The unsung heroes in the Mphwiyo shooting saga

As I see relentless updates on what is believed to have happened on 13th September and reasons why it happened, and the coverage of the same through press reportage both print, media and electronic media, all the teeming memories of my former life as a public officer come surging back re-affirming the Malawian psyche in particular their love for speculation .Funny enough perhaps foolishly so, at the centre of this speculation is government machinery. I strongly believe that the President and Government made an error when they made statements relating to the shooting of Mr Mphwiyo. It was premature and unnecessary.

I believe such a disposition or a want of judgment scarcely credible should be left to competent agencies- The Malawi Police services. It is from them and the demonstrations of their professional opinions that concerned parties and the nation in shock should look up to.

Only if government and the leadership of the country could but stop this rushing tide to the press and let the police do its work independent of political thought. I also see before me a possibility in which many a Malawian would be saved from further attacks from merciless hordes .I therefore I am not joining those in the business of speculation. I do not know who shot Mr Mphwiyo, I do not know why he was shot and I will wait to hear from our police.


However I know one thing, Mr Mphwiyo is alive. He is out of danger. That he is stable is true.

Three fatal gunshots were volleyed on to Mr Mphwiyo’s head and chest on 13th September. Interestingly, an entry in world history of 13th September has an account of Charles James Fox then secretary of foreign affairs of the British empire in 1806 making a moving statement in praise of William Wilberforce the Yorkshire man  who selflessly fought for the abolition of slave trade and succeeded in convincing the British parliament to end the vice on this very day 13th September.

Rising to the occasion, Charles  Fox spoke from the heart “ When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more.”

I think of Charles fox today .I also think of what he said; “When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men” and Iam now comparing the press statement issued by Malawi Government on 16th September and conclude “When Government speaks, it often speaks of its great initiatives and programs in praise of their policies all summoned to reflect a positive image of a politician. Rarely do they think of men and women who do not sit down supinely but make their utmost effort with the little they have for the love of their country”

Government press statement leaves me abit disturbed and I quote, “Government wishes to assure Mr. Mphwiyo’s family and the whole nation that it will do everything in its power to save the life of the Budget Director” yet conveniently choose to ignore the fact that Mr Mphwiyo’s life was saved in what medical practitioners call “the golden hour “the first 60 minutes within which the course of nature was reversed by able men and women who rose to the occasion and performed what many believe to be a medical miracle.

They included the desperate nurse who made a frantic call to Dr Heatherwick Ntaba on her own volition and personal assessment of the situation, Dr Varela who responded to Dr Ntaba’s SOS and the team leader himself Dr Ntaba who with his primal gift of bare hands and without any equipment, stabilized stabilized Mr Mphwiyo in the hour of need. Names of these true patriots will not feature in any where let alone have their ingenious works recognized by government agents but I believe as did lord Charles Fox future generations will come to hear of these men and woman who confronted a medical problem enough to perplex the most ingenious minds whilst taxing the calmest temper on the operating table where they were racing against time and tended to Mr Mphwiyo devotedly and managed to pull him from the abyss of death .

I knew Paul Mphwiyo in person as a fellow public officer of youthful years when I served my term at Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. When I learned of what happened to him, I was shocked and saddened.

Yesterday afternoon, I made an attempt to visit him at Milpark Clinic where he is being attended to but was not allowed to see him. Strangely though security around him is so tight that no one save for his immediate family is allowed to visit. My interest to see him was not to learn or hear events leading to this tragic event but rather to find out how he was cleared out of danger. Gun shots to the head are frequently fatal. In the case of Paul, three gun shots on his neck, cheek and chest and he is still alive???? Luckily, I managed to interact with one family source who told me a different story far from what people led by their government are speculating .It is a story of how   Mr Mphwiyo was saved. Ofcourse these are the sort of stories I like. They tend to reinforce my belief system on what can be achieved in the face of great difficulty.

This s what I heard and learned from this family source yesterday.

Dr Ntaba was not on call when Mr Paul Mphwiyo was shot on 13th September. He does not work at MASM clinic although he sometimes visits his patients in clinics and hospitals across the country as and when they need him apparently a practice by most physicians’ .Mr. Paul Mphwiyo was not his patient MASM clinic is very small. It is poorly equipped. It was the ingenuity of the Nurse who on her own assessment and the nature of the medical challenge she was facing, realized that the only person who could do most with the little MASM clinic has to save the man who was bleeding profusely from three  gunshot wounds, was Dr Ntaba .

