BINGU’S DEATH INQUIRY REPORT A HISTORIC LANDMARK IN MALAWI’S DEMOCRACY: UPHOLDING JUSTICE AND RULE OF LAW
The Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) is a network of civil society organizations established in July 1995 to promote good governance, protect human and people’s rights, and contribute to national development through the entrenchment of a culture of transparency and accountability.
HRCC has a membership comprising of local civil society organizations with interest in the areas of protection of people’s rights, promotion of the human rights agenda, and safeguarding governance and the rule of law. HRCC has a nationwide outreach with its members spread in all the districts of the country. HRCC has three categories of members: full members, Associate members; and Affiliate members. In addition, there are partners that work with HRCC on key developmental issues.
COMMENDATION ON THE LATE PRESIDENT’S DEATH INQUIRY REPORT
HRCC wishes to thank the State President, Her Excellency Joyce Banda for appointing a Commission of Inquiry to look into the circumstances leading to the death of late former President Prof. Bingu Wa Mutharika, and into issues of political transition of state power that followed his sudden death.
HRCC further wishes to applaud the Commission of Inquiry for producing such a comprehensive report. In our opinion, the report is a historic landmark in our democracy as a nation.
Furthermore, the report has enabled the functionality of transparency and accountability in those entrusted with political power as well as Malawi’s governance system. By unveiling the mask of secrecy over the death of the former President, the report reverses the dark acts of concealing public information and in that way reinforcing transparency in dealing with national issues.
In addition, HRCC would also like to applaud the Malawi Defence Force Commander General Odilo who not only displayed profound professionalism by sticking to his expected Constitutionally-guaranteed role by allowing the supreme law of the land to prevail. Similarly, we applaud the Attorney General for his wise counsel to those senior cabinet Ministers who wanted to twist the law to stick to the dictates of the Constitution, which under such circumstances allowed the Vice President to assume power as President.
HRCC’s would also like to highly appreciate the commendable role the media played in covering the events surrounding the death of the Late Professor Bingu Wa Muntharika at that time. In particular, Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), Capital FM, MIJ FM and Joy Radio who displayed remarkable professional qualities: courage, inquisitiveness, and interpretation of the events in spite of the veil of secrecy that was prevalent at that time. The fact that the report makes frequent references to media sources and coverage signifies the critical role the media played in providing Malawians with information on the passing of the former President the Late Bingu Wa Mutharika.
SENTIMENTS ON THE REPORT
Subsequent to a thorough review of the commission of inquiry into circumstances of the death of the Late President Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika report, we at HRCC are left speechless and horrified by the callousness and impunity with which those in power at that time handled the death of the former President, late President Bingu Wa Mutharika. We feel that from the time when the Late President collapsed to the time his body was flown to South Africa, his body was handled with negligible. The body of the President was totally denied the dignity and treatment that it deserves. We strongly feel and believe that Malawians were mocked and robbed of their respect and nationhood by those who handled the death of the former President. As we grieve over this honderous acts, we further ask the questions why? And this makes us ask more questions.
SOME QUESTIONS REMAIN UNANSWERED
While HRCC is thrilled by the Commission’s work for a job well-done, we observe that the report leaves some critical questions unanswered. We question a number of things and events that took place during that time that require further probing.
· Why did Bingu’s doctor keep the first aid kit at his house rather than where his patient was, that is the state house?
· Why did Bingu’s doctor allow applying Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) resulting in breaking his rib even when he knew he was dead?
· Why did the doctor himself while he knew he had an injury on one of his arm continue administering support without looking for help?
· Why was Bingu given a post –humus pseudo –name Daniel Phiri; who is behind this and what was the motive and purpose? This includes indication of different dates on his date of death.
· We question why the family did not hand over the post mortem report, do you mean the Commission did not have the powers to demand the report? We believe the late President was an asset of the whole nation and therefore through the Commission the nation had the right to know what killed our President
· We question the conduct of some Ministers and other government officials as it was in evidence that some had resisted the swearing in of the then Vice President, without necessarily concluding, is it not clear from the report that the said officials were scheming on how to usurp Presidential powers?
· We questions who was taking Executive decisions on behalf of 13 million Malawians during those two days (between 5th April and 7th April 2012.. Who decided to fly Late Mutharika’s body to South Africa on the public purse when doctors at Kamuzu Central Hospital had already certified him dead and what were they trying to achieve and in whose interest?
The conduct of some of the Ministers and government officials fell below the legal and ethical standards expected. As members of Cabinet and government they were supposed to preserve the integrity of their offices by staying away from scheming to usurp power. The Commission should have made specific findings on these questions and should have proceeded to make the relevant recommendations to guide the future conduct of our Ministers and government officials in moments like these. This does not necessarily mean that those responsible must not be held accountable. The alleged “coup plotters” must be held accountable to their actions for the sake of justice as well as so to avoid setting the precedence in future for the good of our country.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON WAY FORWARD
This is one among numerous Commissions of Inquiries the Head of State has set since she came into power.. Most of the Commissions have been set with enthusiasm and reports received with excitement from the government as well as public domains. However, the process to take the findings forward have often coiled down; the reports gather dust, as the authorities have shown reluctance to act upon them. We have witnessed this before. One possible reason is that the Commissions often start with good intentions, in the interest of Malawians. However, along the process, the motive degenerates into a political cash bank. That is government has often shown the tendency to lean towards where they can politically cash in on such enquiries.
We have at hand for instance the Robert Chasowa Inquiry, The incumbent President, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda instituted a Commission of Inquiry into the mysterious death of a fourth-year Polytechnic student, Robert Chasowa. Nonetheless, justice on the case has yet to see the light of day.. The family members and Malawi nation are still gasping for justice on the death of the Polytechnic student. We also question why there has been no follow up on the recommendations and findings of the report on the 20th July massacre. Do we mean we will have Commission of Inquiries that don’t make anybody accountable after spending millions of tax payers on compiling the reports?
HRCC feels the delay in acting upon reports of Inquiry is tantamount to rendering the whole essence of instituting a Commission of Inquiries and mere wastage of the country’s scarce public resources. Worse still, delay or failure to act upon the report is a mockery to justice, much as it sets a bad precedence in the country’s democracy.
We therefore implore on the President to let justice take its full course on the Bingu Commission of Inquiry report without being influenced by any political gains or loss. This is a national issue that deserves commitment and seriousness. Certainly, the President needs to rise above partisan interest and treat the issue with utmost urgency realizing that it is in the national interest.
We also implore the Mutharika’s family who have firmly put the post-mortem report in their custody, to bring it out for public consumption bearing in mind that the late Mutharika was a President for the whole nation and not just his family and hence the general public is entitled to know what sent him to a sudden grave.
Our democracy and Constitutionalism can only mature if authorities respond accordingly to efforts aimed at emasculating it. It’s noted that the Police has acted on the Bingu report but our prayers is that this will not be another witch hunt, but rather an uphold of justice and rule of law.
HRCC lastly call upon the President Joyce Banda to act on all other recommendations by the other Commission of Inquiries such as the July 20 brutal killings and the murder of Robert Chasowa without politics, fear or favor.
Undule Mwakasungula Baldwin Chiyamwaka
Chairperson National Coordinator
Issued on Friday 15th March, 2013/Lilongwe /Malawi