LUSAKA, (Xinhua) --
The death of eight people who tried to queue up to receive food
aid at a sport complex in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, has
raised questions on the country’s food security situation, the
country’s leading opposition leader said on Tuesday.
“These deaths were
avoidable in the sense that our people died as they were looking
for food, which has become a luxury under the current
government,” Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the main opposition
United Party for National Development (UPND) said.
At least eight
people were killed on Monday in a stampede at the Olympic Youth
Development Center (OYDC) as thousands of people invaded the
sports complex to receive free food hampers which were being
donated by a church.
The food parcels
included a head of cabbage, sugar, soya pieces, cooking oil and
a 10 kilogram bag of mealie-meal.
The church had
prepared food hampers for about 35,000 people, mostly from the
slums of the city but more people turned up to receive the free
eyewitnesses, the stampede was caused by impatient residents who
did not have coupons but wanted to gain entry into the sports
The government has
since expressed sadness over the loss of lives and suspended the
operations of the church following the incident, claiming it did
not follow laid-down laws for organizing public gatherings.
But for opposition
leaders and civil society groupings, the incident is a sign of
the level of hunger in the country which boasts of producing
plenty of maize, some of which is being exported to neighboring
countries facing a maize shortage.
questioned why the price of the staple food, mealie meal, could
be beyond the reach of many people, mostly from the country’s
impoverished densely populated slums when the country has plenty
According to the
opposition leader, the scramble for food at the event is a sign
of the hunger situation in the country as the price of the
staple food has become too expensive for many to afford, a
situation he calls unacceptable and shameful.
“How can a country
so rich as ours be failing to feed its own people and yet some
people are globetrotting pretending that there is no hunger
among ourselves,” he wondered.
His views have been
supported by MacDonald Chipenzi, a governance expert, who said
the stampede over food was enough evidence for those in
authority to consider the hunger situation among the
impoverished people in society.
“What happened at
the OYDC has correctly brought to our attention the acute hunger
situation people are facing in communities especially in urban
areas,” he told Xinhua.
According to him, it
is pointless for the government to be talking about bumper
harvest of maize and improving economy when the majority of the
people were not benefiting.
He said the bumper
harvest of maize and improved economic growth being touted by
the government is a contrast to what was happening on the ground
as people are not able to afford the price of mealie meal.
incident was due to our church, political leadership and some
on-state actors who are denying the extent of hunger and
destitution in our country and communities,” he added.
Zambia has had good
harvests of maize in recent years, a situation that makes the
country among the few that are food secure in the southern
According to the
Millers Association of Zambia, an association of milling
companies in the country, Zambia is food secure with 915,000
tons of maize.
Andrew Chintala, the
association’s president said the country only need 350,000 tons
of maize until the next harvest season which is expected to
commence in April, according to local media.
However, despite the
country having plenty of maize, the price of maize meal is still
beyond the reach of many.
millers, the Grain Traders Association of Zambia and the
government signed a tripartite maize agreement in which the
millers were to be supplied with maize at reduced prices so that
they could pass the benefits to the consumers.
President Edgar Lungu has expressed concern that the agreement,
which was effected last month, has not yielded any tangible
results, forcing the president into threatening to cancel the
agreement as it is not fulfilling its intended purpose of
providing cheap mealie meal to the consumers.
Food donation causes stampede, killing
at least eight in Zambia