Opposition National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo Jnr says the Patriotic Front government has plummeted to a new low by honouring Youngson Kalobo, the infamous former leader of a Copperbelt gang of black market copper traders popularly known as jerabos who died in 2015 aged 37.

Many outraged Zambians including Chipimo took to Twitter, Friday, to condemn the move by government to honour Youngson posthumously.

Recently, during commemorations of Youth Day on the Copperbelt, Kitwe District Commissioner Binwell Mpundu announced that government had honoured Kalobo, the younger brother to Wusakile independent Member of Parliament Pavyuma Kalobo, for his contribution to youth empowerment.

“Today, we handover a trophy to a gallant youth in the name of Youngson Kalobo for the contribution he had made to the emancipation of the young people in the district. The late Youngson Kalobo was very instrumental in bringing together this group of young people and through his Excellency, the President, there has been an empowerment to these young people we are calling small scale miners,” said Mpundu during the ceremony before Copperbelt Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe handed over a trophy to the Kalobo family.

Following the publication of the story, Zambians took to Twitter to denounce government’s decision, which many described as insensitive and an insult to the women who fell victim to Youngson’s terror.

Academic and political commentator Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa ignited the discussion with a series of tweets, copied to President Edgar Lungu and senior Cabinet ministers, that soon went viral.

“He (Youngson Kalobo) did some of the nastiest, reprehensible things. Women were raped at will and all sorts of unspeakable crimes were committed by him and his armed gang, sometimes in full view of the State police. This is the man the Govt of #Zambia is honouring posthumously. Totally disgusting! He once disrupted a kitchen party of a young woman he sought to rape in Kitwe. Her boyfriend got a violent beating before she was raped. As usual, the police did nothing. This is the man the Govt of @realedgarlungu, @DoraSiliya, @VincentMwale, @HonMushimba is honouring! #Insane! He was the leader of small-scale miners known as Jerabos till his death, at 37. The Govt deemed it fit to send a representative to his burial. Now they are honouring him posthumously for his work towards ‘youth empowerment’. In the same week that President Lungu is giving a speech to Parliament on national values and principles, his government is hoisting a trophy for someone who did much to betray them, everything in the opposite direction. What message does the award send? Is it so hard for these people to see their breathtaking hypocrisy? Sometimes, to be sane in Zambia is to invite pain!’ tweeted Dr Sishuwa.

Soon afterwards, respected Lusaka lawyer and civil rights activist Linda Kasonde, Chipimo Jnr, a prominent and popular Twitter user named Miss Bwalya and several other netizens re-tweeted his tweet or joined the condemnation.

Chipimo linked government’s decision to honor Kalobo tp the upcoming by-election in Roan constituency, adding that the move demonstrated how lowly the ruling Patriotic Front had sunk.

The NAREP leader tweeted; “One really has to ask: why would public officials posthumously honour someone like this? Could it be the looming by-election in Luanshya? Are there really no depths left for the PF to plummet to?”

And ‘Distant Relative’, a Twitter user who goes by the handle LankyObserver, said Kalobo represented everything people shouldn’t aspire to.

“When your social value system plunges so low as to explore the very depths of human depravity and you elect mirrors of yourselves, that is what happens. We must come to a point where we care for the values we foster as a society. They say not to accuse a person that isn’t around to defend themselves, so will simply say Youngson represented everything we should neither aspire to nor glorify”, Distant Relative tweeted.

Youngson Ndawana, a Zambian academic and PhD student at Liverpool JohnMores University in the UK said the decision to award his namesake was a mockery to Zambia’s values and genuine heroes.

“How low does a country have to sink before it recovers it’s sense of nationhood and morality? When a nation honours thieves and thugs for political gain rather than value real heroes, such a nation is lost. This move is a mockery to #Zambia’s values. It must be stopped!!”, he tweeted.

Others recalled with pain the terror that the honoured youth inflicted on their relations.

“A trophy of honour to Youngson? Really? My young sister was one of Youngson’s many victims of sexual assault and the damage that he inflicted on her is permanent. I support EL and PF, but their move to honour a criminal who inspired Tokota Boys and other gangs will make me reconsider. It is a grave insult to my sister and our family. I am very angry about this decision”, tweeted Alfred Mubanga.

Kalidas Bwalya decried the government’s lack of sensitivity to women, tweeting “I cringed when I watched the news announcing that Youngson had been honoured… it really says a lot about how this govt views women or even what passes for ’empowerment’. Smh”.

Macnell Mufungwe wrote; “Because of this guy and his gang, the environment in Kitwe was always [that] of fear. These guys would do wrong at will and the law enforcement agencies would just watch!”.

“It’s unbelievable that a government can honour a man who committed such terrible crimes. What is the meaning of honour, someone help me please”, tweeted Douty Chibamba who added, “Those who were tormented by the criminal must watch their own government ‘honouring’ him. So, there is actually honour in crime!”

Other netizens recalled that government had previously described Youngson’s colleagues as scavengers and wondered why their leader was now being honoured.

Dr Cleopas Sambo, based at Oxford University, wrote; “After 11 jerabos died at Black Mountain in June 2018, [Minister of Mines Richard] Musukwa repeatedly described the deceased & injured as ‘scavengers.’ ‘If criminals or illegal people invade a mine site like they did at the black mountain surely that is not good cause for me to resign.” Today he’s a hero? Why?”

Sydney Sihubwa wondered what criterion was used to honour Youngson, tweeting “How then do they come up with names of who to honour? Is there a detailed explanation of what makes him deserve the honour? # Those in media, please help identify the selecting committee to give us data.”