News

‘Stampede deaths a crime’

STEVEN MVULA, Parliament & CATHERINE MUMBA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has seized travel documents of organisers of a religious gathering that led to the death of eight people and left 28 others injured at Lusaka’s Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) on Monday because it is treating them as suspects of crime.
And the Patriotic Front (PF) has strongly condemned United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema for allegedly attempting to gain political mileage out of the tragedy instead of mourning the dead with the ruling party.
Eight people were killed and 28 others injured during a gathering of over 35,000 people who went to receive free food hampers at the invitation of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ).
Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo told Parliament yesterday Government confiscated their travel documents because it is investigating the foreign conveners of the alms-giving gathering.
Mr Kampyongo was responding to a question by Monze member of Parliament Jack Mwiimbu (UPND), who wanted to know if the stampede was a result of criminality or hunger.
Mr Mwiimbu’s question was a follow-up to the ministerial statement Mr Kampyongo issued on the spate of murders and the fatal OYDC stampede.
“The conveners were insincere. So, we are treating them as suspects and we will not leave any stone unturned,” he said.
Mr Kampyongo said the conveners of the ill-fated freebie galore disregarded government advice and went ahead to conduct the meeting.
He said Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfrida Sumaili had wanted to establish the status of the conveners who are foreigners but before they got back to her, they had gone ahead with the meeting.
He said similarly, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare had demanded to know the type of food hampers the conveners would give but that they had not responded.
Mr Kampyongo said Government, through its social safety nets, cares for its poor.
“It is actually an insult to give the Zambian people 10kg bags of mealie-meal. This is not a solution to poverty. Let us respect our people,” Mr Kampyongo said.
He commended the Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja for personally halting the food-distribution at OYDC.
Mr Kampyongo said Mr Kanganja responded quickly and personally went to OYDC to restore order and prevent more deaths and injuries.
Meanwhile, Mr Kampyongo says there is a reduction in murders and criminal cases.
And the PF has strongly condemned Mr Hichilema for allegedly turning the OYDC tragedy into an opportunity to seek political attention instead of mourning the dead.
Secretary general Davies Mwila said it is unfortunate that Mr Hichilema has chosen to politicise the misfortune by blaming it on Government.
Mr Mwila said in a statement yesterday the PF under President Lungu’s administration respects and values human life because human beings are created in the image and likeness of God as revealed in Genesis 1:26.
“We wish to register our profound sadness and regret at the death of eight members of our national family in the stampede that happened yesterday (Monday). As a matter of fact, we are directly affected by this tragedy given the huge support we enjoy in Lusaka,” he said.
Mr Mwila said the PF is aware of the statement by Mr Hichilema in which he chose to politicise the misfortune and heaped blame on Government.
He said the party will not stop mourning to respond to Mr Hichilema, who is allegedly only trying to seek attention as usual.
Mr Mwila said the dead deserve dignified funerals and the injured attention.
And the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) says it has learnt with deep regret the death of eight people in a stampede during the distribution of food by the ‘Church of Christ’ at Lusaka’s Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) which also left 28 others injured and hospitalised, CATHERINE MUMBA reports from Lusaka.
CCZ general secretary Suzanne Matale appealed to Zambians to be on the lookout for organisations enticing them to attend their events where they use the platform to drive their agendas in the name of rendering help.
“We pass our condolences to the families of the victims of the stampede. We pray for peace and comfort during this sad moment and may the Good Lord continue to strengthen them as they mourn their loved ones,” she said.



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