Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera has described the July 20 2011 victims as ‘heroes’ whose cause needs to be supported if Malawi is to make any meaningful change.
Chakwera, who is also leader of Opposition in Parliament, was speaking at the July 20 memorial service in Mzuzu where he was guest of honour.
He said it was painful that productive youths lost their lives during the protests.
“I remember that before that day, government officials asked me to be a part of the lecture that the late president Bingu wa Mutharika was offering. We debated for some time as I told them that I supported the protests. But what happened that day was horrible,” Chakwera said.
He said if Malawians want change, they need to change first.
“We deserve the leaders we have because we tolerate and make the choices we do. If we want change, we cannot be taking the same path. I believe God has deliberately allowed us to get to this low, and time has come for us to rise,” urged Chakwera.
He also promised bereaved families that he would follow up with authorities on promises of tombstones for the deceased.
There was an air of grief and lamentations during yesterday’s memorial service of the 19 young people who died during the anti-government protests in Mzuzu.
Family members broke down in tears as they narrated how they felt abandoned by past and present governments.
They said they feel cheated by government’s failure to fulfil its promises erecting tombstones at Zolozolo Cemetery where eight of the victims were buried.on compensation and
However, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale said government is still processing the payment, and could not tell when it will be ready.
Speaking during the memorial, Mercy Mzuma Mfune, a representative of the families, said most of the bereaved families are female-headed and are experiencing untold misery due to the lack of support.
Mourned Mfune: “When you are out there eating and throwing left-overs in bins, remember that we have families that need support. We have children who lack clothes, shelter and fees. In fact, some have dropped out of school because there is no fees.
“It is now five years since we were promised tombstones, but nothing has happened. These people died for change in Malawi, but we do not see that change. Help us, we have waited for so long but nothing is happening.”
Miriam Chimaliro, whose husband John Msuku died during the fracas, is now a vegetable seller in Mzuzu’s Vigwagwa Market. She has to support her three children, one of whom has just sat the Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations.
She wondered why it is taking long for government to compensate them, stressing those who died in peace as long as their families continue languishing.in the 2011 protests will not rest
Reverend Dr Ian Longwe, who delivered the main sermon titled Reconciliation and Unity, urged government to quickly resolve the issue.
“Compensation has not been given and these families are suffering. I feel great pain looking at these children crying, looking helpless and hopeless.
“Some of those that are laid here could have brought change to this country. These are martyrs of the land, they died for a cause,” he preached amid ululation.
On March 7 2016, the High Court in Mzuzu ordered government to pay the families K31 204 792 in compensation, but Lilongwe is yet to pay them.
In an interview yesterday, Kaphale said government is still processing the payment, urging the families to be patient.
“When I came in, I convinced government that we need to compensate the families, and government agreed. How many governments have been there since 2011? And what happened all those years?
“You also know that government has a list of claims to pay, and we have to pay in order of occurrence. Be assured that government is mobilising the resources to pay them,” he said.
The July 20 2011 protests were sparked by, among other things, worsening fuel shortages, rising prices of goods, unstable economy, high unemployment and perceived dictatorial tendencies by the late Bingu wa Mutharika. n