M’mbelwa IV state funeral draws mixed reactions

Malawi’s political commentators and human rights groups are expressing mixed reactions over government’s announcement that Ngoni Paramount Chief M’mbelwa IV of Mzimba will be accorded a State funeral at his headquarters in Edingeni on Saturday.

Chief M’mbelwa IV died on Tuesday at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, where he was treated for a diabetes attack. He was 56.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Grace Maseko said Mbelwa deserves a state funeral because he was not only a leader of Ngoni but also the presidential advisor on Ngoni chiefs in the country whose office fall under the Office of president and Cabinet.

“Paramount Chief in the Chiefs Act is an employee of government this is why government has declared that the late Chief Mbelwa should be accorded a state funeral,” Maseko told reporters in the commercial capital Blantyre.

Late Inkosi ya makosi Mbelwa IV 'squatting'  in State at Mtunthama State Lodge. pic by Felix Washon, MANA.

Late Inkosi ya makosi Mbelwa IV ‘squatting’ in State at Mtunthama State Lodge. pic by Felix Washon, MANA.

 

The body of the late Inkosi Yamakosi Mbelwa ‘squatting’  in state at Mtunthama state lodge on Wednesday.

Some commentators said the move is giving a bad precedence considering that government did not give a state burial the funeral of another Ngoni leader, Paramount Chief Gomani who died in 2009.

But others say it is illogical to compare Mbelwa with Gomani arguing that the two were worlds apart in terms of power and political influence.

A historian who is also a political scientist in the University of Malawi Simbalashe Mungoshi said the issue is that Gomani died during the reign of different political administration.

“This is because of the differences in policies of administrations. The previous administration considered not necessary to accord Paramount Chief Gomani state burial while the current administration has deemed it necessary to respect the funeral of Chief Mbelwa in such manner,” Mungoshi said.

Mungoshi ruled out speculations that Mbelwa has been accorded state funeral because of his political influence on Malawi’s political arena arguing that even the Gomanis have been actively involved in the day-to-day affairs of Malawi politics since time in memorial.

“Mind you that another Inkosi Gomani was literally killed in around 1895 because of his active involvement in domestic politics” said Mungoshi.

He said  there is nothing wrong in according Mbelwa state burial taking into account that he was the King of Ngoni Kings in Malawi.

However, a human rights activist Billy Banda is describing the government’s move as questionable, saying Mbelwa is not the first Chief to die while in office.

He said while it is understandable that each and every person in public office deserves being accorded respect on his or her own,but adds that Malawians should remember that there were many people who contributed positively to the country but were not accorded state funerals.

“We are talking of people like Aleke Banda who contributed positively to the country’s politics since his younger days, Stanley Masauli who has been a renowned person in Malawi’s aircraft industry and many more. These are some of  people who also deserved state funerals,” said Banda

Banda said speculations have it that Mbelwa has been given state burial because of his close association with vice president Khumbo Kachale who is believed to have influenced the move.

“Or this is a deliberate move by President Joyce Banda to be perceived as close friends of chiefs and appease the people from the north.”

A vocal political science lecturer at Chancellor College Blessing Chinsinga categorically refused to comment on the issue without giving reasons.

“I have no comment on that one” said Chinsinga.

In her eulogy, President Joyce Banda told journalists the nation has lost a great son who courageously served his country.

She said the late M’mbelwa IV served in all governments from Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s one party regime through the first post-independence multiparty government led by Bakili Muluzi, the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration and her current People’s Party regime.

“ He knew his role and he believed in serving the government of the day,” said President Banda.

M’mbelwa IV, one of the most prominent chiefs, has been involved in political activities, attending and, in some cases, speaking at rallies organised by ruling political parties.

First to recognise him was Muluzi and his billing went up during Mutharika’s era when he stirred controversy by conferring on Mutharika the title Ngwazi. He also revived the Ngoni cultural events such as umtheto.

Late Inkosi ya makosi Mbelwa IV lays in State at Mtunthama State Lodge. pic by Felix Washon, MANA.

Late Inkosi ya makosi Mbelwa IV ‘squatting’ in State at Mtunthama State Lodge. pic by Felix Washon, MANA.

 

The body of the late Inkosi Yamakosi Mbelwa ‘squatting’  in state at Mtunthama state lodge on Wednesday.

 

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