They are called small scale miners by politicians during the campaigns, they are called stone dealers by the women they prey and they call themselves jerabos in reference to illegal miners.
But why sugar coat the name. These are simply thugs whose livelihood depends on stealing copper to survive.
Both police and the mine owners simply call them criminals giving mining firms sleepless nights to curb and prevent them from stealing copper.
However, jerabos are not their own making, they are nurtured by the sitting government using them as tools of intimidation and violence to outdo the perceived political enemies.
The jerabos though thuggery, they are smart and intelligent and they know who to prey to get the job done, no wonder their activities are far from being over.
Just recently Chingola richest youngman and leader of the jerabos, Kabaso Mulenga the owner of Spax mining donated K100, 000 to the Republican Vice President Inonge.
The insinuation that Spax was softening the hearts of Government leaders in order to continue with his activities may not be wrong.
This then puts Copperbelt Police Chief in an awkward position in handling Spax and his team?
The ‘tidyenao’ team (let’s eat them) are many and we hear of some bad crop in the police service working with the jerabos to ensure they enrich themselves.
During the 2016 general elections campaigns we saw some PF candidates and now Members of Parliament being guarded by jerabos in Chingola and using them for campaigns.
When President Edgar Lungu came to Chingola at Kabundi Secondary, the jerabos the self-proclaimed PF campaign team almost overshadowed the President.
It took President Lungu’s campaign Manager Samuel Mukupa to call the situation to order after he ordered the police to handle the situation.
In simple terms, jerabos are well connected groupings and never consider them dull.
They play chess which sometimes even the politicians who think they are using the boys for political mileage they end up being used for the continuity of their illegal activities.
In Chingola, the jerabos were promised mountains but soon after being used to win the polls all the office bearers are mute.
Knowing that they won’t harvest from the campaign promises, the jerabos have gone on rampage with their activities and at the end of the day its poor marketeers at Chiwempala who get affected with looting when they run amok.
Show us any parliamentarian in Chingola and Copperbelt in particular who has spoken against illegal mining?
They are all talking about Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) outsourcing and criminalizing the move while decriminalizing the jerabos’ activities with changed goal posts of formation of cooperatives.
In 2007, MMD did the same during the Nchanga By-Election after Charles Chimumbwa had defected from PF that sponsored him to parliament to the then ruling MMD.
In dearly wanting the seat, MMD under Levy Mwanawasa lobbied for two disused pits in Mimbula so that jerabos could continue with their activities.
Within a short time the ‘tidyenao’ team joined and they hijacked the project, later sold the mines to the Chinese which is today called Chingola Copper Mines in Mimbula.
History of jerabos dates as back as when Zambian government allowed backyard smelters owned by Chinese.
Since then, we have seen the spiking in the number of intelligent boys dropping out of school to join the money making business illegal mining.
And to survive the jerabos always ensure they are on the right side of the law. To achieve this they always heavily campaign for the potential winner of Presidential polls.
After winning, they go back to their business while putting the elected leaders in compromised position and being held as a ransom.
It is this compromised position that nurtures the jerabos more especially that every sitting government want to cling on to power.
This time when one of the jerabos die, they take over the mortuary, the streets, the graveyard and they are untouchable. They go looting food from poor marketeers at Chiwempala and paralyze business.
The next move taken by this army of rebellion should not shock either Government or police even us as citizens because we are all compromised tidyenao team.