SIMON MUNTEMBA writes

FEAR has gripped the Mweemba’s family of Shibuyunji after an unknown caller threatened to deal with the father Clatious Mweemba a day before his five children were burnt to death in Shakalembula Village, in Chief Shakumbila area.

Mother to one of the dead girls being consoled during the funeral.Picture by SIMON MUNTEMBA

And Shakumbila Police have apprehended a member of the Mweemba family to help with investigations over the arson that claimed five girls from the same family.

Information has emerged that the Mweembas have been embroiled in a long-standing wrangle over some family land, a matter which is believed to be connected to the recent death of the five girls in an inferno. 

Minister in the office of the Vice President Sylvia Chalikosa, Minister of Gender Elizabeth Phiri, DMMU National Coordinator Chanda Kabwe and Mwembeshi member of parliament Njamba Machila looking at the burnt house were five children burnt from during the funeral service in shibuyunji district.
Picture by ROYD SIBAJENE/ZANIS

According to some family members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the man who set fire the grass-thatched house on fire in which the five girls, aged between 8 to14 years, perished, in fact targeted their father Mr Mweemba.

“Clatious (Mweemba) has been receiving text message threats and phone calls from strange numbers. He was admitted to Mwanawasa General Hospital recently, and when discharged, he received a call from an unknown caller threatening to deal with him. That was a day before the girls were burnt to death,” disclosed the family member,

“Actually, the person who set the house on fire thought Clatious was sleeping in there. But he swapped with the girls that day. And when the girls died in the inferno, the unknown caller actually apologized for killing innocent girls.”

Scores of mourners who thronged the funeral house to pay their last respect. – Picture by SIMON MUNTEMBA

Asked about whether they had a clue of who the unknown caller was, the source said that they suspected one of the family member aggrieved over family land.

The source claimed that the Mweemba family, like many other families in the area, had experienced bitter feuds over the years due to an unresolved family land issue, a situation believed to have created serious divisions in the family.

“Anachita ivi niwa family. Ninkhani va munda. The Chiefdom itself has been embroiled in land wrangles since the late president Micheal Sata declared Shibuyunji a district. The Chief (Shakumbila) is my uncle,

“This is not an accident but purely a result of a family land wrangle. The person aimed to kill Clatious, not the children. He is one of our family members who has also been fighting to be headman,” the source said.

The source also said several families in the Shakumbila Chiefdom were involved in serious land disputes which were even threatening to bring disunity among them.

Meanwhile, a brother of the deceased girls, Nevers Mweemba, said he strongly suspected the fire which killed his sisters last weekend was deliberately started by someone who also locked them inside as they slept.

Mother (middle) to one of the dead girls being assisted to walk during the funeral.Picture by SIMON MUNTEMBA

Nevers, 22, said his belief was compounded by the fact that the house door was found to have been locked from the outside with a chain.

“Banafa babili nima sisters banga, elo benango nibana babakulu banga.Tenzetinayenda ku wedding ife, but poyenda kuma 22:00 hours, banasebenzesa phone yanga kuyanzika pogona, kunalibe mulilo ulionse. Mwenzelibe na candle ndaba niyovuta kupeza kuno. Tinadabwa chabe kuma 22:50 hours nishi tili munjila kuyenda ku wedding ati bana bapya (Two of the girls that died, were my sisters while the other two were my sister’s daughters.

“We left to attend to a wedding around 22:00hours. The girls used the torch on my phone to prepare where to sleep because there was no fire around. There was no candle either as it is difficult to find it here. We were therefore shocked when we received information while on the way that they had died). 

“Benze kuvala door na kampando mukati but kunapezeka ati nyumba yenze yomangwiwa panja na chain. But kwenzelibe mulilo ulionse kuja kunyumba. Banashoka chabe nyumba ija,” Nevers said. (They used to secure the door from inside using a chair but, on that occasion, a chain was found to have been used to fasten the door from outside. And there was nothing else burnt around the place other than that house)

And speaking during the burial of the five girls on Wednesday, Senior Chief Shakumbila of the Sala people of Lusaka and Central Provinces, described the incident as shocking and the very first of its kind in the area.

Chief Shakumbila advised families against settling grudges through killing innocent children.

The chief appealed to people with any useful information regarding the incident to avail it to the police so that culprits could be arrested.

“We should not leave everything to the police. I am told the suspect was found by the Police within this crowd. We live with him. I am quite certain that some of you know something.

“I am 63 years old but I have never seen such a thing. If there are issues between you and the other person, please don’t resort to such actions, its barbaric. There are other ways of air grievances other than killing innocent souls,” Chief Shakumbila said.

Mourners perform a traditional dance during the funeral. Picture by SIMON MUNTEMBA

Meanwhile, police in Shibuyunji have apprehended a member of the Mweemba family identified as Macha Mweemba to help them with investigations.

In a movie-like action, armed police officers swiftly stormed the mourning house and picked Macha, from among the mourners hauled him into a white Toyota Land Cruiser and sped off. The action triggered some confusion with some people attempting to immediately lynch him.

Confirming the development to the Sun in an interview, Police spokesperson, Esther Mwata Katongo, said a man has been picked up to help with investigation.

Ms Katongo however refused to give more details on the arrest saying she did not want to jeopardize the investigations.

“Yes we picked one person from there, and our intention was not to blow it, it’s just that it happened where people were gathered to mourn. We had no option because that is where the suspect was. However, we are not giving out many details because investigations are still going on,” Ms Katongo said.

Ms Katongo has further warned residents against taking the law into their hands but instead wait for investigative wings to do their job.

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