The fracas that ensued on Saturday during the Gonapamuhanya Cultural Festival in Rumphi District caused the death of a woman chief only identified as Nyaunthali, a member of a delegation from Zambia.
Both chairperson of the organising committee of the event, principal group village head Chikalamba Gondwe and Rumphi District Hospital spokesperson Bwanalori Mwamlima confirmed Nyaunthali’s death.
Mwamlima said Nyaunthali was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
In a separate interview, Gondwe said besides the death of Nyaunthali, two members of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), sustained injuries in the fracas.
He said: “It is true that we have lost Nyaunthali who was part of the Zambia delegation. She had high blood pressure [BP] and we are thinking that the fracas made things worse for her.
“Immediately the event ended, she went to her lodging place, took some food and slept. But she was not that fine. Her BP was high and when our colleagues saw that her situation was getting worse, they took her to Bolero Rural Hospital where she was pronounced dead.”
Gondwe said Nyaunthali, who was a Zambian national of Malawian descent, was expected to be laid to rest yesterday at Chakoma in the district.
The Gonapamuhanya cultural event, which provides the Tumbuka people a platform to commemorate the first Chikulamayembe named Gonapamuhanya because of his tendency to bask in the sun after eating, was marred by ugly scenes as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets threw stones at leaders of opposition political parties.
Gondwe said his committee asked people not to put on party colours and while MCP members obliged, DPP followers did.
He said: “MCP members were very cooperative, we told them to remove their party cloths and they did. But their DPP counterparts did not. Actually, we told the DPP members that if they wanted some to put on party colours, we would just allow women who would sit next to Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia.
“However, they ignored this and when the minister arrived, all DPP supporters thronged the venue clad in their party regalia, invading even the place we had reserved for dances.”
Rumphi Police Station officer-in-charge Dennis Banda said only one person lodged a complaint to Bolero Police on Saturday, but the law enforcers are yet to make arrests.
He said: “We told the person to come back so that we get a statement after being issued with a medical report.”
On Saturday, Chiumia apologised to Chikulamayembe for the fracas, urging all political parties to instil discipline in their youths.
Quizzed why the police never acted when cadets were throwing stones, and why she never ordered arrests, Chiumia said it was not ideal to rush into making arrests before getting to the bottom of the issue.
The cadets first attacked MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera and his security detail at around 10am on Saturday as he was getting to Bolero.
Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament, had to be whisked away from the fracas by another vehicle which Chikulamayembe assigned for a rescue mission. He sought refuge at the chief’s house for some time.
Things turned worse at around 11.30am when Chakwera and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enock Chihana arrived at the venue.
It took almost 20 minutes for Chakwera to get out of his car, which was heavily surrounded by his security detail.
While all this was happening, DPP women were busy dancing, and police never acted. n