Sab’s Eye: Disaster Mitigation

SaboiBy Saboi Imboela

According to the United Kingdom Online Thesaurus, the word Disaster also means tragedy, ruin, blow, adversity, catastrophe, calamity, misfortune, debacle, mess or failure.

A disaster, therefore, is one noun you want to stay away from when naming something or someone. A disaster, in most cases, is unforeseen and normally requires a certain level of prompt mitigation to diminish its possible adverse effects.

By the same token, when Zambia was hit by a Disaster last week, in the name of Gabon Disaster Heroes National Stadium, it was vital that people acted swiftly and assertively to mitigate this disaster that had befallen us. Thank God for social media, people’s feelings can now be ascertained in a short period of time, unless you do not just want to listen to the views.

People took to facebook, twitter and various media to display their aversion towards this disastrous name. Kalusha Bwalya, who normally stays clear of politics, took to twitter to suggest that the name be called Heroes Stadium (which, like many others, was the name I also immediately thought of when I saw the Disaster one).

He suggested that the heroes would cover the class of 1974, 93, 94 and more importantly the 2012 AFCON winners. Many people were further shocked that he, as the Football Association of Zambia, FAZ, chairman was not even initially consulted for such a process. So who comprised the ‘wide consultation’ process that the Sports Minister had talked of?

Very interesting were the sports headlines in the Post Newspaper regarding the disaster stadium. On Thursday, 11th July, the headline said “Kambwili Defends Disaster Stadium’. The Sports Minister Kambwili mentioned that the name of the stadium would still stand and that it was the best way to remember former national team and officials that perished off the coast of Gabon in 1993.

He said Cabinet had approved the name. “You can’t please everyone and those that are not happy will have to live with it. I am sorry but the story stands.” The Post Newspaper reported Kambwili as saying. He further justified that there were too many heroes and the Gabon Disaster Heroes National Stadium would specify which heroes were being honoured. The minister said that the most important thing is that they had consulted widely and the GDHNS came out prominent on their list.

On Friday the 12th, the Post headline screamed ‘Name of Stadium a Disaster- MPs.’ The Post Newspaper reported that the Parliamentary Committee on Sports described the decision by Cabinet to name the stadium GDHNS as a disaster. Committee Chairperson Levy Ngoma said the government should withdraw the disaster, consult widely and come up with an acceptable name for the stadium.

This was echoed by yet another Committee member Elijah Muchima who said the disaster name would forever bring sorrowful memories instead of remembering the heroes in a positive light. This view was further shared by many people on social media.

The two soccer Associations namely; the Zambia Soccer Fans Association and the Zambia Sports Fans Association were not happy with government’s inclusion of Gabon and Disaster to the new name, which they said did not represent the national heroes that Zambia has had. Zambia Sports Fans Association chairman, Peter Makembo, further said the name was also too long for a stadium.

With all this opposition, the Sports Minister seemed ready to go ahead with the disaster.

However, with Kambwili’s fervour to defend the name, people seemed to engage in gear two to make sure that the disaster name never saw the surface of any billboard. The Post Newspaper, Zambian Eye, Muvi Television and other media all continued to carry out stories that showed people’s discontent.

The headlines seemed to say that they were not going to stop if the name was not changed. Social media was also heavily used to register the disaster displeasure and show the government that people would not take the name lying down. Cartoons, statuses, jokes and articles were among the tools that people used to show just how much right they had in the process.

It was interesting, therefore, that a day after arrogantly saying that the name would stand, Kambwili announced that the new stadium would actually be called Heroes National Stadium- as suggested by many people.

Kambwili was featured on Muvi TV Picture of the Day eating humble pie. Being the creative station that Muvi TV always is, they first showed him arrogantly telling people only the day before that government had consulted widely and that the name would stand. Then they showed the picture, the day after, announcing that after wide consultation from the people and Republican President, the name would now be called Heroes National Stadium. I can imagine how hot the humble pie was considering the fact that he had to eat it only a day after his arrogant statement.

However, all is well that ends well. So we thank God for the disaster mitigation that the people undertook last week- they have to be highly commended for this. Unlike people that have been thanking Kambwili for renaming the stadium, I will not do so but instead say ‘job well done’. It is his job and that of other Cabinet Ministers to consult and deliver to the public legitimate decisions, not conceitedly shove unpopular decisions down people’s throats.

The previous regime started some of these projects and all they have to do is name them, so that should not be a problem. If at any time they find it a problem then they should leave the name as it is or involve the public in naming them. For example, the Heroes National Stadium was previously called Independence Stadium, to change such a name means that you have a better one. In the case where you do not have a better name, leave some of these names as they are.

Truth be told, when Kambwili named the swimming pool at Olympic Youth Development Center, OYDC, as the 90 Days Legacy Swimming Pool, he should have been stopped. But the name was so ridiculous that most of us just laughed about it and noted it as one of the things that the next government should change.

However, people’s silence gave him the picture that he had the right to do with and name our infrastructure as he pleased. Well, clearly, this is not the case- people have a role in such processes and where they keep quiet only means you have done the right thing.

Finally, the Zambians are now happy with the name change before the name came to be, so this shows that criticism is not done for the sake of it but to help achieve the best results for the country. We all want the best for our country regardless of who is in power and Zambian politicians need to realise this sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, this incident goes a long way in showing just how successive governments have been behaving in terms of public involvement and consultation.

To ignore the people and say what the Sports Minister said on Thursday shows how our politicians misunderstand not only democratic principles but that of a government in general. We all cannot be in government at the same time so we elect a few people at a given time to represent everyone with the hopes that they carry out our wishes.

Therefore, they are in government on our behalf, the same way another group will be there at any given time on behalf of everyone else, so such arrogance should not be accepted from our leaders, but they should rather recognise what their actual role as elected officials really is.

Once again I say- all is well that ends well. Be blessed and a great week ahead to you all.