Friday, 19 April 2019

Over 200 Old People Gunned Down In Zambia Over Witchcraft

Some of the gunmen arrested in Nakonde
By Paul Shalala

Over 200 elderly people have been gunned down by hired killers in the northern Zambian region of Muchinga in the past three years on allegations of being witches.

A total of 243 elderly people have lost their lives so far, 26 of them in the first four months of this year.

Lawlessness has spread to villages in the area with people hiring gunmen to kill elderly people who are suspected of practicing witchcraft.

Muchinga is a new Province which was created in 2011 and it borders Malawi and Tanzania.

It is a mostly rural region with a few towns dotted along the Great North Road which leads to the strategic border town of  Nakonde on the Zambia-Tanzania border.

The most affected districts are Isoka, Shiwangandu, Lavushimanda, Mafinga, and Nakonde.

According to Muchinga Province Police Commissioner Joel Njase, the killings are being done with the many illegal arms held by civilians.

Mr. Njase says some witch finders are also escalating the situation by pointing at elderly people as suspected witches.

“Police is still building more intelligence information on other suspects but we will act once we conclude our investigations. We also have a number of witch finders appearing (in court) for naming persons to be wizards,” said Mr. Njase in an interview with this blogger.

Most persons hiring the killers are said to be family members and the level of secrecy is too high.

Due to the underdeveloped nature of the area and illiteracy, some people believe that elderly people who either walk naked or talk to themselves are witches.

This is how some family members hire killers to clear their relatives.

“55 died in 2015 and the figures have being increasing reaching 86 in 2017 but reduced to 76 last year. This year so far we have 26 and the figure is expected to reduce further to below 40 by end of 2019,” he added.

Last week, Police in Nakonde mounted a major operation against illegal arms, arresting four suspects and recovering several guns.

All the suspects apprehended were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and five muzzle Loaders.
Some of the guns confiscated from suspected gunmen

The oldest among the gunmen was 76 while the youngest was 19.

 Six muzzle loaders were recovered and Police suspects the guns have been used in the killings of elderly people on suspicion of practicing witchcraft in Uzinji and Chozi areas.

Authorities in the region are now calling on sensitizations of villagers on old age and what comes with it.

Muchinga Province Permanent Secretary Joyce Nsamba, on a visit to Mafinga District, said government will soon embark on a sensitization programme against the killings.

Ms Nsamba said it is unfortunate that people in rural areas are killing innocent old people, some of whom are not even involved in witchcraft.

Traditional leaders are now worried that their subjects are now living in fear of being targeted by hired gunmen.

However, it is not yet known how much the gunmen are paid to kill a suspected witch.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Mopani Copper Mines Allegedly Polluting The Environment

Officials from Ministry of Mines inspecting the effluent 

By Paul Shalala

It was a struggle to open the huge pipe.

Two men had to help each other to release the effluent from this pipe.

The tailings flow on the ground, through a foot path into a dam.

This dam, which was built by Mopani Copper Mines, a subsidiary of Carlista Investments Corporation which is a joint venture between Glencore and First Quantum Minerals.

This dam also has an opening which later releases the effluent into the nearby bush.

Unfortunately, this tailings dam is illegal according to the Kitwe-based Mine Safety Department, a unit of Zambia's Ministry of Mines which oversees safety issues in the mining industry.

“There is no indication from the Mine Safety Department that this paddock was approved. Mopani Copper Mines did not apply for it to be set up here. This is not good for the environment, there is a nearby stream and am sure it is being polluted,” said Gideon Ndalama, the National Coordinator of the Zambia Mining Environmental Remediation and Improvement Project.
The illegal tailing dam which Mopani Copper Mines made

As this effluent continues to flow into the bush, the fear is that it will contaminate the environment.

Authorities are not happy that Mopani Copper Mines is discharging the waste without notifying relevant authorities.

“This is very bad and dangerous. You cannot be harming the environment like this. I will talk to management, they need to stop this. There could be acid and uranium here being discharded into the environment,” said Paul Chanda, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines.

Mr Chanda, who made an unannounced trip to the Nkana Tailings Complex, was shocked to find workers from Mopani Copper Mines opening one of the pipes to discharge the tailings.

He threatened that Mopani Copper Mines risks being penalized for deliberately harming the environment.

The workers on site could however not talk to this blogger as to why they were discharging the effluent.

Efforts to get a comment from Mopani Copper Mines proved futile as a press query sent to the firm’s Public Relations Unit was not responded two for a week.
Grass drying up in the Nkana Tailings Complex

However, inspectors from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) have visited the area and collected samples to ascertain the contents of the effluent.

ZEMA Corporate Affairs Manager Irene Chipili says the samples have been taken to a laboratory and they will be tested soon.

And a check at the nearby tailings found some trees and grass drying up due to lack of maintenance.

The tailings, whose licenses have been given to private firms, have developed craters and holes, leading to the leakage of red oxide to the environment.

The Ministry of Mines has since asked the license holders to fence off the tailings to stop the leakage of red oxide which is harming the environment.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Mbwambwambwa Gang Hacks Two Kalulushi Youths

Mwenya Chishimba who lost two teeth
By Paul Shalala

Suspected members of the Mbwambwambwa Gang have hacked two youths, one of whom is battling for his life in the Kalulushi General Hospital.

The second victim has been discharged from hospital after being treated for head wounds.

The victims are from Kalulushi’s Mine Township.

22 year old Mwenya Chishimba who was badly beaten, has lost two teeth in an attack which happened on Valentine’s Day and is still admitted to the hospital.

Mwenya's mother Barbara Chishimba says her son almost died due to the beatings.

Mrs Chishimba says around midnight on Valentine’s Day she was awakened by a group of youths who were shouting slogans saying they were members of the Mbwambwambwa Gang and they had come to dump her son.

"When I came out of the house, I found my son was unconscious. He wasn't responding. He had many cuts and two of his teeth were removed," she said amid sobs.

She complained that her son's attack is the second in the family.

"I think our family is under attack. We are leaving in fear now," she added.

In November last year, her 16 year old nephew Blessings Busaka was hacked by suspected 70 Niggas gang members who broke his jaw.

The boy even missed his Grade 11 examinations while he was still nursing his wounds.

Since then, he cant eat through his mouth, he is fed through a tube.

But Kalulushi District Commissioner Kenny Siachisumo has downplayed the issue of gangs in Kalulushi.

Mr Siachisumo has told this blogger that Mwenya was beaten during a fight between two groups of youths.

"When youths are beaten these days, they are lying that it is 70 Niggas or Mbwambwambwa. These are just teenagers who were fighting at a bar," said Mr Siachisumo.

The District Commissioner says Police have arrested one suspect who took part in the beating and he is helping them with investigations.