‘Emperor’ Bingu, Emperor Nero, and the 22 youth killed on Bingu’s Watch

“Epiphania Bonjesi – shot by Police – you will be avenged yet,

The July 20 martyrs – shot by Police – you we will never forget,

Robert Chasowa – murdered by regime agents – your killers cannot rest,

To all of you, for your murderers, let there be no respite!”

 

Part 1: History, Ancient Rome, from 37 A.D.

Nero was born near Rome on 15 December 37 AD and was known as a child as Domitius. Through his mother Agrippina he was the only surviving direct male descendant of the emperor Augustus. In 49 AD, Agrippina married her uncle, the emperor Claudius, and began to promote her own son’s claim to the succession, at the expense of Claudius’s own son, Britannicus.

She persuaded Claudius to adopt Domitius – who now took the name Nero – as his son and when it seemed as if Britannicus would be favoured, she had Claudius poisoned and Nero became emperor.

Agrippina clearly wished to rule through Nero, and her portrait briefly appeared on the coins alongside his. But the new emperor paid more heed to his advisors Burrus and the philosopher Seneca, and the result was five years of exemplary government. These first five years of Nero’s rule are called the quinquennium, a period of good government under the influence, not always coinciding, of three people, his mother, Seneca, and Sextus Afranius Burrus.

'Emperor' Bingu wa Mutharika

Britannicus was poisoned by Nero a year into the new reign and in 59 AD, he had his mother put to death. In 62 AD, Burrus died and Seneca retired, removing the key restraining influences on Nero.

Two years later, much of Rome was destroyed in a fire, for which Nero was blamed. Nero diverted blame from himself by accusing the Christians – then a minor religious sect – of starting the fire, leading to a campaign of persecution. Nero who is said to have been playing fiddle whilst Rome burned, is firmly established in history as one of the worst emperors of Rome.

Part 2: History, Malawi, from 1934 AD

Bingu wa Mutharika was born in Thyolo on 24 February 1934 and was known as a child as Webster Ryson Thom.  In 2008, the then President of Malawi – Eleson Bakili Muluzi had his aspirations for an unconstitutional third term shattered by Civil Society, the Church and parliament, and sponsored Bingu wa Mutharika – a rank outsider of the then ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), at the expense of UDF’s own potentials e.g. Justin Malewezi, Aleke Banda and others.

Muluzi campaigned very hard for Bingu and won Bingu ‘won’ the disputed 2004 election. In the violence that followed his disputed history, on 23 May 2004 to be precise, 10-year-old Epiphania Bonjesi was shot dead when police used live ammunition on demonstrators in Blantyre. Her death, to date, has neither been investigated nor her killers brought to book. (We will revisit Epiphania’s soul in the last part of this write-up).

Muluzi had hoped to rule through Bingu, but this was not to be. Bingu, within a short period, showed that he was his own man and won public admiration for tackling corruption which had been rampant during Muluzi’s time. He gathered around him good advisors like Henry Duncan Phoya, Goodal Gondwe and others, and the result was five years of exemplary government – a quinquennium, one would say.

Soon after his re-election, he changed advisors and brought on board several idiots incapable of independent thought but who strongly believe in the gospel of self-preservation – never corrected him as he made blunder after blunder. Barely two years into his second term, he managed to destroy the donor relations that he had worked very hard to build in his first term and funded his “success” in his first term. The result is that the economy has now gone to the dogs.

Just as he had been praised for literally everything in his first term, the public is again blaming him for literally everything for the current economic chaos. Having none of it and behaving very much like somebody at war with the world, Mutharika is desperately trying to divert the blame from himself by accusing any living creature with two legs on earth: gays, civil society, the Church, the media and of course Western European countries.

Part 3: Back to the Roman Empire 60 AD – 70AD:

As a result of Nero’s ineptitude, there were revolts – in Britain (60 AD – 61 AD) and Judea (66 AD – 70 AD). In 65 AD, Gaius Calpurnius Piso led a conspiracy against the emperor and in the purge that followed; a number of prominent Romans were executed, including Seneca and his nephew, the epic poet Lucan.

In 65 AD, Nero is believed to have kicked his wife Poppaea to death. His next wife was Statilia Messalina, whose first husband Nero had executed. In 68 AD, the Gallic and Spanish legions, along with the Praetorian Guards, rose against Nero and he fled Rome. The senate declared him a public enemy and he committed suicide on 9 June 68 AD. Disputes over his succession led to civil war in Rome.

Part 4: Back to Malawi, 2011:

Among the few “happy” moments of Mutharika’s second term was his wedding to Callista that cost £2m. Callista came with a strong promise: “to influence good policies” as reported from a personal interview with the Muckraker. Other than this, succession woes started creeping in with Mutharika grooming his brother to take over from him, as if Malawi was the Roman Empire of sorts.

While state machinery was employed to campaign for his brother, Bingu was, like a rabid dog, barking at everything that moves, firing at will at donors, wrecking the economy and amassing enormous amounts of unexplainable wealth he had never even dreamed of during his time at COMESA.

Part 5: Where we are at:

As we speak, Epiphania Bonjesi is not the only soul in purgatory – if you are Catholic; or in heaven – if you believe otherwise, or where-ever you believe that the spirits of the departed go; crying for justice. On and in the aftermath of the July 20 Mass Demonstrations she was joined by twenty other young people. A couple of weeks ago, Robert Chasowa joined this heavenly choir – wailing to the Almighty for justice.

As we speak, unexplained fires that have left some people homeless, others office-less and have taken the most vulnerable in our cities – vendors – twenty years back in economic terms, are the order of the day. Like the fires of Rome that led to the persecution of Christians, the government with all the resources at its disposal, can neither stop the madness nor apprehend those that are responsible.

Mukhito, a “fine” policeman according to Bingu, is holding a 12 year old kid on remand as the instigator of one of the fires. That – a twelve year old street urchin – is the best that the fine inspector general can manage!

Conclusion: Judgement Day

While Nero in his time, blamed the fires in Rome on Christians, the DPP and state machinery, via Mrs Kaliati, Mzati Nkolokosa and others want to blame the fires, the deaths and basically all the catastrophes Malawi is facing that emanate squarely from Bingu’s words and deeds; on Civil Society and the opposition.

The best that Bingu can offer by way of consolation is yet again, a commission of enquiry. What is the commission of enquiry for? What and where are the results of the previous enquiries that Bingu commissioned? Why should the soul of Robert – whose death reeks of high level police involvement – rest when Epiphania’s soul is still restless? Or was she not worth a commission of enquiry?

How can Robert’s and Epiphania’s souls be soothed when many others – the July 20 martyrs to be specific – are being generalised as looters – and hence deserving of brutal deaths at the hands of the very police that was supposed to be protecting them?

No one can provide rational answers these questions. But everyone should know one thing: for every man and every woman there will be a day of reckoning. Nero was driven to suicide – a genuine suicide unlike what Mukhito would have wanted us to believe of Robert. And so, even the great Nero met his maker and accounted for his words and deeds.

When Bingu’s day comes, as it must inevitably come, where is he going run to? Who is he going to turn to? Who will be his “Ntaba” on that day? Who will be his “fine” policeman /body guard on that day? Is he going to say to his maker that:

“Wait, I will institute a commission of enquiry in 24 to 48 hours?”

At times, sometimes, it is important to think beyond this life when dealing with the lives of others, especially those that are vulnerable and defenceless.  And I sincerely hope Bingu and his angels of death will read this.

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