili, Lingala and a bit of French.

Dad, Sister Mary & Brother Gregory
One of the men took over the driver’s seat of our van; the other went to the passenger’s seat while another sat with us to guard us. Following behind the Twin-Cab, the two vehicles turned in the direction of Chingola. After driving a few meters, we branched off towards our left in the bush, heading for Zaire. We drove a kilometer or so before making a stop at a small village where three more young men were taken captives. We later learnt that the five of us were captured to help build a temporary bridge across a stream we were yet to cross. Heading for the stream, we drove for several hours deep in the bush. It was interesting to note that the path we were using had no definite roads and yet the two vehicles were managing to avoid the trees. On our way, our monies, shoes and watch were taken away from us. We received intimidation and threats of being shot if any of us tried to escape.

Family Picture with the Van that was stolen

We were captured at 18:00 hours and arrived at the stream at around midnight, somehow managing to avoid the Zambian mobile policemen. At the stream we all got out of the vehicles and helped build a bridge for over two hours. The construction of the bridge involved clearing off some winding trees that had grown in the stream and cutting enough wood to be laid across the stream for the two vehicles to pass smoothly. After finishing the bridge, we had to clear some tall grass and shrubs again to make way for the vehicles to pass. From the stream we moved another six hours before finally being released at 08:00 hours on Wednesday 12th June 1991, deep in Zairean bush. Including the van, items such as beddings, clothes, Christian literature etc. worth K590,000 were stolen from us into Zaire.

Dad on his tour to Eastern Province visiting Schools

We managed to walk back to Zambia in four hours’ time. Fortunately, just about the time we met the Zambian soldiers and while narrating the story to them, the Member of the Central Committee for N.W Province, who was conducting some political meeting in that area linked up with us. We shared the story with him after which he asked one of the policemen with him to escort us to Solwezi Police Station. After giving our reports, we traveled back to Kitwe on 13th June 1991.

Though we lament the loss of our vehicle and other items, we thank God that He miraculously spared our lives to the praise of his glorious name. Amen.

(Traveling Secretaries)