Various speakers during Martyrs’ Day Commemoration in Nkhata Bay on Saturday, took turns accusing government of not only failing to fund the event, but also to facilitate compensation of the bereaved families.
Reverend Jailos Kamisa, who was the master of ceremony, Traditional Authority Timbiri, Nkhata Bay Central legislator Ralph Mhone and James Thawe, who represented the bereaved families had a message of hopelessness, with many questions directed at government.
Kamisa asked Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, who represented President Peter Mutharika at the function, to consider incorporating the event in the National Budget.
He said government should ensure that the event is respected and taken as a national issue.
T/A Timbiri wondered why most letters requesting government for funding are not considered.
He said: “As a people of Nkhata Bay, we shed tears when we remember this day. It is not an ordinary day to us. But when we write letters, sometimes requesting for help, please, tell the President that these people want some action.”
It was Mhone who first hit government hard, by asking Capital Hill the wrongs that people of Nkhata Bay have done so as not to have their people compensated.
He said people of Nkhata Bay started asking for compensation in 2005, but nothing has happened to date.
He then took to task Attorney General (AG) Charles Mhango, who was also present.
“I want to ask what we do wrong as people of Nkhata Bay, because since those people died in 1959, we haven’t been compensated, what wrong have we done?
“Those people who suffered during the one-party State have been compensated and, as AG, you know that the people whose relatives were killed during the July 20 2011 were compensated, so we ask you: ‘What wrong have we done that we should not be compensated’?”
Mhone, who was cheered throughout his speech, said he had asked government in 2015 to speak to the British Government on the matter, but there is nothing yet.
“So long as we have not been compensated, the case on the massacre will remain, so if you fail, give us those papers and we open a case so that these people are compensated,” he said amid cheers.
Thawe, who represented members of the bereaved families, wondered why they were not meeting the President, after making so many requests in the past.
He accused political leaders of lacking honesty on the matter, telling them that without the martyrs that died in 1959, they could not have been holding positions today.
“I am happy that the AG—someone who knows the law is here. Why are you failing to prosecute the Britons? Our people did not carry any weapon, but they were butchered!” said Thawe.
Thawe, who kept on mentioning the AG in his speech, said they were ready to meet thePresident to present their grievances.
Taking her turn, Minister of Culture, Civic Education and Community Development Grace Chiumia advised the bereaved families not to only wait for the day to bring out issues.
She said: “Let us stop pointing fingers at each other, if we continue doing that, it will not help. In all problems, let us sit down and discuss. If there are problems, don’t wait for an event like this to speak them out. So, if you have any problems, let us sit down and talk.”
On his part, Gondwe said while government would consider the requests it would have been more meaningful, and with a better impact had the compensation been done immediately after 1959.
While appreciating Gondwe’s sentiments, leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera said it was time to make the right decision.
Meanwhile, AG Mhango has said the issue requires joint efforts by all sectors of society.
“This should be a collective effort. It involves a period that passed long time ago. It touches on issues of international relations with Britain, so we need to approach them diplomatically,” he said.
The event started with a tour of the memorial pillar, followed by laying of wreaths and ended with prayers and speeches at Chirundu Point ground.
Due to the growing in strength of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), colonial masters declared a State of Emergency on on March 3 1959 and at least 200 NAC leaders were detained.
In Nkhata Bay, NAC leaders were arrested and put in a marine vessel Mpasa, ready to be taken to Mangochi, and eventually to prisons such as Kanjedza, Chichiri and Gweru.
When their relatives heard about the arrests, they mobilised themselves and marched to Nkhata Bay Jetty, to demand their release. However, colonial forces opened fire, killing 31 protesters on the spot.