(By Andrew Chileshe and Christopher Miti)
RAPHAEL Nakacinda says mines minister Richard Musukwa acted childishly by calling youths who died at the Black Mountain as criminals. Musukwa told Parliament on Thursday that the 10 Kitwe youths who died at the Black Mountain were criminals and illegal people who invaded the slag dump.
Musukwa was responding to questions from members of parliament who quizzed him over the death of 10 youths at the Black Mountain on Wednesday morning. Chasefu PF member of parliament Gerald Zimba wanted to know what criteria was used for people who were mining at the slag dump and if government was considering withdrawing the 10 per cent given to the youth to avoid further tragedies.
In response, Mukuswa said those who died in the Black Mountain disaster were scavengers.
“The accident that we are considering, as you know government gave a license to seven companies. The people involved in the accident were scavengers. [They] were people that had entered the mine site illegally,” Musukwa said responded in Parliament.
But Nakacinda, who is national secretary of the Felix Muati led MMD faction, said Musukwa should reflect on his statement.
“He is my friend but I am saying this painfully that his response was childish and petty for a cabinet minister. He should have thought about it and deal with it in a sober manner. Whether scavenger or whatever, there is nobody that deserves to die. Any life of a Zambian is precious and therefore all those in government need to be ready. He still had recourse and more time to give a statement,” Nakacinda said.
“There is still need to investigate the whole process. In fact, I can suggest that they structure the mining activities of the youth. We had a structured plan under the MMD and the accidents were avoided. There was some kind of order. There must be some input on expert analysts to look at the risks. Get the mining engineers to give expert advise.”
Nakacinda said the youths were just not looking for bread but to also change their living standards and employ others.
Meanwhile, Yotam Mtayachalo has urged the government to take radical and practical measures to completely review safety standards in most hazardous mining operations in the country.
Mtayachalo, a former general secretary for National Energy Sector and Allied Workers Union, stated that there was need to minimise the occupational hazards which continue to claim lives.
“First and foremost I would like to take this opportunity to convey my grief and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of those who have lost their loved ones following the tragic mine accident which happened yesterday (Wednesday) at the black mountain in Kitwe on the Copperbelt. I also want to wish the injured ones a speedy recovery as the nation mourns the passing on of these great fallen compatriots and indeed the dark cloud has eclipsed this great city of Kitwe.
The accident is a national disaster beyond comprehension and therefore the nation across political divine must unite and mourn the deceased in peace and dignity during this most difficult period,” he stated.
Mtayachalo stated that it was unfortunate that young people met their fate while trying to earn a living for themselves and their families during the current difficult economic times.
“In my view the government was on the firm ground for having empowered our young people economically with the Black Mountain so that Zambians can also play a central role in the country’s economic agenda in revolutionising the mining industry. However, I’m also alive to the fact that mine accidents is a global problem and I therefore want to appeal to authorities to immediately suspend all mining activities at the Black Mountain until adequate safety measures are put in place to avoid further loss of lives. Furthermore, the government must take radical and practical measures to completely review safety standards in most of these hazardous mining operations countrywide so as to eradicate or minimise these occupational hazards which continues to claim lives,” he stated.
Mtayachalo stated that those entrusted with occupational health safety would have assured that people at the Black Mountain operated in a safe environment.
“In addition, it is sad that people who are entrusted or expected to ensure that issues of occupational health and safety standards at work places are complied with abdicated their responsibilities by not ensuring that workers at the Black Mountain operated in an environment which was safe, especially after safety concerns were raised by some stakeholders because human resource is the most precious factor of production. l also want to challenge trade unions not only in Zambia but also globally to play a key role in complimenting governments efforts by ensuring that workers operate in safe working environments,” he stated.
Mtayachalo stated that the nation expects the government to issue an official comprehensive statement in light of the national disaster and what appropriate actions it intends to take in order to stop or minimise such occupational accidents.