“Tragedy Strikes Pemba”

… Counterfeit Methylated Spirit Claims Multiple Lives

By Francis Maingaila

Lusaka,. Zambia24 – (21-05-2024) – In a devastating turn of events, a joint operation by the Zambia Police Service and the Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency (ZCSA) uncovered a deadly case of counterfeit methylated spirit. This discovery resulted in multiple deaths and serious injuries in the Pemba District.

According to a joint statement released to Zambia24 in Lusaka by Brian Hatyoka, Acting Manager of Communications and Public Relations at ZCSA, and Rae Hamoonga, Public Relations Officer at the Zambia Police Service, the team seized 25 bottles of the suspected counterfeit product labeled “Beautiful and Premium” methylated spirit from a local store in Kasiya. The product has now been recalled pending further laboratory analysis.

The tragedy began last week when several residents of Pemba fell ill after consuming homemade beer concocted with the counterfeit methylated spirit.

In one incident, Lweendo Hamachila, currently admitted to Monze General Hospital, recounted how he and his four friends mixed the methylated spirit with water and sweeteners.

“By morning, three of his friends were found dead, and Hamachila has since been left blind,” read the statement.

“Hamachila stated he had consumed similar mixtures for over four years. However, this time the fatal batch included the new “Beautiful” methylated spirit,” the statement added.

The duo said in a joint statement that the crisis has spread beyond Pemba, with similar fatalities reported in Zimba, Monze, Kapiri Mposhi, Kalabo, and Namwala.

Monze Mission Hospital’s acting medical superintendent, Dr. Katongo Mulenga, reported multiple cases of blindness and death from the toxic concoction. The hospital received several patients from different areas, many of whom were brought in already deceased or succumbed shortly after admission.

Dr. Mulenga expressed deep concern over these incidents, emphasizing the irreversible blindness caused by the toxic substance.

The statement suggested that the ZCSA and the Zambia Police Service are intensifying efforts to trace the sources of these counterfeit products.

“The inspection aims to confiscate unauthorized chemical mixtures used in homemade beers and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

However, the statement indicated, many of the alleged masterminds behind these deadly concoctions have perished, and the dangerous product was not widely available on the open market.

Both the ZCSA and the Zambia Police Service have issued urgent warnings to the public to avoid consuming beverages of unknown origin.

The duo stressed that unregulated beverages pose severe health risks, including death. The Compulsory Standards Act No. 3 of 2017 mandates that all manufacturers, importers, and traders of beverages must obtain authorization from the ZCSA to ensure product safety.

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