Families of victims of Thursday’s Independence Day Bingu National Stadium tragedy yesterday started mourning those crushed to death and amid the grief voices of rage of what happened kicked in.
The grieving families also called for what happened and who was responsible for the tragedy. There was a special feeling of total grief and shared pain in the town closest to the stadium and where the majority of the victims lived-Mtandire.
It is a township ravaged by poverty but now, increasingly, getting used to disasters. Less than a year after floods devastated the township, a shanty peri-urban settlement at the foot of the magnificent 41-seater Chinese constructed national stadium tragedy unfolded again as the country rose to celebrate 53 years of self-rule.
Weekend Nation yesterday visited three homes in Mtandire where young lives were nipped in the bud. As friends and relatives gathered to remember the departed, a picture emerged of soccer-mad and schoolchildren who just wanted to watch their football stars.
They included a nine-year-old Precious Adisi, a budding star in his own right of the local Under-10 football team who on Thursday woke up from his bed impatient to watch his favourite football stars.
At 9 am, without taking his breakfast, he had sneaked out of his home for the stadium without letting his mother aware he had left.
“We invited him to join his siblings to eat breakfast. Behind our backs he just sneaked out and then next we heard that he was among the dead,” said a sobbing Esther Adisi.
“I first heard from his father that Precious was injured. We had no idea he had gone to the stadium until one friend told us he had seen him in a truck going to the stadium. He loved football so much,” said Adisi whose other child, a girl, survived the stampede.
Photogra Two houses away from the Adisi homestead, Precious’s best friend, Promise Gamatula, was also being mourned after dying in the same tragedy.
Her mother, Esther Gamatula, barely holding herself said her son who was very religious and soccercrazy hardly missed football games at the new stadium since its opening.
“The night before yesterday, it was him who offered the prayer before we slept. He asked us to touch our rosaries and prayed. I had no idea it was the last time he was doing so,” said the grieving mother who had intended to later go to the stadium but cancelled the plan.
A short distance away, Malita Mwale, 38, lost her 11-year-old nephew Aaron, a primary school pupil and one who also was in deep love with the game both as player and fan.
The family searched for the victim only to be shown a picture of seriously injured Aaron on a social media site. After searching various wards of referral Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), they found his body in the morgue.
“We were home around 10am A stampede occurred outside BNS and fatalities include seven children when his uncle rushed home and told us that there has been a tragedy at the stadium and we should inquire about the whereabouts of the children.
“As we searched someone told us they had seen our child on the internet badly injured and we rushed to KCH where after some search we found his body,” said Mwale.
Local leaders, however, set aside grieving to put out a serious message; lessons must be learnt, so that in the future no repeat of such a tragedy occurs they told Weekend Nation.
Village Headman Chekalu said the village has lost three but was yet to get a full picture of those injured.
“Our appeal to government is that measures must be taken to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. In any tragedy that will happen at the stadium, we will always be affected,” said the chief.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) national coordinator Robert Mkwezalamba in a statement yesterday, blamed stadium authorities and police for mismanagement of the situation at the stadium.
“The officers responsible should be out rightly fired for causing death and injury, as they cannot voluntarily resign,” said Mkwezalamba.
National Police Headquarters spokesperson James Kadadzera said a preliminary inquiry has shown the stampede was caused by the delayed opening of the gates.
He said the Inspector General has instituted a full internal inquiry.