Nkhata Bay Central legislator Ralph Mhone has queried why President Peter Mutharika laid a wreath at the Memorial Pillar in Nkhata Bay on Tuesday when he has never attended the annual Martyr’s Day commemoration service on March 3.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mhone, a lawyer who is leading the people of Nkhata Bay in demanding compensation from Britain for the killings on March 3 1959, said the President was hypocritical as he did not inform concerned families.
He said the President should have used his stay in the North to meet representatives of the bereaved families, where they could have discussed critical issues.
Mhone said:“We expect the President, who knows and understands the history of this country, to pay proper respects to the people who died on March 3 1959. But he is just politicking. The fact remains that he hasn’t visited Nkhata Bay on March 3 as people expect him to do as President of the country.”
The laying of the wreath was not on the programme of events for Mutharika during Tuesday’s engagements in the district. He laid the wreath with First Lady Gertrude Mutharika after commissioning the Nkhata Bay-Mzuzu Road.
Speaking at a rally he addressed at Masamba community ground the same Tuesday afternoon, Mutharika said he appreciates the role that people of the district played in the country’s struggle for independence.
During this year’s Martyr’s Day commemorations, various speakers took turns accusing government of failing to fund the event and facilitate compensation for the bereaved families.
A representative of the bereaved families James Thawe wondered why they had never met Mutharika after many requests to do so.
Due to the growing strength of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), on March 3 1959 the colonial masters declared a State of Emergency and at least 200 ANC leaders were detained.
In Nkhata Bay, NAC leaders were arrested and packed into MV Mpasa, ready to be transferred to Mangochi, and eventually to prisons like Kanjedza, Chichiri and Gweru.
When their relatives heard about the arrests, they organised themselves and marched to Nkhata Bay jetty, to demand their release. However, colonial forces opened fire and 31 protesters died on the spot.