SPORT and Youth Minister Chishimba Kambwili has dared the families of the 1993 Gabon air crash disaster victims to go ahead and exhume the remains of their beloved ones from the Independence Stadium memorial site in Lusaka.
Government says it will only follow the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) programme to commemorate the memorial of the fallen heroes, who died after the Buffalo plane carrying them for a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Senegal perished off the coast of Libreville, Gabon.
Kambwili said in an interview in Lusaka following complaints by some family members of the deceased that Government and FAZ had neglected them and thus want to exhume bodies and bury them near where they stay.
The minister said the families were free to do what they wanted if they so wished as Government will not stop them.
He wondered what else the families wanted after Government paid them their benefits adding that Government cannot be commemorating the event every year but the families can be remembering their relations without Government being present.
“We are not stopping them from exhuming the remains of their beloved ones if they want to do so. What else do they want? Their benefits were paid and Government cannot be commemorating the memorial every year, it’s the families to do that.
In fact we were not availed any programme for this year because the ministry was not given any programmes concerning the memorial of the Gabon disaster heroes. So how do you expect Government to make a plan like that,” he said.
Kambwili said Government was following the FAZ programme which says that the commemorations will be taking place after five years as opposed to holding the event yearly.
He also took a swipe at the widow of late goalkeeper Efford Chabala, Joyce, for issuing wrong statements on Radio Ichengelo, where she alleged that all governments were the same adding that the families would treat the Patriotic Front (PF) Government just the same as the MMD.
“She cannot blame the Government for that programme because it’s not us who look into the matters of football in the country but FAZ. There are so many fallen heroes in Zambia including presidents but we don’t hear their families make noise like the Gabon disaster relatives,” he said.
On the Africa Cup of Nations pledge by a Tanzania national, Kambwili said the only beneficiaries of the AFCON victory fruits will be the players and officials who took part in the tournament.
Kambwili has urged the families to be patient and wait and see what type of activities Government in liaison with FAZ will put up in its five year cycle commemoration unlike rushing to exhume bodies.
FAZ through its spokesperson, Erick Mwanza recently announced that the Gabon disaster memorial will be commemorated every five years but low key ceremonies will be held every year to remember the heroes.
Mwanza said the association wants to make the five-year commemorations big with a hive of activities to celebrate the lives and success that the fallen heroes left adding that people should not mistake holding the commemorations every five years as shunning away from the yearly memorial.
But the families who held a meeting after laying wreaths at the burial site resolved to exhume the bodies from the site and bury near their respective places as that would be easier and cheaper since both Government and FAZ seemed not to be interested in the event.
[Times of Zambia]