Mutharika walks last mile at Ndata

The remains of Malawi’s former President Bingu wa Mutharika arrived in his home village, Kamoto in Thyolo district on Sunday morning ahead of a state funeral on Monday, April 23.

The 28-vehicle cortege left Sanjika Palace in Blantyre where the body had been lying in state since Thursday at 06:40hrs for Mutharika’s last mile to his home area and final resting place.

It was as if the world had come to a halt when thousands of mourners swathed in black, gathered at Ndata Farm, wailed rowdily upon seeing the funeral motorcade pulling in at 08:35hrs.

Ndata Palace: The burial home of Mutharika

Scores of somber mourners, as young as eight years and as old as 90 years, lined the 64km Blantyre-Bvumbwe-Thyolo-Ndata Farm route on this morning to pay their last respects.

Business came to a standstill in most places along the route as traders closed their shops and flocked to the roadside as a sign of respect and also to pay their homage.

The sight became exceptionally emotional at Bvumbwe market, Thunga, Thyolo Boma (also known as Number 1), Januwale, Goliati and Namahoya Trading Centres where people wept wildly while waving at the motorcade, as others heavily beat their chests and heads.

At Thyolo Boma and Thunga Trading Centre over 10 grief stricken women collapsed upon seeing their icon’s casket, draped in national colours, carried in a Malawi Defence Force vehicle for the solemn homecoming.

After the body’s arrival at Ndata Farm, what would have been the private retirement home of the 78-year-old departed leader, a short prayer was offered by Reverend  Billy Gama, religious advisor to late Mutharika, before viewing of the body begun.

Late Mutharika’s widow and former First Lady, Callista, led the viewing service which started at exactly 10:00am as a somber atmosphere hanged in the air.

“He was our President at the same time the father of this part of the region and everybody here in Lhomwe belt is heart broken with his death,” Mercy Pangani, a primary school teacher at Luchenza mourned.

The day had been dedicated to family members, some close friends, neighbouring communities and mourners from the surrounding districts of Thyolo, Mulanje and Phalombe to pay their homage as the body continues lying in state until the lavish state funeral on Monday.

Four heads of state and government and some distinguished international figures have already arrived in the country for the burial ceremony.

The foreign delegates will pay their last respects early Monday morning before a procession of pall-bearers carry the casket to his final resting place, an ornate mausoleum he named Mpumulo wa bata, standing some 500meters away from his mansion.

President Joyce Banda is expected to arrive at Ndata Farm just before 09:00am to welcome her fellow leaders at the site and thereafter lead Malawians in burying their former president, described by many as a dictator.

Malawi Government has declared an official 30-day period of mourning (from April 7 until May 6) while April 23, when the remains of Mutharika will be interred, has been declared a public holiday.

Late Mutharika ruled Malawi since 2004 when he first assumed power and was re-elected in 2009 for his second term.

But his illustrious first term was eclipsed immediately after assuming office for his second term due to the political and economic crisis that squeezed Malawians to the bone because of his policies.

Mutharika, born 24th February 1934, died on April 5th at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Ndata Palace: The burial home of Mutharika

Former president Bakili muluzi pays last respect to Mutharika's remains at Sanjika palace, 20 April, 2012.

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