Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye was buried with military honours in Lilongwe yesterday amid glowing tributes from mourners.
In a stirring homily at Civo Stadium, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese said the late Ziyaye is celebrated in death as a straight-talking, patriotic and decisive leader who cherished unity and service to the poor.
He urged Chakwera to emulate Ziyaye’s leadership style that impacted the Church and the nation, stressing that decisive leadership is urgently needed in the country, where the inefficient, corrupt and crooked exhibit chameleon-like behaviour, while looting the nation.
The bishop stressed that Ziyaye’s legacy of decisive leadership can help tackle corruption and end poverty.
“Archbishop Ziyaye’s life is a good example that politicians can learn from. We must stop protecting thieves that hold government positions for self-enrichment. We shouldn’t bend laws to favour crooks. Malawi is one of the poorest countries and we cannot continue like this,” said Mtumbuka.
He added: “Provide decisive leadership to our country and reject any form of appeasement of wrong-doers. Save our country from becoming a failed state. We cannot continue sinking and sinking [in development standards] … and always blaming cholera, or Covid-19 or floods and things like that.”
In his eulogy, Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) chairperson, Archbishop of Blantyre Thomas Luke Msusa said Ziyaye was passionate about the welfare of the people and urged leaders to unite in uplifting the lives of Malawians.
“The Archbishop felt compassion for the under-privileged people, mostly the old, who are spending nights at depots as they await to be served,” he said in reference to the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) that is facing hitches.
Msusa urged government to urgently sort out the technical problems, including alleged network outages.
Taking his turn, Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi and Zambia Gianfranco Gallone said Pope Francis was saddened with the death of Ziyaye, “who carried out his work well as a church leader”.
President Lazarus Chakwera’s eulogy buttressed earlier sentiments by several church and family members who saluted the late as an outstanding leader with whom he bonded well. He described Ziyaye as a virtual elder brother who was always available to offer advice.
“In fact, when I was joining politics, I consulted him and he offered rich advice. When I was stuck, I always ran to him to seek direction. This is the reason I am so hurt with his death,” he said.
The audience went into an emotional hush when Chakwera said just before Ziyaye flew to Namibia, he went to the State House to bid him farewell with a virtual prophetic quip: “I don’t want you to hear from others that I have gone to Namibia. After all, what if I don’t return home alive?”
The funeral brought together people from various religious and socio-political backgrounds in and outside Malawi.
His remains have been buried inside Maula Cathedral.
Conspicuously missing at the ceremony were former presidents Peter Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi. Also missing among top politicians was former veep Cassim Chilumpha.
Chakwera was accompanied at the ceremony by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, former president Joyce Banda, past vice-presidents Justin Malewezi and Khumbo Kachali and Leader of the Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa, among other political dignitaries.
The ceremony, which started with a requiem mass at Civo Stadium, led by Msusa, attracted thousands of Malawians, mostly Catholics dressed in their traditional purple, the dominant colour at the church’s funerals.
The late Ziyaye was accorded full military honours from the stadium to his resting place at Maula Cathedral
In a separate interview, Nankhumwa described Ziyaye’s death as what was supposed to unify the country.
“It would have been good if all the leaders attended. This is why some of us came despite being in opposition. However, some people might have missed the event because they were attending to other equally important issues. We cannot all be at one place at the same time,” he said.
Political analyst Mustapha Hussein also expected Mutharika and Muluzi to attend.
But while suspecting political intolerance, he said leaders who did not attend the funeral might have had genuine reasons.
“Sometimes those in power become arrogant by sidelining their opposition. It should start with the people in government showing openness and providing space for the so-called opposition in whatever is happening. Again, the opposition should show willingness to support matters of national interest and good policies,” said Hussein .
Ziyaye, 71, succumbed to colon cancer on Monday in Nambia where, according to the ECM, he had gone for vacation, but took advantage of the visit for a medical check-up.