President Peter Mutharika has asked Malawians to stop branding as thieves people killed during the July 20 2011 nationwide anti-government demonstrations, effectively contradicting his elder brother Bingu wa Mutharika and some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials.
In a statement delivered on his behalf by presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations Mavuto Bamusi during a memorial service at Zolozolo cemetery in Mzuzu yesterday, the President said the 20 people killed while protesting against governance and economic policies of the of DPP administration led by his deceased brother were respected citizens of the country.
Mutharika said the deceased deserved respect all the time.
Ironically, soon after the demonstrations against his administration and protests from human rights defenders about police killing unarmed civilians exercising their democratic rights, Bingu, who died in April 2012, and other DPP members said those killed were thieves.
Bingu said the people were shot because they were looting.
However, many of those injured or killed had nothing to do with the protests and they were mere victims of circumstances.
During Monday’s memorial at Zolozolo cemetery where eight of the 20 killed were buried, Bamusi said the President is totally against labelling the people killed in the protests as thieves.
He said the President has been grieved for the four years that have elapsed since the killings took place. He said the President hates the July 20 date because it brings a bad image to the history of the country.
Said Bamusi: “If it was possible to scrap off July 20 from the calendar, the President would have been the first person to do that. It is a bad day to the country.”
In an earlier interview on Sunday, Bamusi said the President was pleading with Malawians against politicising July 20 2011 killings as a way of showing love to families who lost their loved ones.
Instead, he said, the memorial should unite Malawians to preach peace.
Bamusi pledged to relay the message from bereaved families to the President who, he said, is eager to meet them.
Mercy Mbezuma Mfune, spokesperson for the bereaved families, asked government to come to their rescue by constructing tombstones and supporting them as most of those killed were their families’ breadwinners.
She said they want to meet the President.
Mzuzu City Council acting chief executive officer Victor Masina said government should consider constructing the tombstones as promised by the Joyce Banda administration. He said government officials during Banda’s time started assessing the graves for possible construction and the families have been waiting for that.
During the 2011 demonstrations, police opened fire at protesters who turned wild after authorities tried to block petitions to Mutharika on governance and economic problems.