I recently found myself in the company of a local Lusaka bargain hunter and we ended up at Soweto Market to purchase some vegetables. We went to the part right at the end after City Market and New Soweto Market.

You can buy almost anything under the sun at the cheapest prices here. I was most impressed by the sheer volume of business activity and entrepreneurship. You can buy groundnuts and have them grounded right there. I saw seven different varieties of beans at one stand, massive juicy water-melons and every vegetable under the sun. There is also a whole large section with salaula (second-hand clothes) and I saw pretty much every stand with customers as cash exchanged hands every second. If one could total up all the money that changes hands, I suspect it would account for a significant portion of the GDP of Lusaka.

There are guys who hire out gumboots for walking through the mud during the rainy season for K5. You leave your shoes behind and they even give you plastics to cover your feet before you wear the boots. There is a service to clean gumboots if you come with your own. Others sell plastics to cover your shoes if you do not want to use gumboots though the places you can go to are limited because of the deep mud. And of course there are wheelbarrows for hire, specially made using car tires so that they don’t sink into the mud with some clever “extensions”. It is a whole ecosystem that somehow has it’s own order within the chaos.

Despite the positives, Soweto Market is the most filthy place I have ever gone to, far worse than all the shanty compounds I have been to, including the infamous Chibolya. The stench that assaults your nostrils can give a skunk a run for its money. How the Lusaka City Council can allow this is beyond me.

After raining, the whole place turns into one large mud field due to the dark clay soil and also because there is no drainage or garbage collection at this unplanned market. The mud looks like porridge and mixes freely with rotting vegetables and fruits with some excrement to boot. If scientists took a mud sample, they would probably find a world record for bacteria per cubic millimetre. The air must be infested with zillions of bacteria.

And yet people sit there the whole day selling their stuff. They must have the strongest immunity in the world. I saw many women coming to buy stuff subjecting their small babies to this shocking filth. It is a miracle that people can last even one hour in this place.

If Zambia was a more civilized nation, this place would been turned into a proper market with daily levies collected from sellers to maintain the place. After 50 years of “independence”, we cannot even manage a simple market. It seems nobody in authority is bothered. Where is the Mayor? Where is the Member of Parliament? Where is the City Council?