Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Amai with Vice President Joice Mujuru at Harare International Airport as the president leaves the country for Malawi. They will attend the burial of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
President attends Mutharika burial
Monday, 23 April 2012 00:00
From Itai Musengeyi in BLANTYRE, Malawi
PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived here last night to attend the burial of President Bingu wa Mutharika scheduled for today.
The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is being accompanied by the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and senior Government officials.
Speaking to journalists at Chileka International Airport, President Mugabe described President wa Mutharika’s death as a shock to himself, the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and the entire Zimbabwean populace because of the relationship between Zimbabwe and Malawi.
“The loss of a leader here is our loss, we have come to condole you. So we are together, we mourn together and we shall always be together,” said President Mugabe.
The President will join five other African leaders who have confirmed their attendance at the funeral.
African Union chairman and Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni, Presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Armando Guebuza (Mozambique) and Mwai Kibaki (Kenya) are
expected to attend the burial, according to media reports quoting the chairperson of the funeral committee Mr Henry Mussa.
Mr Mussa is the Minister of Local Government in Malawi.
President wa Mutharika, who died two weeks ago of heart failure, will be buried at a family mausoleum at his Ndata Farm in Thyolo, a district about 50km from the commercial capital Blantyre.
New Malawi President Joyce Banda’s office declared today a public holiday “to give the former president a dignified and honourable State funeral and many Malawians an opportunity to attend the funeral ceremony”.
Zimbabwe and Malawi enjoy cordial relations at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
In his condolence message soon after president wa Mutharika’s death, President Mugabe said the Malawian leader dedicated his professional and political career to the cause of the continent and spent a great deal of time seeking ways to uplift Africans.
He died at a time Zimbabwe was working to concretise his wish for Harare to help Malawi with fuel supply and storage.
Analysts have said his death was a blow to Africa’s integration agenda.
“The death of President Bingu wa Mutharika early this month has not only robbed Malawi of its leader but also deprived Africa of a fearless campaigner for deeper regional integration and agrarian revolution.
“Mutharika, who died on April 5 due to a heart failure, played an instrumental role in southern Africa’s efforts to transform the region from a food-deficit area to one producing surplus grain.
“Doubling as Malawi’s Agriculture Minister, Mutharika introduced a grain subsidy programme in 2005 to increase the provision of maize seed and fertiliser to smallholder farmers by more than 75 percent.
“As a result, Malawi’s maize production trebled from about 1,2 million metric tonnes in the 2004/5 agricultural season to 3,4 million metric tonnes in 2007/08,” reported sardc.net.
However, at the time of his death Malawi was experiencing foreign currency and fuel shortages following withdrawal of donor support after Dr wa Mutharika refused to be bullied by the West.
“wa Mutharika’s good track record during his first term in office was quickly forgotten in 2010 when he refused to be bullied by Britain and invited the wrath of Malawi’s former colonial ruler by expelling the British high commissioner.
“For routinely standing his ground against Western powers, wa Mutharika was labelled an intolerant and autocratic leader whose government became a target of external regime change agents,” reported sardc.net.
Malawians have been paying their last respects to their leader since his body was flown home from South Africa on April 14.
The body has been taken to the country’s major centres to give Malawians an opportunity to mourn Dr wa Mutharika.
And today Malawians are expected to throng Dr wa Mutharika’s farm to give him a huge send off.
President Mugabe and his delegation were received at Chileka International Airport by senior Malawian government officials and officials from the Zimbabwe embassy.
Meanwhile, President Mugabe and the First Lady paid a courtesy call on President Banda last night.