The Malawi government is facing pressure to act on the findings of a commission of inquiry on last year’s stampede at the Bingu National Stadium, which led to the death of eight people, including children.
48 others sustained serious injuries.
This was on the 6th of July during the commemoration of the country’s 53rd year of Independence in the capital city, Lilongwe.
It’s been six months now and no conclusive action has been taken on the matter.
A celebration turned into tragedy last year at the National Stadium where people were gathering for a football match, which was part of the 6th July celebrations.
The match was between Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers.
The gates were opened were reportedly opened later that they were supposed to, which caused people to scramble at the entry points.
In an attempt to contain the situation, the police used tear gas on the crowd, a move which is believed to have worsened the situation.
After all the commotion, eight people, most of whom were children lost their lives and forty others sustained serious injuries.
A commission of inquiry was instituted to investigate the matter and it established that negligence lead to the incident.
Eight months down the line, however, nothing serious has happened on the matter.
The Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Timothy Mtambo is of the view that the government shows it does not respect the rights of people by displaying this lack of seriousness on the matter.
He believes the commission of inquiry was just a strategy to buy time and divert people’s attention from the incident
“It’s not even debatable that government has not shown any seriousness on the issue,” Mtambo said.
Mtambo points out that it is the duty of the citizens of Malawi to hold the government accountable on everything as they have been docile on a number of issues.
The sentiments by Mtambo are also shared by a social rights activist Rafiq Hajat who agrees that the government indeed lacks seriousness.
Hajat believes that if people started standing up for their rights, the government would have no choice but to start respecting them.
When contacted by Capital FM, the Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the matter is no longer the responsibility of the president but rather the Chief Secretary to the government.
The Chief Secretary to the government Lloyd Muhara could not immediately be reached for comment.
It is everybody’s expectation that the government will start to diligently protect and serve the people with more seriousness.
Celebrations are continuing in the Nyasa Big Bullets camp following their winning of the Carlsberg Cup on Saturday.
They beat archrivals Be-Forward Wanderers on Post-match penalties in a final match played at the Bingu National Stadium in the capital city Lilongwe.
Millions of football enthusiasts tuned in on radio and television to watch the much anticipated match between malawi’s football giants.
The first goal came from the Nomads’ Jafali Chande 22 minutes into the game, before Muhammad Sulumba equalised for the Bullets in the 32nd minute.
Isaac Kaliati put the Nomads back in the lead before Nelson Kangunje equalised in the 75th minute from the penalty spot to make it 2-all.
After 90 minutes with both teams head to head, the match had to be decided through penalties where Wanderers’ Chester missed his spot kick.
This left leaving Kangunje with the opportunity to score the winning penalty to hand Bullets the trophy for the third time, matching their rivals who were the defending champions before the defeat.
This was the fourth time the rivals were meeting in the Carlsberg Cup final since its inception in 2000
“I’m happy we managed to lift the cup and this is a clear indication that we are on top of Wanderers this season in terms of derby wins,” a Bullets die hard remarked after the game.
A Nomad fan Isaac Nyirenda simply said,”We are not good at penalties during cup final. Look second cup final defeat in a season and this is painful to us.
The Bullets have taken home K12 Million in prize money and a trophy.
Malawi President Peter Mutharika says he will act appropriately on any evidence of wrongdoing or an act deserving blame that led to the tragedy at Bingu National Stadium during this year’s Independence Day celebrations.
Mutharika said this on Tuesday in Lilongwe when a task force he instituted to investigate the stampede presented a report on their findings and recommendations.
Eight people died during a stampede at the mega stadium on 6 July.
“We will certainly look at the report. Wherever there is evidence of culpability or wrongdoing, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General will make appropriate recommendations and action will be taken.
This was not meant to be a witch hunt but we wanted to discover the truth, learn from it and avoid a recurrence of this accident in future. The recommendations put forward look so comprehensive and I will sit down and look at them,” Mutharika said.
He added that it was wise and proper for democratic Malawi to go through the due processes in establishing what really went wrong and offer an explanation to Malawians.
The report, presented by the task force’s chairperson Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, has faulted a number of areas and players within the organisation of the event.
Chief among these is the main organising committee which has been blamed for poor planning, lack of decision making and their miscalculation in setting 10:00 hours as the time for opening the stadium gates.
The report also notes that the coordination between the main organising committee and various stakeholders like the Police, department of sports and BNS management was very weak and that their operations were characterized by a breakdown of communication.
The operational leadership and event management at BNS has not been spared the blame.
The report says the leadership on the ground failed to effectively coordinate with various players in making overarching and interagency wide decisions on the spot.
“The staff from department of sports, the Police and BNS management team worked in isolation. Each group (only) recognised and utilised its chain of command and worked in its own silo,” read the report in part.
It further states that the police were also at fault because they failed to ensure that people who flooded the gates maintained their queues and continued to walk up to the queuing rails in a single file.
The report goes on to say, “Considering that this was a very important day where multitudes would gather, the Police should have been more vigilant to maintain public order including being able to read all red flags that things were getting out of hand and avoid the eventual use of teargas.”
As part of its recommendations, the task force said government should consider constructing a ring road around the stadium to facilitate easy access and speed up evacuation during emergencies.
It also recommends that entry points into the stadium should be kept clear of immobile crowds.
The World Football governing body Fifa has expressed shock and great sadness on the tragic stampede at Bingu National, Stadium in Lilongwe, which caused the death of eight people and injured more than 60 others, most of them children, during the independence day celebrations on Thursday, 6 July 2017.
In a letter addressed to FAM president Walter Nyamilandu, Fifa president Gianni Infantino extended his sincerest condolences to Nyamilandu, FAM, the clubs NMC Big Bullets and Silver Strikers, as well as to the entire football Community in Malawi
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died, as well as the injured victims, and the international football family extends its greatest sympathy to them at this cruel moment in time.
“We hope that this message of solidarity may, in some small way be a source of support and comfort for them,” said Infantino.
Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) president Ahmed and his COSAFA counterpart Dr Phillip Chiyangwa also sent messages of comfort last week.
President Peter Mutharika has since set up a task force that include a FAM representative to investigate the cause of tragedy.
Officials from the Malawi Police Service are defending the use of teargas in controlling crowds, amid growing criticism from the public.
The criticism follows what the public refers to as a tendency of using teargas in crowd control, even in unnecessary situations.
The Police were recently accused of putting lives of children at risk by firing teargas during the pupils’ protests in Lunzu, Blantyre.
In a latest incident, the Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd that was scrambling to enter the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe to watch a free for all football game during activities marking the country’s 53rd Independence anniversary.
Speaking to Capital FM, National Police Spokesperson James Kadadzera, disclosed that they do not plan to use the teargas, it is usually situational and not meant to cause any harm.
However a preliminary inquiry has indicated that the major cause of the stampede is that the gates at the stadium were opened late.
According to Kadadzera Inspector General Lexten Kachama has put in place a committee to come up with a full report to clearly state what happened on the day which led to the death of eight people mostly children, leaving 62 others injured.
“The committee which comprises of senior police officers is currently gathering information to put in their report pertaining to the stampede.
“The committee is being led by professional police officers who will not be compromised and will work independently and with integrity that will in no way compromise the findings of the final report,” Kadadzera explained.
Critics believe the law enforcers should explore other ways of controlling crowds, like it is done in other countries, arguing that the use of teargas worsens situations, thereby leading to loss of lives and injuries.
When asked when whether they accept the blame being piled on them from the public, Kadadzera said that will be known when the final report is released by the committee.
He then went on to say that primarily the stampede is said to have been caused by the delay in the stadium managers from opening the stadium gates.