They left home alive only to return home in coffins; their journey ended prematurely leaving their relatives back in Malawi in shock.
The mood was sombre Thursday morning when the bodies of the four Malawians shot dead in Mozambique three weeks ago finally arrived.
The repatriation of the bodies was delayed due to on-going talks between the two governments.
In an interview three days ago, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francis Kasaila said the delay in repatriating the bodies was normal.
“You cannot repatriate a dead body from one country to the other without getting clearance from that country. The clearance had not been done by Friday because our team from the mission in Maputo was travelling to the area to sort out the issue”, said Kasaila.
There were reports that the bodies were in decomposed state because embalming was delayed. One of the survivors, Enock Isruss, confirmed the reports, saying the bodies had started decomposing.
“When we went to the hospital, they denied us the chance to view the bodies. We were only allowed to see the bodies briefly, yesterday [Wednesday] for identification. But the bodies were in a very bad state,” said Isruss.
The deceased and their relatives, saw the last of each other on April 22 as they bid farewell to them and 20 others journeying to South Africa to seek greener pastures.
Sadly, yesterday Malawians at the border welcomed the fallen men who never made it to South Africa to realise their dreams.
One of the survivors Esther Daitoni cried uncontrollably; visibly weak and in great pain. She was shot in the back and on her thigh. Her husband, killed on the spot of the shooting promised her a better life once they settled in South Africa. It did not happen.
“They stopped us. When my husband, the driver, was about to disembark from the lorry, the gunmen opened fire. I was shot as I was trying to run away,” said Daitoni,
Isruss, another survivor, said he will never travel to South Africa again. To him, surviving the gruesome attack is an indication that God has other plans for him.
“I’m going home, I will not go back to South Africa to work. The roads are not safe. I would have died but God allowed me to live, I cannot go back there,” Isruss said.
When asked to narrate what unfolded during the fateful night at Catandika, Isruss’s story was not very different from Daitoni’s. He, however, said that two of the dead were shot near a river where they hid, as they were escaping, few metres from the road.
A truck driver, who claimed that he passed through the same road just after the incident, told The Daily Times that he saw some armed men in uniform but it was difficult to tell who they were.
“I saw some dead bodies lying by the road. There were some men in uniform around the bodies. Few metres away I saw a lorry that was parked with flat tyres,” said the driver
Spokesperson in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rejoice Chaponda said it is difficult to tell who the shooters were.
“What we know is that the shooters were in military attire. It is difficult to say who they were because it happened at night. But we have asked our High Commissioner in Maputo to talk to the Mozambican government to investigate what really happened,” said Chaponda
Three of the bodies were expected to be taken to Mangochi yesterday while one was destined for Blantyre.
The survivors will receive further medical attention as they are still nursing the gunshot wounds they sustained during the attack.
Officials from the Malawi Embassy in Maputo, who escorted the bodies and the survivors, declined to provide more information but only said “it was too ‘sensitive”.
Among the people at the border were officials from the Malawi Police Service, Malawi Defence Force, Immigration and Mwanza District Council. Relatives of the deceased or survivors were not present. Noticeably, there were no officials from the Mozambique government.
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