Hichilema must declare one full month of national mourning for the Senseli Mine and more than 700 cholera-dead, compensate their families and not hide behind the drought- Azwell Banda

Azwell Banda

Hichilema must declare one full month of national mourning for the Senseli Mine and more than 700 cholera-dead, compensate their families and not hide behind the drought

By Azwell Banda,

It is obvious one of the reasons why Hakainde Hichilema is constantly in the air and abroad at great expense to Zambia’s poor tax payers is because he actually hates all the moments he is in Zambia.

In Zambia he sees hunger, dirty and poverty everywhere, he feels the cries of the majority of Zambians complaining about the incredible lies and false promises he made to win elections, he has an opposition that correctly gives him sleepless nights and he is fully aware that the real mass pain and suffering from the economic Tsunami his government has unleashed on Zambia has not even started yet!

And so, off he went, very happily, to Namibia to rest from Zambia under the good pretext of attending the burial of late Namibian president Hage Geingob. To make all Zambians complicit in his unearned but well desired absence from Zambia, he actually declared a two-day mourning period for late Namibian president Hage Geingob, over the burial period. President Hage Geingob was decently buried last Sunday in Namibia at Heroes Acre. The burial was attended by 25 heads of state and several former presidents, besides the millions of Namibians who mourned their dear departed president.

But, of the 25 heads of state who attended the burial of Hage Geingob last Sunday, one president should have correctly apologised and been absent at the burial because he should have been in mourning: President Hakainde Hichilema of the Cholera Republic of Zambia. Never in the history of Zambia have more than 700 poor Zambians died from a cholera episode. Never in the history of Zambia has an unknown number of so many miners died and been buried beneath where they died, as did the miners at Senseli Mine. Never in the history of Zambia have we had more than 2,000,000 poor Zambians suffering acute hunger as before a drought started compounding the problem of acute national hunger.

Never, ever, in the history of Zambia have we had, all at the same time, a massive cholera outbreak, an anthrax outbreak, fall army worms and several other outbreaks of endemic diseases; now to be compounded by the hot and dry weather a large part of the country is experiencing. Never in the period after Zambia banned GMO maize in Zambia have we been a dubious transit point to the DRC of such huge quantities of GMO maize and mealie meal some of which is now being consumed in Zambia. Never in the history of Zambia have we had a government self-inflicted critical shortage of maize and absurd high prices of mealie meal as we are experiencing now, under Hichilema’s government.

What kind of president of an extremely poor and heavily indebted country would leave his country in mourning for more than 700 and still counting poor people dead, in extremely humiliating circumstances from cholera, to go and attend the burial of a president in a neighbouring country, no matter how good the relationships between such a president and the citizens and country of such a president in mourning of its cholera dead? What is the value and meaning of the lives of the more than 700 dead Zambians to Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND government?

Now we understand why the extremely poor Zambians who were and are still dying from cholera were attacked and actually accused by the UPND government, for bringing the fate of possible and actual death from cholera upon themselves. We heard that the majority of the dead from cholera actually did not die at health facilities; they died where they struggled to prevent death and to survive. The UPND government told us that shallow wells, unplanned slum settlements, drinking alcohol including kachasu, migrating to Lusaka or any town from a village without a plan, and incredibly, not knowing how to use toilets and similar bad behaviour among Zambia’s poor people especially in Lusaka the epicentre of the cholera epidemic, were the causes of the cholera outbreak and the massive deaths. Young people, especially poor young people, were blamed for behaving in ways that exposed them to the cholera epidemic.

There was not a single acknowledgement of responsibility of any kind or failure by the UPND government, now two and a half years in government, for the disastrous and deadly cholera epidemic that has killed more than 700, and is still killing them; poor and working class Zambians the majority of them in Lusaka. In opposition, the UPND government promised to attend to the critical shortage of decent housing for the majority of Zambians. Two and a half years in government there is no nationwide emergence housing construction programme for our urban poor, who are the majority in all our urban areas.

In opposition and in their manifesto, the UPND government promised to attend to the urgent matters of absence of sanitation, safe and clean water and properly staffed and well supplied government health facilities across the country. In government, well, the size of the cholera epidemic and the massive number of poor and working class Zambians killed is the best testimony that none of these things have happened well enough to prevent a massive and deadly cholera epidemic.

