Kabwata Central PF Member of Parliament Given Lubinda has trashed a police statement suggesting that there was no gassing incident at Arthur Wina School on Monday.
On Monday, about 40 pupils were rushed to Chilenje level one hospital after a gassing incident and were treated for breathing problems, according to impeccable sources.
But in a statement around 22:00 hours, Police spokesperson Esther Katongo dismissed gassing reports at the school as a hoax.
“After receiving the report of alleged gassing at Arthur Wina School between 12:00 hours and 12:30 hours, it has been established that the whole issue came about as a result of a false alarm raised by a pupil in the grade nine class in question who shouted ‘gas’. This brought about commotion and stampede as all the pupils jostled for safety. Therefore, as Zambia Police, we dismiss the report of alleged malicious administering of chemical substance reported at the said school and state that the whole scenario was as result of an alarm which led pupils to panic. It was a hoax. We further call upon school authorities to help in giving hope to their pupils during this period and discourage them from raising false alarm,” stated Katongo.
Speaking when he toured the school on Tuesday, however, Lubinda, who is also Minister of Justice, wondered where Katongo got her information.
“I am very distressed that one classroom at the school was gassed. There is no question about it. I have spoken to the head teacher who was in school at that time, I have spoken to the councillor who happened to be at the school at the time of the incident. And the story they gave me collaborates very well with the story I got from Dr Musonda, the hospital superintendent at Chilenje Level one hospital. 41 pupils had to be attended to at Level one hospital yesterday showing signs of grasping for breath, some of them complaining about headaches and others complaining about chest pains. And some of the children were taken to the hospital by the school administration, others were taken to the hospital by their parents after they had arrived home that is when they started developing symptoms of grasping. This incidence is very sad and I just want to appeal to the parents, no one can celebrate this, all of us are very distressed,” Lubinda said.
“As your member of parliament, I am particularly upset that this incidence has occurred at this school because Arthur Wina is one of the renowned schools within Kabwata Constituency. Kabwata Constituency has generally been a peaceful place and for these thugs to come and start causing panic and havoc particularly in schools is totally unacceptable! I want to pray that the parents will continue to have confidence in the school. I am very happy that the police have since deployed police officers to patrol the school so that they avoid reoccurrence of what occurred at the school. I want to appeal to the pupils not only at this school, to be on the look out, let them be alert. I have been told that in some places, the gassing has actually been done by pupils themselves. In this particular case, I have been told that the gassing was from outside through the window so it could not have been the pupils. I want to appeal to the police to conduct thorough investigation in this matter and I hope that they can bring culprits to book.”
Lubinda said Katongo should verify her sources.
“I think that Madam Katongo will explain the circumstances under which she made that statement. I don’t know her source of information. The source of information I have is the Head mistress, the Councillor who happened to be at the scene and also the hospital superintendent, I don’t think the three could have come up with a story that could have been a hoax. So I think that Madam Katongo must have a different source. I don’t think that 41 children who were attended at the hospital could have faked illness, it is not possible. So I think that Madam Katongo’s source will have to be revisited. And I don’t want to get into the polymerics of asking why she said what she said. I am sure she is a professional spokesperson, a professional police officer but she will have to verify her source of information,” Lubinda said.
Lubinda said there was no need to close schools or businesses because of gassing.
“The police are patrolling everywhere and we are hearing of people getting arrested. Pretty soon, the ring leaders will be caught. But if you ask me as Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament for Kabwata about the idea of closing schools, I would say no. Our children deserve to be taught. And it is the duty of the government to provide security. We are going to be vigilant,” said Lubinda.