On receiving a frantic call from a nurse who sounded so desperate , Dr Ntaba responded immediately and arrived at the clinic  within minutes ,made a split second diagnosis and  started working on Paul  immediately and did what has shocked the medical profession performing an emergency procedure that has never been used by anyone before which according to onlookers which among others included stuffing tissues and some doctors examining stuff in Mr Mphwiyo’s mouth so he could free his airway .Whilst working, he was now arranging for an immediate transfer to KCH, assembling a medical team on the phone  whilst  continuing  with other stabilizing procedures in the ambulance en-route to KCH  at where he was joined by Dr Varela.

These men of honor worked on Paul throughout the night creating an artificial air way a process that saw Paul coming out of danger.  Apparently hours later, Mr Mphwiyo regained conscious and was able to see the man and the team that worked on his life.

With tears dropping, the family source told me “though with difficulty Mr Paul Mphwiyo asked for a pen and paper and wrote –THANK YOU FOR SAVING MY LIFE  which he [Paul ] waved it Dr Ntaba in a stone silenced room where everyone could not believe what was happening  .Apparently the source told me  Dr Ntaba smiled then said “ I’ve never had this challenge before, I have never read it elsewhere in my medical career  and I don’t know how I did it but all I can say is this was God’s hands at work. If you guys don’t pray, please beginning today “start praying” He then assured the wife that her husband was clearly out of danger. He advised further medical works on Paul’s Jaws and referred him to South Africa though he would not travel with them since there was no need to escort Paul to South Africa because he was very sure of what he did and guaranteed a safe journey to South Africa.

Apparently Paul Mphwiyo is budget director for Malawi government. Dr Ntaba who was an employee of the office of president and cabinet was unfairly dismissed by Malawi government following the death of Late president Wamutharika. Following his unfair dismissal, Dr Ntaba has not been paid his terminal benefits apparently because there is standing directive from the powers that be not to pay terminal dues to all those who were unfairly and innocently dismissed by the current government as way of punishing them for working under late president Bingu wamutharika.

Paul Mphwiyo is in charge of public funds from which Dr Ntaba’s terminal benefits are supposed to be paid. As Paul Mphwiyo is fighting for his life at a medical clinic in south Africa today though clearly out of danger after being saved from instant death by Dr Ntaba. Dr Ntaba is in court fighting for his terminal benefits  whose disbursement officer is Paul Mphwiyo .

I wonder how Mr Mphwiyo will react to the standing order directing  withdraw of disbursement of terminal benefits to people like Dr Ntaba whose only crime was to serve their country during  Bingu wa Mutharika’s reign.  Such dedication to duty regardless of other people’s vices is rare. In a country hamstrung by depressed politics and near witchcraft oriented directives; it is perhaps God’s way of rebuking the system on how to be fair with people. Since president Banda suggested that the tragedy was a result of war on corruption, there is every chance that many including serving ministers and top civil servants will join her noble quest to fight corruption and by extension face a possibility of being shot at.

When that happens, the first person to call in those hours of need will be Dr Ntaba.As shown in Paul’s case,Dr Ntaba will again tend to them devotedly. The difference however is that after that, they will go back to their offices and continue to sit on Dr Ntaba’s terminal benefits as Dr Ntaba continues to fight for his hard legally earned dues.

As someone once said; “When misguided politics reaps us apart, when men of cloth are sometimes palpably seen to be bought, true men of God usually stands out to instill confidence to the heartbroken society. Dr Ntaba and his team did just that. Their selfless acts may never be mentioned by anyone and they may never be acknowledged by anyone save for Mr Paul Mphwiyo.The Nurse who made that spontaneous decision to call Dr Ntaba , Dr Varela the Doctor who joined Dr Ntaba at Kamuzu central hospital and Dr Ntaba himself leader of Mr Paul Mpwiyo’s rescuing mission are true sons and daughter of the impoverished nation. THEY ARE OUR PEOPLE OUR PRIDE

*Bright Malopa is former director general of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation

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