Incredibly, Hakainde Hichilema celebrated being made an international champion of the fight against cholera: Zambia has perennial outbreaks of cholera and yet Hichilema’s government had no cholera vaccines and ready government wide cholera prevention and fighting emergency plans as the cholera epidemic exploded in December/January 2024, an epidemic which started in October 2023. Why?

As thousands of extremely poor and working class Zambians, who are the majority of Zambians, especially in Lusaka, were fighting cholera in their bodies, Hakainde Hichilema and several of his minsters went on holidays for Christmas and New Year celebrations, in December and January, completely unconcerned about the exploding cholera epidemic. Why? To be fair, Prima Dona Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo was available, became busy, risked her life, and ran around as she usually does, like a headless chicken doing what she could to help, with her mortar mouth constantly running. It was she who went around closing drinking places in working class communities and blaming criminal and bad behaviour by the poor and the working class, for the cholera epidemic.

A “National Day of Prayer” for cholera was announced but cancelled; apparently one of the reasons for cancelling the event was that the government rules did not permit large gatherings. And yet the funeral of Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha was an official state funeral and attended by a multitude of people, at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, on January 21, 2024, as the cholera epidemic raged on. Apparently, the government rule for large gathering was waived, for the official state funeral of a member of our elite class to take place.

There has been no official state memorial for the unknown large number of Senseli Mine disaster victims, because they were extremely poor working class Zambians. Since they were “illegal miners” working in a clearly unsafe mine, they brought the deaths upon themselves. They are dead and buried where they got trapped, that’s it, that’s all they deserve.

The families of the dead Senseli miners cannot claim compensation from anyone, not even government, since they were “illegal miners”. And yet in opposition, Hichilema and the UPND promised to regularise artisanal and small mining employment by among other things, licensing this kind of economic activity, making finances available, and making technical and other resources available including those for safe mining. Two and a half years in government Hichilema can only continue to promise and lie that his government is working on these things.

The working class families and communities from where the dead Senseli miners lived are still grieving, still suffering trauma, and many do not know whether their still missing ones are among the dead: some believe one day their missing loved one will suddenly appear, and account for their absence.

Our cholera dead and the miners who died at Senseli Mine were not animals; they were full human beings like any other human being, rich or poor. Our inability to demand full government accountability for their deaths, our failure to fully and properly mourn and memorialise their deaths, dehumanises us, all those of us who are alive, rich or poor. It is a soulless and a country full of the “living dead” which can so easily “walk away” and forget so many of its people dead and yet pretend it has feelings for the well to do, when they die.

It is a soulless, inhuman and utterly cold and selfish politician who will cheat their way into government by lying and making false promises to the working class and the poor who are the majority of voters, and ignore them contemptuously when they are dead. To our rulers in the UPND and their social class mates in the opposition, the poor working class who died at Senseli Mine and from cholera are less human than them, and their dead social class mates.

The UPND government must be forced to erect fitting memorial statues, hold proper official national mass memorials and commemorative funerals for the poor working-class dead at Senseli Mine, and those from the cholera epidemic, both disasters which as they are in government they must account for.

The UPND government must not be allowed to hide behind the drought: the economic and social Tsunamis their IMF and World Bank backed neoliberal economic and social policies had already plunged millions of Zambians into desperate poverty and excruciating hunger, long before the drought. Hichilema and his friends in government must be forced to account for the suffering they have unleashed and intensified among the majority of Zambians. We devalue, denigrate and insult the very essence of being human, and not animals, if we fail to demand these basics of decent human behaviour, from the UPND government.

Send comments to: banda.azwell@gmail.com


  1. So these articles are meant to secure your assylum?
    Just come back to Zambia and work. Wabelela uku fola empya sa free we kote we….
    Not even Napsa have ever contributed. Just come back and work forever noise maker

  2. Cholera ni matenda ya uve!
    Uve people bring Cholera!
    No need for compensation!
    Come up with punishment to deter Uve then we won’t have Cholera!


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