Mutharika receives stadium tragedy report, promises to act

President Peter Mutharika says he will act appropriately on any evidence of wrongdoing or an act deserving blame that led to the tragedy at Bingu National Stadium during this year’s independence celebrations.

President Mutharika said this Tuesday at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe when a task force he instituted to investigate the tragedy presented a report on its findings and recommendations.

Eight people died during a stampede at the mega stadium on 6 July.

“We will certainly look at the report. Wherever there is evidence of culpability or wrongdoing, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General will make appropriate recommendations and action will be taken,” the President said.

“This was not meant to be a witch hunt but we wanted to discover the truth, learn from it and avoid a recurrence of this accident in future. The recommendations put forward look so comprehensive and I will sit down and look at them,” Mutharika said.

He said it was wise and proper for democratic Malawi to go through the due processes in establishing what really went wrong and offer an explanation to Malawians.

The report, presented by the task force’s chairperson Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, has faulted a number of areas and players within the organization of the event.

Chief among these is the main organizing committee which has been blamed for poor planning, lack of decision making and their miscalculation in setting 10:00 hours as the time for opening the stadium gates.

The report also notes that the coordination between the main organizing committee and various stakeholders like the Police, department of sports and BNS management was very weak and that their operations were characterized by a breakdown of communication.

The operational leadership and event management at BNS has not been spared the blame.

The report says the leadership on the ground failed to effectively coordinate with various players in making overarching and interagency wide decisions on the spot.

“The staff from department of sports, the Police and BNS management team worked in isolation. Each group (only) recognized and utilized its chain of command and worked in its own silo,” read the report in part.

It further states that the police were also at fault because they failed to ensure that people who flooded the gates maintained their queues and continued to walk up to the queuing rails in a single file.

“Considering that this was a very important day where multitudes would gather, the Police should have been more vigilant to maintain public order including being able to read all red flags that things were getting out of hand and avoid the eventual use of teargas,” says the report.

As part of its recommendations, the task force said government should consider constructing a ring road around the stadium to facilitate easy access and speed up evacuation during emergencies.

It also recommends that entry points into the stadium should be kept clear of immobile crowds.

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