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Malawians mourn Rafik Hajat

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GIFT TRAPENCE

The country has been dealt a heavy blow following the death of prominent civil rights activist Rafiq Hajat.

Hajat, who would have celebrated his 66th birthday on Tuesday (today), was laid to rest Monday afternoon at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, South Africa.

According to one of the family members Abbas Panjwani, Hajat suffered a heart attack in the early hours of Sunday and died on the way to South Africa.

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Several players, including President Lazarus Chakwera, have expressed shock at Hajat’s death.

Chakwera conveyed the message through his Executive Assistant Sean Kampondeni at a press briefing in Lilongwe.

Academician and political commentator Nandin Patel also said she was saddened by Hajat’s death.

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“He had heart issues but he fought them and continued the struggle for the rule of law and governance. I was privileged to work with him and we, together, established Institute for Policy Interaction. We took many issues head-on. He stood for democracy and governance,” Patel said.

She further said Hajat was fearless and that nothing stopped him from taking the right course.

“His latest work was on building bridges between the Asian Malawian community and Malawian community at large and was working intensely on this in the past months and so, there is a lot of work he has left unfinished and we need to continue,” she said.

Patel called on the current generation to pursue a course and continue, not to stop and not to give up.

“They need not to succumb to any form of pressure. When the truth is by your side, nothing can stop you and this is the biggest lesson he has left to the youth of Malawi,” she said.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson Gift Trapence said the country had lost an icon of democracy.

“Mr Hajat was one of the fearless leaders who fought for democracy. He has been consistent in terms of civil society leaders. He was very principled in protecting the rights of people and was the voice of the voiceless. He fought for justice,” Trapence said.

Mtendere Electoral Support Network General Secretary Edward Chaka said Hajat’s death was “painful”.

“As you know, he helped found Mtendere Electoral Support Network and served as its treasurer general because he wanted to contribute to electoral governance. His death is painful and a sad moment in Malawi,” he said.

According to Panjwani, Hajat is survived by a wife and two children.

Hajat was the founding director of IPI and was also the founder of Transparency International – Malawi Chapter, among others.

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