Some people say if the cure for AIDS was found, many elites would be out of employment and thousands of non-governmental organisations would be rendered useless. This is because millions of people worldwide depend on HIV/AIDS funds more than the aid benefits the HIV infected.
This is not only true to AIDS and other heavily funded pandemics; it is also true to all other natural and human inflicted disasters. In Zambia, there are many people who see opportunities when others are in excruciating pain. Where there is misery, they see lots and lots of riches.
These people are so sophisticated that when they make donations, they manage to get the victims to worship them and tune all the media propaganda in their favour. They do this so swiftly that an ordinary eye cannot see how they are actually top beneficiaries of other people’s misfortune.
What is worse is that the government is the biggest culprit of such crookedness. That is why you hear terms such as Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU). They will not create a Disaster Prevention Unit because it is easy to monitor how such preventive measures are worth the money spent. Instead, the government prefers to manage and mitigate the disaster after it has already occurred because after that, no one really pays attention to how much money was spent on the so-called mitigation. They want disasters to continue because without disasters or if they put up measures to stop these disasters, then those managing the DMMU will become broke.
On July 4, 2017, Lusaka City Market was set ablaze by unknown people. About 1,950 shops were gutted, leaving the victims in devastating horror. What followed immediately was the declaration of a State of Threatened Emergency. The President of the Republic of Zambia made it clear that people of ill intentions were trying to sabotage his leadership and make the country ungovernable. The President suggested that opposition UPND members were torching strategic public institutions in order to pressurise him into releasing their incarcerated leader Hakainde Hichilema who was facing treason charges at the time.
After the President made that insinuation, we saw a series of sympathy statements from those connected to government or indirect beneficiaries of government funds. They condemned the act and made various financial pledges. Others quickly printed T-shirts and mobilised music concerts ‘to fundraise for the City Market fire victims’. The musicians association picked it up from there and started demanding for more money to tour the whole country in the name of fundraising for the inferno victims.
Banks came on board donating cash towards compensating the victims and building a better market. We saw organisations such as the Zambia National Service ladies club not wanting to be left behind in the donations extravaganza. There was even a church service for that matter, graced by first lady Esther Lungu where bishops called for generous offerings to help lift the burden of the affected marketeers.
Even when the police punctuated the euphoria with a statement announcing that they had arrested 11 suspects, and none of them was a UPND member, the City Market tragedy remained the most profitable horse to ride on. Members of parliament took turns debating the incident on the floor of the House like Zambia had never experienced such kind of a fire before. Somehow, the government succeeded in creating a mystery around the incident that made it so lucrative for business houses, NGOs and individuals to donate and make statements on.
On August 30, 2017, another fire swept threw Kapalala market in Ndola, destroying over 3,000 stands and shops. Unlike in the politicised City Market fire, the person responsible for the Ndola market fire has been identified. He apologised for his carelessness, pleaded guilty to the charge and is already serving his two-year sentence. What have the Ndola Market victims gotten from the government so far? Crocodile tears on camera and rhetoric – nothing more. But where are the City Market donors? Where is Mr Kelvin Bwalya Fube to organise T-shirts and a fundraising music concert for the Ndola market fire victims? When are we going to hear the Bankers Association of Zambia send that cheque towards rebuilding Kapalala Market? What is it that made people more sympathetic to the City Market fire than the Ndola market inferno that has affected more people?
It is clear that those who benefit from other people’s misery are not coming forward because the Kapalala market disaster is not lucrative. It has no political mileage and there is no sufficient mystery with which to create propaganda. People are quiet as they have always been whenever Chisokone market in Kitwe gets gutted every year.
We are concerned that those in the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit are not showing interest to start looking for resources to build hazard-free trading areas in densely populated cities. We are concerned that the ruling party is eager to empower marketeers, but they don’t care where those poor beneficiaries are conducting business.
Since the PF says the Presidential Empowerment Initiative is not for its members only, why can’t that money go towards building better, safer markets for these people? Is it because markets don’t vote?
We have heard President Lungu direct his Copperbelt minister to find an alternative trading area for the affected victims while plans are put in place to rebuild the market. But without giving them capital, what will they be selling?
We encourage and challenge those who showed their sympathy for the City Market victims to do the same for their Ndola brothers and sisters, even when they know very well that there will be no political mileage to gain from their donations. That is what true giving means.