In a dramatic scene, Zambia’s First Lady, Esther Lungu, broke down and fell to her knees and had to be helped back to her feet and comforted on Tuesday.
The First Lady was calm while speaking to a group of women as she appealed for an end to a spate of mysterious gas attacks that have spread across the country before breaking down in tears.
“I’m making an earnest appeal to the people that are behind this gassing – to an extent of gassing innocent schoolchildren, innocent families. It is indeed a shame,” Mrs Lungu was filmed on Tuesday telling a group of women. She then broke down in tears.
— Lusaka Times (@lusakatimes) February 19, 2020
It is not yet clear what gas is being used in the attacks. Police have been unable to catch those who have been targeting homes and schools by spraying victims with a gas that leaves them unconscious.
A number of online news websites including Lusaka Times shared the video of the event on YouTube and social media pages.
So helpless are Lusaka authorities in apprehending the criminals that President Edgar Lungu has since announced a K250,000 bounty on information leading to the arrest of the suspected criminals.
“I am warning those behind the gassing of innocent citizens in selected parts of the Country that their days are numbered. Whatever your motivation, we are closing in on you. We will find you and you will pay for your criminal activities,” President Lungu warned.
“Let me restate that there is K250,000 cash to anyone with any information on people behind this menace,” he stressed.
In a Facebook post, the Head of State said the gassing of innocent citizens by criminals is very un-Zambian and at the same time labeled those accusing his government of orchestrating the gassing of people in several parts of the country of being mad.
It’s not yet clear if any people have died from gassing but there’s growing panic among Zambians which resulted in the lynching of three suspected attackers last Thursday and the United States embassy in Lusaka to issue a warning.
“Rumors of ritualistic killings and residential gassings have led to incidents of civil unrest and vigilante justice in multiple provinces throughout the country,” it said in an alert issued on Thursday.