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‘Someone killed Bingu’

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Three years and two administrations later, senior officials in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration show no sign of shrugging off the dust of suspicion that characterised the death of former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, on April 5, 2012.

These suspicions bubbled to the surface again on Saturday at a memorial service held in honour of Bingu at the family’s private home, Ndata Residence, in Thyolo.

In the presence of Bingu’s brother, President Peter Mutharika, Vice-President Saulos Chilima, former First Lady Callista Mutharika,  former president Bakili Muluzi, former Zambian president Lupiah Banda, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese, former Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Malawi Congress Party president John Tembo, former Speaker of the National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda, among other prominent figures that graced the occasion, Minister of Information, who is also government’s spokesperson, Kondwani Nankhumwa, stunned the gathering when he said Bingu’s death was “man-made”.

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“Imfa ya Bingu imaoneka ngati yokonza (Bingu’s death has marks of artificial machinations); Pulezidenti (the President) died mosadziwika bwino (under suspicious circumstances),” said Nankhumwa.

He added: “If you asked the former First Lady (Callista), she would tell you that Bingu woke up very energetic that day. He took a bath and undertook all the activities normally- only to die in his office, while working. Inde timati Mulungu ndi amene amakonza imfa, koma imfa ya Bingu adakonza ndi munthu ndipo munthuyo abwere poyera. (We say God is the author of death, but Bingu’s death was the work of an individual and that individual should be exposed).

“People even slaughtered goats and cattle to celebrate his death. Why? Church leaders should help us pray kuti Pulezidenti wina asadzaferenso pa mpando (for another sitting president not to die in office again).” Nankhumwa brandished a copy of the defunct  The Eye Witness newspaper to substantiate his claims. Emblazoned on the front page of the publication was a screaming headline, ‘Bingu to die before 2014-Veep’.

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“[In the newspaper] people were explaining a plot to kill Bingu. One of the writers wanted to become president. The newspaper article came out on 28th October 2011 and, on 5th April 2012, Bingu died without falling sick,” said Nankhumwa, before asking the President to take action.

“A Pulezidenti, pamene muli pamenepo, mutikokere amene adalemba kalatayo. Mutikokere anthuwo, anthu adziwe choona. Kaya ndi ndani munthuyo, mutikokere (President, while you are in that position, you should hold those who authored the letter accountable for their deeds),” said Nankhumwa.

However, while hinting on the possibility that he was equally in the dark about events that led to Bingu’s death, the President did not openly respond to Nankhumwa’s request and focused, instead, on efforts Malawians could make to “share memories” of him and “the pain of his loss as well”.

“Pain, confusion, anger will linger but the gift of Bingu’s life is with us. His death will always be a mystery,” was the closest Mutharika could come to hint on the mystery that still surrounds his brother’s death. Mutharika said the memorial service was held to acknowledge and share in the gift of Bingu’s life. The President also bemoaned the cruelty the Bingu family was subjected to during the administration of President Joyce Banda. “The previous government had dumped this [Ndata] farm and closed it out to us. It is only this year that the farm, which Bingu created for his rest after retirement, was handed back to us, hence we are holding the memorial service here,” said Mutharika.

In his words, Archbishop Msusa urged Malawians not just to dream in colour, but act on those dreams. “For example, we have water resources in the country but we do not utilise them. Instead, every year we think of food. If we think of food every year, we will not take a step forward and our steps will always stop at food. We cannot take the next step if we think of food every year. We must utilise the water resources so that we may stop begging,” said Msusa.

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