Dicing with people’s lives

THAT there were no casualties was the biggest relief from the chaotic night that was Tuesday last week.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

For it could have been catastrophic: the great number of human bodies — women and children included — pushing and shoving to get to the front of the queue, their pleas for a semblance of order falling on the deaf ears of cold and short-tempered security personnel.

Inside the VVIP section of the stadium, the suits sat self-importantly in their comfortable armchairs, seemingly unaware of the mounting anger outside and, worse, the danger to human life.

Meanwhile, as relieving as it was that no serious injuries and deaths ensued in last week’s international football match between Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Harare, what leaves a kind of bad taste in the mouth is the authorities’ deafening silence on a matter of gross negligence, one that could have so easily sparked tragedy.

With the horrific memories of July 2000 still casting a shadow over the National Sports Stadium, it is incredible that 18 years later after 13 fans senselessly perished on that same ground — at the hands of the most diabolical police heavy handedness — a new crop of football leadership in this country, supposedly a modern generation for crying out loud, cannot be moved by the horrors of the past to at least have some regard for crowd safety.
At the minimum, what you expected in the wake of those ugly scenes at the National Sports Stadium that Tuesday evening, which clearly exposed serious stadium security flaws, was some kind of reaction from those in higher positions to get to the bottom of the matter.

If a sports association has been found wanting in emergency and disaster management — by design or by default (we can debate about the former on a different platform) — then that should become not only a matter of concern for those in charge of sport in the country, but the highest office in the land.

Certainly one would expect outmost seriousness from the authorities when a whole Cabinet minister could not withstand the potentially disastrous pandemonium first-hand from, of all places, the VIP entry point, so surely would have been alarmed at imagining the even greater risk to life and limb elsewhere around the ground where ordinary folk could not gain swift access to support their favourite team.

But no. What you get is only a dismissive attitude contained in a rambling press statement from the national association, clutching at straws and blaming all and sundry.

It is quite astonishing and insulting, that where you expect some decency and ethics because human life has been endangered, you get downright arrogance and shrug of the shoulders.