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May 9 Disaster Herbert Mensah fires politicians for neglect, 16 years on

"...maybe you need to ask the old ones why they sat in the office, taking per diem, chopping the tax payers’ money and doing nothing about it..."

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play Herbert Mensah

Former Asante Kotoko chairman Herbert Mensah has lashed out at past politicians for taking little initiative in acknowledging and  celebrating the lives lost during the May 9, 2001 Accra Sports Stadium disaster.

In a league game that saw home side Hearts of Oak winning 2-1 against their arch rivals Asante Kotoko, police fired tear gas into the stands to curb a crowd disturbance believed to have been started by aggrieved away fans. The toxic gas inevitably led to a rush to exit the stadium, provoking an ensuing stampede which proved fatal, claiming as many as 127 lives. It is on record to be the worst football related tragedy in African history.

play The May 9 disaster is the worst in African football history


Mensah, Kotoko chairman from 1999 to 2003, has been known to give consistent support to bereaved families while actively organizing events to commemorate the anniversaries of the tragedy.

READ ALSO: Herbert Mensah I'm the only past Kotoko chairman with a special relationship with the Asantehene

"It's been 16 years, you calculate how many governments we’ve had come and go. Many - and we’re still standing," Mensah said, speaking to Pulse.com.gh.

"Ask the previous Ministers what they’ve done. You know they did nothing. So you don’t need to hear my voice to tell you they did nothing. When they tell you they did so much, check! Is that not right? That’s what makes sense. Go to the NSA (National Sports Authority). Speak to the people at the NSA. The new ones have only just been appointed, so maybe you need to ask the old ones why they sat in the office, taking per diem, chopping the tax payers’ money and doing nothing about it. My view of politicians? Everybody knows it already. That’s why I work with the people.

READ MORE: Nostalgic Five unforgettable Hearts-Kotoko clashes in Accra

"We will do it (commemorating the event), and if politicians choose to join, they join. Don't forget, the first person to give his widow’s mite this year was NAPO (nickname of the Honourable Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Member of Parliament for Manyhia constituency and Minister of Education).

Minister of Education Matthew Opoku Prempeh on 2018 WASSCE play Mathew 'NAPO' Opoku Prempeh, MP and Minister


"Oh yeah, take your hat off for Mathew Prempeh. Fantastic man. It’s not the first time – over the last five years, whatever he can give, he gives. He does not seek publicity, but you see I put his name on the back of the shirts this year because of all the parliamentarians, he’s the one who stands out, who cares, who gives, who has even marched with us before."

READ ALSO: May 9th Disaster When we finally lay the wreath

Mensah, who is the current president of Ghana Rugby Association, insisted that he would continue advocating for the May 9 cause despite the chronic lack of support and occasional criticism.

"If I go and march for May 9 and nobody is with me, then I know what I’m doing is wrong. If I ask Otumfuor (Asantehene Osei Tutu II) to please give us time, and Otumfuor says no, then I know what I’m doing is wrong.

play The May 9 disaster claimed the lives of 127 football fans


"If I go to corporate Ghana and I say, 'I’m doing this to help people who have nothing, are you prepared to join me and twenty other investors?' And they say we’re not prepared to help you, then I know what I’m doing is wrong.

"If the Hajias and people from Accra – and those from Sunyani, and from those the North – are not prepared to join us, then I know what I’m doing is wong.

READ ALSO: May 9 Sports Ministry to embark on game attendance education

"If they interview them (bereaved families) and they say Herbert Mensah is a bad man, he’s lying, he does not contribute, he’s using it for self-aggrandizement, then I know what I’m doing is wrong," he said.

play May 9 memorial built at the Accra Sports Stadium a few years ago


He added: "For 16 years, I’ve been doing the right thing not for myself – but for you, for Ghana, for Africa. So that we respect our heroes. Who are our heroes? Former Presidents are not our heroes. The heroes are the people who died in the stadium. Our heroes are the ones who died because of the (June 3, 2015) floods. Our heroes are the ones who died because nobody cares. Those are our the heroes of Ghana. And the few people like us, believe in them, love them, respect them, and honour them."

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