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The night Chief Mweemba escaped death

HEADMAN Kanyemba shows the remains of a kitchen in Senior Chief Mweemba’s palace, which was petrol-bombed. Right, Pall-bearers carry Mubita Mubita’s remains.

JIMMY CHIBUYE, Sinazongwe
MUBITA Mubita, 19, dreamt of securing a place in the national football team and donning national colours.But alas, his dream will never materialise because he is dead.

His dream was cut short by unknown people who petrol-bombed Senior Chief Mweemba’s palace where the teenager was sleeping that fateful Friday.
Mubita, an ardent footballer in Kanyemba village of Sinazongwe district, sustained 100 percent fire burns and died on the way to Livingstone General Hospital.
On December 1, 2017, unknown people attempted to eliminate Chief Mweemba with a petrol bomb but ended up killing the 19-year-old and severely injuring the traditional leader and two other people.
Mubita, together with Edson Shamu, 67 the current Senior Chief Mweemba, his uncles Paul Sinakatongo, 48, and Clement Hantobolo, 37, were severely burnt in an inferno that gutted to ashes household goods worth over K86 million.
The deceased was interred five days later.During the valedictory ceremony, his teammates described him as the most talented and promising footballer of their time.
His father, Mubita senior, could not summon courage to speak during burial, but let his brother David Mubita talk on his behalf.
Mr Mubita said: “Unfortunate and painful this situation is, we shall not blame anyone for the death of our son but will wait for the police who are permitted to look into such matters to conclude their investigations.”
Known as Junior among his peers, Mubita plied his trade with Coca Cola Football Club at community level and Chimo Stars at district level under the amateur football league.
Bombing the palace
The torching of the chief’s palace has left many Sinazongwe residents wondering why the assailants wanted to kill the chief.
Although the motive behind the savagely act is not known, two different stories have emerged as to why the palace could have been petrol-bombed.
Chief Mweemba believes the torching of his house was politically motivated while his subjects and advisors believe the action borders on a succession wrangle.
The chief has accused United Party for National Development (UPND) members of allegedly wanting to kill him.
Chief Mweemba alleges that the assailants, who are against his ascension to the throne, want him dead also because of the cordial work relationship he shares with President Edgar Lungu’s administration.
“I am non-partisan, it is very shameful that some selfish people are trying to destroy the good work of the government. If you look at the way I escaped through the window, you would not believe it,” the chief said.
Chief Mweemba, a former police officer, managed to escape the raging inferno and sought help from one of his advisors who lives nearby.
After the grisly attack, the chief was admitted to hospital during which time Vice-President Inonge Wina visited him and assured him of Government protection and support.
Succession dispute
Mr Shamu was installed as Senior Chief Mweemba about a year ago, after a 10-year succession struggle (legal battle) involving three families. Mr Shamu’s predecessor, Isaac Siachamweka, died in 2007.
The torching of a chief’s palace in a succession wrangle is a common thing. Also common are succession wrangles after the demise of a chief and many of such cases have been heard in courts.
For instance, in 2016, Chief Tafuna of the Lungu people and another person were murdered in Mpulungu while 18 other people were left with fire injuries in a fracas over chieftainship succession.
Chizumu Chifunda, who was gazetted as Chief Tafuna in 2015, was burnt to death together with a person identified as Tarboth Chifunda. A rival group killed the two outside the palace.
Relieving the December 1, 2017 incident, Joseph Simichelo, one of Senior Chief Mweemba’s advisors, says it was about 03:00am when he was awakened by a loud bang on his door.
Mr Simichelo says when he came out, he saw the chief standing at his door without a shirt, shouting that some people had burnt his house in an attempt to kill him.
“The people who torched the chief’s palace really wanted to kill him and didn’t want anyone to rescue him because they had guns and were shooting in the air to prevent anyone from going near his house,” he says.
The attack on the chief, according to Mr Simichelo, could have been sponsored by a faction of people who had been claiming ownership of the throne for about 20 years.
Fragile chiefdom
Emmanuel Kabuku, the chief’s secretary, says in the wake of the gruesome attack on the palace, Government needs to set up a police post in Chief Mweemba’s area.
Mr Kabuku believes the presence of police officers will deter would-be attackers and enhance security in the troubled chiefdom.
The police have, however, called for calm as they investigate the matter.
Southern Province Police Commissioner Bonny Kapeso urged the people to be patient and avoid pointing accusing fingers at one another.
Mr Kapeso said police need time and room to thoroughly probe the matter and bring to justice anyone that will be found wanting.

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