Since the Black Mountain tragedy happened last week, we opted to reserve our comments on the matter, as it was such a sorrowful incident that certain opinions would go to injure the families of the deceased. We waited for the Church, government leadership and more importantly, President Lungu, to deliver his comforting message to the bereaved families.
For some strange reason, the President was mute until circumstances forced him to comment on the matter because he was already on the Copperbelt officiating at the Ndola International Trade Fair. What we heard come out of our President’s mouth is a mockery to the deceased.
Firstly, Mr Lungu did not find it necessary to attend the funeral of those who died in the mine accident; he was in Chipata donating a House to Mpezeni. He did not even find it worthy to send his Vice-President to represent him, or at least to honour the victims with a national funeral. Then when he had an opportunity to comfort the grieving families, he started shedding off blame over the tragedy and pointing fingers at “hypocrites” who forced him to give the Black Mountain to the fallen victims.
Maybe our Head of State is developing dementia and he needs help recollecting past events. We are here to refresh his memories.
When he was campaigning in 2016, President Lungu promised that he was going to give the whole Black Mountain to the youths of Copperbelt if they voted for him. He knew very well the ownership dispute that existed among private entities and that the matter was in court, but he promised to give it to the jerabos if they delivered victory for him on the Copperbelt.
The jerabos considered the fact that President Lungu is one of them, a former sufferer who grew up on the fringes of the Black Mountain, and they had no reason to doubt that he would honour the promise. But when he retained power, Mr Lungu abandoned the jerabos, he started enjoying soup ya mbuzi with his drinking mates, leaving the youths in Kitwe on the sun.
A year passed and towards the end of 2017, the jerabos lost patience. They started circulating voice notes, warning that they would make sure President Lungu loses the 2021 general election on the Copperbelt. In fact, they used insulting language to threaten the Head of State and the top PF leadership.
It is the fear of losing the 2021 election that forced President Lungu to invite the jerabo leadership to State House where he did not only handover 10 per cent of the slag dump, but also ordered a stop to the court proceedings, regarding the ownership wrangles around the site.
“I have directed Ministers and technical staff from relevant Ministries and State House to travel to the Copperbelt Province to meet with owners of Nkana Alloys Limited, the majority owners of Black Mountain to conclude the proposed settlement over the asset. All parties involved must resolve that all court actions are terminated soonest by consent arrangements to allow for the proposed amicable settlement planned for next week to take effect,” the Head of State announced to the nation in February this year.
This announcement sent Kitwe into an ecstatic frenzy. We saw convoys of mining trucks overflowing with jubilant jerabos as they drove around Kitwe, literally bringing the city to a stand-still. Lungu was the Black Panther of the moment and he took all the credit for the ‘brilliant’ move he had made. He never mentioned that someone forced him to give the Black Mountain to the youth.
His excited Cabinet Ministers and PF leaders could not sit down over this matter. They needed to gain all the political mileage they could. We saw Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo travel to the Copperbelt to announced on YAR FM that the jerabos would no longer be called as such, but “small-scale miners” because they would be working “according to the Laws of Zambia”.
Japhen Mwakalombe, who was Copperbelt Minister, told journalists that the decision to hand-over the 10 per cent share of the Black Mountain had nothing to do with politics, but an empowerment programme.
“This decision has nothing to do with politics, but a service given to the youths on the Copperbelt by the government. The young people that will be working on the Black Mountain will be trained in safety measures to avoid losing lives. They will not be there to earn a living, but also to learn the art of mining,” said Mwakalombe at a PF interactive forum.
Indeed, Mines Minister, Richard Musukwa, followed this up with a public statement declaring the Black Mountain safe for mining activities by the youths.
Surely, the bereaved families needed to hear the President of this country rebuke his Mines Minister for calling the dead “small-scale miners” as scavengers who were operating illegally. We needed a national leader to come out to recognize that there is no life that is more precious than the other. But what we heard from Mr Lungu on Wednesday cannot even stand as a funeral joke.
“I know that we are still mourning the passing away of those colleagues who died in the Black Mountain accident. What surprised me was that some of our own people who are in the political game, who were forcing me and agitating government to give the Black Mountain to the youths of Kitwe turned around and said we were wrong. Even people who praised me for doing that turned around and said we were wrong. Zambian politics is full of hypocrites. Shameless people who have no values are the ones who want to lead this country,” said President Lungu.
When is our Head of State ever wrong? Why is an apology so hard for President Lungu’s mouth to produce? How can this man start looking for someone else to blame for the Black Mountain tragedy when he didn’t want to share the glory of being hero-worshipped by the same people whom his actions have sent to the grave?
Can President Lungu and his Mines Minister tell this nation what safety measures were put in place to protect lives at the Black Mountain? You can’t say mine accidents happen all the time because there is no complication that led to this particular accident. Those youths died because while they were digging under a curve, another human being was driving an excavator on top, forcing the collapse of the Black Mountain.
By the way, there was another video circulating on social media two days before the accident happened. In this video, some jerabos were seen digging out one of their colleagues who had been partially buried under similar circumstances. So, it is very clear that there were no safety measures or any monitoring programmes over the activities at this site. Youths were digging whatever they could to earn a living, just like the President wanted.
Bwana Lungu, State House is not Lusaka Play House. It’s not an arena for comedy practice. Get serious for once and show that you care for the citizens of this country.
Of course we agree with you when you say Zambian politics is full of hypocrites and shameless people who have no values. Please, always remember that when you look into the mirror, sir!