TP Mazembe trio free at last!


GOVERNMENT has handed over passports to three TP Mazembe Zambia internationals who allegedly travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo without undergoing immigratition formalities.
Minister of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu said defender Stopilla Sunzu and midfielders Rainford Kalaba and Nathan Sinkala should be allowed to go back to Lubumbashi for work.
Lungu urged the Immigration Department to engage managers of the three players in Zambia and DRC to advise them correctly.
He announced the development yesterday during the launch of the Arena programme for the Ministry of Home Affairs on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation television.
“It is a sad chapter. I read a report yesterday from the immigration. I decided that the young men should be given back their passports and be allowed to fly back to their team and continue to play football,” Lungu said.
The minister said the matter involving the players was not clear and Government realised that there was an abuse of responsibility by their managers.
He said the players are under the guidance of the managers who should take responsibility.
“We don’t know whether they indeed sneaked into Congo DR and came. We can’t prove it for now or they were in the country as they allege. But people were aggrieved because they [players] were called to contribute to this nation,” Lungu said.
He said as a responsible Government, it decided to hand back passports to the players.
Last Friday, the players attempted to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo through Kasumbalesa border post but were denied exit before they were driven back to Ndola for questioning at the Copperbelt regional immigration office.
Tension arose when the players were declared unfit by TP Mazembe to feature for the Chipolopolo in last Tuesday’s international friendly against Brazil in China.
Lungu said the players should not be blamed for finding themselves in that situation.
“Those players were being handled by their managers, the Mtines (Andre) of this world and people in DRC. They are just being told what to do. For that reason, as parents, we should allow them to go back,” he said.
Lungu said the players have contributed greatly to the success of the Chipolopolo and that their careers should not be destroyed because of the situation they found themselves in.
“The other year they were our heroes. We were singing songs and dancing for them. Today you want to demonise them to a point where you want to leave them in destitution by making them lose their career. I think we will be acting irresponsibly.
“But why should they be demonised to that extent?  In fact, their football rating should have been going higher, higher,” he said.
The three players were instrumental in Zambia’s success at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Lungu, however, said the law should be respected and there are no sacred cows in the application of the law.
Meanwhile, Sunzu and Kalaba received their respective travel documents from Immigration Department Copperbelt regional office in Ndola while Sinkala is expected to get back his passport this morning.
Sinkala had travelled to Lusaka on Monday after the three were initially told to return to the immigration office today before the Minister of Home Affairs used his decree to hand back the documents to the players.
Sunzu was given back his passport while Kabala, whose passport is in Kinshasa for a work permit endorsement, got his travel document.
The two were accompanied by Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi’s aide in Zambia Tom Chani and their lawyer Derrick Mulenga of Derrick Mulenga and Company.
“We are just happy that everything has gone well…I don’t want to say much. I just want to go back and start working. It has been traumatising and has affected our lives a lot but everything is in the hands of the Lord,” Kalaba said.
And on his return to the national team, Kalaba said: “I have to think about it when I settle and reflect.”
And lawyer Mulenga said the immigration officers have been professional in the manner they handled the issue as they were not distracted by comments from third forces.
He said the immigration officers issued a certificate to release the travel documents translating into the closure of the case.
The three Mazembe players are scheduled to return to their base in Lubumbashi today.