BY RICHARD CHIROMBO
Everything, as it moves- now and then, here and there, to and from- makes stops.
A bird, as it flies, stops in one place to make its nest, and in
another to rest in its flight. Vapour, though it breathes not, has a
place it freezes and rests; somewhere below the blue-some sky.
So, too, with people because, when all that has to be done has been
done, they stop and rest. Call it the Natural Law of Exhaustion or
Rest, started by some God who is said to have rested after six days of
(is it?) tiresome work of creation.
The law applies in Bolero, Rumphi, as it does in Bembeke, Dedza.
Ndirande is no exception, though there seems to have resided a man
there (Ndirande) who paid no attention to it, or rather residents
allege he did not.
Dear reader, here with us, standing on this make-shift stage of
recycled paper, is 26 year-old Jack Bandawe. He is our man of the
moment, I guess, and comes from Chikumbeni Alinuswe Village, in the
area of Traditional Authority Chikowi, Zomba. Ndirande residents
allege that he is the famed Nachipanti, a figure they accuse of being
behind the brutal killings of female residents.
For a long while, the female community in Ndirande was awash with
fear, and patiently waiting for Nachipanti’s restful day, a day the
bird that flies so high perches, and the so called energetic man
snores in sleep. The day came this month (October), but came with
The famed Nachipanti met its fateful day (it was night) at the hands
of a humble citizen, Innocent Matewere, who alleges to have seen
Bandawe standing in his famed underwear outside a house where one girl
lied dead. The girl, who was pronounced dead at the hospital, and two
others who sustained serious injuries, is said to have been hit to
death by a stone.
Ironically, it is also a stone that brought Bandawe’s long run to a
grinding halt. He was hit on the knee, though, and not the head that
is said to have been his prized target in victims.
One of the girls who sustained serious injuries is 18 year-old Sheila
Twaibu, who later died at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. She had
just sat for the 2009 Junior Certificate of Education Examination at
Tafika and Tione Private Secondary School in Blantyre.
Sheila was a hard worker and would often be seen walking from
Ndirande, through Nyambadwe, Mbayani to Chemussa- where the school is
located- a distance of approximately three kilometers.
She definitely saw a good future before her, and was already planning
for next year. Mary Gondwe, one of her school friends, is at pains to
understand that Sheila is really gone:
“We sat for exams together. In fact, we were next to each other at
Namiwawa Community Day Secondary Scholl where we were sitting for our
Cluster examinations. Sheila gave me two of her exercise books and
advised me to keep them safe. Her farewell words were: ‘see you next
year, in Form Three’.”
Always ambitious and hopeful, that was Sheila to Gondwe. Mary can no
longer go through the English or Chichewa notes in those exercise
books: how does one read through tears?
At 18 years of age, Sheila can not be said to have lived her whole
life. It was cut short.
What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass,
And loses itself in the sunset.
Sheila did not live through her life’s long night; did not finish the
warm summer of her life. Her shadow did not run across the whole patch
of education-grass she aspired to through in Form Three. Her shadow
was forced to disappear before the actual sunset.
The situation is like that time before dawn; too silent to behold. But
the most conspicuous silence in this great silence is that from
Non-Governmental Organizations and human rights activists.
Where are they when Malawi needs them to break this frightening
silence? Just less than five months ago, the Human Rights Consultative
Committee (HRCC) was in town, preaching against the evils of the death
HRCC National Coordinator, Mabvuto Bamusi, is a man of records. He was
in Town when the human rights consortium briefed various stakeholders
on why the country should do away with the death sentence at Protea
Ryalls Hotel. Figures of people who got hanged for no sins of their
own were presented, not forgetting people’s reactions when, in those
cases, it was discovered that the people who were sent to their early
graves had nothing to do with the crimes.
Then, as expected, the chairperson came in, to cement what Bamusi had
said. Undule Mwakasungula said the death penalty was a violation of
human rights, and should not be tolerated in Malawi.
Mwakasungula added that life imprisonment would be the fair remedy, as
it accords those on the left hand of the law to retune their lives for
the better. What more, they even work for us without pay, eating one
meal a day for the rest of their lives!
But, wait a minute. The activists also bashed prison authorities for
giving prisoners one meal a day, asking for more meal opportunities at
the expense of the tax payer.
“Actually, we are not making a stand against the death penalty,” said
Mwakasungula. “We are only sensitizing the public and it’s up to them
to choose for themselves.”
What a way of sensitizing the public. Sensitizing while taking sides?
Now these groups are quiet, even after the death of some innocent
girls who had ambitions like anybody else. Nobody from the NGOs bought
a coffin or helped in any way during the funeral. How can an average
family afford all the funeral expenses in recompense for deaths that
came so sudden?
Is it because of Southern Region Police spokesperson, Davie Chingwalu?
Chingwalu has come out of his shell, telling all and sundry that any
human rights activist who comes out in the open and calls for
Bandawe’s bail will be questioned, too.
“In fact, lives have been lost and we are continuing with our
investigations. So, anyone who comes to us in the name of human rights
and bashes us for not giving these suspects bail will be summoned for
questioning. We would want to know why?” said Chingwalu.
There is reason, however, and hope coming from former Legal Affairs
Committee (Of Parliament) chairperson, Atupele Muluzi. Muluzi reveals
that the twin issues of life imprisonment and death penalty may be
long from over because, as he says, his committee left a report
pertaining to the two issues.
“A public survey we carried out revealed that many people were for the
death penalty. They wanted it to remain, and I don’t think things have
changed. The report is there,” said Muluzi.
As it is, the Nachipanti has turned out to be a mute-pill for human
rights activists and death penalty critics, a riddle they want to
solve by keeping quiet. He has also turned out to be a play ground,
upon which a battle for and against the death penalty will be fought.
As it is, he is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of
law. But his issue is one that provides an opportunity for debate.
As the debate rages on, stacks and stacks of money are bundled
somewhere, ready to be channeled towards anti-death penalty campaigns.
Who doesn’t need money? NGOs, especially, have a nasty appetite for