Some traditional leaders in Nkhata Bay are set to petition the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, who jets into the country tomorrow, over British Government compensation to victims of the March 3 1959 massacre in Nkhata Bay.
Accompanied by his wife Markle, this Prince Harry’s first official visit to Malawi.
The petition, which we have seen, is based on a long outstanding issue in which the chiefs have been seeking
Traditional Authority (T/A) Timbiri, one of the signatories to the petition, confirmed in an interview yesterday about their intention to petition Prince Harry through the British High Commission in Lilongwe on Monday.
T/A Timbiri said they have been pressing for compensation through relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Attorney General’s (AG) office, but have not been successful.
“We find this as an opportunity to present our grievances to Prince Harry. He is a figurehead in the royal family and in a position more likely to deliver our message to Her Majesty, the Queen, or to senior government officials in Britain,” he said.
In the petition, signed by other traditional authorities such as Mkumbira and Mankhambira, the chiefs say they are acting as representatives of the victims of the 1959 State of Emergency.
“We bring it to the attention of His Royal Highness Prince Harry the claims for compensation being made by the families of the said victims against the said British government.
“The petitioners respectfully request that His Royal Highness Prince Harry to take cognisance and cause to be known to the British government of the unlawful deaths and/or injuries that the said government occasioned on the innocent people of Malawi [Nyasaland then],” reads the petition in part.
The petitioners argue that the massacred Malawians were agitating for freedom of their political leaders.
“The victims were gunned down through Her Majesty’s order that flew Rhodesian and South African Police Service personnel to Nkhata Bay on March 2 1959, after the House of Commons had declared the State of Emergency in London,” reads the petition dated September 26 2019.
Her Majesty’s Government was in breach of the treaty signed in 1881 between Her Majesty’s Government and Tonga chiefs, which promised protection for each others’ citizens.
The AG’s office through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala, which acknowledged our questionnaire that sought to get government’s position on the matter, did not respond to it by press time.
Lawyer Ralph Mhone, who has been in the forefront to help chiefs in Nkhata Bay have their voices heard and helping them with legal advice, backed the petition.
He said the chiefs are anticipating that the High Commission would make arrangements to receive the petition.
Mhone said: “It was London which sanctioned the State of Emergency that led to the massacre of these unarmed Malawians and today they cannot deny that and say it was the federation.”
He said as Britain’s protectorate, Malawi was supposed to be protected by the Queen, hence London’s liability for the massacres.
In 2015, chiefs from Nkhata Bay raised the matter during Martyrs’ Day commemorations. They expected the Malawi Government to engage the former colonial masters for compensation.
The lawyer said there were two ways to approach the matter: the diplomatic channel, which Malawi Government should have pursued if it wanted, and the legal channel the claimants had decided to take.
Mhone said an offer by a British lawyer, Chris Esdaile, to assist victims of the March 3 1959 massacre in the claims right in London, being the lawyer who managed the Mau Mau case, was still standing.
He said the problem was that authorities in Malawi such as the AG’s office were not forthcoming with the needed information which is supposed to be collected from London.