Malawian officials, Kalirani desert Bingu’s body in SA

A Malawian living in South Africa has revealed how the country’s officials including those working at the embassy in Pretoria deserted the body of late President Bingu wa Mutharika as the South African
National Defence Force (SANDF) were repatriating the remains to Malawi.

President Joyce Banda had earlier announced that she had sent Malawi’s Minister of Health Jean Kalirani to lead Malawian officials in assisting to bring the body of the former Head of State back to
Malawi.

However, a Malawian based at the University of Pretoria Christopher Manyamba, who witnessed the send off on Saturday April 14, disclosed to Nyasa Timesthat there was no Malawian official or embassy staff ready to take any responsibilities both at One Military Hospital chapel and the Waterkloof Air Force Base.

From left Agrina Mussa, Malawi's High Commissioner to South Africa and widow Callista Mutharika

“It was so embarrassing as a nation when the SANDF officials came to ask; ‘who can we talk to in case of other essentials and protocols?’, there was no-one from both the embassy and Malawi Government,” said Manyamba, adding that he was so disappointed with the development.

Manyamba explained that earlier in the day some embassy officials and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members in South Africa had brought flowers which they unceremoniously placed at the corner of the chapel apparently without wanting to be identified as Malawians.

“The second time the SANDF enquired about someone to communicate to was when they were wrapping the flag on the coffin, again these officials from the embassy and the party only said ‘those responsible were coming’,” he added.

It took until 11am when the SANDF officers noted there was no Malawian and decided on their own just to wrap the coffin with the Malawi flag, which Manyamba said was first wrapped the wrong way.

Later, according to Manyamba there was a short prayer by the Military Reverend with no Malawian present and the SANDF slow marched the body of Mutharika to the hearse outside the hospital, from where it was driven to the Air Force Base about 3 kilometres away.

“The whole ceremony of bringing the body of the late back to Malawi just hurt me as a Malawian. As was supposed to be the case there was even no military attaché who could have dealt with fellow military personnel from SANDF,” he said.

At the Air Base, where the SANDF held a guard of honour, there was former first lady Callista Mutharika, the former president’s son and daughter who joined the procession along other 26 people, some of them Malawians who were there on their own.

Both Kalirani and Malawi High Commissioner to South Africa Agrina Mussa could not immediately comment on what transpired in Pretoria both saying they were preoccupied with the funeral of the former Head of State as such have no time granting interviews to the media.

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