President Peter Mutharika yesterday unveiled a K180 million statue of the late president and elder brother, Bingu, at an event not attended by his sister-in-law, Callista.
We could not confirm whether the absence of Bingu’s widow at the function represented a new low in family relations between the President and Callista.
Callista became a political liability to him last year after she precipitated the launch of UTM, one of the opposition parties aiming to unseat Mutharika in the May 21 general elections this year.
When asked, through a WhatsApp message, on why she did not attend the unveiling of the Bingu statue yesterday, Callista curtly responded: “I don’t know anything about that [ceremony].”
The unveiling of the statue, at a prominent site at the entrance to the National Assembly precincts in Lilongwe, occurred in the face of another ‘oddity’.
Many social media commentators claimed that the statue was too expensive and that it had little resemblance to the departed leader, who reigned between 2004 and 2012, before he died suddenly in office due to a cardiac arrest.
However, specially-contracted South Africa-based sculptor Jean Doyle—who also sculpted the statue of founding Malawi president Kamuzu Banda, among others—defended the quality of her work.
She said progress was based on photographs of the late leader and the greenlight her project received from family and government officials at the various key stages of the statue’s production.
Government officials and the other Mutharika family members and sympathisers stuck to a flowing programme yesterday that began with the President unveiling the plaque, amid nods and even smiles in acknowledgement of the statue quality. Inter-denominational prayers later also highlighted the commemoration of Bingu’s death.
Reflecting on his late elder brother’s life, Mutharika said: “Many Malawians who loved Bingu would have loved to see Bingu alive in this statue. They would have loved to see himself standing here. I have seen that desire for the real Bingu on social media yesterday
“Bingu was such a remarkable soul that history cannot forget. He was a multi-talented man, a renaissance man. These are talents I witnessed from the days we were growing up together. And he sharpened them ever more from perfection to perfection.”
The President stated that Bingu was a great leader who unified Malawians and transformed the country through transformative projects.
He added that the late leader was also an inspiring statesman in Africa who urged citizens to reject their belief that they are poor.
“Bingu had an inspiring African dream. He dreamt of an Africa that transforms us from poverty to prosperity. And he urged us to pursue this dream with passion, dedication and determination,” he added.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister responsible for Culture Everton Chimulirenji said the Bingu statue is part of the government procedure developed in 2007 to honour Malawians who have made a significant contribution. Based on this procedure, according to Chimulirenji, all presidents who lead the country will have monuments erected in their honour. n