Lusaka City Sweepers

Photography and photostory production by Mwilu Mumbi

Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia. It is a dusty city, and unfortunately there are some people who do not care about their environment and who continue to litter the streets. With the dust and rubbish littering the streets of Lusaka, private companies, known as ‘pride tech’ and ‘time agencies’ in partnership with Lusaka City Council, embarked on a partnership to clean the roads and drains. The following two stories look into the lives of the ‘sweepers’ in Zambia’s capital who  keep the streets clean.  

Photostory 1: The Women Sweepers of Lusaka

Difficult work: Sweeping the busy streets of Lusaka isn’t easy. The women face a lot of difficulties, particularly during the rainy season. Drivers tend not to respect these hard working women, as they drive by, and often soak the women with water as they speed by. Women sweepers who were interviewed for this story complained to us that their salaries did not cover all their monthly needs. One woman complained about the lack of care and support from her employer, who deducts money from her monthly salary when she is absent due to sickness, accidents, hospital appointments, etc. They cited an example of one of the women who was ‘bushed’ (hit by a passing vehicle) whilst sweeping. She was taken to hospital, but the driver would not admit liability. She could not afford to have an x-ray, so spent time recuperating at home. Her employer deducted the time off from her monthly salary. The women reported that their employer does not store their equipment, forcing the women to pay K1,000 (€0.15) per day to store it in the back yards of Indian shop owners within Kamwala, a market area in the city. Sometimes their equipment goes missing.

Estnart Chansa (Photo above) works along Kafue Road, a busy road taking motorists south of Lusaka towards Livingston. She is a widow with two children – Milimo her eldest, currently in grade three at school, and Mathews, who is two years old.

Gertrude (photo above) sweeps the streets in Kamwala close to the local police post. The sweepers generally begin work at 07:00 and finish at 14:00. They would sweep about 5 to 6 times a day. Gertrude is married to a business man and has 3 female children.

Photostory 2: The story of James and Andrew