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Tribute to Mary Nangwale

While death is a blow to the bereaved and concerned, the traits we draw in life are worth knitting a standing celebratory story. Yes, a chronicle of motivation, inspiration, reflection and meditation as the circus cycle of life keeps rolling.

Mary Nangwale, the former inspector general (IG) of the Malawi Police Service (MPS), was a woman and a half. Her life; a mixed bag like the rest of us but circumstances refined her finesse and underlined her definition in the rank and file of the MPS as well as the government of Malawi. The iron lady is gone. As she sleeps, her legacy echoes are loud across the world.

Step by step she steadily climbed the ladders in the MPS since joining it in 1972 and, with time, after amassing a 32-year long active experience in the police, she got a presidential nod to head the law-enforcing institution in September 2004. History was made; she became the first woman in this part of Africa to be IG of the police but this triumph was brief as parliamentary jabs bruised her appointment and floored her confirmation in April 2005. Not that she did not deserve it but perhaps the male-dominated political atmosphere was at its roughest peak with the opposition block trying to out with a minority ruling league with every savage punch at its disposal.

Then, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) were bed fellows and fought tooth and nail to c lobber a new kid on the block in the name of Democratic Progressive Party which was formed after former president Bingu wa Mutharika ditched UDF despite winning the presidency on its ticket. The political turbulence seems to have made Nangwale a victim of circumstances. In solidarity, the then MCP Secretary General Kate Kainja resigned from the party in protest of Parliament’s denial of Nangwale’s confirmation.

The political arena was at cross roads. The battle was so real that it was further wrestled in the courts and the final hammer that upheld the parliamentary vote to d ismiss Nangwal e as the top cop was slammed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

However, for the short period she headed the MPS, she made some remarkable strides to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the police and a major attribution was the introduction of 997 rapid response and toll free lines which were instrumental in reducing the crime rate in the year 2005. Not only that but the sanity in traffic control on the roads and the corrupt syndicates involving motorists and police officers were dealt with. At some point in time, while an IG, Nangwale could singlehandedly be on the ground to enforce the law, be it apprehending reckless minibus drivers or indeed thugs.

She was a full pack, yes, a woman and a half that stood shoulders high in a male-dominated society and institution. And this did not make her back off; she simply shook the dust and stood much more stronger, hence decorated by the media as ‘the iron lady’. That was Mary Nangwale—nee Mvula for you.

Perhaps it is this prowess, focus and determination that made Bingu believe more in her potential in his drive to be a champion of women empowerment. Bingu could not simply bury Nangwale’s potential prematurely. He knew her worth and went ahead to appoint her as first secretary (Political Affairs) at the Malawi High Commission in London, a portfolio she held until June 2012.

Yes, she might have registered some controversies and crossed paths with other people either in her professional or personal life but just like the rest of us, we are not immune to slip-ups. Perhaps that is the reason we are human, obviously subjected to various shortfalls in life as we seek perfection.

Much as the times were hard, such times made Nangwale smarter and she made it through to the top. With that legacy, the no-nonsense Nangwale breathed her last at Mwai wathu Hospital in Blantyre on Sunday, September 18 as an ordained pas tor of the Living Waters Church.

Scores of people and dignitaries from across the world mourn and celebrate the life of the iron lady, Malawi’s first-ever female to hold the portfolio of IG of police.

Nangwale is gone but her life remains a testimony, an inspiration, a motivation and a point of reflection. Her body was laid to rest at Limbe CCAP Cemetery o n Tuesday after noon, September 20, 2016 but her legacy is still fresh and it shall keep breathing now and for the generations to come. Good bye Mary Nangwale, until we meet again, rest well!

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