Government has suspended the operations of the Church of Christ after an initiative to distribute food hampers caused a stampede that left eight dead and 28 others battling for their lives at the Olympic Youth Development Center in Lusaka.

Police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo confirmed the incident in a statement earlier today.

“Eight people died while 28 others were injured in a stampede which happened at Olympic Youth Development Center in Lusaka around 06:00 hours today as a crowd jostled to enter the premises. Among the dead, six are female, one male adult and one male juvenile. Five died on the spot while three died from hospitals where they were rushed for medical attention. The victims are among the 35, 000 which the group called Lesedi Seven, had invited for prayers at OYDC. The group had also organized food hampers to distribute to people. This Lesedi Seven is a grouping under Church of Christ,” Katongo stated.

“The injured are receiving treatment at Chingwere first level hospital and Chipata clinic while the bodies of the deceased have been taken to UTH mortuary. We have since dispersed the gathering and an inquiry into the matter has been instituted.”

And in an unrelated report Katongo stated that police had arrested a 21-year-old man for defiling and strangling two juveniles.

“Police in Chilanga have apprehended a male aged 21 years identified as Tapela Phiri of Linda compound in connection with the defiling and strangling of two female juveniles aged three years (03) and seven years (07). The suspect is reported to have gone to his sister’s house around 19:00 hours yesterday, 5th March, 2017 where he picked his three year old niece identified as Judith Tembo and the seven year old girl identified as Agness Nkhoma, whose parents live in the neighborhood, took them to the bush in Mimosa area where he defiled them and later murdered them,” stated Katongo.

“The suspect also stuffed leaves and grass in the victim’s mouths to prevent them from screaming. He later dumped the two bodies of the female juveniles along mimosa road and they were discovered by a motorist in the early hours of today at about 02:00 hours and he alerted police. The bodies of the deceased are in UTH mortuary while the suspect is detained in police custody.”

And Ministry of Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili said the operations of the Church of Christ had been suspended because the government was not aware of the outreach programme.

“Government was not aware of the Church’s presence and its outreach programme. Failure by the Church to adhere to the permit procedure has caused the death of eight people,” stated Rev. Sumaili.