The 20 July demonstrations made the Northern Region pay the heaviest cost with 9 men that were slain when the police used guns to quell the situation. The aftermath was massive as it turned the nation on its head.
Reaction to such a gory action came in different colour and shade.
On the day of burial, people’s response was over whelming; thousands of people thronged the road from Mzuzu Central Hospital and escorted the slain to Zolozolo Cemetery where they were buried at the same place, in the same grave yard as heroes.
Already, the government protested the inauguration of the slain as heroes, with President Bingu wa Mutharika saying all the people that were killed, 19 in total in the country, ‘died in vain’.
The Police have not gone without any better explanation as regards those that were killed, as they are saying they shot at thugs who went flat out vandalising and looting property
Livingstonia Synod Creates Mourning Ground
Church of Central Africa Presbytery (CCAP) Livingstonia Synod suddenly has become the major bereaved union in the Mzuzu murders.
Already, all opposition parties and their leadership including the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and John Tembo, United Democratic Front (UDF) and Atupele Muluzi, People’s Party (PP) and Vice President Joyce Banda, Congress for Democrats (CODE) and Ralph Kasambara, and later People’s Transformation Party (PETRA) and Kamuzu Chibambo all came to the church to pay their homage to the slain.
All took a similar route; first they would go into the office of the Party’s Secretary General Rev. Levi Nyondo for a few words before meeting the media and the bereaved family members in the women’s hall where a few words of condolence and prayer would be shared.
The next place was the Zolozolo Cemetery where a prayer and the laying of wreath would take place.
While all the opposition leaders were of the view that this was the best way to console the bereaved members, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials were of the view that they needed to console ‘the damaged property’ and those that suffered as a result.
Mutharika and DPP Mourns their way
President Bingu Wa Mutharika also toured the damaged structures which included DPP regional offices that were being housed in Sports Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda’s property as well as what used to be a house of an innocent person who works for Airtel Malawi.
All these houses were in Katoto Township and while all these houses were razed due to the connection with the ruling DPP the other house suffered because a DPP driver had driven a DPP vehicle within its grounds.
When Mutharika finished touring the damaged property he moved to Chibavi to talk to the people about what happened on July 20 and pledged to institute an independent commission of enquiry that will be represented by the African Union, United Nations and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Some Asian businesspeople whose shops were looted have started leaving for their respective countries as they say they cannot revive their businesses.
Business Threat and Investigations
Most of the shops that were looted in Mzuzu during the fracas belong to Asian and Chinese nationals.
Property worth around 500 million kwacha was looted prompting some traders to declare that they might now be leaving the country since they do not have money to resuscitate their businesses.
“I wished I could continue doing business in Mzuzu but I cannot because things are out of hand,” complained one of the businessmen living the country a Mr. Farook.
Director for Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia Moses Mkandawire a member of the civil society members that organized the ill-fated 20th July demonstrations told journalists on July 23 that although things got out of hand, they had a fruitful meeting with the police on the eve of the demonstrations on how to peacefully present their petition to authorities at the City Council.
“Before the demonstrations started, there was news that an injunction against the march had been sought,” he said.
After seeing no further communication coming forth, protesters decided to begin marching a few minutes after this, Mkandawire says this is when the police fired tear gas in an attempt to stop them. This is it that angered the people and triggered chaos.
Mkandawire said the civil society organizations are contemplating reporting the government especially police officers who have shot dead the angry people to international criminal court.
When Mutharika toured Chibavi he spoke from his Land Rover under heavy security that he is ready for a dialogue with the Civil Society Organizations in order to address their concerns.
It is here that he talked of instituting a commission of enquiry which was in contrast with what the Civil Society Groups wanted.
They said they will only support a parallel commission of enquiry to be conducted by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC)
This prompted Mutharika to get angrier as he declared that even when 19 people were killed and 275 arrested after the July 20 saga, the civil society leaders were warned to take care
“I’ll go after you! Even if you hide in holes I’ll smoke you out!” warned Mutharika.
20-Point Petition and Bereaved
In a 20-point petition, protesters demand that the president stop paying his wife Callista a salary for charitable engagement, trim his bloated cabinet, tackle corruption, address shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines, solve intermittent electricity and water supply, and reinstate media freedom and human rights.
Nonetheless, as seen by how the death of those that was killed is being politicised – where the opposition is for the bereaved while the ruling party is for the damaged property that included their vehicles and that of their officials – it is not clear whether or not a lesson has been learnt.
The ruling DPP and its leadership has nothing to do with those that were killed and has no kind words for the bereaved, prompting an angry reaction towards the president through a petition that wanted him to at least wear a kind face and speak a word of condolence on their loss.
“We the bereaved families and injured persons of the July 20, 2011 police brutality in Mzuzu…are concerned that the president…has not condoled with the dead and injured,” reads a press released signed by Aubrey Nkosi representative of the bereaved families and the injured.