The body of late Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika arrived back home from South Africa Saturday in a gold coffin draped in a Malawian flag to a sombre ceremony at Kamuzu International Airport, in the capital Lilongwe.
Mutharika suffered a cardiac arrest on April 5. He died at State House at the age of 78. Sending of the dead Mutharika to South Africa was a delaying tactics by the Cabinet in their plot to bypass the Constitution on succession.
His successor Her Excellency Joyce Banda led the retinue of mourners, including a number of government officials, who received the coffin at the airport. Mutharika’s brown casket draped with the Malawi flag — a red sun rising over black, red and green horizontal bars —
The remains were given a guard of honour which was mounted by the Malawi Defence Forces (MDF) and a 21-gun salute sounded. Solemn songs dominated at the airport.
The coffin was taken in an open-top hearse to the New State House – president’s official residence – in the capital, Lilongwe where it will lie in state for a few days before being taken around the country.
“At the New State House, only family members and close friends will be allowed to pay their last respects,” Henry Mussa, chairperson of the funeral arrangements main organizing committee ministerial said.
Others lined the airport road to pay respects as the cortege passed.
Some wore T-shirts bearing Mutharika’s portrait.While snap surveys in some parts of the country show that business was usual.
“I cannot shed tears for Mutharika unless they fire tears to force me to cry. He was a bad leader,” said one young man who stood at the airport to witness the arrival of the late president’s remains.
Mutharika’s body will then be taken to the New Parliament Building where it will lie in state from 16th to 17th April to give chance to the public from Lilongwe and the surrounding areas.
Malawians in the northern region will on April 18 pay their last respects to Mutharika as the body will lie in state at the Mzuzu State Lodge.
Thereafter, the body will be flown to Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre and it will lie in state at the Sanjika Palace from April 19 to 21 for people in Southern and Eastern regions to bid their farewell before leaving for his resting place, Ndata Farm in his home district, Thyolo.
At Ndata, Mussa said, Mutharika’s remains will lie in state for three days before it is finally interred in its final place, the already-built multimillion kwacha Mausoleum standing next to his first wife, Ethel, who succumbed to cancer in 2007.
Malawi’s former leader died on April 5th at Kamuzu Central Hospital following a cardiac arrest and his body was flown to South Africa for medical procedures the same day.Mutharika’s casket
The Joyce Banda’s administration has set aside K150 million to be used for funeral activities such as transport, allowances, accommodation and food.
According to Mussa, government had initially budgeted K400 million but later scaled it down after the coffers showed some signs of “emptiness.”
As part of its assistance knowing how the country has been struggling to get fuel, President Michael Sata of Zambia has offered a fuel deal of 5million litres to be used during the funeral.
Meanwhile, Her Excellency Banda has called on Malawians to forget anything bad that the former president might and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) might have done and instead ensure that they bury him with all the dignity.