Celebrations end tragically in Thyolo

What started as celebrations following Malawi Electoral Commission’s declaration of President Peter Mutharika as winner of the presidential election turned into a nightmare for three families who lost their children in Thyolo District on Monday night.

The children had joined Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters who were marching from Thyolo Boma to the popular Number One trading centre and back when they met their fate.

Children play on the burnt minibus yesterday

The three—Rachel Dickson, 11, a Standard Three pupil at Nachipere Primary School; Felix Steven, 12, a Standard Three pupil at Mwanya Primary School and Chikumbutso Kapesi, 12, a Standard Four pupil at Addolorata Catholic Primary School—were all buried yesterday at their parents’ respective home villages.

On the fateful Monday at around 7pm, the three children, upon hearing of the celebrants noises, rushed to the street where they joined the party supporters in the celebrations.

But a few metres after a junction that leads to Conforzi Plantations head office in the district, they met a speeding Nissan Vannette minibus which rammed into the crowd, causing the death of the three.

An eyewitness, identified as Mathews Lingoni, said in an interview yesterday that as the driver approached the crowd, he hit the three children and swerved on to the roadside where the minibus fell into the gutter.

He said: “A mob pounced on the driver while some rescued three women passengers who escaped unhurt from the minibus. The minibus was also torched by the mob. The conductor bolted and I rushed with the children to hospital. Two died on the spot while one died at the hospital.”

Lingoni’s sentiments were corroborated by another eyewitness, John Chikawa, who said some well-wishers also took the driver to Thyolo District Hospital after he fell unconscious due to the heavy beating by the mob.

When The Nation visited the accident scene at around 10am yesterday, children were seen playing on the shell of the burnt minibus.

A sombre mood also engulfed Thyolo District Hospital mortuary where family members went to collect bodies of the three for burial.

A heartbroken mother to Chikumbutso, Jane, said in an interview her son was hardworking and helpful with household chores.

“I will never see my son again, that’s what hurts the most because I never expected any of this to happen,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

On her part, mother to Felix, Ellina, said: “I don’t know how I will face the reality of losing my child,” she said.

Leonard Kamwana, Rachel’s uncle, said the family was failing to come to terms with the death of their child.

Thyolo Police spokesperson Amos Tione said in a separate interview they were yet to formally charge the driver who, as of yesterday, was still hospitalised and could not remember what had happened the previous evening.

He identified him as Wizman Makanani, 26, from Giliyoti Village in Traditional Authority Bvumbwe in the district.

“The minibus belonged to him and he would routinely drive along the Thyolo-Bvumbwe route. However, we will still continue with our investigations,” said Tione.

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