By Augustine Mukoka

In the aftermath of a tragic death such as the one that claimed the life of Dr. Joseph Kabungo, varying versions of the circumstances leading to the incident abound.

Much of what is said offers comfort to the bereaved but the grief remains deep.

It’s the feeling of a loved one’s absence, the pain of witnessing a vibrant life prematurely terminated that is devastating.

The reality of losing a loved one leaves an indelible mark particularly on those closest to the deceased.

Dr. Kabungo’s young family led by his son Jojo (Joseph Jr) and siblings, his wife, his brothers, sisters and friends are grieving.

The circumstances of his death in the wake of a crowd invading a soccer pitch have blighted the reputation of what we call the beautiful game.

To have two governments issue some bogus statements hours after the news broke to announce the cause of death only goes to add salt to the injury of those in mourning.

One can understand that Nigeria wants to project Dr. Kabungo’s death as an incident unrelated to the crowd trouble that ensued after the Super Eagles failed to secure a place at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Nigerians are trying very hard to insulate themselves from what are serious sanctions expected from FIFA especially if the death of a match official is directly connected to the chaos.

Soon as the verdict is out, we may potentially not see Nigeria in the 2023 Africa Cup qualifiers or even the 2026 World race.

To have the Chief Zambian government spokesperson madam Chushi Kasanda put out a statement that appears to collude with Nigeria was not only shameful, embarrassing but unacceptable.

The statement suggesting Dr. Kabungo died of a cardiac arrest after the match was issued even before a team of Zambian doctors and family members had left for Nigeria to conduct a postmortem and repatriate the remains of our colleague.

There are two contradicting versions; one that Dr. Kabungo was assaulted and trampled upon by the unruly fans. He was then rescued and taken to an area near the Ghana dressing where CPR was administered with little success until an ambulance was summoned to ferry him to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The other version fronted mostly by Nigerians suggests Dr. Kabungo was headed to the dressing room for Ghana where he was to conduct a routine doping test but collapsed and started gasping for air after which paramedics attempted to resuscitate him. According to this version, he did not make it as a result of the alleged cardiac arrest.

Given the contradictions, it’s only proper that the government and FIFA expeditiously conclude their investigations and issue the report that led to Dr. Kabungo’s death to clear the speculation.

If not to their government, where will Zambians run for protection? The so called official position being parroted that Dr. Kabungo died of a cardiac arrest is inconclusive and remote to the version by others at the scene.

Assuming the cause of death was cardiac arrest, what triggered it?

I understand the diplomatic niceties at play, but we are dealing with a life of a comrade who was not in Nigeria for fun but duty. Dr. Kabungo meant so many things to different people whose lives he touched.

The least we can do in his death is value and honor him. To claim and hurriedly put up an “official position” when details are hazy is dishonorable to a man who rendered diligent service to his country.

In the video accompanying this article are the last moments of Dr. Kabungo deep in the sea of missiles at Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.

He is clad is a dark suit bearing a FIFA badge. He attempts to backtrack to safety but there appears to be no exit.

He now tries to squeeze past the crowd as missiles rain. What happened between the time the video ends and the moment the Nigerians claim he was found gasping for air at the dressing room of the Ghana national team is subject to speculation.

Both FIFA and CAF presidents issued statements last week, but none of them stated the cause of death as fronted by Nigerian officials. It was therefore unnecessary for Madam Kasanda to join a potentially misleading chorus led by our Nigerian colleagues.

Madam Kasanda should have waited for the Zambian delegation to return from Nigeria and furnish the country with their findings, not the statement she issued.

Sports minister Elvis Nkandu covered her tracks well with his parliamentary statement which called for patience as the Zambian delegation assigned to Nigeria compiled the postmortem report. So, it shouldn’t take weeks to determine the cause of death of Dr. Kabungo.

May the soul of our dear departed friend rest in peace. Goodbye Zenga!


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