A group calling itself concerned citizens of Karonga and Chitipa districts has petitioned President Peter Mutharika against naming the Karonga-Chitipa Road after his brother Bingu wa Mutharika. They argue that he inflicted a lot of pain on northerners, hence he does not deserve the honour in the region.
Mutharika is expected to name the road Bingu Highway in honour of the former president. The naming of the road is said to have come following a request from chiefs in Chitipa and Karonga.
This is the second time an attempt is being made to name the road after the late Mutharika. When Bingu was in power, chiefs also wanted the road named after him. They said he was the only leader who heard the cry of people in the two districts to construct a tarmac road. However, the group has petitioned Mutharika to reconsider naming the road after Bingu, arguing the introduction of quota system, July 20 2011 killings and the secrecy in the Kayelekera Mining deal that led to people not benefiting from the mine as some of the issues that pained the northerners.
The group says there are many heroes from whom government can settle on for a name, adding that by proposing Bingu Highway, the chiefs were only trying to gain favours from the President.
“While we appreciate what late Bingu wa Mutharika did for us, we find it hard to have the road named Bingu Highway because there are a lot of things that affected us during his era. We feel it will be an insult if the road bears his name,” reads the petition dated May 23.
The petitioners also argue that the road was constructed under three regimes of Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda, and that all three played a big role in its construction.
Asked what will happen if Mutharika names the road, spokesperson for the concerned citizens, Steve Simsokwe, on Thursday said they will hold demonstrations against the move.
When contacted, presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said the President has not received the petition and cannot act on something that he is not aware of.
He also said the petition was addressed to the wrong authority, adding the group should have petitioned the chiefs because they are the ones who came up with the idea of naming the road.
“The chiefs sat down and agreed to have the road named after the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, because he was the only one who managed to have the road constructed. Previous governments failed to do so. So, if they have concerns, they should talk to the chiefs,” said Kalilani.
Secretary for the chiefs in Karonga, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kilipura, said he had not heard of anyone protesting the naming of the road.