While government has remained tight-lipped five months after Nation on Sunday revealed that it was secretly constructing a statue in South Africa in honour of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, the sculpture has been completed.
The first time we reported on the matter, government said it was not erecting the statue despite evidence presented, including official documents showing that government officials have been going to Cape Town, South Africa to supervise the works.
Our attempts to follow up on the story for the past months have always hit a snag as concerned government officials from the Ministry responsible for Culture, Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Building Department have always denied having any knowledge about the statue.
Based on our earlier story, the statue was expected to be handed over to the government by December last year and that it was to be erected at Parliament building.
But in an e-mail response yesterday, renowned South African sculptor Jean Doyle, who was hired to erect the statue, said the project has been completed and she is awaiting for government’s instruction.
“The Malawian government decided to postpone the erection of the monument. I still have the sculpture in my warehouse and I am awaiting instructions from them as to when I should deliver it. Presumably it will be sometime this or next month,” she explained.
Doyle also constructed the statue of president Hastings Kamuzu Banda erected at Area 18 Memorial Tower in Lilongwe.
According to information we have sourced, the Mutharika monument will be like that of Kamuzu.
Asked if the statue will be erected at Parliament, officials from National Assembly, including Speaker Richard Msowoya, Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalembera and public relations manager Leonard Mengezi refused to give us information referring us to the Ministry responsible for Culture.
The ministry had not responded to our questionnaire submitted five months ago despite several reminders to Principal Secretary Ivy Luhanga.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology who is also government spokesperson Henry Mussa said all is in order and that government is, yet, to identify a site for erection of the statue.
He said: “Late Bingu’s statue is still in order…site for its erection is, yet, to be decided”.
This is the first time government has officially admitted it was constructing his statue.
Sources within government estimate that the statue will cost taxpayers in excess of K120 million, including travel expenses for government officials and family members who have been supervising the work.
In an earlier interview, MCP spokesperson on finances Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi questioned the timing of constructing a multi-million statue at a time the country is going through hard economic times.
In August last year, University of Malawi historian Professor Chijere Chirwa told Nation on Sunday, that there is need for the country to develop clear guidelines on who deserves to be honoured other than leaving it open.
He cited the Bingu directive to have Kamuzu Banda honoured as problematic.
According to Chirwa, honouring people should be done in an open manner and probably with consultation.
“Kamuzu deserves honour for some people, while others would have a problem. So, if we have guidelines, it won’t matter whether one has a problem or not,” he said.