Government’s move to construct a K1.4 billion mausoleum for independence fighter Orton Chirwa has roused families of some fallen heroes to demand similar honour for their relations.
Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Michael Usi confirmed receiving requests from families of three former Cabinet ministers Dick Matenje, Aaron Gadama and John Sangala as well as legislator David Chiwanga murdered in Mwanza in 1983 during the regime of Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
“I have received requests from some families who think their departed relatives also deserve mausoleums. They include the Mwanza four and Chakufwa Chihana,” he said.
The former Alliance for Democracy (Aford) leader, who later became the State second vice-president, was key to the country’s attainment of multiparty democracy in 1993.
Usi said the requests have caught the ministry by surprise as such they will consult.
Usi said: “As a ministry though we are a policy holder, we do not have all the answers. We need to consult as to who is a hero? Is it every freedom fighter? We need to have selection criteria and we need experts in that particular field,” he said.
Usi, however, said not everyone who is classed as a hero deserves a mausoleum.
He said: “Kamuzu Banda, Orton Chirwa and Bingu wa Mutharika are heroes. There is no question about it. But now that there are many more requests coming, then who should we take now?
“As a nation, we should not think we will be constructing mausoleums one after another. “
Meanwhile, a University of Malawi communications and cultural associate professor Anthony Gunde blamed government’s lack of direction in honouring heroes, particularly on lack of a committee and guidelines.
He said: “We need a committee which can catogorise all heroes and archive their names so that we just don’t pick anyone. There are some people who fled to South Africa, refusing to buy MCP party cards who also think they are heroes.
“In academics, we have people who sacrificed their lives, those who were fired in 2011 as they fought for academic freedom. Are we going to classify them as heroes in future?”
Gunde also advised government to set up a heroes’ acre where all heroes should be buried.
In an interview, Enock Chihana said his family has taken up the initiative to construct a mausoleum for his father following government’s failure to honour its commitment to construct one.
During this year’s Martyr’s Day commemoration in Nkhata Bay, President Lazarus Chakwera said his administration will construct the Orton Chirwa Mausoleum in the district as well as name a proposed international airport in Mzuzu after the freedom fighter.