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Too broke to make martyrs happy

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Malawi’s post-independence path has not always been paved, for, from time to time, issues of financial inadequacy, violation of human rights, among others, crop up.

Sadly, the issues blight even national events that are supposed to be a yardstick of how far we have travelled down the path of independence and, if we may add, democracy.

This year, when Malawi commemorated Martyrs’ Day— a day dedicated to the memory of those who died for those they never knew; namely, us— the issue that threatened to spoil the party for everyone was that of finances.

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Although the day went as planned, the Martyrs’ Day ceremony faced a financial problem, as the organising committee announced, prior to the event, that they had a shortfall of K1.9 million.

Initially, the committee had prepared a total budget of K2.5 million for the heroes’ commemoration, but only K600.000 had been realised days before the event.

The committee’s organising treasurer, John Chunda, told The Daily Times on Thursday that the committee wrote the government and different parastatals, asking for support, but only few individuals responded.

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It is not the first time organisers of such an important event have faced hiccups, which indicates that, while Malawians can talk of having political independence, they are way behind, when it comes to attaining economic independence.

Maybe Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, was referring to this when he said— during Martyrs’ Day commemoration in Nkhata Bay on Saturday— that the freedom people fought for during the 1959 uprising will remain meaningless if Malawi continues to sail in turbulent economic waters.

Speaking after attending the event, Chakwera said the fallen heroes did not just fight for political freedom but were also eyeing economic freedom.

He, therefore, condemned the spirit of self-entitlement among modern political leaders, saying it is retrogressive and destructive.

“We must understand that, for those who selflessly sacrificed their lives for our political freedom, the dream was not just to have political independence but that we must also have economic independence and that fight must continue.

“There is no reason why we should have a generation of those who feel entitled to anything; we must continue to fight and build [reserves] for future generations. [We have to] leave the country a better place than we found it,” Chakwera said.

Of course, Minister of Civic Education, Grace Chiumia, has responded to that apparent jibe by advising local politicians to avoid politicising issues.

She said developing a nation is work in progress and that different problems cannot be addressed wholesomely at once.

“It is not competition, and let’s not speak in a manner that suggests that we are outshining somebody. Whenever there is an issue, let’s engage the government using proper channels. We all appreciate the challenges that our country is going through but the government is committed to alleviating them,” Chiumia said.

Whatever the case, it is important that Malawians should be joining hands during events like these to ensure that our martyrs are not exposed to the financial problems that have taken root in the country.

The country is beset by financial problems, yes; but these should not be felt by the dead.

On a positive note, the Martyrs’ Day commemoration in Nkhata Bay showed, yet again, that, despite supporting political parties that have different ideologies, Malawians can unite for a good cause.

Last year, the event was marred by acts of violence when ruling Democratic Progressive Party supporters clashed with MCP supporters.

Maybe peace prevailed because the organising committee instructed political party leaders to discourage party members from putting on party attire.

The country commemorates Martyrs’ Day on March 3 as Malawians remember people who were shot dead at Nkhata Bay jetty in 1959 when British forces declared a state of emergency.

As the fallen people continue to rest peacefully, one can only hope that the arrow of financial challenges will spare them— at least on March 3

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