By tradition, people speak so well about the dead in eulogies, even when the deceased was ill- annered.
But at Justice Maxon Mbendera’s funeral in Blantyre yesterday, people that spoke belted out good, sweet but heart-rending eulogies, and good enough, their tongues did not betray them about genuineness and sincererity of what they had to say about this man, described by many as ‘a great son of Malawi’.
The poor, the rich and the famous thronged the Sunnyside residence of the departed Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson to pay their last respects.
Multitudes that turned up wore sad faces, but more somber were the faces of Mbendera’s wife, children and relatives who mourned ‘the pillar of the family’.
High-profile figures that walked Mbendera on his last journey included Vice-President Saulos Chilima, former president Bakili Muluzi, UNDP country representative Mia Seppo, former chief justices Lovemore Munlo and Leonard Unyolo, High Court and Malawi Supreme of Court of Appeal judges, Leader of Opposition and MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, a number of Cabinet ministers and Inkosi Ya Makosi Gomani V.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, who spoke on behalf of President Peter Mutharika, said the President was saddened by Mbendera’s sudden death Tembenu said Mbendera was a person of rare calibre who sacrificed well-paying private practice as a lawyer to pick up a job as a High Court judge to serve the public.
He said the deceased never intimidated lawyers that appeared before his court.
“Very few lawyers would quit private practice to become a High Court judge,” said Tembenu.
He disclosed that Mbendera had a sugar problem, which was high according to his family, before he left for Lilongwe where he died suddenly on Thursday.
Justice Edward Twea of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, on behalf of the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, spoke highly of Mbendera’s professionalism and dedication to work.
Twea said positions such as MEC chairperson or judge can be replaced, but not Mbendera’s humane traits.
An emotional MEC chief elections officer, Wi l l i e Kalonga, in his eulogy acknowledged condolences from
Commonwealth Secretariat, African Union, electoral commissions of Zambia, Namibia Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Said Kalonga: “Justice Mbendera was a father. He led MEC with a vision. You could not bully him. He defended us.
He was a great son of God.”
Mwiza Nkhata, vice-president of Malawi Law Society, described Mbendera as one of finest legal minds the nation ever produced.
“Max was a spirited public servant and a leader. He was a loving husband. A true patriot.
His life embodied everything about our profession. He had an enviable career.”
Mbendera’s church, Revival Christian Ministry, also mourned him and disclosed that the deceased helped the church in many ways.
After speeches at his home, his body was taken to church near Independence Arch for prayers before the multitudes walked him on his last mile to HHI Cemetery.
This was an emotional moment for his family and close relations who broke down as they said goodbye to the man who was so successful as a private practice lawyer and as a judge.
Mbendera was the first MEC chairperson to handle tripartite elections on May 20 2014.