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How Clement Chiwaya’s suicide unfolded

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TRAGEDY—The body of the late Chiwaya being taken out of
Parliament

An account, as provided by eyewitnesses, of the almost 4 hours when Parliament became a crime scene after its former esteemed member, Clement Chiwaya, shot himself

What has always been a normal working space for our legislators and many others turned into a crime scene on Thursday morning.

Former Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya shot himself right in the face of Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba in her office.

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According to eyewitness accounts, Chiwaya, who was also former Member of Parliament for Mangochi Central, arrived at 10 am at the Parliament building in his yellow Hummer. He parked it in front of the entrance at Parliament.

One of the people who welcomed him and helped him into the building but opted for anonymity said much as there was nothing unusual about him on this fateful day, he recalls that he overly thanked him for the help he rendered to him.

Chiwaya had a disability. He was struck by polio at the age of two.

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“I cannot recall the first time him and I interacted but there was nothing unusual about his visit to Parliament or about him on Thursday. What I mean is he did not look sad or angry; he was the usual person that we knew.

“I used to help him quite often but on this day he overly thanked me, speaking God’s blessings upon my life. Until the incident happened I never read much into what he was saying. I was extremely shocked when I heard the news. Everything he said to me now made so much sense,” said the source.

Another staff member at Parliament said Chiwaya went straight to the office of the Clerk of Parliament (CoP).

“There was nothing unusual about his visit to Parliament and since he was using a wheelchair, the security checks did not detect that he had a gun, when the scanner beeped; it was rather assumed that it was the wheelchair,” said the source.

When he got into the building he went straight to Kalemba’s office and run into her [Kalemba] as she was coming out. Chiwaya told the CoP that he was looking for her.

In response, Kalemba had asked him to wait for her as she had a few things to attend to in the next office.

When she returned to the office, according to our source, Chiwaya told Kalemba that that was his last visit to the office.

“But apparently the CoP asked him why would that be the case, arguing that her office is a public office and that everyone is free to visit. But he insisted that was his last visit,” the source said.

Then Chiwaya asked Kalemba if she had a phone with her, to which she responded affirmatively.

Then Chiwaya told her that he was sending a message, which he wanted her to read before he could do what he wanted to do.

Chiwaya then sent her the suicide note which has been making rounds on social media where he raised issues on how Parliament has failed to help him with the car which he was using during his tenure of office as Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

Reads the suicide note in part:

“My fear is if I continue living I will hurt others especially the people that have decided to make my life miserable that way my family will be ostracized.

“I am going to Parliament and do this to make a statement that I know they are doing this because I am disabled and they don’t value me.

“I would like to thank Martha Chizuma as Ombudsman because she saw the injustice and also judges at the Commercial Court for their part in trying to see this come to an end.

“Parliament feels they have the audacity to deny me what belongs to me and I have to go and beg them. I have had enough of that.

“With a fully loaded gun I could have killed these people but I will go alone. Let them prevail. I want everything that I have to be enjoyed by my mum my wife and my kids mentioned above. I am going with a free mind.”

The source said when Kalemba told him she had read the message, he then pulled out his gun and shot himself through the ears.

“When he pulled out the gun, he said to Kalemba that if he had wanted, he could have killed her, but he would not; instead he would kill himself so that it should be a reminder that she [Kalemba] did not handle his case to his satisfaction. Then, immediately he shot himself,” said the source.

Almost everyone was visibly shocked with the gunshot and when the news had spread, the mood was tense.

“Since it was a crime scene, the CoP left her office; it was not a good sight. She was crying and looked very traumatised,” said the source.

Precious Makiyi, a mental health specialist, said there are several issues contributing to increased cases of suicide in men, the major reason is the social-cultural pressure that is exerted on men.

“These border around socio-cultural issues, for instance. Culturally, a man is viewed as being strong and resilient and that a man ought not to cry or complain when they are psychologically down. This contributes to men not seeking help. They suffer in silence.

“My advice is that let’s not judge those who are going through stressful moments. We should be there for one another because we are facing different battles. Most importantly, our coping skills are different. What others may tolerate, some may find it difficult to tolerate; so let’s be there for one another without being judgmental,” he said.

Chiwaya was a highly rated man. He was an inspiring figure, an example to all that disability is not inability.

He achieved in life. He got impressive education against all odds.

Born in 1971, he was struck by polio at the age of two. The physical disability made things challenging for him, he revealed at a TEDx talk at Grand Rapids in the United States in May 2014.

“Growing up as a kid was not as easy as you would think. Every time I tried to play with a toy car, my friends would say ‘but you will never drive a car’.

“My mother was asked why she was sending me to school as it would never amount to anything. But now I drive my own car and I am a leader and MP in my country,” he said, to an applauding audience.

Chiwaya served as MP for Mangochi Central Constituency for three consecutive terms from 2004 to 2019.

He was elected Second Deputy Speaker during his last term in Parliament, 2014 to 2019.

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