Tears flowed yesterday in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts as wailing families, relations and friends buried 18 of the 21 people killed in a road accident in Ntcheu on Sunday.
In Sekeni Village at Nchalo Trading Centre in the area of Paramount Chief Lundu in Chikwawa, the village cemetery had a record nine fresh graves dug for nine of the women killed in the accident on the M1. The mass burial ceremony started from as early as 9am.
A grief-stricken group village head (GVH) Sekeni, whose daughter Margaret Kalenga was among the deceased, said Chikwawa District lost 15 women and three children in the carnage.
She said the 18 victims were from Thendo, Nyasa, Mphungu, Tomari, Bereu, Misewufolo and Dolo in Ngabu.
The GVH said bodies of two other victims were repatriated to Mulanje District and one to Nsanje District.
Sekeni said her daughter is survived by four children who will require support.
She said: “I can only accept that the will of God be done.”
Sekeni thanked government for providing the coffins and meeting expenses to have the victims buried in a dignified manner.
She said: “I thank President Lazarus Chakwera for his support and the office of Dodma [Department of Disaster Management Affairs] for giving us the coffins and money for burial of our loved ones.
“I also thank Dedza and Ntcheu district councils for their efforts to have the remains repatriated in good time.”
One of the bereaved husbands, George Kachikira, mourned that he has been left to raise four children on his own .
“The four are at various secondary schools. She used to support them financially. I will now need some support for them to get through with their education,” he said.
Kachikira said the remains of the 21 were handed over at Nchalo Trading Centre at around 9pm on Sunday. He said Chikwawa district commissioner (DC) Rodrick Mateauma led the welcoming party.
Besides the DC, others present during the sombre ceremony were Paramount Chief Lundu, Nsanje DC Allie Phiri, Chikwawa District Council chairperson Aubrey Masanza, Chikwawa Central legislator Salim Bagus and Chikwawa Police Station officer-in-charge Alex Simenti.
Volunteers as well as companies operating in Chikwawa such as Illovo Sugar Malawi plc and Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions (Pty) Limited provided transport to carry the bodies to their final resting places.
Village head Mwanena, who buried seven in her village graveyard, said it is hard to believe that she had lost seven productive women at once.
She mourned: “These women contributed towards the development of my area. It’s a hard pill to swallow to be burying them today.”
Mwanena pleaded with government and non-governmental organisations to help her subjects by adopting some of the children left by the deceased.
She said: “They can put them in orphanage centres or they should find best alternatives of assisting them accordingly as it will be very hard for them to grow without a mother.”
Bagus, who attended the the ceremony at Tomari close to Mbewe Headquarters of Paramount Chief Lundu, said concerns raised by the bereaved families are valid.
He asked government to offer help to the deceased families.
“This is a crisis and I ask government to look into the welfare of bereaved families,” said Bagus.
In a telephone interview on Sunday, Ntcheu Police Station spokesperson Hastings Chigalu said eight others sustained injuries during the accident.
He said the vehicle which the women were travelling in—a Toyota Coaster driven by Edoh Mbewe, 36—had 28 women on board at the time of the accident.
Chigalu said the women were heading back to Chikwawa District after an exchange visit with a fellow women’s group at Chindoole Village within Mlanda area in Ntcheu.
He said: “As they were getting close to Bomba Filling Station, their Coaster was hit from behind by a Freightliner Truck registration LA 5591 that was driven by 57-year-old Alfred Kennedy from Mbozi Village in the area of Traditional Authority Kasumbu in Dedza.”
In a separate interview, Dedza district director of health and social services Dr. Isaac Mbingwani yesterday said those that were injured were in stable condition.
Speaking at Kamuzu International Airport when he welcomed President Lazarus Chakwera from his trip to the United Kingdom on Sunday, Vice-President Saulos Chilima expressed sorrow over the tragic accident and said government was assisting affected families.
The President declared two days of mourning, saying: “We need to honour the departed by observing two days of mourning.”
Police statistics show that from January to June, Ntcheu District has registered 90 road accidents out of which 38 were fatal. The statistics further show that 47 people have lost their lives due to the accidents and that 79 sustained injuries.
During a corresponding period last year, 32 deaths and 40 injuries were reported in the district, out of the 44 road accidents of which 25 were fatal.